Last weekend, I assisted EMDRC in the summer VHF/UHF Field day contest 2014. We headed to the normal location of McLaughlin Lookout in the wombat state forest around 80km west of Melbourne. I started work early on the friday, and managed to head up mid afternoon.
I arrived around mid afternoon, with others having turned up a little earlier in the afternoon, and began to help with the station setup. Operating tent first, then the yagis for various bands and the microwave gear. The team comprised of Peter VK3QI, Mike VK3AAV, Jack VK3WWW, Jonas VK3VF, Steve VK3TAS and myself, with a special guest appearance by Marshall VK3MRG on his way past saturday afternoon.
I helped jack with the 2m and 70cm poles and arrays while mike and peter built 6m before moving onto the microwave gear.
Setup takes a number of hours, but the team has done it so often, they are well versed in the process. The weather was rather hot, the sun very strong, so we took our time having short breaks. With everything ready to go by around 8pm.
After dinner, we set about making sure the radios were working properly, having some test contacts with some of the other stations getting ready, listening to beacons and making sure the logging network was working well. This contest I had bought along a mobile network 3G modem router/hub, and the networked logging computer were able to access the internet as well, this was a handy addition to the setup.
This time, i had decided to ditch my camper trailer and took along my small 2 person hiking tent. I haven’t used this for years, and forgot the setup trick, spending way too much time fighting it before i remembered the proper order and got it setup!.
Saturday morning we all awoke and continued to tinker with the gear, testing the setup, and working a lot of VK5’s as conditions were very good. The station was working well.
Around 5km down the road was a sota summit VK3/VC-032, I had contemplated operating this and had my sota gear in the car, nothing was left to do for the contest station, so after a quick breakfast, I jumped in the car and went to work Sota. Ill blog about that in a separate post.
Back at the contest site at around 11am, we were all eagerly awaiting the start. before long midday arrived and we were off. Conditions were good, with decent contacts over the weekend on all bands, 6m had e’s openings to vk4 and ZL with is always a nice bonus. Tropo on the lower vhf/uhf bands saw contacts to vk5, vk7, vk2 and vk1 and the microwave gear worked very well. Early sunday morning was the best time with some very good contacts made. Including a contact with vk1da on 23cm, he had forgotten his 23cm yagi, and we worked him a 2m vertical he had laying sideways on his tent, read about it at his blog.
The event didn’t run without our small band of issues, and for me, i was operating both stations when the issues occurred. It must be me.. late saturday afternoon, the 70cm rotator stopped turning. A quick check of the power/ cable, and a spare controller still wouldn’t make the box turn, luckily we had a spare, and swapped out the gear (the benefit of quick connect cables at both ends) and were back in a spin!.
And then around 10pm saturday night, It appears I accidentally put a short burst of 50MHz through the 144MHz preamp. and as a result of this action, i let the smoke out. Ill blame the radio, i had heard a suggestion some vk7’s were chatting on 145MHz FM, and went looking for them, not being super familiar with the 2M radio setup, it appears I have used the VFO to tune up from a 6m memory, however, the radio was setup in such a way that repeater offsets used the split function, thus, when i moved to 145MHz and hit TX, the radio switched to 50MHz and zap. Luckily we had a spare and a quick operation say the 2m array dropped down and the faulty unit replaced. The replacement was down a fraction in performance, but we were back on the air. Below images show the damage, and subsequent fixed board, thanks jack. We know what not to do next time and will ensure band specific radios are programmed only for the band they are on!
Sunday afternoon, and with the contest over we began the pickup, this is a quicker job than setup, and by 3pm we were all seat for the trip home. The team had their best ever field day result, we were very pleased with our results and score. The weather was perfect, mid 20’s, a light wind, excellent propagation on all bands, and only a couple of small issues, we all had a great time. Now we wait to see how we placed in the contest.