Sunday, July 7, 2013

W6SW does it's 18th Field Day from Mt. Abel

Field Day 2013 was the 18th event for the San Andreas Fault-line Survivors on Mt. Abel (8,250' - 50-m N/W of L.A.) using the callsign W6SW (Whiskey Six Short Wave). For our GOTA (Get On The Air [now]) station I reserved the callsign K6F (Kilowatt Six Foxtrot) which was expertly run by our newest member of the group Dennis - KJ6UVQ. K6F contributed a not insignificant 205 QSOs to our 1,604 total. While 1604 is a respectable total, it is a far cry from some of our other years; especially last year's 2700+ QSOs. Our exchange message was: 3A - SJV.
Because I took down the W6SW road signs last year, I was elected to put them in their usual places for 2013; except for sign #1 - the freeway sign. This year just before FD, the Frazier Park exit on the northbound I-5 was closed, requiring W6SW detour signs at the Gorman exit before Frazier Park.
As usual there was no cellphone service on the mountain, requiring a drive to the bottom of the mountain near the W6SW sign #4 turnoff indicator. For internet and shower access, I had to drive another 12 miles to the Flying-J station at the I-5 exit. 

Due to the fact that the majority of our younger operators have grown up and moved to various locations around the world and some of our "veteran" operators are "getting too old" to camp (then rent an RV dammit), we had a small turnout this year. Then again, those of us who DiD make it to Mt. Abel gave it our usual 300% effort and pulled off our usual bevy of miraculous feats throughout the FD weekend. 

Every year Murphy makes the most unexpected of appearances. For me, it began the weekend before with the All Asian contest when I discovered one of my 2 radio batteries could not hold a charge. That left me to using my Mercury Cougar as a battery charger that weekend and begging/borrowing batteries during Field Day. 

Jim (W6KC) had a double whammy starting with leftovers from a cold followed by the failure of his K3 radio when it was inadvertently reverse-hooked to the storage battery. We swapped in an ICOM 7000 from my car (switching to yet another IC-700 later) to keep Station #2 on the air. 

Antenna-wise we had no serious problems. In addition to the HF-2v and Sloping 8JK cobras and the infamous Inverted-Vee Slinky I used during All Asian, we hoisted a 3-element wire yagi for 20-meter Cw, altho physically it was not as high as last year. Nevertheless, I was able to work virtually every station I could hear. Station #1 also sported a 3-element 20-meter wire Yagi, while Station #2 utilized a similar 3-element Yagi for 15 meters along with a homebrew Delta Loop for 10-meters; altho 10-meters turned out to be a DuD. 

My Yaesu FT-920 certainly rose to the occasion, thanks to the newly added 500hz Cw filter and it's super duper built-in DSP unit. The 920 DSP is so good that it sidelined my external NIR-12 DSP filter - I simply didn't need it. 

Thanks to Jim setting up another ad-hoc wireless network (hanging from a tree) all 3 W6SW stations were laptop networked together. When band conditions on the band I am working slow down my contact rate, it is nice to see the other stations cranking out contacts in that very moment; and vice-verse. Late in the evening as the Station #1 & #2 operators finally crashed for the night network access allowed me to determine which band(s) I should be operating on. 

While 20-meter Cw was my primary focus, I also spent time on 10, 40 & 80 meter Cw; and even made a brief (but fruitless) appearance on 160. At around 08:00z (1:00 am) I activated my ICOM 7000 at station #2 on 75-meter SSB making 105 voice contacts. Ge'ldine! even made an appearance, but people didn't really get it so she went back into submersion. I got 3 hours sleep at 4am, awakening to Kona coffee and an hour stint at Station #1 making 52 QSOs on 20-SSB before returning to Station #3 to put the finish on 20-Cw operations until 18:00z (11:00 am). 

Because of the battery problem, I was not able to "run a frequency" on 20-Cw as continuously as I did last year (when I made 600+ QSOs on 20-Cw alone). Individually, I had the highest QSO total this year 504; consisting of: 80-Cw/75-SSB = 33/105; 40-m Cw = 79; 20-m Cw/SSB = 229/52; 15-m Cw = 4; 10-m Cw = 2. 

Friday nite, before the contest, I had a brief encounter with a bear (I was safely inside my car) who happened onto some grapes I left under the picnic table next to my car. Insuring my safety to guarantee our 11am starting time, I reclined the passenger seat and slept in a mummy bag. You can see more pictures of all this in the FD-2013 Photo Album on my Facebook page

While I was hoping to put a Flex-1500 SDR radio on RTTY for Field Day, lack of batteries and operators made that impractical - "maybe next year". We also missed out on VHF opportunities, although I did dial VFO-B on the FT-920 for an occasional listen on 6-Meters (50mhz) hoping for some stray CQ FD calls; which didn't happen. 

A notably missing occurrence was the Sunday morning calls from ZS5 stations (South Africa) on 20-meters. In fact, to my knowledge there were no non-W/K/VE/VO/VY stations in the log this year. While we were playing FD in the U.S. & Canada the pileups for "rare" EU and Africa stations (on 20-meters alone) were abundant across the globe. 

Atmospherically, while the K-Index avoided the 4 & 5 range (from the weekend before), K-3 levels certainly caused some serious noise; especially on 80-meters, early Sat. evening. So, for that I guess I should be grateful. 

The W6SW group learns a lot from our operations every year. For 2014, we already have a promise of a greater operator turnout. We have nearly 11 months to make that a reality. 

While we probably did not take a 1st place for SJV section (as we did in 2011/2102), nevertheless it was a lot of fun and very nice to hookup again with people, many whom I only get to see in June of each year. 

What was YOUR Field Day like? 
Do you have W6SW or K6F in your FD log? 


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