ARRL Field Day 2021 & an Award

So after being a ham for over 2 years, I finally took part in the ARRL’s summer field day for the first time this year.

While a friend of mine with a gorgeous antenna install at his house made nearly 200 contacts, and I only made about 17 or so, it was still a great time and a bit of an adventure getting my antenna outside so I could work FT8 from my little apartment.

I spent a few of days prior purchasing and installing a feedthrough panel, which I installed vertically in the slide channel of my 3rd floor apartment window, along with a second plank where I installed a L-bracket to hold my antenna outside about 6 inches from the building.

MFJ Feedthrough panel

The L-bracket required drilling out the end hole to fit a PL-259 barrel connector, to which I screwed my little Comet HFJ-350M antenna, tuned for 20m. A short piece of coax connects the antenna to the feedthrough panel. And a longer coax cable runs from the panel on the inside to my radio (a Xiegu G90).

L-Bracket Drilled out for PL-259 Barrel Connector installed on poplar plank
Antenna Mount panel + feedthrough Panel installed in window channel
This really nice because it’s not a permanent installation.
When we eventually move, I just take the planks out and with me.
Comet HFJ-350M Antenna installed outside the window
where I can reach it to adjust the whip length.
The antenna install from the outside – notice it’s pretty subtle looking.
Zoomed in view of the Comet HFJ-350M installed in window

I also made up a radial wire which also runs through the window, and is just taped to the wall inside with blue painters tape.

The radial made a huge difference in getting a reasonable SWR with this installation, but I am still seeing a little issue in the morning with signal power being squandered and SWR rising when the sun heats up that side of the building.

One of the symptoms I see when things heat up is that the SWR on transmit rises, and the SignaLink I use for digital modes flutters on and off during the transmission a couple of times instead of transmitting the message steadily for it’s full cycle. Also, the forward power bar on the radio displays a lower numer of arrows.

I’ve done some debugging attempts, checked cables, fittings, whip lengths, added a choke coil, and I can’t figure out which part of the install is causing the issue as of yet. Next I’m going to try out switching to a 20m hamstick instead of the Comet antenna, but that requires a different connector on the bracket.

Hamsticks are a full 1/4 wave, while the Comet is substantially shorter with a loading coil in the base and some jumpers. Hopefully the hamstick will provide me with stronger signal output.

So that’s a build for another day.

World Radio Friendship Award

One of the great things about doing Field Day was that it allowed me to finish off enough confirmed contacts to get my first award, the World Radio Friendship Award.

One of the little gotcha’s of the QRZ awards is that contacts who don’t maintain a logbook on QRZ cannot be used for the awards, even though they technically count as confirmed if you get them confirmed on Logbook of the World and import them across.

So while I’ve had more than 25 confirmed contacts for a while, enough of them didn’t have a QRZ logbook to keep me from getting the award.

But I got it last night, and have ordered the certificate for my wall =)

The one that got away because of field day…

When you set up your software for field day, it changes the messages being sent to an abbreviated format that includes the letters FD in your CQ call, and a station class and location code in some of the replies.

So stations not working field day are still sending the regular messages. If you contact one of them, these fields are MISSING from the data for the log so you can’t LOG them!

I had such an ARGH moment when I had a contact with Cuba, that I really wanted for my country count, slip away and be unloggable because he wasn’t working field day and I was.

“Mr. Cuba”, I’m sorry, I heard you, you heard me and we had the RR73, but only we two know it. (I feel like such a geek now, after writing that! Lol.) Maybe I’ll catch you another day!

Most Entertaining Club Contact

People are quirky, funny, inventive, crazy, and make me laugh. I like to peruse my logs after uploading, follow links to profiles, and take a look at who I’ve made contact with and see all the wonderful creativity on the other end.

Among my contacts for field day I found some hams back east have a club entertainingly named “Hams of Insignificant Value”, call sign N0FOO. Their website features gorgeous space colors and three ginormous UPO saucers floating gently up and down on the front page. I had a good giggle =)

Gorgeous animated page– spaceships actually float up and down while you watch!

The Mysteries of Atmospheric Propagation

Skywave Propagation is such a weird, wonderful, and unpredictable thing. Oh there are general rules to it, that work more often than not.

Some countries are easier to get in the morning, others in the evening, and sometimes a stray signal can travel 5000+ miles for a minute, and then the conduit collapses after a few seconds and you can’t get a signal through again.

This week I saw brief moments where my signals were picked up in Estonia, Norway, Switzerland, Portugal, Spain, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Hawaii, Japan, Australia, Finland, and New Zealand according to PSK Reporter.

Just a few of the places my signal has been heard.

Some day I’ll get my antenna setup efficient enough to log an actual contact in those places, but for now I can only dream of making the contact.

One sort of unusual property of my current antenna setup however is that I have a little bit of near vertical propagation going on some days where I have been able to contact people only 5 or 10 miles away on 20m!

Mesa to Mesa on 20m is normally really hard! I usually see a “crater” about 550mi wide around my position where my signal just skips over and doesn’t touch down. So I don’t know if it’s the building to antenna position reflecting things straight upward to get those close contacts, or what, but it’s been fun!