Category Archives: Field Day

Club and member activities related to Field Day

Time to Prepare for Field Day 2017

On Christmas morning, it always amazes me how the kids can rip the packaging off all their gifts in mere minutes.  The smile on their faces and their pure joy and excitement makes it all worthwhile.  What took months of planning, shopping, hiding, wrapping is over before you know it.  As they say, you get much more out of giving than receiving.

As you might imagine, there is a parallel here to field day.   Sure, you could just show up at field day on Saturday morning, and everything would be setup and ready to go.  However, much of the value comes from all the strategy, planning, preparation and setup activities.  Despite the large investment the club has made in towers, antennas, generator, etc., It takes a small army of volunteers to get this right.

This is my first year as field day chairman.  Truth be told, I only attended my first Nashua Area RC field day last June, and was truly impressed.  I was reluctant to volunteer last year, as I just didn’t quite know what I would be getting into.  I suspect many of you are feeling the same way this year.  Whatever the excuse; I haven’t been a ham long enough, don’t know if I can devote the time, I don’t know anything about field day, etc.  Trust me, you can and will add value to this event.  Like uncle Sam used we say, we need you!

Now that it’s the new year, we are going to start having a regular series of meetings to plan for Field Day 2017.   The first meeting will be centered around what we learned from field day last year.  I’m looking for some early ideas about new things we can do to make field day more interesting and relevant for each of you.  Please feel free to contact me at fd@n1fd.org anytime with your ideas.

Some of the preliminary feedback I have received is tactical in nature.  It includes the following:

Current N1FD electrical distribution setup.
  1. The Electrical distribution system needs help. The current system consists of a Honda ES-6500 Generator with 240v distribution lines to step-down transformers at the tents.  The main distribution panel needs to be completely rebuilt and reduced in size.  Additionally, the whole setup isn’t currently weatherproof.  The existing distribution “cables” are single-conductor THHN wires taped together which certainly isn’t optimal.  Ideally, we should start with a clean sheet of paper and rebuild this properly.  Perhaps a small transfer switch so we can run two generators (so one can be serviced while still operating), with twist-lock plugs on the distribution cables and transformers, and proper SJOOW cable.  This effort alone would exceed the club budget for field day, so we could use donations of time and materials.
  2. The club owns a significant amount of coax cable. However, much of it is quite old and the connectors have seen better days.  I will look to schedule a tech night to put on new connectors and weatherproof using head-shrink with adhesive-lined backing.  We also need to make-up some short patch cables to connect to the club’s bandpass filters.  We should also label all club cable with the club call.  Finally, we need to determine the best strategy to coil and store the coax without kinks.
  3. The iron anchor stakes for the towers need to be modified to have a sharp point at one end. Someone with a grinder could do this in relatively short order.  We could also benefit from having a large hammer drill on-site with a ground rod bit to drive them in.
  4. We need to review the hardware and storage containers used to assemble the towers. There was a recommendation to use shoulder bolts that are smooth and unthreaded through the tower to prevent crushing. Also, many of the storage containers are cracked and need replacement.  Need to inventory and rebuild these kits.
  5. We have a trailer, affectionately referred to as BOB (the Big Orange Box) at the Nashua Wastewater Treatment Center. I understand this could use some re-organization.  We need mount some brackets to the wall to get things up off the floor.  Also, we should group each of the tower kits together.

So what should you expect from me?  I will be looking to divide the work up into a series of teams, and assign leads for each.  The teams will include a site readiness team, electrical, tower and antenna construction, safety, transportation, food, and potentially others. Many hands makes light work, and there’s something here for everyone.

The preparation begins now.  Who said it can’t be Christmas in June?  Let the excitement begin!

Dave, K1DLM

Nashua Area Radio Club – 2016 Year In Review

Our club has had quite a year in 2016. We initiated many new activities and our members learned some new skills. Most importantly, we contributed a great deal to the Amateur Radio Service through license classes and other educational and outreach activities.

Highlights From Nashua Area Radio Club’s 2016 Activities 

We made a video as a sort of memory book about our club’s activities and accomplishments in 2016. We hope that you enjoy it!

Fred, AB1OC

The Nashua Area Radio Club is Number 1 Field Day Again!

We got up to some great news this morning. The Nashua Area Radio Club is once again Number 1 Field Day!!

2016 ARRL Field Day Results - 7A Category
2016 ARRL Field Day Results – 7A Category

We are the Top Club in our Category (7A) for Field Day 2016 with a final score of 9,292. The next closest club was W6TRW with a score of 5,610. You can see all the 2016 Field Day results on the ARRL Field Day score page. For a more detailed breakdown of our score for 2016, check out our Field Day Page.

Congratulations to everyone who helped to make our 2016 Field Day operation a success! Also, a special thank you to our Field Day planning team –

Our 2016 Field Day Planning Team
Our 2016 Field Day Planning Team
Field Day Presentation 1
Mike, K1WVO Helping To Deliver Our Field Day Presentation During Our Club Meeting
Field Day Presentation 2
Field Day Presentation At Our Club Meeting Just Prior To Field Day 2016

We certainly have many great memories from our 2016 Field Day Operation. I spent some time today looking at the photos from our 2016 Operation and the video from 2016 Field Day Operation again. I picked out some photos to share here –

40m V-Beam 3
Our 40m V-Beam

Our setup was well planned and the execution was top-notch!

CW Row
CW/6m Row With One Of Two Of Our Towers And Beams
20m CW Op 2
20m CW Station
DATV Station Equipment
SSB Stations and Digital ATV Station on 70 cm
Sat Station Equipment
LEO Satellite Station

Many folks in our club pulled together to build our Field Day setup and we operated hard during Field Day.

Mike, KU1V Operating During Field Day 2016
Mike, KU1V Operating During Field Day 2016
40m CW Op
Ed, K2TE Operating 40m CW During Field Day 2016
20m CW Op 1
Bill, NJ1H Operating 20m CW During Field Day 2016
20m SSB Op
Jamey, KC1ENX, Operating 20m SSB During Field Day
75m-15m SSB Ops 2
Abby, KC1FFX Operating on 75m SSB During Field Day 2016
40m SSB Ops 3
Brian, AB1ZO Operating on 40m SSB During Field Day 2016
Jeff, WA1HCO Operating On 6m During Field Day 2016
Jeff, WA1HCO Operating On 6m During Field Day 2016
Field Day Fun 2
Field Day Fun 2016
Field Day Feast!
Merle, W1MSI Provided Us With A Field Day Feast!

We also helped to introduce folks to Amateur Radio via our GOTA Station.

GOTA Station 3
Our GOTA Station Provided By Wayne, KB1HYL

Its fun to think about all the great things that went on during Field Day this year.

Our 2016 Field Day Highlights Video 

Looking forward to our 2017 Field Day operation!!!

73,

Why Would I Want To Be In A Contest?

As I sit here watching the N1FD team work the CQ Worldwide DX contest, it got me thinking about what contesting is really about and why we contest.

Let me try to answer the second question first. There are lots of different reasons to operate in contests. Many folks do this to work new countries, states, zones, islands, grids, etc. It seems that you can find a contest that is designed to create opportunities to work just about anything that you can think of on the bands. Others work contests to try to test out their stations and to improve their skills as operators. Of course, many folks compete to win the contest or to place better than they did the last time. Some may even compete to set a record.

Joe KB1RLC in CQ Worldwide DX at AB1OC
Joe KB1RLC in CQ Worldwide DX at AB1OC

Perhaps the best reason to contest is that it provides one of the best opportunities to be a better operator. You may say, aren’t contesters just QRM on the bands on weekends when we want to use them for other stuff? I can see why some feel this way. I wish that more amateurs who feel this way would take some time to listen more closely to what is going on during the contest.

There is nothing quite like listening to a skilled operator work a pileup from a rare place during a worldwide contest like CQ Worldwide DX. Such an operator will make 100’s of calls in a row. They will accurately get each caller’s information into their logs and the really great ones will also use their skills and energy to ensure that each of their callers gets the contest station’s information correct in their logs as well.

This requires great skill in many areas. First, you need to really learn to listen and to pick out weak and fading callers in the presence of a great deal of QRM. It’s often necessary to piece together a good callsign using several rounds of a QSO. Good contest operators know perhaps 500 or more of the most common calls used in their contest and this information helps them to recognize calls and avoid making errors. The great ones also know how to work with each caller to ensure that they get the correct information to complete the contact and that the other operator does the same.

Jamey, KC1ENX Operating in CW Worldwide DX SSB
Jamey, KC1ENX Operating in CW Worldwide DX SSB

I like to think of this as getting in the head of the other person during the QSO.  Did they get my call right or do I need to slow down and say my call again? Did I hear their callsign and exchange correctly or do I need to give them a chance to ask me to correct something for them? While I am doing all of this, I need to be as fast and efficient as possible. These skills take a great deal of practice to develop. You can get there with less time in the chair during contests if you take some time to listen and pay close attention to the great operators that you will hear during contests. First and foremost, great contesters are great listeners and they can accurately pick out call signs on the first try without making mistakes.

N1MM+ Logger Setup For Our Contest Operation
N1MM+ Logger Setup For CQ WW DX

What, you say that any operator will do great when they are sitting at a big contest station with lot of power and big antennas? It is true that having a well-built station and good hardware and computers helps make contacts easier. Computers and modern software like N1MM+ also play an important role in making the mechanics of finding and making contacts accurately more efficient. The contest community makes their software available free of change to everyone. I strongly encourage anyone who contests to set up and learn to use modern contest software. While these tools help, they are just like construction tools in the hands of a carpenter. The master carpenter can create a work of art with a hand saw, a hammer and some basic hand tools while an apprentice can struggle to get good results from the best shop and tools available.

Also, most contests are designed with categories to group contesters with their peers who have setups similar to theirs. Station hardware differences also does not account for the contester who goes to an island in the Caribbean with a 100W radio and a simple antenna and wins an award in a contest.

Julio, HI3A Competing in WRTC
Julio, HI3A Competing in WRTC

We also saw this clearly during the WRTC competition here in New England a few years ago. We had the best operators in the world competing using the exact same towers and similar antennas that we use for our annual Field Day operation and they made 2,000 or more contacts in a 24 hour period using 100W radios. Many of these operators did this while making almost no mistakes!

So what else makes a great contest operator besides working fast and efficiently to complete and log lots of contacts accurately? For one, these folks know a great deal about propagation and how to take best advantage of the conditions at hand. They know when its time to run on 20m into Europe, when to look for Japan on 15m for those multiples, what time of day and segment in the contest to focus on contacts in the Caribbean and South America, etc. They learn when they ned to change bands and when its time to work multipliers or tune the band that they are on with their second radio or VFO. They can quickly determine the band and propagation conditions on the contest weekend and adjust their strategy to take best advantage of the conditions at hand.

A great operator also learns to make the best use of their station and antennas. They understand where their stations work well and they adapt their approach to a contest based upon this. They also spend lots of time looking at and comparing their performance from contest to contest and against other competitors in the same contests to see where they can improve.

So what if you don’t really want to win contests? Why would you bother with this. The most important reason is that contesting will make you a better operator. You’ll learn to hear that really weak DX and get them into your log accurately. When you get on the air, you’ll be an operator that others want to work because they know you will help them complete a contact that they want. You will find and work stations that most others will miss. In sort, a bit of dedication to contesting will make you a great operator.

Bands and Modes Worked By N1FD (Noon On Sunday)
Bands and Modes Worked By N1FD (Noon On Sunday)

As the CQ Worldwide DX Contest weekend draws to a close, I’d also like to add that I am proud of the job that the operators in our club did at our station. Most of them had almost no DX contest experience before this weekend. They worked the contest hard and have made contacts to over 100 counties in about 40 hours of operating. They have all improved their skills greatly and I look forward to working all of them at any time.

73, and see you in the contest!

Fred (AB1OC)