|Radio Tune-Up Clinic||The Picnic!||Fox Hunt|
|Our Last RANV Meeting||The Prez Sez||Field Day 1999|
|Contest Corner||Fox in the Swamp|
Don't miss our July Radio tune-up extravaganza at the RANV Meeting, July 13th, 7pm at the O'Brien Civic Center. The first part of the meeting will take place outside, under the glorious setting sun, as our trained staff of radio experts will check out your mobile installations. On hand will be Bill N1RUC who will have his trusty service monitor with him. He will be able to tell you receiver sensitivity, frequency, frequency deviation and output power. When this is done, we will move inside and check out some equipment on the bench.
You're probably saying, "there's nothing wrong with my radio!" Virtually 100% of the people who have said this in the past had problems that they didn't know about, but which were making their radio performance less than optimal. A very common mobile installation problem is using small wire to bring power to the radio. Small wire equals more resistance which equals more voltage drop through the wire, which eventually ends up as less power out. Even if you opt to not change anything, you will learn a lot of useful stuff, as seen by the eyes of the pros.
Be sure to bring out all your mobiles, HTs and base radios, HF and VHF, for checking. We ended up with some interesting revelations last year.
The pre-game show is at Zacks at 5:30, and the meeting starts at 7. The meeting location is at 113 Patchen Road, South Burlington. See you there!
There won't be a lot of warning in next month's newsletter so we will give your all the details now!
The RANV Summer picnic will be held Saturday, August 7th at Knight's Point State Park. The club provides drinks and picks up admission and you supply the rest. Some of the things which go on at this picnic include: eating (always popular), operating W1NVT from the picnic table, volleyball, swimming, boating and telling of tall tales. The picnic is open to all area hams and family.
This year, in conjunction with the picnic, we will be holding a local Yankee Clipper Contest Club (YCCC) meeting. This is a club for contest and DX enthusiasts all over the Northeast. In addition to their regular meetings in Massachusetts, members hold local meetings as well. The meeting will be about 30 minutes long and be informal and is structured to be enjoyed by all.
The timeline for the day's activities are approximate, but they will probably go something like this: The early birds start arriving at 11. By noon, grills are going full tilt and major consumption of food starts to take place. After lunch (1-1:30) the YCCC meeting will be held. And after that, we will engage in serious picnic activities.
To get to Knight's Point, take Route 2 through the islands. Just after you cross from Grand Island to North Hero, make a left into the park. Tell the attendant you are with the radio club and you are all set!
Attention all hunters! The summer RANV Fox Hunt will take place on Friday evening, August 13th, starting at 7pm on the 145.15 repeater. The Fox for the evening is W1SJ, who will undoubtedly hide away in some God forsaken place that Fox Hunters never go to. Time to get your DF equipment all tuned up and ready to go!
The meeting of June 6th provided us with a nice turnout and 2 surprise guests from the Plattsburgh area. We started off with introductions. Richard WN1HJW has volunteered to bring the refreshments from now on.
Eric announced that ham radio volunteers are needed to man a booth at a big agricultural fair in Springfield, MA, called The Big E. The dates are September 17th to October 3rd and volunteers get a pass to the Exposition for one day. Call Eric for more details. We then voted to order a portable toilet for Field Day at $75, followed by a vote to have a sign made up for our RANV club events at $50 plus tax. Both votes passed unanimously. It was also announced that club member Dick Russell K1OAJ, from Barre, had passed away in June.
Our surprise guests were George N2UTY and John N2RUL. They came to appeal for help from ham radio operators for the Iron Man Triathlon on August 15th. They are looking for about 100 hams for the event which will have about 1500 entrants. This will be a very large sporting event with 2 cable TV networks providing coverage. George's phone number is (518) 946-2479 and the event E-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our featured guest speaker was Mitch W1SJ, who spoke about portable operation. One of the most important things for this type of operating is a checklist. Without it, one could forget something very essential, like a microphone or a special power cord (both of these were forgotten at Field Day -ed.). Mitch covered what to bring, such as power requirements, adapters, antenna, etc. He also covered bow & arrow safety, as this is a popular way to put up wire antennas. As a bonus, Fred N1ZUK was also at the meeting and showed off a slingshot version of a dipole raiser that he made that very day. We used it at Field Day when the tall grass hindered the arrows.
Mitch also bought along his rock climbing harness that he uses for tower climbing. A hard hat is a requirement for anyone working under someone up the tower. After the break, we discussed Field Day strategy and headed for home.
As far as I know we have all survived Field Day. Anyone who thinks we overdid it with backup equipment or people should be cured by now. If we did not have all 4 generators on site, we would have had to scramble. This lesson was a repeat of the one our neighbors up north learned during the ice storm. Generators, particularly ones you can afford, do fail. So do radios. Fortunately we had many people willing to share equipment and have it ready just in case it was needed. Richard even brought his generator on a neat little cart so it could be wheeled where it was needed, and it WAS needed.
Richard, WN1HJW and Karen also brought us a RANV first: REAL FOOD, done to order and organized neatly. Next year we resolve to plan for more money for food. Fran and Wey have brought grills before, and that was a good, but when the order sheet came round I realized that I was actually getting light headed I was so hungry. It was also a lifesaver to have a good supply of water and other drinks to keep us running during the record heat. I also greatly appreciate the fact the Richard has brought previously unknown levels of organization to the RANV checkbook. Having dealt with it a few times myself I know that this does not come by magic!
During the half controlled chaos of Field Day, a number of us resolved to plan better for next year. Every year we actually do avoid many prior errors. This is one of the most valuable things about Field Day. It is a great opportunity to learn what things are not good ideas. If we are very lucky the damage from the lessons is not lasting. I have now survived 3 Field Days and they don't seem to get any easier. I think this is because we are trying to do our best. I have found that this experience has helped every time I have to pack for any event.
We have learned that a little grease in the right places on the ladders can make teardown much safer. Carefully marking proven locations for towers can save a lot of time and help avoid power line proximity problems. Having some long poles handy to reach stuck things up on the masts is a good idea. Leaving loops in ropes that can catch on things is a bad move. Coiling up rope that has fallen in the poison ivy is not good. Bumblebees are not entirely solitary. There can be several of them in a nest in the grass and they like stable ground unshaken by guy stakes. They are willing to enforce their desires vigorously. It pays to have a good collection of spare power connectors and wire. Operator cooling fans are not a sign of wimps in 90-degree heat. Tough guys would look awful silly keeling over and the equipment is less likely to fail if the air keeps moving.
Anyone having more suggestions or lessons should pass them on. Maybe the rest of us missed it. I know that I was wrung out, and many there slept even less than I did. In any case, THANK YOU to all who contributed. Every item and every minute was part of the best scoring Field Day we have done yet.
Please take advantage of the tune up session at the July meeting. My mobile rig was 3 kHz off last year. That's awful! We are very fortunate to have Bill N1RUC who gives his time and works for an employer willing to supply equipment that we could not possibly afford. If your signal is on the money, you will have more range and a better signal.
Last year, the propagation gods of Field Day smiled upon us and we were blessed with extraordinary conditions on 10 and 6 meters. Conditions were so good, I considered them a "lifetime best". Certainly, in almost 30 years of doing Field Day, I've never seen the kind of openings which produced 600-plus contacts on 10 and 250 contacts on 6 meters. With this in mind, I resolved myself to planning the hard work which is necessary in putting together a solid Field Day and letting the numbers fall where they may. I certainly didn't expect another blowout year - which eventually made last year`s numbers look like a walk in the park, or field, as the case may be.
How good were conditions? We set club records at the phone, CW and Novice stations, and just missed topping last year's VHF numbers. The nearly 2400 contacts on phone represented an average of 100 contacts an hour for the entire contest. I cannot describe to you what it was like in there for the few hours that we averaged 150-plus per hour. It was gruelling work. The 719 contacts at the 10-meter Novice station were more than most Field Day groups make in an entire weekend on all bands! This was not accomplished by seasoned contesters, but by new and veteran Technician operators.
Our focus for this year's Field Day was to increase participation. I'm happy to report that we were successful in this endeavor. We didn't have scores of people participating - that wasn't the idea. In fact, we had only a few more than last year. But, for every job that needed doing, we had a solid bullpen of people ready to pitch in.
Despite the very hot weather, setup went on without a hitch. We started with a small crew at 2pm on Friday and this grew to group of 12-15 by late afternoon. Some technical problem areas from previous years were addressed before setup and these no longer posed problems. The CW mast and clamp system was rebuilt and both ladders were well greased to aid in the installation. By nightfall, all antennas, except for the end of one dipole, were up and in place. Saturday was a slow start for us all, with the hot weather certainly not helping the situation. Despite the last minute frantic scurrying around, all stations were up and CQing at the 2pm start time.
The phone station quickly jumped into high speed pace with 161 QSO's logged in the very first hour. The rate dropped a little after this, but kept up at a frenetic pace for most of the contest. W1SJ, K1HD and N2YHK alternated frequently to keep things going. There were a lot of contacts made and it was difficult work to keep control of the rabble on 20 meters. The heat wore us all down quickly!
Ted K1HD didn't have much of a spare moment, as he shuttled between the phone station and satellite station and also kept a wary eye on the power plants. Newcomer Grant, N0ICI was our Sunday morning relief and he put in two 3-hour shifts with amazing rates. When the dust had settled, the phone station had 2376 QSO's in the log, very possibly the best single-station phone performance of any Field Day group anywhere.
At the CW station, they didn't have the razzle dazzle rates which phone boasted of. However, in the wee hours of the night, when phone contacts slowed to a crawl, CW kept banging away at pretty much the same rates. AA1SU, AB1T, WA1LIR and W1EAT pounded the brass for 24 hours for a site best 1124 QSO's, just nipping the old record. Paul AA1SU got in more operating time than he bargained for as WA1LIR was called away on business. He was seen most of Sunday with the key in one hand and the dining fly in the other, to keep it from blowing away. Next year, we vow to get them air-conditioned tents!
The Novice station is supposed to a laid-back station for training and fun. Somehow, the "take no prisoners" approach became evident as 719 QSO's were made throughout the weekend. We didn't get the overnight openings like last year, but the daytime runs were fast and furious. How did we do it? We have operators like Pepi KA1VLH, "work me or I'll burn your car", and Jeff N1YWB, now renamed Hagi, with his infamous East Indian accent. Mercy N1YTZ didn't have any well-known sayings or accents, but also ran up a good number contacts as well. And, in the overnight, we had, ta-da, some CW emanating from the Novice station as Jeff worked his code speed up to 5 wpm for the occasion. We even had a built in keyer which actually ran at that speed!
At the VHF station, 6 meters managed to produce some great openings early in the day. We got a good hour of openings in the first hour, a pop at 7pm and a several hour long opening Sunday morning. Unfortunately, activity on 2-meters was down from last year. New 6-meter expert N1ZUK led the charge in the big opening, assisted by N1SRC and AA1SK. Our satellite station made a bunch of contacts, earning bonus points. Much of the activity on the 10-meter RS satellites was curtailed allowing the Novice station to do their magic. All the practice we held over the weeks before Field Day paid off as we broke through very crowded conditions to make some 15 contacts.
Not seen by many participants is the effort which is put in to earn bonus points. The ARRL offers bonus points for Field Day groups who do various weird things. Being the point-hungry hams we are, we do them all. Some of the points were earned before Field Day got underway. A hundred points is given for publicity. Publicity for our Field Day appeared in the Essex Reporter on Thursday. On Friday morning, Section Manager WE1U and talk show host Ernie Farrar (W1EF) discussed Field Day on on WVMT 620. There is also 100 points given for copying the W1AW Field Day bulletin. On Friday night, Paul AA1SU copied the ARRL bulletin on cw and for good measure, also copied it on RTTY. We earned another 100 points for a completely natural powered 2-meter station, which was an HT battery completely discharged and charged by a solar cell. You might have seen it sitting in the sun by the VHF station. Points are also awarded for receiving and sending traffic. Mercy N1YTZ wrote traffic to friends and relatives. This was passed from Underhill to the Field Day site. John N2YHK copied the traffic and sent it to KB2LML in Plattsburgh. We like to believe that the traffic got to where it was supposed to go OK.
No serious Field Day effort goes on without problems, and we certainly had our share of them. Over the years, we have developed an attitude of having multiple redundancy, so that a problem becomes more of an annoyance than a show stopper. Right off the bat, we were informed that our 6-meter signal sounded like, well, you know... crap. The IC-551D has been used successfully for many years, and we didn't expect this. An FT-620 was then wheeled into place, but it was easily overloaded by several strong local signals. Finally, a DX-70 was inserted and it worked well. If it failed, we had another couple of radios in the arsenal.
Through good fortune, we ended up with 4 generators on the site. It was said that this was too many, and we should have left one behind. Some of us know better! On Sunday morning, the North generator became intermittent. The first backup was fired up and all was well for a couple of hours. Then the backup started sputtering. Neither generator was working reliably. We then wheeled in backup #2 and all was well. While all this was going on, the CW station, powered across an uninterruptable power supply, didn't miss a beat. In any event, with detailed logistics, things do go wrong. The successful groups have the plans and material to deal with the problems.
The unanimous highlight of this year's Field Day was our food service. Multiple congratulations go out to Richard WN1HJW and Karen for manning the food concession. Thanks go out to Kristen for setting up the shopping trip. We had all sorts of goodies like burgers, hot-dogs, chips, coffee, donuts and lots of drink. Having cool available refreshment really helped during the sweltering 96-degree teardown on Sunday. Next year Richard plans to add his famous barbecue chicken to the menu!
By all accounts, it was a tremendous Field Day. We had it all: big score, lots of contacts, new ops, visitors, FOOD and a whole lot of fun. If you missed it, we do it all again next year!
I started the Contesting Corner column last November, and results from various major contests are starting to trickle in. Here are some of the results for club members and others close to RANV. For the ARRL November Sweepstakes CW, Tom W1EAT took 4th place for QRP in the Northeast Region and 1st place in Vermont. The Northeast Region, by the way, covers 5 ARRL Divisions. He tells me that he could have made the QRP Top Ten overall, had he not overslept on Sunday morning.
For low power Vermont, I took second place in my first attempt, Doug AB1T placed 4th, and Grant N0ICI, came in 5th in his first contest from Vermont. The high power category found Mitch W1SJ in first place.
A more popular November contest was the ARRL November Sweepstakes Phone. In the QRP category, W1EAT was once again in the Top Five for the Northeast Region at 3rd place and first place in Vermont. Low power Vermont showed N0ICI in first place, followed by AA1SU. We were all wondering by now where Grant was transmitting from. It was from Winooski and we all welcomed him to the area. The high power category featured WB1GQR (W1SJ op) at 3rd place in the Northeast Region and first place for Vermont with Bob N1MEZ coming in third.
In December, we had the ARRL 160-Meter CW Contest. Results for this event were actually published before the Sweepstakes results, probably because there are fewer entries. Tom W1EAT operated QRP, but forgot to send in his log. For low power, I placed first with Bob N1MEZ in second. Mitch W1SJ took 5th place for the Northeast Region and first place for Vermont. Congratulations to all, and next month we should see the results of the Ten-Meter Contest. It will be on the League's web page before the August QST gets here.
This weekend, just as you are reading this, we have the IARU HF World Championship. It starts Saturday July 10 at 8 am and runs for 24 hours. Send signal report and ITU Zone (8). Single ops can operate the full 24 hours. On July 24 at 8 am, there is the RSGB Islands On the Air Contest. It runs 24 hours and single ops can work 12 hours max. Send RST and serial number. Both of these tests are everybody works everybody! That means you get points no matter who you work. Also, they are both mixed mode contests. That means you can enter 3 different ways. Most of you will enter phone only and by the way, both offer great DX opportunities.
Next month - Hawaii!
It was shaping up to be a fiercely contested Fox Hunt in our June outing. John N2YHK proclaimed that it was time to dethrone reining champ W1SJ, and he almost made good on his promise!
From my end of the hunt, it was stable, routine and predictable, just the way I like it! Foxes Dan N1PEF and Mike N1UWT started up right at 7pm and I swung the 11 elements around, obtaining a peak at 280 degrees. "OK", I thought, as I glanced at the top map on my way out the door, "they have to be either near Watertower Hill in Colchester or in the new north end of Burlington." The signal was good, but not terrifically strong, so I opted for Burlington. As I flew down Route 15 at speeds which I will never tell, the signal rose predictably, but did not set any records by the time I got to Winooski. OK, that settles it, they are in Burlington.
The signal was very strong by the time I got to the High School on North Avenue. All right, where are they? There weren't many possibilities because the neighborhood is a narrow strip either side of North Avenue. I ruled out North Beach and Rock Point because the former requires admission and the latter is not public accessible. I tried by Ethan Allen Park, but the signal was too weak. I was just starting to think about checking out Watertower Hill, when it occurred to me to look in Ethan Allen Homestead off of the Beltline.
This was obviously the right choice, because the signal was pinning the meter on the shortest paper clip antenna. I sniffed around the parking area, but no foxes. I then remembered the N1PEF and N1UWT are a lot like me in that they like to hide outside the car. With HT (without antenna) in hand, I went dashing about in the swamps comprising the Winooski River Intervale, home to many forms of wildlife and many, many insects. After a short walk, I came across something which looked like deer stand or duck blind in the weeds. Except that the weapons of choice were HT's and not rifles. It was a little past 7:30 and I got there in almost record time. While talking to Dan and Mike, I heard a car with no muffler come into the area. "Oh-oh, that must be N2YHK, I'm outta here." John showed up some 13 minutes later, but I was long gone.
Because it was early, I took advantage of the time and went to a social engagement so I cannot relate the tall tales after this point in the hunt. I can say that we all had a wild time at Zack's in Malletts Bay afterward!
|N1YWB N1QZT N2UTY||9:10|