Thursday, July 28, 2016

WQ6X & N6GEO Work 2016 Field Day from Tuolumne County

Station #1 - manned by WQ6X

FD 2016 is only the 2nd time in 31 years that I have not joined the San Andreas Faultline Survivors for Field Day on Mt. Able (in Southern Kern county 55 mi. N/W of Los Angeles).  For 2016, client commitments before and after FD made a drive from the SF bay area (300+ miles each way) impractical  when you consider that I pretty much single-highhandedly put together a campsite and 20 meter CW station along with assisting in the near dozen antennas the group hangs from trees.

During Field Day weekend, N6GEO is usually in England on business for Livermore Lawrence lab.  Because this year was an N6GEO exception I simply loaded up the Honda Accord with the FT-1000mp and it's outboard accessories and made the drive to George's QTH in Brentwood (SF East Bay) where we loaded up his monster truck and made the 3 hour drive to his cabin in Twain Harte;
the same cabin we ran the CQP contest last October as W6E.

I almost brought a Coleman InstaTent to setup outdoors, but was too lazy to stuff it into the back seat of the Honda (Insta Tents are "insta" because the pole structure is built right in.  The trade off is that the unit is HUGE compared to the camping tent I usually pack with it.)
As it turns out, George became our "outdoor operator".

In recent years I have registered the
1x1 callsign "K6F" (Kilowatt Six Foxtrot)
for W6SW's GOTA station.

Having already registered that call in anticipation of my participation with the Faultline Survivors, K6F became the callsign utilized by N6GEO and WQ6X and the Faultline Survivors used KJ6UVQ for their GOTA station as
they did last year.

Because we arrived Thursday , technically we were not allowed to do any station setup or put up any "new" antennas until Friday morning.  However, because we essentially operated out of a "home QTH" (albeit a cabin vacation home) the rules did not prohibit us from adding extra radials to an already existing military-style vertical (front-ended by an SGC-250 external auto-tuner).
While were at it we gave the other antennas (a 6-BTV vertical, an OCD Dipole and a homebrew
3-element 6-meter yagi) a thorough inspection with an MFJ-259 antenna analyzer.

N6GEO running Station #2
Friday morning found us laying out guy lines for a 36' pneumatic mast with a TH-3 jr at the top.  We couldn't find the time to run rotor cables for the yagi, so we used the infamous "Armstrong method" to rotate the antenna.

Then again, most of the time the yagi was pointing north to northeast, favoring where the most signals come from.  Having two multi-band verticals available allowed us communication in other directions; including Hawaii (KH6) and Puerto Rico (KP4).
Attempts to convince our friends from "down under" to look for our callsign produced no DX QSOs.

I brought along the usual pair of Cobra dipoles I bring for every field day to make a multi-band 8JK array or the infamous WQ6 multi-band  8JK sloper.  Because the already-resident antennas were more than adequate, we chose not to go to the hassle of making 1 - 4 additional antenna line shoots.

TH-3 jr 12mh
Friday afternoon gave us plenty of time to organize the cabin for a dual station operation; me running the FT-1000mp on the BiG wooden dining room table and George first on the desk in the living room, quickly changed at the last minute to run his Elecraft K2 from an umbrella covered table on the outside patio.  The weather was perfect for outdoor operation.  I was almost envious of his outdoor setup until 8pm (local time) when the sun set and it got a little cold.

Power-wise we ran a Honda generator the entire operating period with a specially chosen AC-line RF filter to keep line noise out of the radios.  Because we ran bandpass filters on each band we were also able to pretty much keep out of each others radio except for the direct 2nd harmonic from 40 meter CW to 20 meter CW (or 80 CW to 40 CW) and an occasional SSB harmonic from 7.155mhz to 14.310, encountered when searching and pouncing on the upper end of 20 meters.

Military vertical EXUDING RF

One of my FD goals for 2016 was to include some form
of digital communications - in my case RTTY; because RTTY is FUN.  Additionally, like CW contacts, digital contacts are all worth 2 points; whether you run RTTY, PSK-31 or even JT-65.  Unfortunately, by the time FD came around I had not worked out a keying-relay cable
for the FT-1000mp.

Luckily, N6GEO is an accomplished RTTY & PSK operator.  George's trusty Elecraft K2 put 13 RTTY & PSK contacts in the K6F log along with a 7 SSB QSO presence on 50 Mhz, thanks to a homebrew 3 element 6-meter yagi.

George also gave us a brief presence on 160 meters; not bad considering the vertical was tuned for 80 meters with no 160 meter loading coil.  (It is amazing what antenna tuners can do.)

As you can see from the Summary Stats there was not much activity for us on 10 or 15 meters.  In fact, N6GEO made more sideband contacts on 6 meters than on 15.  In a way this is not surprising when you consider that the low-angle reflection possibilities were largely inhibited by shallow hills not far from the Twain Harte QTH.

As George and I are both CW operators it is not surprising that 20-CW was the most productive band mode this year.  At W6SW, typically I am the 20-CW operator for the group, so I felt right at home at K6F.
We both made quite a presence on 80/40 CW.

My biggest beef during this year's FD was stations just JUMPing on frequencies to call CQ w/o listening first and/or asking "QRL?" before assuming that a frequency is available.  When you consider that Field Day encourages novice/beginner operators (as well as station visitors who
barely know what amateur radio is) control operators at each station should take extra
responsibility to insure that their operation is as QRM-free (to other stations) as possible.

Bananas & Negra Modelo
not JUST for breakfast anymore
Amazingly, the usual intentional 40-meter QRM I have come to expect in contests after 05:00z did not materialize this year; no belching, no VFO swishes, no stray RTTY.  Unfortunately the nightly South American SSB idiots on 7.018 were out in force which gave us a reason to operate on/around 7.033.  Then again, because of our foothill location we did not hear any of the Russian 'letter" beacons on 7.039.

While I am used to running Field Day for the entire 24 hours, this year I gave it up at 08:45z (1:45am).  K6F was back on the air at 15:00z (8am).   Because we had worked most of all stations we could hear, we managed only 50 QSOs between us for the last 3 hours of the contest. 

With an extra 1 or 2 operators we could have made an even greater presence of the higher bands as well as modes like RTTY and Packet.  George and I have the same feeling concerning our CQP operations; especially from Twain Harte.

Next year look for me to rejoin the W6SW team and drag N6GEO along.
There is a rumor that friends from VK and/or ZL land will be visiting California for next years event.

While I truly missed playing with the Fault Line survivors this year, their FD report indicates that they survived without me and we survived “roughing it” at the Twain Harte cabin.

Did YOU operate Field Day 2016?

Is K6F in YOUR log?

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