I started setting up the station on Friday, mostly laying out and fitting everything. The antennas went up Saturday morning. Being: a dipole fed with ladder-line from my SG-239 smarttuner. And a low 40m dipole for NVIS. I already played with that idea but a chat with ON4WW revealed his team was going to put a stack of chips on NVIS so…
The main dipole’s feed point was about seventeen meters high. End points float a good six meter high. But the garden is too small so the length is a compromise and even then one end was drooping down. But it worked on 40-80-160, the only three bands in my category. Actually it worked as in ‘the smart-tuner made it 50 ohm on the three bands’. It didn’t quit work well to get stations in the log. Especially not compared to the teams with full size and presumably monoband antennas of either polarization.
The low 40m dipole resonated down in the band with SWR = 1.2:1. I got lucky. A quick RX test revealed that it showed a slight improvement for ON, G and PA stations. Maybe the difference will be more pronounced with a vertical or my rotary dipole high on the tower. I didn’t make much use of it.
I had planned to use at least one RX antenna. I wonder why. Choices included a BOG, my Wellbrook loop or an ad hoc K9AY. In the end I deployed a DOG: my spare 80m Dipole laid On Ground. That seemed to help a bit, at least it heard the EU stuff. Don’t know about DX. But it’s worth to experiment further on because it’s easy and cheap. I didn’t want to waste a long run of RG-213. Rather: I didn’t want to unreel a long stretch of that in the wet grass, only to have to reel it back in the day after. So I dug up a length of RG-58 from back in the days at my parent’s house. It was only 15m long and low band RX only so that shouldn’t be a problem.
Everything worked, from antennas to rig and software. I didn’t expect a fast start, but it was painstakingly slow. After a few hours a competing team called and they had exactly one QSO more. Good! At least their number for me was one less than what I gave them. A few times I heard raindrops on the tent. But it stopped after a few seconds so I was hoping for the rain to go away. Around 20.45 utc I decided it was time to cover the generator with my improvised shelter. The rain intensified. As I exited the tent and strolled over the lawn, there was a lightning bolt followed by some thunder.
This is wat I had feared: yet another thunderstorm. Suddenly more lightning and loud thunder and more rain. As the interval between lightning grew shorter and the thunderclaps following sooner, I decided to shut down for a while. I put the rig and laptop inside and waited… And waited… for over an hour. After an hour and a half it was still going on but I must have fallen asleep at that point. I woke up at 3 AM local, which is 1 AM utc. The forced shutdown once again took away my motivation. Well, forced… No one was pointing a gun at me but better safe than sorry. What happens at music festivals can happen when you’re hiding in a tent under tons of copper wire and aluminum.
My first thought was to quit and sleep more. Winning had been impossible from the start, and the fun factor was pretty low. But I felt I owed it to my wife because she once again set up the tent. Just like in 2014 when a thunderstorm ruined it for me too. I filled up the generator. It struck me that the level was still high after six hours of use. I reconnected the rig, laptop and peripherals and was good to go. But it wasn’t easy getting stuff in the log. I didn’t hear much on 160 again. Where is everyone? Sunrise on Top Band was uneventful and it was a bust on 80 too. Four to five minutes of CQ CQ CQ between two logged contacts. Rate less than 30/h on any band. I was tired and bored and I decided that nine more hours of this served no purpose. I started breaking down with just over 400 QSO in the log. And I could submit in the meaningless 12h subcategory.
I’m used of doing contesting on my own but this is another thing. Rates are low and no second radio to get at least a feeling of not wasting time. I have done FD in the past and always had someone around to joke with, to whine about the low rates or to take over the key or me to catch some sleep. Never say never but I think solo operations are done. Mind you: I didn’t want to do it alone this time. No one could or wanted to join me.
Besides that, FD from my garden is something I won’t be doing anymore either. If the goal is to be active, have fun and make a bunch of contacts, it’s the perfect spot. Technically it’s feasible as I have proven two times now. If you really want to be loud and play with the big boys, you need more space. Setting up is a pain too. Routing guy ropes and antenna wires between the tower and yagi elements, taking down elevated radials… A clean field with no obstacles is a blessing.
This was the warmest of all my field day nights. Usually it gets very chilly to plain cold overnight, but trading shorts for long trousers and putting on a fleece sweater was more than enough this time. I also enjoyed the sunrise with the birds waking up and starting to show off their musical skills. But the rate was just too low with no one to complain to next to me.
I learned a lot again this time. The mast support works. I get the job done on my own, but an extra pair of hands could speed things up. Should the need arise for ad hoc emergency comms, I’m ready! ☺
NOTE TO OT1A: lots of electrical tape and cable zip ties were used in true FD tradition.