Huh, I just really worked my first field day at my station. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so many things, and ARRL Field Day as well. Social distancing meant no club station to visit, everyone dispersed. But since this is emergency preparedness and disaster assistance practice for necessary skills, it seems oddly fitting.

Elecraft KX3 and PX3
on portable NoGAQRP stand

I operated 1E (battery-powered) WWA (Western Washington) for about 6 hours QRP phone on 40m and 20m. I had decided to work “phone” (SSB) and give it my best shot. I knew I had low power, a compromised antenna setup, and using a mode that spreads energy over a chunk of the spectrum rather than a point like CW (morse code). Not a superstation setup. But this was supposed to a challenge. S3-S5 noise fading in and out combined with low power (5W RF) made it real. And the weather didn’t help with a cold-weather front moving through with 50F’s and drizzle/rain almost all day and night.

Wait, what is “field day”?

Field Day is ham radio’s open house. Every June, more than 40,000 hams throughout North America set up temporary transmitting stations in public places to demonstrate ham radio’s science, skill, and service to our communities and our nation. It combines public service, emergency preparedness, community outreach, and technical skills all in a single event. Field Day has been an annual event since 1933, and remains the most popular event in ham radio.”

I had a lot of fun and was working my radio for the first time in many years. I love the setup with PX3 perched on top of the KX3 on the NoGAQRP stand. The PX3 adds a great deal of awareness to operating, without adding workload or requiring software on some other device. My ears were under a set of Yamaha CM500’s (cheap, useful, and anemic even with EQ’ing the signal on the KX3). I need to improve my audio in the future. And I have to say my new Surface Go 2 was perfect for logging. I love this little, super portable machine. It has enough power to get the job done and is not too tiny to be pleasant to use. Nice!

Even just listening alone was a blast. Friendly people everywhere. I heard stations from the west coast and BC/AB in Canada to FL, NY, and PA. There was a swath from WA, ID, CO, TX, LA, FL that I could hear on 40m, but they couldn’t pick me up. And I couldn’t hear anyone on the East coast at all.

Band conditions seemed to be constantly changing for me. Alexloop worked great, although small bandwidth meant it was a bit of work to move around the bands, having to retune if I jumped far.  My end-fed half-wave (133 ft long wire) that I had thrown up at the last minute didn’t work at all, too low.   And I resisted dragging the KXPA100 out to blast with more oomph.

In the end, I managed to get through 3 massive pileups, competing with much stronger signals. Not super impressive. However, I am super thankful for the great ops who listen for the little pip-squeak stations out there in the noise and put in the extra effort to pull us out. Final score? 280. I gave the points to the club in Atlanta that elmered me when I first got started: North Fulton ARL.

I can’t wait for FD 2021!


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