Notes from the shack….
Winter Field Day, 2020
Ah… Field Day. Summer temps, picnic food, setting up outside… can’t wait!
UH…wait….you said “Winter Field Day? Huh? Winter?? as in freezing outside? Ummm…no thanks.
Really. Winter Field Day is a thing., It was started several years ago as basically a club activity in Ohio and has grown into one of the larger events in amateur radio. Winter Field Day seems to be most popular from Virginia south. Why? In part because it’s warmer there. And in some places Winter Field Day on the 4th weekend in January is a lot more fun to be outdoors than the ARRL Field Day the 4th weekend in June. The 2020 ARRL Field Day is the weekend of June 27. CARC has already reserved the cabin at Shaffer Park in Carlisle, PA. Watch this website for more info.
Winter Field Day has essentially the same rules. With one important exception: the entry classes. ARRL Field day uses the number of operating transmitters and a combination of how they are powered and where they are located. CARC has operated ARRL Field Day as 4A (4 radios, club, commercial power). If we ran our radios off batteries we could enter as 4B. Winter Field Day uses the number of transmitters and the environment were they are located: Outdoor, Indoor or Home. Outdoor means just that. Indoor is a room or building without an existing antenna system and not normally used as a space for radios. Home is a place where you normally have a ham radio station of some sort. Most of the stations I worked this weekend were Indoor or Outdoor.
I got the current N3FJP Winter Field Day software downloaded Saturday morning so I could keep my log electronically and was ready to start at 1400 EST (1900 UTC) except that I was just getting up from my nap. So I was a bit late. I am a 1 transmiiter Home station, or IH for WFD purposes. 20M was quiet but dead. 40M was busier. I figured 80M would be really noisy so I started on 40M phone (voice). I was hoping to pickup the nearby ARRL sections (EPA, WPA, MDC, SNJ, NNJ, WNY, VA, CT, WMA, ONS, ONE, QC and perhaps some others then work longer distances on 80M after dark, Nope. 40M was long. My goal is to work a new ARRL section on every QSO until I run out of ones I can realistically get. I think 3 of my first 5 were Indiana (IN) and the other 2 were I think Ohio (OH) and Illinois (IL). By supper time I had something like 24 QSOs in the log and the closest were NC and OH. Not good. After checking into the Virginia Fone Net on 75m (I could hear the Net Control in Virginia’s Northern Neck, but to check-in I had to rely on a relay in South Carolina, I went down 75m looking for WFD activity. I found 2 stations. One I had worked on 40m who moved to 80m after dark and still had a big pile up. I was surprised at the lack of activity on 80m. 40m had lots of it earlier. Due to band conditions though many stations I could hear were on top of each other; they could not hear each other and I could hear both but could not reach either without getting stepped on by the other one. Frustrating!
Got up this morning and found 80m quiet, full of nets and rag chewers and no WFD activity. 20m was very good, but no WFD activity there, so I went back to 40m and worked another 15 stations or so. Then at 1030 EST my voice quit. I was trying to reach a station in KS. I think he was running QRO (high power) with at least 800 watts, and everyone seemed able to hear him and he heard no one.
Then my voice just quit. I knew no one would hear me.
I tried CW, thinking 40m and maybe 20m and 80m would have a fair amount of WFD activity but I found none. Still not sure what to do, so I shifted my log to my second monitor and fired up FLDIGI, the Fast Light Digital modem software discussed on this website in the “How Do I…” articles featured on the RESOURCES pages. I went to 40m and switched the mode to PSK31. Found nothing.
PSK31 is fun. I like it, but since the advent of the WSJT-X modes (FT65, JT8, FT8) etc, it has become very hard to find on the air. Many of the call signs I worked on PSK31 I have since worked on FT8. I started calling CQ WFD on PSK31 and after a few calls someone came back to me. I collected a couple more, then began seeing other folks calling CQ WFD and worked some of them. I expected it would be a slow process. I eventually switched to 20m on 14.070 MHZ then back to 7.070 MHZ to end the contest. I lost a few Q’s as band conditions just blew them away mid contact. I finished with 12 and added at least 2 new sections in the process.
The end result was about double my total QSO’s for last year’s Winter Field Day and close to 4 times last year’s score. (Multipliers are your friends!). Last year I worked I think 2 bands, all on phone. This year I had 3 bands, and both phone and digital. I figure I left about 11 sections on the table as I was unable to find a band short enough to work them.
If Winter Field Day is kinda like the NASCAR race at Daytona, the contest season is just starting. Next weekend (February 1 and 2) is the British Columbia QSO Party as well as the Minnesota Party and Vermont’s.
South Carolina is February 29 and North Carolina is on March 1, 2020.
The Oklahoma QSO Party is March 14.
The Virginia QSO Party is March 21.
The Pennsylvania QSO Party is October 10 and 11, 2020. CARC plans to set up and operate a multi operator station somewhere again this year. Watch this website. We have not decided yet if we will try for a three peat from York County or take the Traveling Radio Road Show caravan elsewhere this year.