June is here, and now that the days are getting longer and warmer, my attention turns to VHF propagation, most notably the 6 meter band. Six Meters really starts to heat up in June, just in time for the ARRL’s VHF QSO Party.
June marks the opening the summer’s Sporadic-E propagation season, so you’ll start to see quite a few openings on both six and two meters. Often with Sporadic-E, the band openings can be hard to predict; they often seem to come from out of nowhere, remain strong for minutes to hours, and then disappear as quickly as they came. It’s not uncommon to lose the band mid QSO, like someone turned off the power.
I have two Sporadic-E stories, both of which are from past Field Day adventures that I love sharing. The first was at one of my first Field Days, at least 12 years ago. We set up a six meter FM rig on a vertical antenna. Spent all day monitoring and calling 52.525, but no luck on a return. Finally later in the evening, the band started to open, and we spent most of the night chatting with other hams on a few six meter repeaters located 100 – 150 miles away. This was during the height of the solar cycle, so our attention to VHF wasn’t so high, we where more interested in having a good time on the bands with other field day participants.
The second memorable occurrence happened maybe five or six years ago. The bands where dead, with the exception of six meters. The Sporadic-E opened up and we logged hundreds of contacts over a four hour period. If it wasn’t for the band opening, we would have had a pretty pitiful score.
Six meters can be loads of fun, and getting onto 6 is as easy as putting up one of my six meter J-Pole antennas. The antenna is rugged, has a bit of gain, and covers the entire 6 meter band. So you can use the same antenna for both FM and SSB work. Even though the antenna is vertically polarized, it will still work well on sideband as your signal will mix and tumble as it propagates, making polarization less of an issue in the far field.
Do you have any six meter stories? I’d love to hear them. Feel free to leave your favorite in the comments section below.