6 Meters Mobile with the FT-857D and ATAS-120A

Savannah – Earlier today, I visited the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge to decompress from the week at work. While I was there, a rainstorm came up so I parked on the side of the wildlife drive and waited for the storm to pass. Since it is Sporadic E season and I haven’t had the opportunity to try out the new ATAS-120A mobile HF/6 Meter antenna on 6 Meters, I tuned the FT-857D to 50.125 MHz and pressed the Tune button. After a few seconds, the ATAS-120A tuned itself to the frequency and showed a low SWR. A few minutes later I heard a station start calling CQ so I returned his call. It turned out to be Ron, K5WLT from Seguin, TX (near San Antonio). It was the first 6 Meter contact I’ve made in years (the Opek HVT-400B never really got the job done for me on 6 Meters) and the first one I’ve made with the ATAS-120A. K5WLT gave me a good signal and audio report, so I’m very pleased with what the mobile HF/6 Meter setup is capable of. I imagine that for the rest of the summer, whenever I’m on the road, I’ll have the FT-857D tuned to 50.125 MHz listening for E openings!

After the rain stopped, it turned out to be a pretty good refuge visit, too. I got one of my best Glossy Ibis photos yet and saw a Purple Gallinule, but it was too far away for a good photo.

Glossy Ibis at the Savannah National Wildlife Refuge

Mobile HF in Savannah; 6 August 2017

Savannah – I’m at home in Savannah for a few days and Sunday ended up being laundry day. The plan of the day was to enjoy the day’s IMSA racing live for a change instead of catching up via YouTube or the DVR a few days later, but I had some time between finishing laundry and the races starting… what was I to do? I found a nice shady spot at a local park and fired up the mobile station. All I heard on 40 Meters (& MHz) were nets and 20 Meters (14 MHz) had terrible QSB (fading), but I found two lighthouse stations and a museum ship station to put in the log. I may not have logged a bunch of stations, but I had three good QSOs that combined my love of Amateur Radio and History.

I love logging historic ships like the USS Olympia and today was the second time I’ve had the honor of logging her. She’s truly a historic ship  – she was Dewey’s flagship at the Battle of Manila Bay and afterward served in the Caribbean, Atlantic, and the Mediterranean. She served as a training ship at the Naval Academy and as a barracks ship in Charleston, SC before being recommissioned for service in World War I. She is now the oldest steel USN warship afloat and is the only remaining USN vessel from the Spanish American War. The Independence Seaport Museum is now conducting fundraising to dry dock and repair her hull; I hope they succeed because she deserves to be saved and continue serving as a reminder of one of the forgotten periods of our history.



A Brief Winter Field Day 2017 Op From the Mobile Station

Brunswick – On Sunday morning after attending 8:00 AM Eucharist at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Brunswick, I decided to get in a few Winter Field Day contacts before going to sleep (I work midnights and went to Church after work). Initially, I had the idea to operate from the parking lot of the Brunswick Landing Marina off of US 341 in downtown Brunswick; I thought it would be nice to operate from both a historic and scenic location. Unfortunately, I had an S7 noise floor on 20 Meters (the first band I tried) which made any contacts extremely difficult. I’m not sure what the source of the noise was, but I’m guessing it was coming from nearby industrial or port facilities. I tried several different spots in the lot with same disappointing result (I was genuinely looking forward to operating from the area), so I left and went back to the parking lot at work and operated there for about an hour.  It was a bit early, so I didn’t hear a lot of stations on but I was able to work most that I heard on both 40 Meters and 20 Meters. My first contact, pleasantly, was with VA1AVR in Nova Scotia. From there, I worked stations in Alabama, Iowa, Kansas, New York, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

The next time I try to operate from the downtown Brunswick area, I might try the Mary Ross Park area but I’m afraid that might have the same result because it isn’t far from the Brunswick Landing Marina. I’ll give it a try and report on the results.

Veterans Day Weekend Amateur Radio

Brunswick – On Friday I was in Brunswick and not able to go the Veteran’s Day Parade in Savannah like I do when I’m in town, so I decided to observe Veteran’s Day before going to bed (I work midnight shifts) by turning on the mobile HF station and trying to work some Veteran’s Day Special Event stations. Unfortunately, the bands didn’t seem to cooperate. I only heard one: KF5CRF, The Tiger Radio Club operating from Mangum High School in Mangum, OK. It was good to hear a school group observing Veteran’s Day, I hope they enjoyed the experience and learned something in the process. The QSO was a short one because there was a lot of QSB and the band just seemed “wobbly.”

I have to admit to being ashamed of some of what I heard on amateur radio, particularly on 40 Meters, on Friday morning. As in other aspects of life here in the United States, Trump’s victory seems to have emboldened racists, bigots, and xenophobes. Amateur Radio is a hobby that can build unity and understanding across borders; some of what I heard on Friday was despicable and would only foster hate and misunderstanding. I hope that the poor radio conditions kept hams in other countries from hearing some of the worst of what our country has to offer.

Still in Brunswick on Saturday, I also fired up the mobile station and again played radio before going to bed. Conditions were considerably better and I logged some more special event stations and my first DX since August. My prize contact for the weekend was ON4PTC /P, a special event station operating from the Tyne Cot Cemetery near Passendale, Belgium remembering the Battle of Passchendaele. Passchendaele was one of the most controversial and terrible battles of World War I; estimates vary, but combined casualties were over 450,000 during the six months of the battle. Tyne Cot Cemetery holds 11,956 Commonwealth and French dead, 8.369 of which are unknown soldiers. I love working special event stations for historic events and it was an honor to work a special event station that was remembering all those who perished during such an awful battle.

Reflecting on what I heard on Friday I realized that, unlike those operators, the operators at ON4PTC /P were exhibiting some of the best of the Amateur Radio hobby; I hope more operators look at them as an example by operating in friendship and in respect rather in ill will and hate.

Field Day 2016 – Operating the Mobile Station in Brunswick

Brunswick – As usual, I worked Field Day weekend, but I set aside some time on Sunday morning after work to fire up the mobile station and get in a few 1C contacts. As I’ve been doing lately, I augmented the FT-857D, Z11 Pro II, and HVT-400B with a tablet with Ham Log for logging and the setup worked quite well. I made 15 contacts on 40 Meters and 20 Meters with a roughly even split between the two, 7 on 40 Meters and 8 on 20 Meters. I’d seen reports of bad band conditions on Saturday on Twitter, so I was worried about Sunday morning but it turned out band conditions on Sunday were fairly decent. The contacts mostly from the 1 and 8 call areas, with a few 2s, 3s, and 5s. They were from eleven different states: AR, CT, MA, ME, MI, NH, OH, PA, RI, NY, and RI. I was hoping to hear some of the local and southeast clubs and put them in the log but no such luck – 40 Meters didn’t seem to be short enough for that at the time. One of these days I will get WA4USN at the USS Yorktown in the log, I never seem to be able to catch them during Museum Ships weekend or Field Day weekend!

The mobile station in use for Field Day; for logging I used the Ham Log app on my Android tablet.
The mobile station in use for Field Day; for logging I used the Ham Log app on my Android tablet (yeah – I know the 40M show USB, I went back in and corrected them!).

It isn’t Field Day without a storm and this year I wasn’t disappointed… right after I shut down, a good-sized thunderstorm passed through the Brunswick area. Even if I hadn’t already made the decision to hang the mic up for the morning I would have been forced to anyway.

I was disappointed, however, in what I heard from the Net Control Station of the 0800 local South CARS net on 7.251. He opened the net with some statements about the net and Field Day which, while they may certainly have had foundation, could have been delivered far better. He decided to stress that the net was not a Field Day net and would not be giving out Field Day exchanges, but he did it in a bellicose and degrading fashion. Now I’m sure that the South CARS net probably has that issue every year, but the NCS should handle it with tact. For a net that whenever I’ve checked into it seems to pride itself on its friendliness, I doubt that it was way that want to be represented. Additionally, Field Day is a day when there are going to be new operators and visitors listening in. If a new operator or visitor thinking about getting licensed heard that rant, they’d probably think twice about our hobby. Nets, Field Day ops, and contesters can all coexist with a little bit of cooperation and courteousness.

Altogether, I thoroughly enjoyed my morning on the radio. Whether I have the opportunity to work from a club Field Day operation or my mobile station, I never hear a lot of C-class (mobile) stations on the air for Field Day so I always enjoy giving out a few 1C contacts.