Field Day Anytime

Amateur radio is a hobby/avocation that has so many facets….. if you ever get ‘bored’ it’s because you don’t have an imagination.

Photos courtesy KC4S

One of the more imaginative aspects of amateur radio is field day style operating.  Some hams are forced to ‘field day’ it because of restrictive antenna covenants or a not so understanding spouse.  But some hams choose to operate portable quite a bit.  There are many QRP (low power) rigs more than suitable to back pack into a less than habitable location for a weekend foray.  There are tons of compromise antenna ideas and all seem suited to various locales.  There are lots of alternative power ideas such as solar, battery, or water power.  With the proper ‘toys’ you can generate your own power and get on the air.

Back a few years there was a group of hams in Mississippi that would go out and activate old iron bridges, many old, abandoned one lane bridges in the middle of nowhere.  They would literally hook up a feedline to the bridge through a tuner and use the bridge as an antenna.  Lots of folks throw a rig and some antennas in the car for their vacation trips, operating from camp sites or hotel rooms.

One of the side benefits of ‘field daying’ it is exposing amateur radio to the general public.  Setting up in your fifth wheel or RV in a park can generate some questions.  Be sure to invite prospective hams to check out your installation.  Lots of hams backpack their gear into otherwise inaccessible places.  There are programs such as Islands on the Air and Summitts on the Air and organizations that support recognition for working these locations, similar to the ARRL’s WAS award.

So, next time you feel the need to wander, load up some of your gear, some antennas and go play outside.

Ten meters is alive and well

I’m certain that, by now, those techs that have been licensed in the last several years are thinking that we old guys must be crazy.  Ten meters isn’t anything but a bunch of hiss and maybe some local contacts…… and that rare E skip opening to Texas!  Well, certainly this solar cycle has been a disappointment.  It has not been nearly as productive as the preceding couple.  But we are dealing with nature and physics and so much more that our science ‘understands’  only to a point.

But, so far this fall, ten meters has been acting up.  There have been some outstanding openings to Europe and Japan and the scatter signals have been usable as well.  I actually made my first ever AM contact on 29 MHz working  stations in Tucson, AZ and Hungary.  Operating in the top part of ten meters is definitely more laid back than the SSB/CW/digi DX contacts in the lower part of the band.

The grand thing about 10 meters is that it doesn’t take a lot of antenna or power to make DX contacts.  It is significantly easier to work Europeans on 10 meters with a dipole and 100 watts than to do the same on 20 or 40 meters.

So, hey, all you tech licensees out there.   Get yourself about 16 feet of wire, cut it in half, hook a piece of RG58 or RG8X to it and throw your creation up in a tree 15 or 20 feet and work the world.  You just might be surprised what might answer your CQ.  By the way, the AM station I worked in Tucson was running 50 watts to a dipole in the attic and had Mt Lemmon just east about 3 miles.  Go get radio active this week and try and make one contact a day.

Need some help building that antenna?  Call another ham or check out this link

73 and good DX

DX – How Much Does It Really Cost?

Most of us work DX casually. We jump into a pileup and fight and claw our way to the top of the heap. We grin knowingly when our call comes back from the DX station. Then we fill out our QSL card. Drop it into the mail to the bureau or the DXpedition with an SASE and maybe a buck or two.

But have you ever thought what it costs to actually get to that rock or island in the middle of nowhere. What is the cost to get that boat, those gas cans, generators, antennas, radios, feedlines and people to that rare and exotic place? All of this effort just to spend 3 weeks or less operating 24/7 just so you and I can put a new one in the log!

Let’s examine a DXpedition from the beginning.

All DXpeditions begin with an idea. This is the only free part of the entire process. After the initial idea someone starts the process of putting together a team, figuring out what parts of the world need the chosen entity, the best time to go and on which bands and modes to concentrate.

OK, so the easy part is done! Now, how do we get there? How much is the boat going to cost? What kind of radios and antennas do we need? Where can we get them and how much will they cost? How much gas or diesel is needed?  Do we need special permission to land on the location?  What about licensing fees?  Do we have a multinational team?  What of the potential politics involved?  Will we have internet access to update logs?

As you can see a DXpedition, just to put that new one in the log, can be daunting and expensive.  So, if you’re a DXer, casual or serious, it’s up to you to help out.  Be polite and gracious on the air.  Fight fairly and diligently to get in the log.  And consider a financial support of the DXpedition beyond a buck or two for a QSL card.

On that note, there is a DXpedition in the planning stages for late March 2014 to Mellish Reef.  And a Kentucky ham is one of the DXpeditioners.  Glen KE4KY will be journeying to Mellish Reef with a multinational group.  Mellish Reef is a miniscule spit of rock and guano with a peak of a whopping 2 meters above sea level (high tide).  But since it is far enough away from its controlling political entity it counts as a separate country for DX purposes.  The individual cost for each of the operators is nearly $9000 just for the boat.  Now add air fare, special clothing for the location, medical issues (immunizations etc), and incidentals and you can see the cost rise to $12,000US or more for each operator along for the ride.  And all this out of pocket just to go work 16-18 hours a day handing out a new one to deserving amateurs around the world.

Needless to say, unless one has fairly deep pockets this can present a financial burden.  The last part of the article is provided by Glen KE4KY and is a plea for financial support.  Please consider lending a hand.

Mellish Reef in March/April 2014, using the callsign VK9MT.

We request that your organization consider sponsoring this DXpedition.

Mellish is an isolated, uninhabited reef located in the Coral Sea, 1150 km from Brisbane, Australia. The only part of Mellish Reef permanently above water is the small sandy islet of Herald’s Beacon, around 600 m long and 150 m wide, rising to a height of 2 m above sea level. Mellish Reef is currently 25 on the ClubLog and 32 on DX Magazine’s Most Wanted List. This highly-ranked status reflects the challenges involved in activating this entity. These include accessing this remote island, establishing multiple stations equipped to serve the high numbers of callers across the amateur hf spectrum, and setting up suitable living facilities.

Preparations for the DXpedition are progressing well. So far, we have:

  • Received the necessary landing / use permissions and radio license from the Australian authorities
  • Project management team established, station and antenna plan developed
  • Webpage: www.VK9MT.com
  • Expedition yacht Evohe partnering with the team for transportation and logistics
  • Efficient QSL management including LOTW via M0URX

In keeping with the team’s lightweight/high-performance/low-cost philosophy, we have:

  • Chosen a cost-effective vessel with a proven track record of expedition support in harsh environments
  • Chosen lightweight, high-performance K3/KPA500 stations, mostly supplied by team members
  • Chosen to use verticals on the beach or in the water to take advantage of the “saltwater amplifier”
  • Decided to hand-transport high-value items (avoiding major shipping fees), and to rent locally low value, heavy items

As you know, DXpeditions to rare entities are expensive ventures, with monetary support graciously donated from international foundations, radio clubs, and individual DXers around the globe. Each DXpedition team member commits substantial personal funds up front, with the hope that the international DX community will in part share in this financial burden by the aid of direct donations, physical resources, or additional funding through online QSL services. Although we have chosen the most inexpensive suitable vessel, the expedition budget is still $125,000 (US) (not including individual operators’ travel to Australia, and their accommodation and living expenses while there). We are requesting that individuals, Foundations and Clubs within the DX community provide sponsorship to VK9MT in order to partially-offset our expenses.

The Mellish Reef 2014 project will practice full financial transparency. When we close the books, all Foundations and Clubs that provided sponsorship will receive a financial recap. Funds received will be equally divided across the team after legitimate DXpedition expenses are paid.

We hope your organization can help us with a donation. Donations in US funds can be made by check or money order to: Mellish Reef 2014 DXpedition – Gene Spinelli Treasurer, C/O Gene Spinelli K5GS, PO Box 189, Divide, CO 80814, USA, or PayPal to: info@vk9mt.com

Thanks in advance for your consideration.

Ride To The Summit Bicycle Ride Event

On October 5th, 2013 the Harlan County Amateur Radio Club was involved in providing communication for the Cumberland Tourism which held a 1st Ride to the Summit Bicycle Ride in which approx. 30 some riders from other more level areas of the state and some from Knoxville, TN came with their bicycles to ride. The event started at 8 AM in Cumberland and went to Loyall then back through Cumberland and on to the top of Big Black Mountain then back down the steep mountain grade to Cumberland which was around a 70 mile trip. There were members of the Harlan Club stationed along the route to call in as bikes arrived and departed from SAG (Support and Gear) Stations along the route which had water, snacks, and restrooms available. All bikes and Amateur Operators concluded around 3:30 pPM and the sponsors had dinner for everyone and debriefing was held. There were no incidents and everyone including Hams had a great time.

Communications were handled as a Training for ARES with a Command Post established. Communication was done via Harlan Repeater and Black Mountain Repeater .

ARES Members working the event were:

Numbered from left to right in attached photo.

AF4YJ Wayne Hensley EC Harlan County
KC4FNV Steve Tolliver
KK4NBU Will Christman IV
KJ4FVY Mike Kelly
KK4MKG Terry Kelly
KK4AJB Joe Takacs
K4AVX John Farler Region 4 ASEC
KY4JLB Johnnie Brashear DEC Dist 10