Small Spaces, Small Antennas

I know a few hams that are in smaller apartment spaces, and let me start by saying, I fully sympathize. Out of the last three apartments that I’ve been in, I was lucky this time around, there is an attic crawlspace access panel that is easily accessible to me which allows for storage, and easy hanging of antennas. Before I was in apartments, I was in dorm rooms for a bit, and that was difficult. I made up a 2m/440 jpole to get on the air locally, it was matched using 300 ohm TV Twin Lead, and performed quite well. I’d simply tuck it in the corner of the room out of sight, and run a piece of coax to my mobile rig. In addition to that I had a 440 moxon antenna that I would place in the window. That would allow me to work clear into Toronto from Niagara Falls with no issue. I then built a 2m moxon that I would use for both 2m, and 440, as it had an SWR of less than 1.5:1 on 440. The 2m Moxon that I built in the dorms is still the antenna that I will take for my rover station from time to time… when I don’t quite feel like messing with the 14 element beam. (The rover redesign will be coming this year, and will be ready for January, stay tuned.) The moxon is a very small antenna, with quite a lot of gain, it’s a simple beam, with only two elements, a Driven, and a reflector, and when you’re limited on space is the way to go!

The two apartments I was in before the one I’m in now were not great at all. The first one was a two story townhouse rental, and while the space was great, it really didn’t lend well to putting any type of antenna out. I did, however, get creative with it.I started by putting a small stake into the ground, and clamped a 3/8 mount to that to get on HF, however that was pretty much laying on the ground, and I feared someone grabbing that while I was transmitting, so that came to an end quickly. After that, I would occasionally clamp some ham-sticks to the window for my HF usage, and strung a dipole antenna across the bedroom for 10m, however none of those were great solutions. Both are functional however. It was even worse though the following year. Basement level, concrete walled apartment. It was a pretty nice place, but absolutely no space for anything. On occasion I would setup a tripod, and my hitch mount for masts, run a feedline in though the window, and I would be able to try to get on 10m. I would run ham-sticks the same way, but that wound up similar to roving – always setting up and breaking down every time I wanted to get on the radio.

You probably started this thinking that I had a real solution, but I don’t… at least not for HF. In fact, I’m still going to tell you that your best bet is a small dipole or hamsticks strung outside, and if you’re not in a place where they’re okay with you leaving them out there, I would suggest pulling the rover setup situation – it’s good practice for if you ever want to get into that, but in addition, it really doesn’t take that long, as long as you have the ability to do it. For common repeater use, however, my solution is a little different. If you’re adamant on being able to just talk on repeaters, I suggest digital. Get yourself a small, DV hotspot – see Zumspot post – and get on digital voice! If the apartment is just in too big of a hole to get into any local coverage repeaters, you can link it up to your nearest digital repeater, and bam! You’re on the air! And better yet, if you’re in a yank to be able to chat all around the world, DV provides that with the linking functionality! Link to a repeater on the other side of the world, and have a conversation!It’s not the ideal solution, but it does get you on the air!

Field Day 2018 is here and gone – W2RCX Club Wrapup

It’s the largest contest of the year! The one with the most activity in North America at least. Though it being a contest isn’t what it’s all about. Field Day is meant to be an exercise in emergency preparation, and it’s a great exercise in communication, cooperation, and knowing what you can do in a pinch. In the last 4 years, we in Genesee County, NY have resurrected a club. While we have a small membership, we all meet the third Friday of each month and discuss amateur radio related events, and topics. Of course our meeting in June, which was a week before Field Day, was related to preparations we were making to ensure that we were ready to be on the air at 2pm kickoff of Amateur Radio’s biggest day in our neck of the woods.

Our station setup was at the Genesee Community College in Batavia, NY. Great vantage point for VHF/UHF communications (which never fully got on the air), as well as plenty of trees for us to run our dipoles, and couple of beams that we had. We operated as 3A, and we had our VHF station as well, in the night hours/wee hours of the morning, our transmitters went from utilizing all bands possible, to two of us being on the air, one running 40m CW, and myself running 80m Voice. At 2:30am, I was working my way through a pileup on 80m Voice, which is a little different for me. I don’t usually call CQ at night, I usually Search and Pounce, but with that being said I thought about how many other people out there are doing the same thing… somebody out there has to be the one calling!

Our setup was pretty much the same as last year, however working with the new location had a few perks – last year being our first as the “new” club, we were in search for a spot for a while, however we were able to use the Genesee County Fairgrounds, which worked great! Up until Saturday evening, when the racetrack nearby started up, and suddenly everyone had to slap on headphones. We had three motorhomes on site, two of which ran stations, one running an Icom IC-7100, and the other running a Yaesu FT-991. In addition, there were two large tents (one is on the other side of the GMC motorhome), one of which also had a 991 setup, and the other contained our VHF station running an Icom IC-9100. In the middle of the site (under the orange popup) was our little Honda generator which was more than enough to power all of the stations with no problem. For HF antennas we ran an 80m OCF, and a 40m Dipole, as well as a RadioWavz Scout, which is good on 10-40. For VHF, we ran a stack of Moxons for 6/2/220, and for 440/900 we had a few beams, however I won’t go into detail for those, as we never got VHF on the air beyond 6m.

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We were able to achieve a couple of bonuses, the first being contacts off of an alternative power source, which we were able to do using a solar charged battery. The second was by making a satellite contact, we were unable to get the initial contact on AO-92, however an hour after that attempt we were able to make a contact on AO-91 (video to come later, still needs to be taken off camera).

All in all we stepped up our game from last year, I haven’t compared our overall contact difference, but I believe that we were able to improve upon last year for sure. We had a few new licensees that we were able to get on the air with, and allow them to experience more than 10m on HF. In addition, though it was nothing like the VHF contest, we did have a small 6m opening to the South, and intermittently to the West, on Sunday morning, allowing us to work Kansas, Nebraska, Florida, Alabama, and Georgia. I am a little bitter about how many stations simply flocked to 50.313, and solely used FT-8. With how open that band was – in and out, yes, but still open – there should have been more activity than there was.

We stepped up our game from last year, there are some improvements to be made going into next year in regards to station setup, software we want to run, etc., so I guess that means it’s time to start prepping for next year!

Quick note!

In case you haven’t noticed, all of these posts have been scheduled.. Some of them were written days in advance, and scheduled to be posted at 5pm the next day. I’ve been a bit busy prepping for Field Day this weekend, so while I have a bunch of half written posts, none have been reviewed, and none are slated to be posted this weekend. There will be live streams from our Field Day operation to my YouTube channel here. While you’re there, check out the video put together from my rover station in the VHF contest!

73!

Digital Radio Modes – DMR Sucks, and I’m going to complain about Fusion… but I like it more than DMR.

Anybody who has done anything on Amateur Radio bands lately, especially on HF and 6m, has noticed the sheer quiet that is the voice section. It’s the novelty of the FT-8 that still hasn’t worn off. We’ve had some pretty poor conditions as of late due to the poor sunspot cycle, but this month we’ve had some really nice openings all things considered. 6m (if you read my contest article) you’ll note that I continually seem to have issues getting to work. The January contest, and this past June specifically, but other instances as well. If you’re not into HF or SSB work, and you traditionally stay on HT’s, and Mobile rigs using repeaters, you’re likely sticking around FM, or one of the hodgepodge of current digital modes. I touched on this briefly in my previous article on the Zumspot Hotspot for Digital Radio. What you likely took away from that was that I thought it was a great hotspot for any mode, what I didn’t touch on was configuration… to which end has led me to virtually give up on DMR.

In 2017 at the Dayton Hamfest (first year in Xenia), I picked up a CS-580 DMR Handheld. Sure, it works fine simplex, but after a year, two hotspots, and only having one repeater in a reasonable distance from me, I’ve given up on the mode. I have made on, very brief QSO on the NA Talk Group, and that’s about it. It’s not incredibly difficult, however configuring DMR for hotspot use just isn’t entertaining to me, neither is DMR. Fusion (C4FM), and D-Star I can get behind. Fusion has its perks – it retains virtually the same bandwidth as an FM communication, and allows data to be added on as a transmission as well, GPS location, photographs, and text callsign are some examples. There is probably more that I’m missing, but in all honesty, I’m not an expert. I’m an amateur, and that’s the point. But where Fusion retains that bandwidth, D-Star shrinks it down to a fraction of the bandwidth, and allows a lot of the same data to be transmit. In reality, they’re quite similar technologies, both prevalent in the amateur community, especially with the rebates that Icom and Yaesu have been offering on their radios over the last couple of years.

For amateur purposes, I see both having benefits, and I’ve had people that are all in with both modes try to convince me of each ones advantages, and while I like Fusion and all, there are just a couple of things I can’t get past when it comes to the radios more than anything else:

1) Fusion IS proprietary… everyone claims D-Star is, but if it were, Kenwood would not have the D-74, and would be on its way down the drain, because in my mind, them adopting that mode is what has kept them a notable name in the ham market. The proprietary nature of the mode is kind of a turn off here, because Yaesu menus are not the easiest to navigate, especially their more intricate radio’s. While I own an FT-70, and it’s fairly straight forward, I still had to break open the manual to figure out how to access the menu, which I don’t like.

2) It’s a digital mode. I’m using a digital repeater. Both myself, and the station I am making contact with are communicating digitally. Why in the world is my radio switching from digital to FM when all I did was drive underneath a noisy power line? Thankfully this isn’t the norm on all radios anymore, at was the AMS mode, or Automatic Mode Select that would toggle the radio between digital and analog based on the incoming signal. All in all, it isn’t an awful feature… it’s just a bad feature that nobody really wants.

3) Lastly, no matter what Yaesu tells you about how great the infrastructure, and linking capabilities are, they’re lying to you. Repeater communication is always like a party line, but when you add in the concept of having no other linking option to a larger party line, it just becomes a headache. Fusion allows you the capability of linking to specific “rooms,” yes, just like your old chat room on AOL. They’re hosted nodes that you talk over using the digital mode, however this is the only linking capability that is there.

From a sheer usability standpoint, D-Star is the clear winner here. It allows direct repeater linking – yes, I, in WNY, could link to your local repeater in England, and we can carry on a conversation. Or better yet, I can enter your callsign, and talk direct to you! There’s a little more to it than that, but the ability is there. We’re only hogging up one party line in that case, not 3 (both local repeaters, and the reflector). Sure, the nodes/reflectors are available in D-Star, but it isn’t my only option as with both Fusion, and DMR. It’s really about personal preference in the end, but all in all, you can’t do too much with Fusion, and I want to play with this stuff! It’s a hobby for a reason, right?

 

Internet killed the RadioShack – Well… and our lack of wanting to actually do anything

First of all – I hope you sang the beginning of that title, and didn’t read it, I sat for a few minutes trying to title this in a way that could be sung to this tune. Secondly, who here likes to online shop? I’m going to guess that just about every single one of the two of you reading said, “Yeah!” enthusiastically. Who doesn’t? It’s so easy you don’t even have to get dressed! You can be eating, or drinking something, and about the only thing you have to worry about slobbing on is your keyboard and mouse! Fantastic! But for the electronics industry, it hasn’t been that great. Remember Circuit City? CompUSA? Media Play? Even Best Buy isn’t quite what it used to be, building noticeably smaller stores every time they open a new one. The fact of the matter is that nobody likes to venture out and socialize anymore when they purchase stuff, they know that just about every piece of merchandise that they buy online, whether it be clothes, electronics, toys, games, it can just about all be returned in 30 days for a full refund… who hasn’t taken advantage of that at one time or another?

Now, it’s not just for convenience sake, a few months ago I purchased a Tivo Bolt. I actually went to the store to buy it! I went into best buy, walked to the shelf where I knew they were keeping them, and they were sold out. I asked an employee if they had anymore, they told me that they were out, and I’d have to order it online! I went in that day because I’m impatient, and wanted it that day to try out! Inventory maintenance gets a lot easier when you’re operating an online business as well, when you’re shipping directly from the warehouse, or from a distribution hub of some kind, you don’t have to worry too much. If you’re doing a lot of online business, keep a bulk inventory and call it done. Sure, when it comes time to tracking the product it may be difficult, but when it comes to fulfilling orders you’ll always have plenty on hand. Online stores also open up the ability for you to bring on other products that may not be popular in areas where your stores are, however they may be popular elsewhere – in another area where people know of your store, but cannot necessarily make it there easily. You now have the ability to diversify product offerings, without having to potentially remove a cash cow from the shelf.

RadioShack was the last local go to for electronic mix and match parts. Sure, a PL-259 connector cost $4, the reducers cost $2, and they barely held a connection, but if you needed one in a pinch, they were there. Now if you need something like that, you can hope that the Walmart near you still carries CB equipment, SOMETIMES you can find a stray “patch” cord (likely RG-58, and it’s 50-100′) but that’s about it. That’s because not only the proclivity for online shopping has become so domineering, and electronic projects, and hobbies have become more and more about buying, and less about building from scratch. If you read my previous posts about the contest, building a functional antenna for radio is easy (Unless you’re me, and it’s 6m)! Setting up a raspberry pi is easy! Building a computer (as long as you can match parts) is fairly easy too! Why do we all have this aversion to building stuff? Now – I’m not going to 100% blame the demise of of Radio Shack on online shopping, the last one I was in before they all sold off to Sprint/closed, I had asked about getting a few SO-239 connectors, and he pointed me toward the HDMI cables. In addition, they really, for a while, scaled back their electronic parts section, and focused too much on cellphones, TV’s, and computer cables. They lost the makers.

Where was I going with this? Well, it’s simple really. While we all like to sit in our little nooks on our devices shopping for other devices, and parts (for the few of us left out there who like projects), what we have done is slowly choked the retail market. We’re all guilty of it. Retail spaces for just about everything are facing their demise, just look at Toys R’ Us and how they’re closing all of their stores, and they’re not the only ones. Over time we’ll definitely learn to appreciate retail space more, the ability to see what we’re buying before we buy it, but for now, we’ll have to watch it get worse before it gets better.

 

Mmmm… Pi….

If you’ve talked to me at all about computers, you know that I love these things. Or if you read my previous post about DV hotspots in Amateur Radio, you must have noticed that I mentioned a device called a Raspberry Pi. In the post I discussed the Pi Zero briefly. Today I just want to quickly go over what a Raspberry Pi is, and why you should have at least one if you want to play around with any technological concepts.

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Pictured on the left is a model B+ of the original Raspberry Pi board, and on the right is the more recent Raspberry Pi 3 B board.

The Raspberry Pi is a credit card sized computer. It has a handful of ports – 4 USB, 1 Ethernet, 3.5mm Stereo, HDMI, Micro USB (for power), Micro SD card slot for storage, 2 ribbon cable slots on the board (1 for camera, and 1 for a display), as well as a 20 pin GPIO.  They upgrade the memory on them between releases, and the Pi 3 is a lot more powerful than the original Pi was for sure, in addition they now have built in WiFi and Bluetooth where as before you had to get a USB device to have the capability. In addition, via the ribbon cable port you are able to convert it into the functioning touchscreen computer below.

What purpose does this serve really though? Why should you want one of these? There are a few things that can be done with these for sure – I have primarily used them in radio applications for running hotspots, and logging, however I am in the process of building a media server off of one as well (been a long process, just need to pull the trigger on some storage, and it’s ready), which will allow me to have the entirety of my music, photos, and movies stored on it, and will make it accessible from anywhere. Pretty neat, right? All off of a board that’s the size of a credit card. You can tie them in for home automation, security systems via the camera port, media center boxes, and any hardware tinkering you want to do, you can fiddle around with the GPIO – check out the people that have built robots and drones with these, they’re really cool. They’re a sandbox for technological play – pretty much any concept that you have you can probably fill in with one of these.

In addition to the Pi, there is the Pi Zero that I mentioned in a prior post. That is a board only slightly larger than the size of a stick of gum. It has 2 micro USB ports, one micro HDMI, a ribbon cable port for a camera, and an SD card slot. That is it. I don’t have any photos, but you can check them out here. This I haven’t really played around with too much, but it’s a slimmed down, bare bones version of the Pi, meant for you to be able to play around with for single uses.

What’s Next? – How about a little digital talk?

Field day is but a week and a half away at this point, and my radio is setup as one of the main stations, and as I live in a smaller apartment space, setting up, and breaking down is a process the way I have everything wound up, so I will not be on the air for another couple of weeks… from home at least, I always have the mobile. And I guess I should specify on the air for sideband – I do operate the currently dominant digital protocols as well, so I’ll be on D-Star, Fusion, and DMR.

On the note of digital, why don’t we discuss a little device that has become the be-all, end-all of digital hotspots, the ZumSpot. For those of you that don’t know, the digital protocols that most all major radio manufacturers produce at least one radio for now are pretty reliant on the internet when it comes to their extended features. Sure, you can talk D-Star, or DMR simplex, and you can use the repeaters locally if there are other people in your area with the ability to use them, but where’s the fun in that? With the infrastructure that’s out there, we can talk all around the world!

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I picked one of these little guys up in Dayton this year. It’s a small, single band (70cm) MMDVM (Multi-Mode Digital Voice Modem) board that you use in conjunction with a raspberry pi computer. It attaches right to the GPIO, you screw on an antenna to the SMA connector, and after setup of the software, you’re good to go! They’re powered simply via the Pi through the GPIO, so you have no additional power concerns. In the above photo I am powering it through a PowerFilm Solar phone charger. With this battery bank at a 50% charge or so when I plugged it in, I had around 7 hours of usage of the ZumSpot, only about 30 minutes of talk time, however the remainder was receive time. You can purchase it as a kit for $129.95 from HRO, that includes the hotspot, a raspberry pi zero, and a small SMA rubber duck antenna to attach to the board. I will warn you that this doesn’t come with a case, there is a case available for purchase, it’s a real pain to put together, but it works for sure, and I would highly recommend putting something on it so you don’t just have open circuit boards laying around.

It is the most all inclusive hotspot produced to date, it covers the big 3, as well as P25, and NXDN, with support for running cross modes if you can figure out how to set it up. I am no expert. By any means. It took me close to 12 hours of playing around with this to realize that when I changed my call, I never reconfigured by D-Star registration correctly. That was in December, it’s now May at this point – just goes to show how little I use the D-Plus reflectors. After I finally get all of this configured it works perfectly. I have been using it on and off, bringing it with me tethered to a cell phone for internet service, linked to the DCS006B reflector.

I’m not going to go through the details of setup here, I may make another post about that, however it’s straight forward. If you have any interest in these modes, this is one of the cheapest ways to get into it. If you feel like putting together a repeater to play with the mode, go for it, but if you just want something small, cheap, not needing tons of equipment that’s going to require a second mortgage to get running, you can get one of these boards, and the entry level radio for one of the modes – I’d suggest the Icom ID-31 for D-Star, the Yaesu FT-70 for Fusion, and the TYT MD-380 for DMR (only because of the users groups and assistance that can be given), and still get out for under $400 – especially if you catch the radio’s when there is a manufacturer rebate.

Definitely something I would recommend to anybody that is looking to play with digital voice modes locally as it is such a simple way to get in to it.

It’s Over, Rover – a Detailed Summary of the June VHF Contest 2018 from K2ET/R

Needless to say, I am probably quite the amateur amateur out there. Sure, I’ve been licensed 6 year, and I enjoy Ham Radio Contesting quite a lot, but I never seem to be the slightest bit prepared, and when I try to be, that’s when things go drastically wrong. This year, I was going to be ready. I was going to be prepared. I was going to get the car ready a full day in advance for my rover station to rack up the contacts, and place well, and bring back a whole load of points for the Rochester VHF Group. At least… that was my mindset last June. As time ticked down to the contest, things went south quick. In April the vehicle that I’ve had for the past [going on] four years, and the one that I’m used to loading out for the contests, decided to have a frame blowout, leaving me to have to rethink a few things for contest time. Thankfully I was able to borrow a similar vehicle from the fam, leading me to be able to retain my usual system, in fact making getting in and out of the vehicle for microwave contacts a little easier. However I did learn a few lessons this June that I should not have had to learn this way, and that should be been common sense things to know before heading out.

Lesson 1: No matter how closely you follow the design specs on building an antenna, ALWAYS test the SWR before you head out on the road.

Lesson 2: Even if you use it every week, your dipole may perform more poorly under improved conditions.

Lesson 3: Just because you think it’s going to perform the same, doesn’t mean that it is going to perform the same. June and January are two VERY DIFFERENT beasts.

Let me start with my setup. It’s not pretty. In fact, the last few years in being involved with this, I mildly pride myself on how ugly and cheap it is. A hitch mount mast holder, designed for Flag Pole Usage, Military Surplus Aluminum Mast, Moxon Design Wire Antennas in a PVC Enclosure for 2m, 220mhz, and 70cm, and LOTS of Gorilla Tape.

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In looking at this, remember these two things:

A) No antenna used cost more than $10, in fact, they could be built using items that you may have lying around the house

B) If anything, it’s proof that anybody, with the right motivation and effort in this hobby can get on the air, contest, and not do too badly.

C) I started participating in this contest my Junior Year of College. I was broke. Still not rolling in the dough, but I can at least swing the gas to rove without pulling in overtime two weeks before. That being said, even after spending $120 on a decent 14 el Cushcraft beam before last contest, I crushed it with contacts off this Moxon in the January contest, why bother going through all the effort of assembling and disassembling the antenna before stops if I can leave this little guy up the whole time, and STILL make the same amount of contacts?

I don’t own anything that goes above 1296 myself, however another local rover and fellow club member has been pushing to get more people on the microwaves, therefore he will lend us equipment before the contest starts to aid us in that effort… I’ll tell you, it’s sparked my interest! An SG Labs 2304 Transverter powered by a RadioShack battery, and Driven by a Baofeng UV-5RA, and a small, handheld parabolic dish for an antenna making contacts from Attica, NY into Canada!? Sign me up, doc!

The fact of this contest was that I was going to beat my January Score. I knew it going in. I built up an awesome 6m Moxon the week of the contest, sure, it was completely untested, but it was going to work! January I didn’t have anything for 6m, I couldn’t even get a dipole working, so I simply threw on a dummy load if I knew the contact was close enough, but I had over 100 contacts on the other bands, so I was set, convinced that this was going to work. Of course, knowing how Murphy’s Law always applies to things that I do, I decided to throw the 6m Dipole that I had strung in my attic, and used weekly for a local net, as well as for a little FT-8 Usage, into my car, just in case. I also had been using the 2m Moxon for years now, and that nice Cushcraft I bought last year was just too much of a hassle, and I wasn’t using my vehicle, so transporting it could be difficult, as I didn’t want to scratch up a vehicle that wasn’t mine… so I stuck with the Moxon.

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I get to my first location, grid FN02VU in Attica, and finally get setup, decide to check the SWR on 6 as it’s a new antenna, key up the radio… shuts. down. It’s a good thing I wasn’t transmitting with the sheer volume (both dB wise, and quantity) of expletives released at that moment. This is when I was questioning every fiber of my being. Why didn’t I test the moxon before I left? Better yet, why in the world did I place this PVC cement on the joints before I tested it!? This was likely the most stupid thing I have done in the 6 years I’ve been licensed. But prepared me decided to grab the dipole out of my attic, right? So I put that up, power is still turned down to about 2 watts. Tunes fine. Inch it up, 20 watts, fine, 30 watts, 2.8:1… oh… great… 40 watts? Radio shuts off. Which is a great feature in the Icom 7100 that it does that if too much power is reflected. Beats blowing up any day for sure. But where does this leave me? Only slightly better than January. Really Low Power on 6m. Who even knows if I’m actually resonating? Whatever. 6m isn’t open anyways, the contest started at 2pm, it’s now 4:15pm, and I’m not on the air yet, everything else is good, lets get it.

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I fire up the radios, and I’m good from 6 (on LP) to 5g. Setup the Voice Keyer on the 7100, and get on 144.215. Verify the frequency isn’t in use, and start calling CQ. Contacts slowly trickle in. I hear something come up in the band… a 4 call, and a 1 call. They were even oriented off the front of my antenna, they should have heard me, why weren’t they hearing me!? The freaking moxon. Why didn’t I opt for more gain!? Well, but in January I worked everyone just fine… because there weren’t any openings beyond FN01.

End the night around 10pm with 50 or so contacts. In the morning I get setup in FN13 with a clear view SW, perfect! I work other stations up to 2304 no problem, 6m is still shot, but I really don’t care at this point, I’m still working other local stations on 6 with no problem, but just as I’m packing up to meet up with our club to do our “Rover Blitz” Lunch, 6m opens WIDE! Calling and Calling and Calling… nothing. Just like when the initial antenna wouldn’t tune, I let out a line of cursing. I pack it up, and go to lunch. I logged about 32 contacts from there, again, stark-raving mad about how open 6m is, and I, yet again, have screwed myself over on the band.

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A total of 7 stations show up for lunch, now, we aren’t a large club.. We’re not racking up 100,000 points each from this grid circle, we aren’t coordinating with other stations to call us, we’re just a small group, some of us are even simply submitting check logs to give the actual rovers points, and their additional contacts aren’t even helping the club. We do our quick little grid circle after grabbing a bite to eat, a grand total of an hour, with every station loaded out from 6 to 1296. We get our points, and move on. From there, I move to FN03, stopping at GCC in Batavia. It has a fairly decent view to the east, making me able to work the fellow RVHFG members without any issues from 6 to 1296. Before I even get setup, I happen to catch another rover station just as he’s getting ready to pull out and hit a new grid, we quickly sked across the parking lot, running all bands, 6 to 5g. Once I finally figured out how to tune him in on 5g that is. From there I got myself up over 100 contacts (barely), but the high bands were dead because of how open 6 was. I worked the LIM group in FN12 on a couple bands, caught a few rovers, and a few locals, but that was it. I threw in the towel, broke my station down, and called it another June VHF Contest in the books.

While I didn’t get the 6m openings, or any of that 2m DX that opened up, I’ll gladly take my score just over 28,000. It’s my best June score yet, in fact the first year I roved I forgot to submit my log and wasn’t even bothered by it because of how few contacts there were, but the last two years with only 4k and 6k respectively, this is an immense change. It has also put me in a new category however, removing me from the Limited Rover category into the Classic Rover category by adding 222, 902, and 1296.

This June convinced me that it’s time to make some upgrades to antennas. I want to be able to catch that DX on 2m next time I hear it, no I’m not going to venture out of the LP category, I don’t want to amplify my station at all actually. More power out = needing more power locally to run it, and I’m simply running powerpoles from the car battery for this setup, and I kind of like it that way for now. Eventually I will be transitioning over to a solar powered station for this, but that is a few years down the line yet.

For now, it’s time to find a new vehicle, new antennas, and new bands.

Follow up: Upon writing, and discussion, the odds are the 6m issue was less of an SWR problem (though it was higher), and more of an issue of RF. I should have choked the antenna, and the whole problem could have been averted. Lessons learned for next time.