|Summer Picnic||Field Day 2010||Secretary's Report|
|Repeater News||Member Profile - KB1PDW||Rookie Roundup at Picnic|
|STARC Hamfest||Six Meter Fireworks|
It was another spectacular Field Day with plenty of contacts, points and participation. And the conditions were great too. But it almost didn't happen at all.
By the end of May, it was looking like Field Day wouldn't happen. Field Day requires a number of key ingredients. One of these ingredients is operators. We had very few available and it was getting more grim by the day. Throughout May I kept learning that our main operators were dropping out one by one. Doug AB1T was going away that weekend. Chris WT1L would be away at work. Ed N1UR was going to do Field Day by himself. That left me on phone, Howie K2MME on CW and Paul AA1SU doing both modes. Three operators doing 48 hours of operating is hardly a recipe for success and is not fun. On GOTA, Carl had only one operator and was struggling to find more. And then it got worse. Bob KB1FRW found out he had to work Field Day weekend.
I can't say I started to panic, but it came near to that--- I resorted to begging and bribery. I got on the Yankee Clipper Contest Club reflector and asked if any CW operators were interested in coming up to do CW---food and lodging provided. Ed K1EP said he might come up, but only if I could provide him with a date (!?). I'm into a lot of things, but I wouldn't know how to handle being an escort service! I started calling every contester I knew. I would have had the devil come up and operate if he could promise me consistent CW rates over 70 per hour!
A little bit at a time, the bad news gave way to bits of good news. We learned that Nancy NK1A, who operated with us at GOTA two years ago, would again be coming to Vermont to attend a craft workshop and she would be available. And she would also be bringing her SO Mike K1TWF. Besides being the New England Vice Director and one of the key people running NEAR-Fest, Mike is also a crack CW operator. Then Doug AB1T decided to delay leaving for vacation to get a few hours in at Field Day. We got Jeff N1YWB committed to the cause and suddenly, we had a doable plan.
Setup was relatively uneventful. The biggest issue was working around Bob's hellish work schedule. Herb WA1TLI was the hero as he assumed truck driver duties to move the trailer with all of the equipment to and from the site. Just before setup, I decided to make a major change in the location of the CW and GOTA stations to alleviate some noise on CW. By the end of Field Day, we all realized this was a great idea for many reasons.
Conditions were, to say the least, interesting. Right at the beginning of the contest, 15 meters was wide open. And then 10 meters had a big opening. The result was that stations ran up to the higher bands and our pileup on 20 meters trickled down, causing us to chase our prey on phone. Jeff and I fought with these strange conditions and kept the rates up, but we significantly fell behind where we needed to be. At 4:30 AM, we installed Zack K1ZK on the air, bade him good luck and shuffled off to bed. After a couple of typically slow hours, he starting banging out monster rates early Sunday morning on 40 meters.
Over on CW, we had a team with a mission to improve on last year's numbers. Doug AB1T started out like a house on fire, followed by some big hours by Mike K1TWF and Paul AA1SU. Howie K2MME held down the fort through the slow night hours, but returned for a monster finish at the end.
GOTA, not to be undone, had their own monster rates going. The first 100 contacts were picked up by Kristen, a non-ham! Vinnie KB1RRF came on for 2 shifts and Jeff N1YD jumped up to 10 meters and peaked at a 67 rate! Nancy NK1A took the Sunday morning shift and ran the numbers up to 500, the GOTA maximum. A few kids went on the air and we amassed a lot of GOTA bonus points in addition to all of the other bonuses available.
Saturday night, chef Kathi put on a wonderful feast of steak and chicken and several types of desserts. I don't think anyone went hungry!
We scored 14230 points and made 4565 QSO's - the second highest we have ever scored, missing our 2008 high water mark by 524 points, but a lot better than last year. How we did compared to other groups will have to wait until the results are published later this fall. With conditions as hot as they were, there will be a lot of big scores.
By the end of this show, most everyone was very tired. But, as far as I know, everyone had a great time. We met and exceeded all of our goals and everyone returned home safely. In short, it was a very successful Field Day. Thank you to everyone who contributed to this great effort!
80 CW 175 80 Ph 474 40 CW 328 40 Ph 432 20 CW 735 20 Ph 1071 15 CW 189 15 Ph 527 GOTA CW 0 GOTA Ph 500 VHF CW 8 VHF Ph 125 Sat CW 0 Sat Ph 1 Total CW 1435 Total Ph 3130 Year 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 QSO's 4565 4411 4779 3968 4643 Bonus 2230 2190 2090 1850 2050 Points 14230 13294 14754 12328 13858
Rich Lang, W1ELL, gave an excellent presentation about lightning. He first described the results of current research on the best way to get struck. The factors include being male, playing golf on a Sunday in Florida, and ignoring thunder. You can expect about two lightning strikes per square kilometer per year.
Rich then showed some ultra high speed videos of lightning strikes. The videos show that a single lightning strike is actually several events, with a 30000 to 80000 amps of peak current, and sometimes a 400 amp “continuing current” that can last for more than a second. He showed a dramatic photo of a lightning bolt striking a gravestone while completely missing a nearby skyscraper.
So how do scientists measure the current from a lightning strike? They record a 1000 Hz tone on ordinary magnetic recording tape. Then, the tape is laid out near the area that will be struck. Later, play back the tape and see how many feet of tape were erased by the magnetic field of the lightning strike's current.
Rich built a Spice model to show how a 30000 amp lightning strike affects home electronics. He adapted the model to show how different grounding systems can reduce the peak voltages and the related damage. A ring ground running all the way around the house, at least one foot deep and one meter from the foundation was his best-practices suggestion. Antenna coax should be bonded to the top of the tower. Foil should run from the base of the tower to ground rods. Do not solder any of the grounding wires, because solder joints will not stand up to 30000 amps.
Everything in the shack should be grounded to a single point. Use an appropriate device between the antenna coax and the transceiver. Rich recommends screwed connections, or do-it-yourself thermite welding, which really sounds like fun.
After months of planning and scheduling, Bob and I were able to make it up to the repeater site. There were two important missions. First, was to fix the receiver problem which has been bugging us for a year and second, to do the site planning for moving the equipment.
Last summer, I noticed that the repeater was not performing up to par. There have been several spots along I-89 way down in New Hampshire I used to be able to hold a conversation. Instead, my signal was all noise, if it keyed the repeater at all. I also noticed that reception of the HT on low power around the house was poor. I finally got out my low powered transmitter and attenuator and found that the repeater receiver was around 15 db from where it should be. At the same time, the repeater transmitter output was right where it should have been. I repeated the measurements several times and found the same thing.
In discussing the problem with several repeater gurus, two possibilities emerged. The receiver preamp might have been damaged. Normally when a preamp blows, it doesn't pass any signal at all, but there are some lighter failure modes. The second possibility was tin whiskers.
To be honest, I really thought this tin whisker business was straight out of a grade B Sci-Fi movie. I was still skeptical after seeing a preponderance of discussion on it on the Internet. In the GE Mastr II radios, the receiver uses 5 helical resonators to filter out off-frequency stuff. A helical resonator is a sharp filter consisting of a 1 inch wide cavity with a coil and movable screw in the middle. The casting is made of an alloy consisting of a good deal of tin. After a period of time, a chemical reaction causes the tin to grow a whisker-like formation across the cavity. If the conductive whisker touches the coil in the middle, the entire circuit is detuned and receiver loss results.
Being the skeptic that I am, I decided to open up the helical resonators on some of the spare Mastr II receivers I had lying in the basement. I opened up one such unit and commented to myself, "How did this damn cat hair get in here." It was then I hadthe chilling realization that the cat doesn't go in the basement and there is no way a cat hair can get into a sealed resonator. Ladies and gentlemen, I was looking at an honest to god tin whisker of about " in length. I quickly opened up another receiver and found the same thing.
Of course, this didn't prove what our particular problem was. Since taking apart a receiver and tuning it was out of the question on the mountain, I put together another receiver thanks to parts provided by Allen N1IOE. So, no matter what the problem, I would be able to drop a new receiver in place.
And then we wait 9 months! Since the repeater was working, albeit poorly, it didn't warrant rushing up to the mountain right away. In March, we learned that we would have to make changes to where the equipment would be located, so we had a compelling reason to go. And then it snowed. And it even snowed in May! And when the snow melts, you get one big soggy mass of mud up and down that mountain. We weren't in a big hurry to experience that. And then when conditions started to clear up, it was hard getting everyone to have the same day off.
When I was at the site last Wednesday, I tested the repeater by injecting a weak signal from my trusty DEAD VX5R (another Yaesu story). I monitored a noisy signal through the repeater. Then I took a screwdriver and whacked the helical resonator case. The signal instantly went from noisy to almost full quieting. What happened was that the shock of the hit knocked the tin whisker off of the resonator coil, putting it back in tune and putting the receiver back to where it should be. I quickly changed out the receiver to the new unit.
I spoke to several people on the repeater and some reported that they were in areas where they had trouble getting into the repeater. I found that my HT holds the repeater with watt all over town. And I measured an 18 db improvement in receiver sensitivity putting the system back to where it should be.
Meanwhile Bob was outside surveying the site and developing plans for the equipment move. The next day, our enclosure was airlifted up to the site. The coming months will be challenging to plan and implement this move, but I am optimistic that we will succeed in this venture and maintain the level of repeater performance we have come to expect over the years.
So, HOT 515 is BACK! Get on the air and talk to people!
Spencer's interest in Amateur radio stems from his former military experience and current emergency management and 1st response activities.
Spencer is active with CERT, the Huntington Fire Department, the Vermont State Guard, and the Red Cross. He has been called to several disasters, including a fire last spring in Hinesburg. He is also an instructor for CERT training classes.
While in the Army's infantry armor division, Spence worked with a variety of radios. On maneuvers, he and his fellow soldiers would make their own triangular shaped antennas to allow them to communicate longer distances. The Command didn't always approve of this, but it worked!
When a group from the Vermont State Guard decided to get together to study for their Technician licenses, Spencer decided to participate. The group was led by a fellow who had his extra class ticket.
Not being especially gifted in electronics, Spence feared much of the material would be over his head. But, as it turned out, he was the only one who followed through, earning his Technician license in 2006.
Spencer uses a Yaesu VX-7 triband HT. He is often listening, and occasionally makes contact, on the local repeaters from his home in Huntington. He plans to earn his General ticket in August or September and looks forward to shopping for a mobile rig and being active with ham radio events.
The picnic is coming and we'll have Special Event station W1V set up to make lots of contacts This year, the picnic coincides with Rookie Roundup---a contest for hams who have been licensed 3 years or less. So we will have two modes of operation:
A Technician can operate on 10 meters (if it is open), otherwise, a General or higher class license is required. The Roundup starts at 2 PM, allowing plenty of time to tend to barbeque and eating activities first. The Roundup ends at 8 PM - allowing you time to go home and work a few more.
Who will be getting on the air?
Saturday, August 14th---8AM to 2PM
Location: Raven Industrial, Route 78, Swanton
Directions: Take I-89 to Swanton Exit 21. Then take Route 78 East.
VE-testing only for Technician
Free admission for commercial vendors
Friday 13th: gates open 3pm for early bird Vendors, Tailgaters, and overnight Camping
Saturday 14th: gates open at 7AM to 2 PM
Admission $5.00 this includes Tailgaters, Craft Fair Sellers
Camping space for RV or Trailers and Tents (NO AC POWER) $5.00 per night
Contact Arn Benjamin email@example.com or Call 802-309-0666 or www.starc.org
In June, I operated in the VHF QSO Party. The highlight of this contest was the 6 meter opening which was going on at the start of the contest Saturday afternoon, ran until evening past 10 PM and then reopened Sunday afternoon until 7 PM. That's about 14 hours of skip. Reports I've heard from down south indicate that the band was open even longer. This was a classical Sporadic E opening, with contacts to all corners of the Southeastern United States. Contacts were as far north as EN53 in Wisconsin, and as far west as EM00 in Texas and DM34 in Arizona (probably a double hop). Going further south was real special as I had contacts from FK88 in St. Martin (I was there last year), FK86 in Montserrat, FL31 in Turks & Caicos and FJ92 in Brazil! In all, 439 QSO's in 111 Grid Squares were logged. There was a similar opening back in 2006 and I would have to go back to 1987 to find a bigger opening with 123 Grids.
All this was worked with a fairly modest station of 100 watts to a 5 element yagi. Many of the guys on 6 meters run kilowatts and much larger antennas. The fact that I was on a 3800 foot high mountain helps very little with skip. In fact, sometimes being too high might hurt you in ionospheric propagation if the drop-off is too steep.
The peak of the Sporadic E season is usually late May and June. However, that doesn't stop openings from occurring all year. For example, there was a nice Sporadic E opening during the 10 Meter contest last December. But these openings cannot be predicted (hence the name “sporadic E”). To partake in these openings you either have to 1. Listen all the time on 6 and/or 10 meters, 2. Watch Internet sites which report these openings or 3. Have a trusted friend call you up when things heat up.
It doesn't take much to partake in 6 meter openings, but you should have a reasonably good station. While 10 watts to a dipole hanging out of a shady tree will net you a contact or two, you really should have something better, since you have to wait a while for a good opening. As a minimum, you should have a 3 element, 6 meter yagi, mounted high enough to be in the clear of buildings and stuff in the neighborhood. A small 6 meter yagi is reasonably priced. Or better yet, if you are handy with tools you can construct a yagi out of an old VHF TV antenna (don't need those no mo'). Such an antenna will not be terribly robust, but if you build it and tune it carefully, it will work great. Having higher power is also important. Normally, the other station should hear you if you hear them. But when 6 meter opens, the QRM gets crazy. And 6 meters is prone to power line interference. So you may be normally copiable but are getting covered up by interference and noise. Many HF radios now have a 100 watt 6 meter transmitter so this shouldn't be a problem.
But you don't hear anything or work anything unless you get on the air! Operating 6 meters is much like fishing. Many times you don't catch anything, but you live in anticipation that when it happens, you want to be there. And as they say, a bad day DXing is still better than a good day at work.
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