Field Day 2018

There were scant formalized opportunities for field day this year as local clubs either didn’t have a formal program (Redmond) or weren’t actively open (Issaquah), so I joined my friend K7IP in Ocean Shores to mess around with radios and do some geocaching.   We operated from the public beach south of town.  (4WD very helpful for getting there.)

K7IP (Doug) setting up the kite

For the first morning, we used up a Kite antenna.   The kite was tethered to his truck by string, which stands out a little better.  The second line is 135′ of #12 magnet wire.  We were originally going to feed this to my 9:1 balun, but tightening the screws sheared the wire. We added a long counterpoise and just ran it direct to the radio.

Kite antenna

The kite was pretty steady in the breeze and we kind of forgot about it until it was time to take stuff down.

Kite antenna, looking up

I used my elecraft KX3 at 5-12W for most of the time.  To the right, you can see the wires feeding directly into the radio.  The internal tuner on this is pretty amazing.

KX3 sitting on the bed of the truck

The radio was powered by a 15Ah lithium phosphate (LiFePO4) battery encased within the black, pastic box behind my laptop.  I also had the 6Ah battery that I took to college visits last year.  (Fun fact: the FAA allows one to carry lithium batteries on the plane, but limits the capacity to 100Wh or 101-160Wh with airline permission.  The 6Ah is fine, but the 15Ah is not.  I use the LiFePO4 because they’re well-engineered, and safe.)

Practically, we were limited by the laptop charge (for digital mode & logging) and my bladder.  We went about 3 1/2 hours during the run with the kite before taking a break.

My humble station

We had a late start Sunday morning, but tried a more conventional Buddipole setup. This was the first time I’d used one, but found its engineering very thoughtful. Every connector had a snap-on rubber cover, and there were velcro bands for attaching things to other things. We mounted it on the truck bed, tethered to the sides.   I’d have to do more tests with it.

Day 2: Buddipole on 17/20/30m

As soon as 11am hit, the traffic died down a lot, but we stuck around making some FT8 contacts.  Even though you’re supposed to adjust it when switching bands, the automatic tuner in the KX3 was able to adjust enough.  I will need to do some more experimentation with this antenna.

Notes to self:

  • Operating from the beach was nice.  Setting up and taking down the shelter was a little dicey with the moderate wind, but once done, the tent pegs were enough to anchor it down.
  • The Kite Antenna worked better than we expected.  Next time, we want to try a thicker wire (24 gauge was a little too brittle for connector) and extending the spool of wire as far out as we can (e.g., more than 131′) and try lower bands.   The counterpoise was a good idea.  We had a ground rod, but I could only bang it into the sand about 8″.
  • We operated about 7 1/2 hours at 12W on the 15Ah battery, but I estimate we could have gone several hours more before switching to the backup.  This exceeds my bladder capacity and attention span by a lot.
  • Voice bands are seriously busy during the “contest” phase.  Trying to break in was frustrating.  I’d move over to the digital bands (17M & 30M) for a break.
  • Next year, I want to learn enough CW to practice that.  (I’m currently at three letters – K, M and E ;-o).

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