Thursday, July 20, 2017

On this day, 48 years ago


Here men from the planet Earth 
First set foot upon the Moon
July 1969, A.D.
We came in peace for all mankind

Neil  A. Armstrong     Michael Collins     Edwin E. Aldrin Jr.
Astronaut                Astronaut                  Astronaut

Richard M. Nixon
President, United States of America

To read about the communications systems that the Lunar Module employed, here are two good links from the NASA Archives: https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/19720023255.pdf and https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20090015392.pdf

The S-band transceiver was the primary transceiver used for TV, telemetry, biomedical data, and voice communications from the Lunar surface. It had an output power of  750 mW (QRPp!).  That signal then went to the S-band power amplifier, which boosted the signal to an outstanding "QRO" signal of 18.6 Watts.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Doing some housekeeping

You may have noticed (or not) that the blogroll to the right has shrunken a bit.  I removed a couple of blogs that no longer have valid links (can no longer be reached). I also moved a few blogs that have been inactive for a year or more down to the dormant blogroll.  Anytime that these become active again, I move them back to the top list. I also removed a couple links that no longer had valid URLs; and edited some where the URLs changed.

If you  know of any blogs focusing on QRP, CW or portable ops that are worth following and that I don't have listed, either send an e-mail to w2lj@arrl.net, or leave a comment in the commbox. I'll give them the once over and will add them if they seem like a good fit.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Just noticed something

The graphic for Windows 10 Mail:


Do you see it?

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, July 17, 2017

FOBB 2017 - ICYMI

Just in case you missed it - THE Summer QRP Classic - The Flight of the Bumblebees is on!  The event is on Sunday, July 31st from 17:00 to 21:00 UTC.


To get a Bumblebee number, you have to first to to the Bee database to see what's been assigned:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1r0ICCSjbErmIfRQz2U7hZJkSccuQ5ukHEtVXzmOF5eM/edit#gid=119767365

Send an e-mail to ARSBumblebees@gmail.com and be sure to include your first name, call sign, the field location you plan to operate from and your three top choices for a Bee number.

Keep in mind that you are encouraged to participate in the FOBB as a home station - but only Field Stations can have a Bee #.

After you've sent KI6SN your request, be sure to keep an eye on the roster at the link above. That's where you will be able to determine what number you've been assigned.

The rest of the rules can be found at http://arsqrp.blogspot.com/2017/07/announcing-ars-2017-fobb.html

FOBB is, was, and continues to be the best Summer Outdoor QRP event, bar none. It's the equivalent of the Masters, or Wimbledon or Tour de France of the QRP Summer contest season. Get out there, get some sunshine and some breeze in your hair and have fun!

I can hear wings buzzing already!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Back from the Lake

As I type this, massive depression is setting in as the last few hours of my vacation week are coming to a close. Tomorrow, it's back to the Old Grind.

Last week was spent at our customary place at Lake George, NY.  The weather was iffy, with rain and thunderstorms at the beginning and end of the week. Sandwiched in the middle was some good weather.  I didn't head out for my customary QRP session at the top of Mount Prospect until Monday, this time. Usually, I head out there on Sunday and take part in the QRP-ARCI Homebrew Sprint, but this year I was content to spend Sunday doing my best imitation of a couch potato.

When I went up there on Monday, I brought the magloop along and set that up.  Immediately, I knew something was wrong.  I was having a very hard time getting a loud background noise "sweet spot", which indicates a good match.  Removing the top of the capacitor enclosure, it became obvious that if I turned the tuning knob in one direction, all was well. When I tried to tune in the opposite direction, the capacitor shaft would not turn at all.  Argh!  One of the two set screws on the reduction drive had come loose!

And of course, of all the tools that I carry in the Jeep, a complete set of hex wrenches is not included. I put the magloop away in its carrying sack and broke out the Jackite pole, my drive on mast support and the PAR 10/20/40.  I had that up and on the air in a few minutes, but the bands seemed dead. I had no luck calling CQ and I wasn't heard on 17 Meters by J68GD, who was loud, but called CQ in my face when I tried to answer him.  Obviously, this was another instance when propagation wasn't reciprocal.  I went back to 20 Meters and was hunting around when all of a sudden it got very windy. My ARRL mini log books were flying all over the place and the Jackite was doing its best impression of a Hawaiian Hula dancer. I decided to call it quits for the day, and head back to the cabin.  On the way back, I stopped by a small hardware store in Lake George Village and picked up a good hex wrench set.  When I got back to the cabin, once again I removed the top of the capacitor enclosure. The one set screw was tight and was right as rain, but the other needed about a 1/4 turn to get it snug. I gave it an extra bit of torque to make sure it was tight, but not to the point of rounding off the set screw.  Right away, I was able to turn the tuning knob in both directions and see that the capacitor shaft was moving, also. Lesson learned - always have the proper tools close by!

Although I didn't make any contacts, later that night I logged onto the Reverse Beacon Network website and plugged in my call sign to see if I was being heard.  I was!  Good signal to noise reports all up and down the East coast, into the Mid-west and even out as far as Saskatchewan, Canada. I was getting out, I just wasn't getting any takers.

The end of the week turned rainy, damp and chilly.  Thursday afternoon was spent largely in the cabin. Once again I decided to set the loop up in the cabin.  I wasn't hearing all that much, except on 20 Meters, where I was hearing some DX. US1GCU was calling CQ, so I gave Leo a call and got an answer.  To the 599 that I gave him, I got a 579 in return.  A few minutes later, I heard a loud UR4EZ calling CQ.  Sent my call again and was answered immediately. Victor gave me a 579 and I gave him a 599.  Both Ukrainians were very loud.  I was very pleased to receive the 579 reports as I never mentioned to either Leo or Vic that I was running QRP power and that I was using a magloop antenna indoors. And since the unsolicited 579s were received instead of "compulsory" DX 599s, I will take it that I was given RSTs that were honest and somewhat accurate.

Again, this magloop continues to amaze me.  It boggles my mind from time to time that it gets out so well and that I receive the signal reports that I get. Again, this is not an every day antenna; but it sure makes a nice antenna for vacation and portable ops when there are no trees around; or you don't want to mess around with trees on someone else's property.

This morning was the Sussex County Amateur Radio Club's annual Hamfest at the Sussex County Fairgrounds in Augusta, NJ.  I think that without a doubt, this is the largest Hamfest in New Jersey. Luckily, I was able to attend as some years it occurs on the Sunday that we are in Lake George.  I made the trip up to Augusta with Marv K2VHW.  I didn't have plans to buy much of anything. I did come home with some CR2023 button batteries for Harold's LED collar that we use when we take him for walks after it gets dark.  I also came home with a little Radio Shack travel alarm clock that I picked up for $2.  I set it to UTC and put it in my backpack.  It will serve well as my official portable ops logging clock. It is only about 2 X 3 inches and maybe 3/4 of an inch deep, so while it is very small, the display takes up a large part of the front and is easy to read.  There's even a button that you can push to light up the display for reading it in darker conditions.

There were lots of things on tables that I was absolutely salivating over, especially this Brown Brothers straight key / paddle combo.


The gentleman selling it was firm on the price and was more than I was willing to spend. And when it comes right down to it, while I always wanted one of these, I have so many wonderful paddles and straight keys already - how many can you have? And what good would it do to have it just to collect dust on a shelf.  I can't imagine using this primarily instead of my Begali or N2DAN Mercury paddles.  Collecting is nice if you have money to burn, but that's never been the case for me.

Besides, I will be adding one more key to my collection at the end of the month - a W2WK Marconi Straight Key.  I'd rather have one of Bill's straight keys than the Brown Brothers combo, any day.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Spirit of QRP

Recently, the South Plainfield Amateur Radio Club sent a press release to our two local town newspapers, to let them know how we did on Field Day.  Mind you, we were operating NJ2SP as 3A Battery, which meant we were operating QRP, that is, 5 Watts output on all modes.

We had a total of 544 contacts, 308 of which were made with Morse Code, 230 were made with voice and an additional 6 were made using PSK31.  We made contact with 41 states (we used states in the press release as the general public would be scratching their heads over "sections", and I'm not sure how many sections we worked), and 4 different DX countries - Canada, Bahamas, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands.

We had our best year ever for SSB contacts, and I attribute this to the fact that Dave KD2FSI finally got Marv K2VHW's tri-band beam tuned up properly and that helped us immensely.  As one of the two CW ops, it warmed my heart to look at the logging computers to see that the phone stations were actually keeping up with the CW stations somewhat. It's no fun to sit at a microphone and announce your call sign over and over, while not being heard by anyone at the other end. It's doubly not fun to be successful behind the key while watching your friends behind the microphone get frustrated because they don't have the proper tools at their disposal.

Which allows me to segue to another, but related topic.  There are many in our QRP community who think that taking advantage of antennas other than wires or verticals is somehow "wrong". To them, QRP is a minimalist thing, only.  QRP power to the simplest of antennas is all they want, or all they need.

As a sub-niche in the QRP world, that's fine.  Go at this any way you want.  But to look down on, or denigrate other QRPers who take advantage of beams and towers, beverage antennas and full wave loops is ludicrous.  To many, including myself, the Spirit of QRP is taking that 5 or 10 Watts of RF power and doing the most you can with it.  If I had acreage, you'd be darn tootin' that I'd have full wave loops up and all the wire that I could manage to hoist into the air.  If my XYL was amenable, and I could afford it (another subject entirely), I'd have a 40 foot tower with a Hexbeam atop it in a heartbeat. Would that make me less of a QRPer?  Certainly not!

Do you disdain those who use coupons to stretch the most they can out of their food budget?  Would you scoff at a person who got creative with left overs in order to not waste food or money?  Do we applaud people who find new and innovative ways to recycle items so as to protect our environment?

I think you can see where I'm going here.  The Spirit of QRP is taking that low power and using the most efficient equipment and antennas that are available to you under your circumstances and having the maximum amount of fun that you can have with it.

End of story.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Friday, July 07, 2017

No K2B or K2C on CW last night

So, I did not end up getting an all CW Clean Sweep on the 13 Colonies event this year. After I got done with my chores last night, which was around 9:00 PM, I went down the basement, turned on the rig and laptop and started up Log4OM.  The Cluster function allows me to filter by band, by mode, or by band and mode.


I started out just by mode, CW and saw that K2B and K2C were not on any of the bands using Morse Code.  For the heck of it, I switched on over to SSB and sure enough, both Colonies were represented on the phone bands.  I decided to take a listen in, just for kicks.

K2C, Rhode Island was on 80 Meter SSB and was calling CQ, and was very loud and clear.  And apparently, very lonely. I nearly fell out of my chair!  He was actually calling CQ!  In my mind, I thought that Rhode Island would have been inundated under a tsunami of folks trying to get a QSO in.  Rhode Island is one of the tough ones for regular ol' WAS, let alone 13 Colonies.  I was surprised that the op had not much in the way of takers.  I listened in on a few QSOs just because I loved the guy's (whomever he was) New England accent.  We tend to think of it as a "Boston accent", but in reality that intonation exists throughout a lot of New England, not just Boston. One chaser thanked him for the QSO and the time that he must have spent on the radio all week and he answered, "No, thank YOU! We loved being heah, handin' out QSOs."  Gotta love that accent!

K2B, Virginia was on 20 Meter SSB. An unlike K2C, he was busy, quite a bit busy and again, that surprised me.  Virginia is not one of the "rare ones" in any way, shape or form.  I don't know how much time the K2B ops were able to get on during the week; but from last night, it sounded like there were quite a few Hams desperately needing Virginia for the sweep.

He wasn't the loudest, but was completely readable in NJ with a lot of QSB.  That made sense to me as I think 40 Meters would have been the better band for a NJ to VA QSO at that time of day. Understandably, with the event coming to a close, you want to hand out as many QSOs as possible and go out with a bang.  I would have chosen 20 Meters also, were I behind the rig in Virginia.

There were so many chores that kept me off the radio this past week.  It was only about a day or two ago that I thought of keeping DX Summit on in the browser of my smart phone and checking that, from time to time.  If I had been clever enough to think of that from the beginning of the event, I'm willing to bet I would have stood a much better chance to get a CW Clean Sweep.

So as those Brooklyn Dodger fans used to say, "Wait 'til next year!"

Paying attention to social media, it appears a lot of folks were unsuccessful working the British bonus station GB13COL.  I myself only heard them once and they were only a whisper above ESP level at that.  But apparently, they had a grand old time.  They posted the following to Facebook:

"Well another year over for GB13COL, and everybody in the team thoroughly enjoyed themselves yet again in the ever popular 13 Colonies Special Event. The team managed to work 89 unique DXCC entities and approximately 3,000 logged QSOs using SSB, CW, DStar and Digital modes. Please check the GB13COL QRZ page to see if you have been logged or not.

The guys would like to thank the people who took the time to thank them for being there and trying to get them in to our Log. Facebook along with the clusters proved very popular to chat to us live and see where we were operating at any given time. Band conditions were certainly not favourable to the USA, with most of the openings occurring during 10pm to 5am local UK times. This has left some of us very tired, especially after dismantling the equipment after the last night shift.

Typically, we had the odd issues due to close proximity of RF equipment, the occasional power outage and internet connection drop outs. But these were all overcome in the spirit of Amateur Radio and a useful tool kit.

We hope to be part of the Special Event again next year.

All the very best, Ray de G0VLF & Team GB13COL"

In the end, most (but not all, it seems) folks, from 13 Colonies ops to the very last chaser, seemed to have fun - and that's what this is really all about.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!


Thursday, July 06, 2017

Typical

As the 13 Colonies Special Event comes to a close tonight for 2017, I am seeing typical comments on social media.  Those who got a clean sweep are elated and those who haven't ........ well, let's be charitable and say they are writing posts that are way less enthusiastic.

To be sure, I posted to Facebook my own quandary about my experience with K2B's abrupt disappearance from 40 Meters last night; and someone answered by letting me know that parts of Virginia were experiencing severe weather last night.  Heck, that would sure explain that! And with discretion being the better part of valor, I highly commend the op for pulling the big plug and making self preservation a top priority.

Having worked this event several times now; the complaints somewhat amuse me.  Yes, we would all like to have that "Clean Sweep" certificate hanging nicely framed on our shack walls; but sometimes things preclude that result.

1) Propagation - which is in the pits this year as we plummet towards the bottom of the sunspot cycle.

2) Participation - we can all bemoan the fact that the Colonies that we so desperately need aren't on the air enough, but you have to remember ....... these folks are all volunteers.  They have lives, things happen and they can't be on the radio 24 hours a day the week of Independence Day.  Did you participate in Field day for more than just a couple QSOs or a couple hours?  Did you put in a lot of time behind the mic or key?  How did you feel after that? A bit tired or exhausted? Imagine doing something similar for an entire week!

3) Experience - this one kind of goes hand in hand with point #2.  Listening to these pileups, it is quite apparent that some of the ops can deal better with pileups than others.  But again, these guys are volunteers.  They are graciously giving up their time and we should be happy enough with that.  I'll tell the complainers one thing right now - if you think that handling a Special Event pileup is such a piece of cake, then you should try it sometime.  I'm willing to bet that, if you've never been in the situation before, hitting that wall of noise of 1,000 Hams calling you all at once, all at the same time would probably incline you to wet your pants, or otherwise soil yourself.

The event ends tonight at midnight and I have a lot of non-radio things to get accomplished this evening. I doubt I am going to get much of a chance to hunt down, much less work, K2B and K2C. Will I be disappointed? Yep.  Will I be devastated? No. because after all, whether I work 'em all or not, the sun will still come up tomorrow and I'll still have to go to work tomorrow.  The world's still going to turn on its axis and orbit around the sun. No is going to care much that I didn't accomplish a personal goal.

And with all that said, thanks to the organizers and operators behind the radios of the 13 Colonies. In spite of the peeing and moaning of some, you have yet again done a phenomenal job of putting another fantastic special event into the books.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Dang !!!

Finally saw K2B spotted on 40 Meter CW. Raced (literally) down to the shack and joined in on the fray. No luck.  I heard John K3WWP work them, so somebody I know got in the log. I thought I was a cinch, given enough time,  but then they suddenly went QRT. Just like that. No "73", no "QRT", no nothing .... there one second,  gone the next.  Strange.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRT - When you care to send the very least!

Bushwhacking

On Monday and Tuesday, I kept the cell phone tuned to DX Summit to keep tabs on K2B, K2C and K2F to see if they would ever make their way over to 40 or 80 Meter CW.  They may have, but not at times that coincided when I checked.

In the meantime, I kept busy both days doing some serious bushwhacking.


I don't know what it is about the soil in South Plainfield, but if you don't constantly keep at the weeds and brush, it turns into a jungle.  I spent both days pulling weeds from my yard and cutting back vines and overgrowth from my neighbor's yards that had been encroaching into mine.  I also had a serious war with some mulberry bushes that started growing along the chain link fence along one side of the yard.  Mulberry bushes are hardy and huge and grow like weeds. The berries are actually pretty sweet and make great pies; but when they grow in an inconvenient place, they just become an eyesore.

The ulterior motive behind this, in addition to keeping the backyard looking neat and well groomed, was to clear the path for replacing the coax to the HF9V.  That will get done in a few weeks, when the first Saturday opportunity comes up. The next few weekends will be otherwise occupied; but I think I will be able to get it done before August begins.

Technically, there was enough time to get it done yesterday, but alas, W2LJ is not a Spring chicken any longer. I was too tired out by the two day effort to want to bother messing with routing RG-213. Besides, this time I have a plan to keep it elevated above ground, so that there will no longer be potential for lawn mower "accidents".  I have some garden fence stakes that I am going to pound into the ground at regular intervals along the back white fence, and I will cable tie the coax to them so it becomes elevated.  Once the coax reaches the side perimeter chain link fence, I can just cable tie it to the horizontal top rail and can pretty much run it all the way to the shack.  It will lay on the ground for about the last 20 feet or so before actually entering the house; but it will be so close to the foundation that it will almost be impossible to nick it with the lawn mower.  I plan to also re-purpose the 80 Meter coaxial stub that I made for Field Day as new feed line for the W3EDP antenna.

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, July 03, 2017

Independence Day - 2017

What the day is all about:


Happy 4th of July to all!

On a side note, the Governor and NJ Legislature have reached a budget agreement. State offices will re-open Wednesday and beaches and parks will be open tomorrow - while I'll be doing yard work.

And yes, I got sucked into the 13 Colonies event again this year. but this time I will not succumb to the temptation of using a microphone to get a clean sweep. All I am missing is VA, RI and MD. To whomever was behind the key tonight at K2D in CT, thank you for the QSO and thanks for the neat surprise of hearing "Hi Larry" coming back to me.

I even managed to work WM3PEN for the bonus and worked the NJ station on 160 Meters last night. THAT was definitely cool!  If I get the remaining three states, I will be a happy camper, but I would truly like this to be an all CW Clean Sweep.  If I don't get it because of lack of CW activity by the remaining states, I will be disappointed; but not devastated.

Have a safe and Happy Independence Day!

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP  - When you care to send the very least!

Saturday, July 01, 2017

$*^@#* New Jersey!

It would apear that my plans to activate a POTA tomorrow are foiled. Not by the weather and not by a conflict with other commitments. No, this is a case where the elected state representatives, who purport to be adults can't come to an agreement on the state budget.  As a result, the government of the State of New Jersey has shut down.  This means that all State Parks are officialy closed until a budget agreement is put in place.

W2LJ's POTA Plans

1) Beautiful weather - check.
2) No conflicts - check
3) Ample free time - check
4) Morons who run the state ensuring that the state parks are open -  ............

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Yet another reason for when Cara and Joey are finished with college - bye, bye New Jersey!


Friday, June 30, 2017

Long weekend coming up!

Independence Day is on Tuesday this year.  The company where I work (I'm a contract employee) had decided to shut down Monday as well, resulting in a four day weekend. As they used to say in Colonial times ......... "Huzzah!"

The weather for tomorrow is looking dicey, at best; but not Sunday.  Sunday is supposed to be sunny and about 91F (32C).  Sounds like a perfect day to go activate a POTA.

Monday and Tuesday will most likely be preoccupied with yard work, so Sunday will probably be the only "play radio" day.  I'd like to go activate an entity that I've never worked before. I was thinking maybe KFF-1618 Hacklebarney State Park.  A good friend of mine from my college days used to go there all the time; but I never have been.  Like any other State Park in NJ, it should have plenty of picnic tables to operate from, I just hope they're next to some really tall trees.


72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

This is how Field Day started ........

Remember how I posted about Field Day starting as a "gully washer" as my friend Bob W3BBO describes it?  Remember how I posted about how there was a tornado in Howell, NJ, which is about 15 -18 miles SouthEast of me as the crow flies?

Here's some video - this is what the weather was like here from around 4:00 AM to about 8:00 AM. This is why I was thinking Field Day was going to be a washout.



72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

It's that time of year again!

Field Day is over - what's next?

The 13 Colonies Special Event, that's what!

Every year, around Independence Day, a group of volunteers come together to put the 13 Original Colonies on the air to celebrate our Nation's birth. This year will be no different.

For 2017 the special event will be running from July 1, 2017-1300 UTC to July 7, 2017-0400 UTC. For all the details and specifics, you can visit http://www.13colonies.net/

This year, you can purchase your own colorful 13 Colonies coffee mug! (What's ANOTHER coffee mug among friends, eh?) These are VERY nice and feature the Betsy Ross flag or the Stars and Stripes and the Declaration of Independence.



Even though we have more coffee mugs than you can shake a stick at in the W2LJ household, I'd find room for one of these - especially if I managed to get a Clean Sweep.  I have a certificate from two years ago, all nicely framed and hanging on my shack wall - I really don't need another. But one of these mugs?  I'd be happy to sip my morning cuppa joe out from one of these bad boys.

As a side note, not too far from where your author lives is a small little place called the Middlebrook Encampment.  This is where the Continental Army was stationed in 1777 and again in 1778-1779.  It was here that the Flag of the United States of America was officially flown for the first time for the benefit of the Continental Troops.  To memorialize this, by a Special Act of Congress, the Middlebrook Encampment is the only place in the USA where the original 13 Star flag is allowed to fly, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.  Now you know why New Jersey is known as "The Crossroads of the Revolution". A lot of very important stuff happened here some 200 + years ago.

Remember this if you ever see the subject come up on Jeopardy.  You can credit W2LJ when you look like the trivia expert in front of your family and friends.


72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Ya gotta love Field Day !

As Howie Rose, the broadcast radio voice of the NY Mets says, after a baseball victory  .... "Put it in the books!"  Another Field Day has been relegated to the pages of history.  For better or worse, with all it's trials and tribulations, frustrations and failures and successes, you just have to love Field Day!


As Saturday dawned, the outlook was none too good.  First, a little background.  Our house is older, having been built in the 1920s, according to the inspection report we had done as part of purchasing it, back in 1998.  As such, the concept of air-conditioning was unknown back then,  Central air was installed sometime before we bought the house, but it's an older one zone unit.  The thermostat on the main floor controls the entire house.  The bedrooms are on the second floor, so in the Summer, that floor is a bit warmer than the rest of the house.  Each of the three bedroom has one of those cylindrical room fans to help keep the comfortable during the warm months.

"What's that got to do with anything?" you may be asking yourself.  As I awoke Saturday morning at 6:30 AM, I heard something just a bit louder than the hum of the fan.  It took a few minutes for my groggy brain to figure out what it was. Rain!  It was coming down in buckets - as Bob W3BBO would say, it was a real gully washer!  I only heard one or two rumbles of thunder, but the National Weather Service is currently in Howell, NJ (which is all of about 15 miles or so Southeast of me) investigating whether or not tornadoes had touched down.

This was not an auspicious start to Field Day weekend.  Before I could head out to the field, I had a few chores and the grocery shopping to do, so I got those done, first.  As fortune would have it, as I was in the check out line at the grocery store, about 90 minutes later, I happened to look out the window to see bright sunshine and blue skies!  It looked like Field Day was going to be a bit soggy, but at least dry for the balance.

Taking care of the last home and family business, I loaded up the Jeep with the things that I needed to; and I headed out for Spring Lake Park just a few minutes after 10;00 AM.  Yes, the ground was soaked, but it wasn't muddy.  It ended up being a minor inconvenience and not an impediment.  Set up went rather quickly with only a few "Murphy incidents", but as this was NJ2SP's fourth Field Day effort, all became pretty much routine.








After helping to build the beam, I got busy with other antennas as the "tower" was being loaded and raised.  It took a while to figure out the logistics, but I got Marv K2VHW's G5RV up in the trees for the CW station.  The beam was for the SSB station and our third HF station was hooked up to Dave KD2FSI's 80 Meter Inverted Vee.  I didn't get a photo of it. I will next year. The base for the 80 Meter Inverted Vee is a small cargo trailer that hitches to the back of KD2FSI's van. It supports a 30 foot (or so) collapsible mast, which in turn supports the wire. This innovation that Dave came up with is perfect for Field Day and other portable ops situations. The VHF/UHF stations and the GOTA station were hooked up to other antennas.

As it approached 1:00 PM local time, with an hour to go, Dave and I got to setting up the equipment that would be used for making the contacts.  Ron N2LCZ performed his IT magic once again, and had set up a small LAN (oxymoron - "small LAN" .... think "Jumbo shrimp" Heh.) so all our logging laptops could be connected to one desktop which served as our logging server.  This was the only thing we use commercial power for, the entire weekend.  The Field Day rules state that as long as the computers are not connected to the radios, by any means, and are not in any way, shape or fashion used for controlling the radios, then you can hook those up to commercial power and not lose your status as having operated on emergency power.  The gas station next to us once again allowed us to hook up an extension cord to one of their outlets, powering up our computer system.

At 1:45 PM we were ready to go.  The Elecraft KX3s were at the CW and 20 Meter SSB stations.  KD2FSI's radios were at the third HF station as well as the VHF/UHF station and the GOTA station. We were hoping for some good 6 Meter openings at some points throughout the weekend.  As I turned on my KX3 for the CW station, I was presented with a horrifying situation.  Marv's G5RV was giving my KX3 fits.  It would load up fine on 40 Meters with an SWR of about 1.3 to 1, but on both 20 and 80 Meters, the best match the KX3 could get was about 6: to 1.  That was simply unacceptable and I wasn't about to waste time trying to figure the situation out with only minutes to go.

My brain immediately kicked into backup mode and I decided to go with the antenna that so bravely performed at out very first Field Day back in 2014.  EARCHI to the rescue!  I shot another line into the tree that was already serving as one of the G5RV endpoints and got the EARCH endfed up, posthaste.  I didn't even bother with mason's twine and a tent stake.  We set the antenna launcher in a safe place on the ground (so it wouldn't get run over or bumped into) and it and the monofilament fishing line held the end fed up, all weekend long.  The KX3 was a happy camper, with the autotuner providing a good match on all bands. That included (more or less) 160 Meters, where I was able to make a couple CW contacts.

Oh, and by the way, the coaxial stub filters worked flawlessly!  I installed them on the CW and SSB stations and there were no interference problems all weekend long.  Dave KD2FSI and I also took more care to pay attention to antenna placement this year; so that also helped.  All the radios were able to be manned all weekend long without anyone having to stay off a band for any particular time because of hearing CW or SSB artifacts coming through from a neighboring radio. A tip o' the hat to W3BBO for directing my attention to the use of coaxial stub filters.

The highlights of the weekend included the Mayor and members of the Town Council paying a visit on Saturday afternoon.  Our ARRL Section Manager, Steve Ostrove K2SO came by Saturday evening for a visit.

Steve Ostrove K2SO, and Marv Bronstein K2VHW, SPARC President

This year we had the most public interest that we've ever seen, with people coming by expressly to learn about what Amateur Radio is and why we were there.  Some parents brought their children to see what Amateur Radio is all about, expressly because of its special relationship to STEM.  We also had a few Scout Leaders from both the local Boy Scout and Girl Scout troops come by to ask us if we would come to troop meetings to give a more hands on demo of Amateur Radio.  We were happy that the Middlesex County RACES Bureau Chief, John Garmendi N2DV came by for a visit, so that he could see that the Radio Amateurs from the town of South Plainfield are ready and able to assist in any way needed, should the situation ever present itself.








The stations hummed this year, throughout. Again, thanks to KD2FSI and his antenna analyzer, he was able to tune the beam and the SSB station was able to go great guns.  The SSB QSO total came close to the CW QSO total for the first time this year we were able to come close to a 600 QSO total. It did my heart good to be able to look over to the SSB station and watch the guys make one contact after another and actually enjoy operating SSB QRP instead of being frustrated by a balky antenna.

Some of the newer Hams that we were privileged to either instruct or test, came by and actually spent some time behind the microphone. It's a good thing to watch them get on the air and actually start to enjoy their operating privileges. It's one thing to teach, it's another to test; but it's another gratifying experience to watch new Hams get their feet wet and become more comfortable with Amateur Radio. I will not be surprised in the least if they're back next year, not for only a few hours, but for the whole shebang. 

Dave Vadney W2OIL and Dan Vadney KC2YRC from our sister club, the ETS of NJ, came by and stayed with us for a large portion of the time,  Once again, they were humongous helps during set up and tear down and on Saturday evening, they supplied us with the most fantastic home made meatball sub sandwiches for supper. And this year, they both got the chance to operate, too.  It was nice to see them actually get a chance to sit behind the microphone, play radio for once, and get the chance to add to our QSO total to boot.

As usual, ever since my Piscataway Amateur Radio Club days, I stayed the whole 24+ hours with the exception of a break for Mass attendance (some things are even more important than Amateur Radio!). As it got late through the night, and into the wee hours of the morning, I took a few breaks to get away from the key for a few minutes. Never for too long, though, because the mantra that kept playing itself over and over again in my head was, "The contacts aren't going to make themselves.", and that kept me going.  Marv K2VHW who is normally the co-operator of the CW station had some issues that kept him away from the key for his normal amount of time.  I tried to take up the slack by myself as much as I could and I think we came close to hitting our normal CW total for this year.

I got all of about two hours sleep on Sunday morning, finally just crashing out on one of the camping chairs.  Last night I slept the sleep of the dead and I'm still pretty groggy and useless this morning. I'm on my second cup of coffee (in which I seldom indulge, but is a necessity today), but I'm pretty happy with the results of the weekend.  We made a record number of QSOs by far this year, with SSB station finally doing what it should have been able to do all along - and all were made with 5 Watts or less. A good time was had by all, and once again, some new friendships were made and a lot of older ones were solidified.

Thank you God, SPARC, ETS of NJ and friends for a fantastic Field Day weekend!  

72 de Larry W2LJ
QRP - When you care to send the very least!

(My apologies for any typos and for any disjointedness in the writing of this post. Even after getting a bit of sleep, Monday morning is a "rough go".)

As the day goes by and I am returning to somewhat normal, I am horrified by all the spelling and grammatical errors that I see that I have made and am correcting them. However, I'm still glad that I posted while all of this is still in the "Very Fresh" memory bank.