Contest Summary: January VHF 2023

It’d officially hit a year since I was able to get out and Rove for a VHF Contest, and it was nice to get back out on the road for this one. Operating /P in June was to give me an idea of any potential noise that I may have to work with while in the field, I had none to speak of on my FM mobile units, so I figured I’d be set elsewhere on the bands. This turned out to be 100% correct.. Being an EV had absolutely no impact on how I ran my contest, in fact being able to only run the heat, and putting the vehicle in utility mode to trickle charge the 12v Battery used minimal juice (taking up about 5% in the 5 hours I was in the first grid) – which was astounding to me!

For my first Rove in this vehicle, I also added two new bands, 3400, and 10ghz, which both were very productive, though required me to hack along some CW here and there. One thing that I decided against running were digital modes – this was initially unintentional, I reached in my bag to plug in the USB cord, and realized that it was sitting in a separate pouch with my DigiRig sound card for the FT-818. While I was only about 15 mins away from home, and easily could have detoured back to get it, it proved to be unnecessary. I never had more than 5 mins of downtime during the contest – I was either speaking, keying, or moving something around trying to optimize my position. Now, will I do this again in June? Probably not, Digital modes are just a great way to pick up some easy mults when the bands are open, but it was fun this time for sure!

Saturday – FN02VU, and FN12AU

I was grossly underprepared (per usual) – I spent Friday between work and our club meeting getting the antennas on the car, and unsuccessfully spending far more time than I should have looking at my PTT situation for the 10ghz DEMI transverter. But aside from that I did absolutely nothing else to get ready, so I had a lot of work to do in the morning. Of course, sleeping in did not help matters, so it was about 8 o’clock before I started gathering radios, cables, transverters, and switches. Finally, by 11, I was loading things into the vehicle… but I had no operating desk ready. Luckily, after some maneuvering of my LIDO mount, I was able to use my previous operating desk, it just needed a little trim on the back end, and to be flipped 180 degrees of how it went in the Patriot. It was a little lower than I wanted but given that I had three hours to be on the air, it worked.

Everything was finally set at about 12:15pm, not bad timing, and then I decided to figure out what to do with the 10ghz dish. I’d ordered the struts and gotten the horn affixed to the dish on Thursday night, however I hadn’t figured out how exactly to mount it. None of the tripods I have are sturdy enough, so I opted to utilize one of the hitch mast holders that I’d bought for previous Rover iterations. I could leave the dish on the mast and slid into the most holder, I’d just pull it out of the back of the car when I was set, and can get out and spin it to aim it. This was actually one of the original ideas I was playing around with, but was attempting to make into something that didn’t require setup every time. It only took about 30 mins to scrounge the mounting hardware up and get it all set.

Finally, time to get wheels up! I ran in, grabbed something to eat, changed, made the (almost required at this point) stop to my Dad’s (N2OA) shack on the other side of town to borrow some BNC and SMA adapters that I forgot to order weeks ago, grabbed a Timmy’s, and hit the road – first stop FN02VU!

I wasn’t on site until about 2:30pm, I climbed up on the roof to bring out the elements of my 6m antenna, only to find that they were frozen from the snow/rain mix that we had gotten the night before. I banged on them a little bit to try and jar them loose, but didn’t spend too much time on it, as 6m is rarely too productive for me in January anyway. I kicked the power down to 5 watts and used with the 4:1 SWR for the locals. Anyone beyond 40 miles, I didn’t even bother.

I put out a few calls on 144.207, with my first grid being EN92 out of all places, not one of the local clusters I’ll usually work. From here I had a few 9 band sweeps with local stations, and a few 10ghz contacts with those I don’t always catch during the contest on the lower bands. At a little after 7pm I decided to pack it up from here and head to my next spot.

FN12AU is an odd one – in my spot I have a great shot to the East, I can see the City of Rochester’s skyline, and have openings of about 100 degrees, however I’m shrouded Due North and to the West, so that interrupts some of the ‘gimme’ contacts I should have. My favorite part about this site though is the lack of traffic – similar to my spot in FN02VU, I can pivot the car, get a little off the road, there’s lots of room to move, and the farmers that own the chunks of land are quite rover friendly. It’s the reason that I continue to use this site, despite some of the issues I have in particular directions. I continued to park on 144.207 when calling, and this proved to be a good move, I only had three of my usual suspects that I had to arrange contact with (allowed by VHF Contest Rules for those that do not know), the remainder of them found me here, and we ran through the bands. 10ghz proved to be the most fun from this spot though, not for any particular number of contacts reached, but for the fact that while I was completing a Q with one station, I had another chime in before I QSYed back to 2m, and then I proceeded to make three Q’s with his station (Himself, along with his newly licensed Wife, and one of his daughters). After this exchange, the battery to my FT-818 had died, and I had to shuffle some things around to keep power to it. At about 9:30pm, after my last sked, I decided to call it – during the summer I’d often switch to 6m (likely digital) and hope for a later opening, but with that being down, it was time to go home and get some dinner.

Sunday – FN03WA, The Blitz, Sort of FN13AA, and the Bills

I went in to Sunday knowing it was going to be an abbreviated day – the Bills played at 3pm, the RVHFG Rover Blitz was at Noon, so I really had until about 11:15 to work from whichever grid I was in. I was originally going to hit FN13GB Sunday morning, but a later start due to crimping some additional power cables, sleeping in a little later than planned, and coordinating with another Rover really made it worth staying a bit closer to home. I was on site by 8:20, and on the air by 8:25 – I started the morning by sending out a burst text to home stations and Rovers I knew to ‘Self Spot’ and let them come to me. We ran the bands one by one, and then I put out some calls on 144.207 again, catching a number more. Stations from East to South East were able to easily work through 10ghz, however those to the North required a little more coordination – a similar issue to FN12AU.

While the grid was productive, despite an S7 noise floor on 902-903, at 11:20, after sticking around to try some extra 10ghz, it was time to haul out to the blitz.. There were five of us, plus one home station (that I had worked in all but one grid) that participated in this. I’ve you’ve read any of my contest summaries before, you’ll note that it’s where we travel as a Rover ‘Pack’ and quickly circle four grids together at a convergence, and then go back to our regular contest activity. It’s an activity that typically takes between 1-2 hours. We’ve done this at other grid convergences on Saturday before, but it just proves to be not as productive. With six total stations, it ran quick, being done in about an hour and 20 mins. Once we were finished, I ran out to a spot in FN13 to try and catch the home station I was attempting to work on FM on SSB, and then called it to watch the Bills.


In Summary, and Changes for June

Transverter switching, or a 2nd IF Radio – this is something I need to work on, and the priority. 900 is integrated nicely, however 2304, and 3400 required virtually breaking down, and setting back up between uses. This was just due to a lack of SMA-BNC jumpers, and SMA to SO-239 connectors, and could be an easy solution. 10ghz is the real kicker here though, and this is where I’m considering a new IF rig entirely – I had to take apart the front transverter setup, move the IF Rig, and LiFePo battery to the back, and plug in. It was about 5 mins per Q of setup, and breakdown. PTT interfacing as well – frankly, I just got frustrated here, and gave up. Each 10ghz Q was me shorting the jumper to key the transverter, I need to read up on how to setup the Yaesu to do this, and the correct pin configuration on the 3.5mm connector.

222 Sideband: I have the transverter… It was even with me in the car the whole time, I just didn’t have the time to figure out how to integrate it well. This will likely just be the implementation of another switch to go from the Yaesu to the transverter to the antenna. 

1296 Sideband: Another transverter I already have, I just need to take a min to verify the IF, and setup a power cable for it, and it’ll be set. 

5.7ghz: I’d like to. This is likely going to be the last band I add into the Rover for the time being. With not going to Dayton this year, maybe I’ll just blow the rest of the money that I’ll save over the course of the year for that trip on a shiny new DEMI? Maybe… Likely not this year though… 

Operating position: I repurposed the existing one, and can get away with it again if I have to, but I’d like to improve the desk to better fit the vehicle I’m currently in. This is probably the easiest of all of the above though. 

Will I get to any of this before June? Likely all but 5.7 are easily achievable – but, with the busy schedule, we’ll see how it goes. Thanks for reading, and catch you in the next one!

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