Operating Field Day 2018 From the Mobile Station

Brunswick, GA – Due to it being a busy weekend at work, I hadn’t planned on operating in Field Day this year, but after getting off from work a little bit late and having breakfast yesterday, I changed my mind. I parked behind work, turned on the FT-857D in the mobile station and tuned up the ATAS-120A antenna on 40 Meters. I intended to just get on 40 Meters for a few minutes and make a few QSOs but instead ended up working 12 stations on 40 Meters. Since 40 Meters was in such good condition, I decided to go ahead and give 20 Meters a try as well; I ended up with 13 QSOs. After a made the run through 20 Meters, it was just after 1300 UTC (0900 local), so I decided to see if anything was happening on 15 Meters; it was indeed active and I ended up with another 13 QSOs. Since I haven’t heard much activity on 15 Meters recently, I thought that maybe since it was open, 10 Meters might be open, too. I tuned the FT-857D over to 10 Meters and discovered that the band was beginning to open up; it wasn’t open good quite yet, but I still made another 5 QSOs. Since 10 Meters was open, I decided to push my luck again and see if maybe 6 Meters open. 6 Meters was trying to open up, but I still managed to add two stations to the log. I wouldn’t be surprised if both 10 and 6 Meters opened up better later in the morning.

I only operated for a couple of hours, but a little over two consecutive hours and 45 QSOs was the most operating I’ve done at one time in at least a year. Band conditions, while not the best in the world, weren’t terrible. Over the course of two hours, I worked 17 states, including much of the southeastern and east coast states: Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virgin Islands, and West Virginia. Even though I had just completed a shift on the work radios, it made for a truly fun morning on the air.

Yesterday was also the first real workout I’ve given the FT-857D/ATAS-120A mobile combination and a workout and the first opportunity to compare the ATAS-120A to the Opek HVT-400B I used previously. I was very pleased with how the FT-857D and ATAS-120A worked. Neither the ATAS-120A or HVT-400B are great antennas on 40 Meters, but the ATAS-120A gives me a lot more capability than the HVT-400B did; I found it a lot easier to make contacts on 40 Meters yesterday than I ever did with the HVT-400B. On 20 Meters, there’s not as big of a difference between the two, but the ATAS-120A definitely has the edge there as well. On 15 Meters, I didn’t notice a lot of difference; 15 Meters seemed to be a sweet spot for the HVT-400B and it seems to be the same for the ATAS-120A as well. 10 Meters and 6 Meters weren’t really open enough to form an opinion, but so far it seems like the ATAS-120A definitely hears more on 6 Meters than the HVT-400B did.

After a period of inactivity, I think yesterday morning also rekindled an interest in operating. Since I had so much fun yesterday morning, I doubt it will take another year before I operate like that again; I think I’ll be a little more active on HF. I hope other Hams had as much fun as I did and had the opportunity to put in more hours on the air than I did.

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.