WVARA Field Day, 25-27 June 2011

Another Awesome Field Day!

2011 President's Field Day Letter

Field Day is a great opportunity to get outdoors, gain experience assembling equipment in the rough, and operate a station under challenging band conditions. This year we operated QRP in the 7A Battery category from Mora Hill in Los Altos, California, overlooking the Silicon Valley from an elevation of 500 feet. (Our site was visited by deer and wild turkeys during the weekend.)

We had 3 HF CW stations, 3 HF SSB stations, an HF digital station, a Get On The Air (GOTA) station, a satellite station, and a VHF station. In spite of being limited to 5 watts, we succeeded in making three satellite contacts as well as QSOs on 50 MHz with Vermont, Virginia, Colorado and Western Washington.

Our GOTA station was particularly popular with plenty of drop-in visitors including a good number of kids. Older visitors included a couple of enthusiastic college students from Cal Poly who stuck around and operated graveyard shift on 20m SSB.

In addition to having a great time, each year we work at improving our equipment, antennas and operating skills. This year we used two homebrew HF triplexers to simultaneously share a pair of HF tribanders between multiple stations on 10- 15- and 20 meters. If youíd like to build one, you can read all about how to do it in K6KVís article in the June 2010 issue of QST.

Since we had CW, SSB and PSK-31 stations simultaneously operating on 20 meters, we took care to have HF transceivers with well-designed front-ends in order to minimize spur transmissions and receiver pumping/desensing. The majority of our siteís stations used Elecraft K3 and/or K2 transceivers.

Being outdoors also meant that we got to put up wild-n-crazy antennas that our spouses and neighbors might never allow back home. Cool new antennas at our site this year included a 40 meter, crossed, switchable, self-supporting dipole array, crossed (switchable) dipoles on 80, and 4-element monobanders on 15- and 20 meters. This was also the second year we used a 2-element 40 meter quad, which continued to perform very well. We appear to have worked all 50 states while handily beating our score from 2010.

73, Jim K6EI

Previous Field Days

Follow the links below for information and pictures from past WVARA Field Day sites:

For more information

For rules and more information see the ARRL Field Day web page.

For an overview of the 1994-2002 Field Day efforts see WVARA Field Day Through the Years.

WVARA FD Quick Links WVARA Field Day Band Captain's Handbook
WVARA Field Day Station Checklist (54K PDF)
WVARA's FD mail list
WVARA Field Day History
What is Field Day?

That's a good question, and if you asked ten hams, you would probably get ten different answers. Some would say that Field Day is a contest, others would say that it is an emergency preparedness exercise, still others would say that it is a party and yet others would say that it is a public relations exercise. Who is right? They all are! Field Day is all of those things and more. The best description anyone can find is that Field Day is all of ham radio in one weekend!

During Field Day, ham radio clubs, groups and individuals take to the field in simulated emergency conditions (living in tents and running on generators and batteries). They are given 24 hours to set up as many stations as they are able. In the next 24 hours they are try to make as many contacts as they can with those stations. All aspects of ham radio are used in this pursuit. More than a million contacts will be made on HF and VHF, CW, SSB and digital modes this weekend. Bonus points are awarded for making an extra effort such as making contacts via satellites or sending and receiving message traffic.

Field Day isn't just about radio though. Clubs use this biggest of all yearly events for many other activities. With much of the clubs membership assembled it is a natural time for BBQ's and other gatherings. Also with all of ham radio on display this weekend it is a choice time to show off what we do best. The media and government officials are invited to attend to view what ham radio can do.

As you can see, Field Day is indeed all of ham radio in one weekend and anyone that attends their first Field Day rarely misses one again!

How to Contest

While Field Day isn't strictly a contest, that is how the entrants are rated and why not? A contest is a great way to evaluate a stations performance. It is also a great way to simulate message handling which will be a big part of any response to an emergency.

So what is a contest? Put most simply, in a contest the objective is to make as many contacts in as many places as possible in a prescribed ammount of time. For Field Day, the objective is simply to make as many contacts as possible in the 24 hours you are alloted. To make those contacts valid, you have to exchange a certain ammount of information. The "exchange" for Field Day is your entry class (number of transmitters) and your ARRL section.

So how do you go about making these contacts? Just as you would for any other QSO in amateur radio, there are only two ways to initiate a conversation. You either have to answer someone who is calling CQ or call CQ yourself and wait for someone to answer you. Which method is better? It is generally accepted that staying in one place, calling CQ and letting the other stations come to you is quicker and less tiring. However, this only works if you have a signal that is loud enough to attract other stations. If you aren't making any contacts or aren't making them fast enough, you are forced to switch to the search and pounce method. Excelent operators can rack up the QSOs almost as fast this way. Which ever method you employ, a Field Day contact sounds like this:

CQ Field Day CQ Field Day this is W6PIY Whiskey Six Papa India Yankee calling CQ Field Day and listening.
Whiskey One Alfa Whiskey.
W1AW thank you, we are Eleven Alfa, Santa Clara Valley, over.
Thank you, we are Six Delta, Connecticut, over.
Thank you, this is W6PIY Whiskey Six Papa India Yankee, QRZ?
All that is left is to record the contact on your log sheet and get ready for the next contact.

Obviously because of the variability of radio propagation and other factors, many contacts aren't this neat and clean. This is especially true when multiple people are calling you or you are getting interference from another station, but learning to deal with these conditions are part of the lure and purpose of Field Day!

home activities repeaters meetings news officers
membership on the air Field Day email lists About WVARA Links

Waiting to begin setting up on Friday.
Photo by Anita.

We start by putting up antennas: installing the 15 meter yagi. Photo by Bill AE6JV.

Photo by Senthil KJ6KCG

Nick KZ2V setting up AB-577 portable mast. Photo by Anita.

80 meter wire antenna.
Photo by Anita.

Nick KZ2V continues setting up AB-577.
Photo by Gary K6KV.

It may be hard to see the white wires suspended from the yagi boom, but this was our full-sized 2 element 40 meter quad.
Photo by Anita.

Our GOTA station and antenna.
Photo by Anita.

Our three CW stations operated from inside a mylar-coated tent. The mylar reflected away the sun’s heat and kept out the sun’s glare. Our four element 20 meter monobander was mounted on top of a 50 foot AB-577 portable mast. Photo by Kevin KK6VF.

Sunset with the 40 meter switchable crossed-dipole array in the background. Photo by Bill AE6JV.

Photo by Senthil KJ6KCG

Our FD site from a distance.
Photo by Kevin KK6VF.

The VHF/UHF and Digital stations.
Photo by Anita.

Mike KG6YMN can’t wait for the start of the event!
Photo by Kevin KK6VF.

Jack W6FB and son Mike KG6YMN decide who will operate first. Photo by Kevin KK6VF.

Our first visitor!
Photo by Kevin KK6VF.

More visitors on the way, heading to the GOTA station. Photo by Kevin KK6VF.

Dean, N6DE, busy in the CW tent.
Photo by Kevin KK6VF.

Greg K6XM (left-front), Dean N6DE and Nick KZ2V (right) operating CW. Photo by Kevin KK6VF.

Tom W6ESL Operating VHF/UHF.
Photo by Marcel KI6QDJ.

Jerry KJ6OYA and Dave AF6KD making their third sat- ellite QSO while running 5 watts. Photo by Bill AE6JV.

Nick KZ2V and Rick WE6AAI discuss the fine art of making QSOs with a straight key. Photo by Bill AE6JV.

Jessica Ibarra on the air in the GOTA tent!
Photo by Bill AE6JV.

Radio activity in the GOTA tent: Senthil KJ6KCG coaches a visitor. Photo by Bill AE6JV.

Scott AD6RY and Senthil KJ6KCG operating SSB.
Photo by Kevin KK6VF.

A young operator on the air.
Photo by Gary K6KV.

Rick WE6AAI bags another CW QSO. from the GOTA tent! Photo by Anita.

Kenneth W6KWF operates PSK during dinner break.
Photo by Anita.

Senthil KJ6KCG operating SSB.
Photo by Bill AE6JV.

Taking a break for dinner.
Photo by Kevin KK6VF.

Chocolate chip cookies keep the team going.
Photo by Anita.

CW tent during graveyard shift. Lights from Silicon Valley are visible down the hill. Photo by Bill AE6JV.

Moonrise over the SSB tents.
Photo by Bill AE6JV.

WVARA Field Day at Mora Hill during graveyard shift. Photos by Marcel KI6QDJ.

WVARA Field Day at Mora Hill during graveyard shift. Photos by Marcel KI6QDJ.

The tired but happy WVARA team at the end of Field Dat. Photo by Anita.

Heading home with the tower trailer. Photo by Anita.