As in past years, Keypounder, his XYL and a buddy ran Field Day, and we had fun and learned some things! Our station was the same minimalist station as last year- 2 antennas and one 100w transceiver. We ran as 1a to allow any ‘popup’ friends to operate. (In the event, nobody popped over.)

Site:

A sloping mountain side in the MidAtlantic facing west about halfway up the mountain, with lots of big trees and enough cleared space to (mostly) allow setting up a full sized 80 meter dipole.

Equipment:

Power was supplied by a combination of solar panels charging a 105 AH deep cycle marine battery powering the transceiver, and a backup switching PS we could run from a Honda EU2000i generator which also powered lights, computer system (Laptop and extra monitor), and fans. The Honda is quiet, both physically and RF, and easy on fuel.
Radio was a Kenwood 590SG transceiver. Compact, with a very good autotuner, two transmit antenna connections, transmit recorders, great transmit and receive audio, excellent sideband transmit compression and excellent receive filters, the only drawback of the 590 for Field Day is that it is not at all moisture resistant. We had a plan for that, which despite occasional light showers we did not need; the radio travels to and from the FD site in a GI 20mm ammo can, together with all the ancillary equipment (keyer, microphone, headphones, outboard tuner, cables, etc.) needed to run the station. I had a backup transceiver (IC7200) available if that one failed, but despite being run hard for 8-10 hours at a time, the Kenwood performed perfectly, and the superior filters especially make it my go-to Field Day radio.

Antennas were two dipoles; one 80 meter copperweld dipole cut for the middle of the band with a homebrew 1:1 choke balun at the feedpoint, and one 40/20 fan dipole also with a 1:1 homebrew choke balun, cut for CW on both 40 and 20. The 40/20 also loads on 15, as one would expect, and it turns out it works on 10 meters too. I fed the 80 meter antenna with 100′ of good RG-8x and the 40/20 meter antenna with 100′ of RG-8. The 40/20 fan we hung more or less flat up about 50+ feet to the feedpoint. The 80 meter dipole we hung with the feedpoint also at ~50′ in a Vee configuration with the ends about 65 or 70 feet up.  These two antennas when combined with the local topography provided excellent performance on all 5 HF bands.

Operation:

Every year the bands seem to get more crowded, and with the temporary rule change allowing 1D to work everyone this year, the bands were chaotic especially at the start. We were concerned about whether we’d be able to hold and run a single frequency, and we each had to QSY more frequently than in the past, but for the most part we were able to hold and run despite being very heavily ‘squeezed’. Although we used all the HF bands, most of our contacts were made on 40 meters, despite the crowding and chaos.

This year we increased our QSO count for the 4th Field Day in a row, making about 20% more contacts than last year, in about 16 hours of operating with two operators. My buddy’s peak run rate on phone this year was around 150 per hour; my best was about 120. Both of us have done higher run rates, but this year weather conditions and an abundance of inexperienced operators slowed things down.

All that notwithstanding, I was able to sustain about  80+ phone contacts per hour for several good 1+ hour runs, and despite the crowded conditions with a large number of 1D stations with very big signals, (some well tuned and some splattering all over,) both operators were able to hold and run frequencies routinely on 80, 40, 20 and 15 meters.  Again, like most people running portable stations, we ran 100 watts for the duration of the event; good antennas and good topography made all the difference.

In past years, we’ve had occasional flurries of small pileups, up to half a dozen stations calling but this year we had some significant pileups going at times; this was reminiscent of the 2014 W1AW Centennial or any Dxpedition. If the band had not been so crowded, I probably would have run split once the pileups got big, but for FD that is not an option.  The last hour and a half I ran at a rate of 100 to 120 QSOs per hour and the pile-ups stayed big (10-20+ stations) right up until 2 PM.

Propagation: Saturday afternoon 40 was open to the midwestern US, north into Canada and south to Florida. Later in the afternoon, 20 and 15 were open to the Rockies and the Southwest. 80 meter NVIS was good to NYC and south to South Carolina, and west into Kentucky and Ohio, but we did not spend any real time operating on 80 until later Saturday night, as there simply were not many folks on 80 for Field Day during the day, but after dark we worked 80 meter phone all over the Eastern US.

Sunday morning at 6 AM 40 meters was wide open to the West Coast, and stayed good until 7:30 or so, gradually shortening; by 7:30 20 meters was open to the Midwest, and by 9 AM 15 was open and stayed good until 2 pm. 10 meters was open to the South and Southwest, too, late Sunday morning but there weren’t enough people on to make it worthwhile, so after a few contacts, I went back to the bread and butter bands, 40 and 20.

A multi-station set-up could easily be productive on 40, 20 and 15 during the day and on 80 and 40 at night, both phone and CW A 2A station with a Get On the Air (GOTA) bonus station could run 40 and 20 during the day with the GOTA on 15, and at night the GOTA would be vacant and the coach could operate.

Our 1A operation was reasonably efficient and productive, but there is room for improvement, for sure.


Things that went well:

  • We had good weather for the most part. It was humid, but for the end of June in the MidAtlantic that is to be expected, and the fans we had worked well to keep the operator and equipment cool.

  • Antennas, equipment and people all worked well this year. A new slingshot was employed, getting lift points higher than ever, resulting in better low angle performance on 40 and 20.

  • Both operators had some very good runs and had a great time doing it.

  • Preparation for the event was good, no deficiencies in deployment or setup, it all went smoothly.

  • Good logistic support from the XYL plus assistance with takedown.

  • Teardown went smoothly too, with one exception; we had everything loaded up by 5:30.

Things to improve on:

  • My team needs more good operators. Rapid and efficient exchange of information under stressful conditions is a skill that takes time and effort to develop.

  • Too much time spent looking for a productive band that was not too crowded. Consider running a separate receiver to monitor activity on different bands.

  • Putting multiple ropes on one hoisting point is a problem with tall trees. Twisted twine makes it worse. Take the time for the extra shot to a separate branch and use only braided twine to pull up the rope.

  • Having full battery operation for both the radio and the logging setup and lights would save refueling time for the generator, as that could be taken offline, cooled and refueled while operation continued.

Goals for next year-

  • Get at least two more good operators added to the team ahead of time;

  • Practice team logging for CW operation;

  • Provide a pure sine inverter with another battery and solar panel to handle the station equipment while the generator is being refueled.

And that’s the news from Keypounder’s Field Day!

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