ARRL Field Day 2017 Wrap-Up

It’s good to get back. ARRL Field Day is an event that I seldom miss. Of the near 20 years that I’ve been licensed, I think I’ve only missed two Field Day events. Both times I was biking on a week long tour of the State of Wisconsin. So after taking last year off, I was ready to roll for this year’s amateur radio event.

I traditionally spend my Field Day time with the local amateur radio club, the Wisconsin Valley Radio Association. This year we did things a little bit different. Instead of using the county park that we traditionally gone too, we set up in a field on private land next to a busy highway. Even though there weren’t any trees to hang antennas, the location gave us plenty of visibility and by virtue of that we had a good number of guests and visitors show up. Fortunately trees weren’t an issue, as our main antennas, a tri-band HF beam and 6 meter yagi were on a tower and our HF vertical didn’t require a tree for support. A third antenna, the end-fed Vee used a military fiberglass mast for center support.

Watch the video for the full Field Day experience.

Speaking of towers, new this year was the tilt-over base for the club’s Rohn 25 tower. We have three tower sections, which give us a height of about 28 feet, but the base we’ve been using wasn’t designed for having the tower to be erected from a horizontal state. So every year we ran the risk of the base slipping out when we raised or lowered the tower. With the tilt over base we were able to anchor it to the ground and it stayed in place as we manually lifted the tower. This process certainly felt a lot more secure- I get the hee-bee gee-bees as the tower went up or down.

As for operation, we ran a 4A station. One 6 meter station, two voice, and a CW station. We planned on having digital, but our digital operator called in sick at the last minute so we didn’t get those modes on the air. This year We had quite a few new operators out at the site, so I played control operator- giving them the chance to get on the air and make the contacts.

Chris, KD9FLD, gained plenty of experience this year at Field Day.

The best Field Day experience I ever had was the first year I attended. Being a new general, I didn’t have much radio experience, but was encouraged to sit behind a radio and make contacts. I ended up staying well past midnight. That experience sealed the deal for me so I will always yield my radio time to a new operator to give them a positive experience on HF. That left me with the task of playing control operator, and managing other tasks at the site.

Al, AA7CS is a CW god. He couldn’t get comfortable with the keys we had on hand, so he started making contacts with a bent paperclip and a piece of wire. Watch the video for him in action at 3:20

Weather was decent, but cool. It was breezy the first day and rained in the evening. Sunday morning was beautiful, but more rain was on the way. So tear-down was a race against time to get the equipment packed before the sky opened up.

As for propagation, the bands were decent, but not outstanding. We had some 6 meter activity with a nice opening on Sunday morning. 20 and 40 meters held up most of the day and evening. Had some luck with 15 meters on Sunday. But 75/80 was a hot mess. I can’t wait for us to get out of the basement of this solar cycle.

So, picking apart this year’s field day event, here’s some good things I liked and things that need improvement:

Location: County parks are nice, but sometimes private property gives you the visibility you need. Our new location worked well and I hope we can get back to it again next year.

Porta-Potties: Renting one is worth the money.

Consumables: In setting up, things we normally have in the trailer weren’t there; like garbage bags, electrical tape, and assorted little nuts and bolts. I’m not saying that things walked off, but stuff gets used and needs to be replenished from year to year.

Weather: The weather was quite variable that weekend. Rain with a chance of thunder moved into the area Saturday evening. I was glad I had my Acurite Lightning Detector to warn us of incoming lightning strikes.

Networking: Like everyone else, we use the N3JFP field day logging program. All the computers are networking with ethernet cables, as we’ve had problems in the past with wireless networks. But one operator was just out of reach of our longest cable, so I wish I had brought a couple mesh nodes to link him in. Next year I’ll be more prepared.

Food: No more messing around with charcoal or gas grills. My Blackstone Griddle did all the cooking (with the exception of making the coffee).  It was so much more convenient: burgers and brats in the evening and pancakes for Sunday morning.

Ladders: Two step ladders are better than one.

How was your Field Day experience? Please share it by leaving a comment below.