This report is a tad overdue (Sorry) but for those of you who were unable to participate, or for those of you who did participate but need the reminder, here’s a brief rundown of what transpired this past weekend (June 25th & 26th) at that annual event known as “Field Day”.
With the promise of a decent weekend, weatherwise, a number of us made our way to Marie’s Diner in La Plata for a healthy and fortifying breakfast before making our way to the Field Day site. When I arrived I was pleasantly surprised to find Vice President Charles (AA3WS) accompanied by his wife Nancy, daughter Virginia (KB3ITZ) and granddaughter (Whose name I’ve forgotten) in attendance. Charles joined us before heading to the airport and ultimately Camp Cupcake in the roasting far east desert sands.
Others at breakfast were Boy Scout Bob (KB3KOW) and son Andrew, Bridge Bob (W1BJC), Patrick (KB3UYZ), Mike (KB3HCG) and arriving fashionably late after responding to a 2AM emergency call from his place of employ, Lee N3YWZ.
Amply fortified with caffine and sustinance, we departed, some going directly to the FD site while others made various pit stops for last minute pickups of necessities. When I arrived after filling 3 coolers with ice, the 20 meter dipole had already been strung and the generator was in place. Pat brought along a 6 meter Yagi along with an clever homemade support stand that we assembled outside of the pavillion. Lee had strung and inverted V antenna as well.
With radios and computers for logging in place we were pleasantly suprised to realize that everything was ready at 12:30PM, about 1 and a half hours before the Field Day activities were to actually begin.
We fired up the generator at 1:50PM and were on the air at 2 with Bob (KB3KOW) and Lee (N3YWZ) working both voice and data contacts. I sat down with Pat (KB3UYZ) and checked out his 6 meter antenna. After a while Bob supplied a 6 meter rig to be used in place of the MFJ radio Pat had brought along and we made some 6 meter contacts. One of the more interesting contacts we made was with NB3T. He announced his section as MDC (Maryland DC) and I asked where he was-he replied that he was working from Smallwood State Park, about 12 miles away from our location. With the background noise, he sounded like he was half a continent away.
Andrew, K3NHT, joined us later in the afternoon.
There was a girls softball tournament taking place at Laurel Springs Regional Park during Field Day and we had numerous curious visitiors pass by as they used the restrooms and snack bar. Among those was John, KB3OYH who lives in La Plata, not far from the Train Station Museum. We gave John some information on the club and hopefully he’ll join us in the near future.
Sharon, KB3GHI paid a visit and brought along some delicious home made hamburgers-Thanks Sharon! Pat’s lovely wife Jeannie and granddaughter Olivia also stopped by for a while. Olivia presented Pat with some artwork she’d drawn depicting Pat and Olivia operating radios. Later in the evening Tim, KB3OSF and Melissa would also pay us a visit.
Of course, it wouldn’t be Field Day if we weren’t visited by our ol’ buddy William (Butch) Frazier, the Assistant Chief of Communications for Charles County. Butch has faithfully showed up at our Field Day site for a number of years now, garnering us the extra 100 points for a visit from a public official. Unfortunately we learned that this will be Butch’s final visit in an official capacity as he is headed for a well-deserved retirement in late July, after 38 years of public service. Thanks for your support over the years Butch, enjoy your retirement! BTW-If you find yourself getting bored in your lesiure time, amateur radio is a great hobby and we’d be glad to have you!
The operating session picked up as the evening hours approached. However, some of the band openings that we’ve benefitted from in recent years just didn’t seem to be there. There was a gaping hole in some of the regions in the midwest and southwest where we’ve picked up overnight contacts in the past and as the sun rose the New England and Canadian Maritime Provinces that usually come booming through were strangely absent. The strongest stations all seemed to be working pileups making it almost impossible to get through and the rest of the bands seemed to be much noiseier than usual. I don’t know if this is attributable to the stalled sunspot cycle or some other phenomonon but it seemed, to me at least, that we had to work much harder to make contacts than we have in recent years.
Mike, KB3HCG, departed around 3AM stating that he couldn’t hang any longer, stating that he was amazed how us “older guys” could stay up as long as we did. Later in the morning the softball tournament resumed and a mother of one of the players asked if we’d been there all night. When we replied in the affirmative, she stated that we looked “pretty good” for having been up overnight. I didn’t say so at the time but I believe that it was mass quantities of caffine combined with intellectually stimulating conversation that kept us going.
We did experience some generator problems-Charles (AA3WS) had tuned up the generator prior to Field Day and it seemed to be running well. However, as the hours wore on the generator seemed to be doing some “surging” and backfiring. Around 3AM the surging got noticably worse to the point where it caused Bob’s rig to shut down. Lee and Pat went to investigate and Lee came back and reported to me that it appeared that we had a gasoline leak. In the interest of safety we made the decision to shut the generator down and opted to run off commercial power for the rest of the evening. Investigating the problem after daylight, it appears that the rubber fuel lines have dry rotted and are in need of replacement and there also appears to be a gasket on the carbeurator that is in need of replacement as well. Hopefully we won’t be needing the generator in the near future but we need to keep this in mind and ensure that the necessary repairs are made before next Field Day which will be June 23rd and 24th in 2012.
Around 9 AM, with the bands noisy, the contacts slowing down to a trickle and us old guys finally feeling the fatigue we came to the mutual agreement that it was time to bring 2011′s Field Day adventure to a close. Being the good kids that we are, we put our toys away, disassembling the antennas and station setups that had been assembled less than 24 hours earlier. We took care to clean up the pavillion and I think it was cleaner when we departed than when we arrived.
We all had a good laugh at Lee’s expense before the start of the activity-it seems that Lee brought along a laptop containing all of his logging software that uses fingerprint recognition. Lee found himself unable to access his computer as it kept telling him that his fingerprint was not recognized. Despite numerous attempts at hand washing, the computer refused to allow Lee access and he was fearing that his Field Day was ruined before it began. It was only after a few well-chosen words that Lee got the bright idea to clean the SCREEN for the fingerprint recognition which immediately allowed him access.
A couple of lessons learned/items to bring along next year:
1. Obviously, the most important item is to get the generator back to full running order.
2. Fire extinguisher to be kept near the generator.
3. Seat cushions or pads-those aluminum benches get awfully hard on the posterior after a number of hours.
4. Pens or pencils and pads-thanks to K3NHT for picking up some on his way to the site.
5. CCARC information sheets. I thought we used to have information sheets on the club to pass out at public functions. We need to update what we did have or design a new one that can be passed out to members and guests.
As always folks, I’m relying strictly on memory as I was only making mental note of the activities. If I’ve forgotten anyone or anything it’s strictly due to old age, fatigue or a combination of both and no one was left out intentionally.
My thanks to all who participated, especially KB3KOW, N3YWZ, KB3UYZ, W1BJC, KB3HCG and K3NHT. I was concerned that there might not be much of a Field Day but with the pleasant weather this turned out to be one of the better Field Days in recent memory, despite the seemingly poor band conditions in our little corner of the world.
Reminder-next CCARC membership meeting is Friday, July 8th due to a conflict with the upcoming July 4th holiday weekend. Hope to see you there!
73, de AA3RT