Monday, 29 June 2015

Field Day 2015 - - - - - We Survived !!

The portable beam goes up.
Field Day was an interesting experience this year.  From lousy weather and bad propagation, we had it all.  Field Day actually started for me on the Wednesday before when Don, VE3MNE, and I went out to Hay Bay to the property Don owns out there.  Wednesday and Thursday were great, the weather was warm, hardly any bugs.

This year, as we normally do, we operated as a 5A station, made up of four SSB and one Digital positions.  We did change up the antenna list this year.  The line-up was an 80m OCF dipole, a 160m OCF dipole, a 20m beam,  two 31' verticals, a 10m/15m fan dipole, a four element 6m Yagi, and a ten element 2m beam.  Friday and Saturday morning was spent getting these antennas in the air.  

During the lead up to Field Day we had three CME hits, which of course threw the good propagation out the window.  The numbers at 1320 UTC on June 27th didn't look good at all: SFI=100, SN=28, A Index=10, and K Index=2.  Those numbers, while changing a little, stayed almost constant throughout the weekend.

We also spent Saturday morning tarping the tents after seeing the projected weather forecast, two of the SSB stations and the Digi station where located in tents, and there is not much shelter out at Hay Bay from the elements.
The 6m and 2m "tower" made from a 32' ladder.

At 2000 UTC on Saturday the driving rain and strong winds hit, and it rained and blew heavily for the rest of the weekend.  But, nobody got wet, the tarps did their jobs, and all the radio's survived!   Things were so wet and windy out there we actually left everything setup out there when we left Sunday afternoon, and we will go out Monday morning and take everything down in the beautiful weather we have that Field Day is over !!

Even with the poor propagation we still managed to better our score from last year.  The 20m band was our top scorer with over 500 contacts, the 40m and Digi stations did pretty well too.  Unfortunately the 15m and 80m stations didn't have much activity on them, both of those stations made a respectable amount of contacts - but nowhere near normal, and we only managed to make a single contact on 6m.  

The second Field Day site our club operated was near Odessa at the QTH of George, VE3SIQ.  They also did very well over the weekend, especially as Geoge only moved in to this QTH a few weeks ago.  This year due to the number of ops who wanted to take part we had to do two sites, and we hope this trend continues.

Overall it was a successful weekend at Hay Bay, finishing with a total of 1385 contacts.  I think we may have kept our standing from last year, but we will wait and see what the final scores are when they are published later in the year by the ARRL.

Tarped up and waiting for the rain at the Digi station.

2015 Field Day Map.....only Newfoundland is not filled in!!

Remember........364 days to go till next Field Day !!!!!

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Solar Flux.....

As 30,000 hams all patiently wait for Field Day to arrive it looks like the Propagation God is playing a dirty joke on us all.   If you haven't seen the SFI numbers today you're in for a shock!

Currently at 1811 UTC, the SFI is at 127, the SN is at 77, the K Index is at a whopping 54, and the A Index at an unbelievable 6.

And, it could get worse, as the forecast speaks of another possible earthbound CME due to hit sometime on June 25th, following a M6.5 flare on Monday.

Hopefully things will have settled down enough by the 27th to let Field Day be a good one with lots of contacts.  I'll be out at beautiful Hay Bay running the 40m station, and using the clubs VE3FRG callsign.

For those of you heading out to Field Day, have a great and safe one, and for those of you who are not going out to Field don't know what you're missing !!

Have fun everyone!

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Island Activating

How many of you get out in the spring, summer, or fall and activate islands.....or even lighthouses?   It seems over the past few years that this aspect of our hobby has fallen to record new lows.

Some of us who do activate Canadian islands on a regular basis blame the last administration of the Canadian Islands Award (CIsA), which disappeared about 2 years ago, after they failed to administer the program in an efficient manner.  In fact the truth of the matter is that the webmaster just failed - period!

CIsA was quickly replaced by Canadian Island Activators (CIA) to make sure the database of Canadian Islands was not lost, and the CIA website can be found HERE.  Or, If you're on Facebook you can read about forthcoming activations HERE.

A lot of work by a lot of amateurs was very nearly lost when the CIsA website was suddenly taken down with no warning by its webmaster.  Pages of reference material and island numbers were saved by using the Google "wayback" machine.

We need to get this aspect of the hobby built up again.  At the moment it seems there are very few who do go out and spend a few relaxing hours activating the odd island, and very few of the activations are past on to be advertised on the CIA sites.  As a result of that, people don't know what's out there to work, and the activators get fed up with getting no traffic and eventually give up doing it.

CIA has a "sister" club in the USA with whom they work very closely.  Down there they have US Islands, (USI) and they too have both a website and a Facebook page.  The website can be reached HERE, and the Facebook page HERE.

When activating an island we find it gets more attention if the notice goes on all four sites, and you will be amazed at just how many people read them looking for new and unusual islands to work.

Rules for the CIA can be found HERE.  Give it a go, you might enjoy it!

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Sad News Today

Those of us in Kingston received some very sad news first thing this morning.  Mike Lambert, VE3SIW, became a Silent Key last night, he was 61 years old.

Mike has been a good friend of mine since I moved to Kingston 10 years ago.  He was a 32 year veteran of the Frontenac County Ambulance Service.   Mike retired early due to issues with PTSD.

Mike was a gentle giant who would give you the shirt off of his back if you needed it.  He was an extremely compassionate and caring person, and this was true right till the very end.

A long time ham, and a long time member of the Frontenac Emcomm Group, Mike's presence will be greatly missed by the ham community, especially at our Saturday coffee gatherings and our Sunday breakfasts, where he always was telling stories and joking around.  Mike was also a net controller on several US nets, including Sully's International Rooster Roster which is held daily on the Watertown repeater.

Mike, you're going to be missed buddy !!!


Sunday, 14 June 2015

Field Day.......are you ready?

It's that time of year again, and Field Day is just around the corner.   Once again we're off to glorious Hay Bay in Lenox and Addington County for our 9th consecutive year.  We're quite blessed that one of our members owns 2.5 acres of water front property on the bay, and that it's ringed with 100' high trees, or as we like to call them: "Natural Vertical Antenna Support Structures", and he insists we hold Field Day there.......actually for us it's more like "Field Week".

Richard, VA3VDP, and the 2014 Digi station
As usual we will be operating VE3FRG as a 5A station - four SSB and one Digi station.  We have one station on 40m, one on 80m/160m, an all-band Digi station, a 20m station, and a 10m/15m station.  As well we will have the 2m/6m station this year.

This has worked out very well for us over the years, and our result last year in our category was the icing on the cake, and proved to us we have a winning system.

Our antenna system is comprised of a 160m OCF Dipole, a 80m OCF Dipole (both OCF's are up at 100'), a 31' vertical for use on 40m and 15m, a "Chillycon Special" for the digi station, and a 10m/15m fan dipole.   This year, for the first time, we are adding a VHF station with a 10 element 2m Yagi and a 5 element 6m Yagi.

One thing we do look forward to is our traditional visit on the Friday night to the Sandbanks Bar & Grill in Wellington.  We've always found the beer cold and the food good and the outdoor patio is a great place to relax before our ears start to ring with the cries of "CQ Field day".

I'll be on the 40m station as usual, and will be listening intently for the ever elusive VA3QV/qrp.  I'm not sure but I don't think I have ever worked Bob from Hay Bay......hopefully this will be the year as I hear he's going to be active from the new mobile shack.

The view over the bay.
This year we will also have a "part-time" CW operator dropping in.  Ron, VE3GO, will come out during Saturday and spell off the SSB operators on their bands, and pound the key for a while racking up some needed points for us.

Hopefully the propagation Gods will be smiling for Field Day weekend and we start to see an improvement from what we've been seeing over the last few weeks.  All the numbers we have seen and studied seem to point to the fact the numbers will be fine for the, if we can just get the weather man to get things sorted out everything will be perfect!

Saturday, 13 June 2015

It's done!

Yes, after two years and four attempts, the activation of Upper Brewers Mill Island was finally completed this morning.  Upper Brewers in now officially designated as ON-294.

The bands were not in the greatest of shape today, both 40m and 20m were very noisy and both had quite deep QSB.  40m was very short as well.  Despite calling CQ on 10m and 15m we managed zero contacts on those bands.

There was lots of juggling frequencies this morning as there always seems to be a net in Spanish on 14.250, and they're there 24/7, as well as the ECARS Net which sits slap bang in the middle of the IOTA calling frequencies at 14.255.  By the way, the language from the ECARS Net Controller this morning left a lot to be desired, and yes, he did actually give his callsign. There seems to be far too much foul and abusive language on the air these days, and there is no need for it at all.

The majority of the contacts were done on 40m using a 31' vertical and a FT-857D.  The other station ran a IC-718 into a 20m vertical Buddipole.

This will be the last of the island activating for a while........Field Day is a coming !!

Many thanks to all those we managed to work today, we appreciate your being there!

Friday, 12 June 2015

High SWR..... ?????

Having just read Mike's Blog, VE3WDM, about his high SWR as 99.9:1,  I was glad to read Mike got the problem sorted out without any damage to his equipment.

I can only recommend to him, and others, to use the following if it happens in the may help ;-)

Available at all fine Ham Radio Stores........

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Upper Brewers Mill Island Activation.......Again!!

The Locks at Upper Brewers mill
OK, we're going to try and do this again......for the fourth time!

This Saturday morning between 1300 UTC and 1700 UTC the Frontenac Radio Group is going to attempt to break the jinx, and finally activate Upper Brewers Mill Island, which is located on the Rideau Canal system.

Grid is FN14uj.

Callsign in use will be the group's call, VE3FRG.

Hopefully the bands will be singing so we can get this activation over and done with.

There will be two HF station on the air, and as usual, the frequencies will be +/-........

14.250 to 14.260

I'll be using the new IC-718 and my Chillycon 31' vertical.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

The Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour - 2015 Edition

The VE3CLQ Mobile on Sunday
We had perfect weather for this years edition of the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour, warm with just a touch of wind.

As in years past my job took me to Perth Road Village were we have two stations operating at the General Store.  One station is the Net Control for the Frontenac Section of the tour, and the other station is the liaison station with the Lanark Section Net.  This system seems to work very well for us and allows the passing of important traffic back and forth between the nets without overloading either net with unwanted information.

There are times though when Perth Road has so many portable masts and antennas in the air it looks like a NATO Divisional HQ......only the camouflage is missing!

This year was a bit different in the way the Tour was operated.  For the first time we had to provide communications to two separate routes, which of course means the operators were spread over a far greater distance.  Our "normal" route follows Perth Road and eventually becomes Division Street in Kingston.  The new route followed a convoluted route from Perth through numerous windy backroads ending up on the Battersea Road and into Kingston.  Both routes end at Queen's University where the riders send the night in the dorms.

So instead of our usual five radio support locations, this year we had eight stations on our net, and surprisingly, contrary to what we thought would happen, things went very smoothly.  Thanks to Scott, VA3PTO, from Ottawa who helped out on our net from one of the new Battersea Road locations.

VE3EOG's go-box in action
The weekend is actually a lot of good fun, and we get to see old friends who man the nine mobile units that run up and down the course providing repairs and rides to exhausted riders.

It wouldn't be the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour without some excitement and this year we had plenty.  Several ambulances had to be called for various injuries, nothing too serious though.  And, surprisingly we had two bikes that actually failed with broken frames and broke in two!

Long days and lots of fun.  If you haven't taken part in the event yet we can always fit you in.

Riders taking a break at Battersea Village

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The new rig in the shack.....

Well after Sunday's disastrous island activation attempt and the death of my much beloved FT-857D, a new radio appeared in the shack this morning.  An IC-718 now graces the bench.

While I would have dearly loved to have replaced the FT-857D with another one, I really could not justify the cost.  The IC-718 was about half the price, and although it doesn't have 6m, 2m, and 440, it will do me very nicely for the portable work I do.

It's a nice compact rig that is packed with options.  I set it up right out the box, attached the antenna, tuned up, and had a QSO with JW9JKA on Bear Island, Norway, and got him on the first call.  While I only received a 51 from him, I was quite pleased as that was done with the factory settings.

The menu system is one that you set and forget.  I had Don, VE3MNE, on the air tonight on 160m and we went through some of the settings and sorted out the mic gain.  Don says the radio sounds very good, in fact the results were very similar to my FT-950.

I think it's a bit big to actually mount in a go-box which is a bit of a draw back to me, but we will figure something out to protect it while we're operating portable.

This weekend I'm out doing the communications for the Rideau Lakes Cycle Tour, and I plan on taking the radio and my Buddypole antenna with me and doing some HF DX chasing in-between the busy times.