Field Day 2020 is in the rearview mirror

Field day 2020 is now behind me. As usual with any ad-hoc setup, I learned a few things and remembered a few things I’d forgotten about this kind of configuration.

Like don’t accidentally switch your rig from VFO mode to channel mode and then wonder why nothings seems to be working right. My radio has a touch screen and an early morning glancing brush of the screen made the radio relatively inoperable for quite a few minutes. Eventually, I figured out what I had done.

As with almost every field day I’ve ever participated in, we had a wind storm show up to test the stability of my antenna system and drench everything.

The following is a pivot table of the contacts made over the 24 hours, broken down by mode and band. I operated for about 7 or 8 hours and focused on digital modes switching to SSB voice for the last half hour I was on the air.

Count of CALLBands
Mode   10m15m20m2m40m6mGrand Total
Grand Total1256312342209
Breakdown of contacts

I worked 6 countries (Aruba, Canada, Cuba, Saint Lucia, US Virgin Is., Venezuela) but I was not really trying for DX. The US and Canada based activity covered 45 out of the 84 sections. Overall, the most diligent and valiant effort I performed in a contest in probably a decade. It will be interesting to see how things fairs up against other hams in my area, but that will not be published until December.

I did have one unexpected visitor to my efforts (circled below). As field day started, an 8-foot-long alligator decided to mosey by and look at the setup. I had a flyer about ham radio and field day, but he did not take one.

Field day visitor

Field Day 2020 at home

This year rather than doing FD with our local club, I am going to go-it-alone at home. I have my rig (ICOM 7100) set up to run on batteries on the lanai behind my house, and the Buddipole set up on the concrete pad out back. The weather report looks like we are going to be in the mid to high 90s with little chance of rain (but high humidity). I will need as much shade as I can get. If I really get desperate, I should be able to move the rig inside.

Station on my porch with a 2M antenna for the net on Saturday

For testing, 6 meters was open and I was making numerous FT8 contacts around the mid-west from my home in South Carolina. This could be a wild field day if conditions are open on Saturday and Sunday.

When I first set it up, I had the antenna inside the porch (in the picture below I moved the antenna outside). It was not extended vertically, and I was still getting contacts in the Midwest at about 10 AM. Note, if you use a Buddipole attaching a gallon jug of water to the bottom makes it very stable and it would take a perfect storm to tip it over.

Buddipole set up for 6 meters but not extended vertically

It looks like everything works, so I can tear it down until Saturday AM.


Amateur Radio Field day this year is going to be a bit different

Every year the amateur radio community has an emergency preparedness exercise called – Field Day. It takes place at different times of the year in different regions of the world. For the US and Canada, field day is the 4th full weekend of June, starting at 1800 UTC Saturday and running through 2059 UTC Sunday (June 27-28, 2020). Even though it is next week, I thought I’d share our club’s approach here, in case anyone finds it useful.

This year has been an interesting one so far, and field day will be no different. Field day has multiple purposes:

  • Ham radio’s Open House – where others can see the hobby in action
  • An opportunity for those who have not been operating to get on the air, with the help of others
  • A social activity where hams can meet and mingle (and usually eat together)
  • A chance to operate in simulated emergency conditions

It combines public service, emergency preparedness, community outreach, and technical skills all in a single event. Field Day has been an annual event since 1933 and remains the most popular event in ham radio.

The SCHH Ham Radio Club executive board met to discuss how we could meet most of these requirements during the current environment safely. Fortunately, the ARRL had made a couple of changes to the rules that we will take advantage of.

  • 2020 Rule change 1: For Field Day 2020 only, Class D stations may work all other Field Day stations, including other Class D stations, for points. Field Day rule 4.6 defines Class D stations as “Home stations,” including stations operating from permanent or licensed station locations using commercial power. Class D stations ordinarily may only count contacts made with Class A, B, C, E, and F Field Day stations, but the temporary rule waiver for 2020 allows Class D stations to count contacts with other Class D stations for QSO credit.
  • 2020 Rule change 2: An aggregate club score will also be published, which will be the sum of all individual entries indicating a specific club. Ordinarily, club names are only published in the results for Class A and Class F entries, but the temporary rule waiver for 2020 allows participants from any Class to optionally include a single club name with their submitted results following Field Day. For example, if Podunk Hollow Radio Club members Becky, W1BXY, and Hiram, W1AW, both participate in 2020 Field Day — Hiram from his Class D home station, and Becky from her Class C mobile station — both can include the radio club’s name when reporting their individual results. The published results listing will include individual scores for Hiram and Becky, plus a combined score for all entries identified as Podunk Hollow Radio Club.

This means that each club member station that wants to participate in an aggregated club score will need to submit their own entries postmarked or submitted electronically by Tuesday July 28, 2020. 

A requirement is that all the stations wanting to affiliate with a club use the exact same spelling of the club name, as part of their submission.

Other opportunities for bonus points are available like previous years:

  • Satellite contact
  • W1AW bulletin copy
  • Alternative power
  • Media contact

One other opporunity we discussed is the fact that simplex QSOs on 2 meters should also count, so we plan on having a simplex net (147.55 Mhz) during field day at 3PM Saturday — every contact/exchange made will count on both ends of the QSO. 

This net is an opportunity for hurricane preparedness as well (since that is something we worry about down here in South Carolina), with the exception that we’d also include the field day exchange as well.

My current plan is to operate using batteries, an Icom 7100 and a Buddipole on my back porch. I’ll focus on digital modes. The way the bands have been lately, 10m and 6m may even be open?!?!


Radio Direction Finding as Entertainment (Part 2)

Our ham radio group decided to have a real radio foxhunt last week and this time I was successful using the techniques described in the presentation I put together previously. I used the technique of using different length antennas this time and driving around looking for stronger signal strength (since I was close enough, I did not need a directional antenna).

From the time I left my house until the time I found the transmitter was about 30 minutes.

I 3D printed an SMA socket to hold the paper clip in place as the antenna when I got close. Once, I had it printed, I just warmed up the paper clip and pushed it through the PLA plastic.

3D printed SMA connection

When I was using that small antenna, I got within a couple hundred meters. Then had to resort to looking for the 3rd harmonic to get close enough. I could not pick up the 3rd harmonic until I was within 100 meters of the transmitter. Finally, I removed the antenna altogether when I was within 10 meters and listened for the 3rd harmonic. It was well hidden, so I needed that level of attenuation.

It was a fun exercise and did not have to get within 6 feet of anyone else in the whole process. Though I did get within about 15 feet of an alligator at one point.


Saturday, April 18, is World Amateur Radio Day (WARD), with this year marking the 95th anniversary of the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU).

On April 18, 1925, the IARU was formed in Paris, with ARRL cofounder Hiram Percy Maxim, 1AW, in attendance. Radio amateurs were the first to discover that shortwave spectrum could support worldwide propagation, and in the rush to use these shorter wavelengths, amateur radio found itself “in grave danger of being pushed aside,” as IARU history puts it. Two years later, at the Washington International Radiotelegraph Conference, amateur radio gained allocations still recognized today – 160, 80, 40, 20, and 10 meters. From an initial 25 countries, the IARU has grown to include 160 member-societies in three regions.

Today, Amateur Radio is more popular than ever, with more than 3,000,000 licensed operators!

Radio Direction Finding as Entertainment

I was dusting off items I’d not used in a while to keep myself busy – as well as keep my wife happy by throwing out stuff we no longer needed. I came across the stuff I’d built a while back for Radio Direction Finding. Our ham radio club had talked about doing a foxhunt over the summer, so I dusted off all the things I’d need to participate and put together a presentation for the club with an overview of the process.

Radio Direction Finding

On Wednesday, one of the club members hid a transmitter, and my wife and I hopped on our golf cart and took off trying to find it. It turns out it is much harder to do than I thought it would be. It was also much colder than it had been lately. We don’t have a stay-at-home order yet in South Carolina.

I was less than successful but learned quite a bit in the process and this presentation includes what I’ve learned. I’ll give it a try again in the future.

It did keep me busy most of the day, and you don’t even need a ham license to do it. I didn’t need to interact with anyone – so the exercise aligned well with social distancing too.

Groundhog Day the movie – in real life

I don’t know about you, but social distancing is beginning to feel like Groundhog Day. Every morning starts out the same, with the same possibilities in front of me. As I consume most of the things-to-do around the house, the options have narrowed. The items I end up tackling are ranging wider and wider afield.

Yesterday, we dusted off a Wii that hadn’t see the light in many years and I was able to get the Wii Fit working. That provided several hours of distraction as I discovered the various Yoga poses I could no longer do as well as a few I probably never could.

Part of the process of each day is to discover where we’re going to go to today (Mr. Peabody). Today I am going to replace most of the traditional light switches in our house with decorator light switches – this is a project that has been on the back burner for 2 years. I’m also going to tackle setting up Zoom meeting for our ham radio group and the woodshop board.

Coronavirus and ham radio here at home

Disasters that disrupt communications and daily life and have historically involved the response of amateur radio operators – whether it is hurricanes, earthquakes or forest fires. ‘Hams’ have stepped up to provide assistance when other forms of communication fail.

Here in Sun City Hilton Head the response to social distancing has been to close the indoor amenities, shutting down many clubs. This did not hold back the Sun City Hilton Head Amateur Radio club (SCHHARC). They just moved their meetings ‘on-the-air’ facilitated by the Internet and Skype to facilitate presentations…

History of Amateur Radio Emergency Response

Ham radio dates back to the 1890s. It wasn’t until the Radio Act of 1912 was passed, that federal licensing to ham radio stations took place. Ham radio stations in the United States are regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). In 1935, the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES) was established by the American Radio Relay League to help assist the public in the event of a disaster. In addition, the Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) was established in 1952, serving as a civil defense radio service that activates in emergencies. Following Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) protocols, ham radio operators have authorization to transmit during emergencies after the president invokes these powers.

History of the SCHHARC support

Our club was one of the charter clubs within Sun City Hilton Head. This club works with local fire and emergency response personnel to test and maintain their radio systems. They’ve installed systems in all the Beaufort County fire stations, additionally both Beaufort and Jasper counties have ham radio installations associated with their emergency response centers. We work with them to ensure that this radios are working and that they can communicate between the facilities on a regular basis.

Where you can learn more about SCHHARC

This club regularly holds nets on Sunday and Wednesday nights each week, as well as monthly member meetings. We also participate in the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) field day once a year on the 4th full weekend of June. For field day, we normally set up in Pickney hall and operate for a few hours on that Saturday, using emergency power and antennas — testing our emergency preparedness.

We also plan to participate in the Sun City Open House related to the 25th anniversary. We’ll likely set up by the fountains near the tennis courts.

MI Smart Band 4 for Christmas

I’ve had a bunch of different fitness trackers over the years. Some claimed to be waterproof but weren’t. Some said they would last for months on a battery and didn’t.

I just got the Mi Smart Band 4 for a relatively low cost. The most interesting feature so far has been that I can customize the alerts to send the notifications in Morse code. I am sending SMS for messages, Ring for the phone ringing and Goal when I hit my daily exercise goal.

There are quite a number of customization that can be added on this relatively inexpensive device. It’s major features are heart, sleep and step monitoring but it also claims to do much more.

If the device exceeds my expectations, I’ll post on it a bit more.