National Field Day 2019

Firstly, I would like to say a big thank you to MIDCARS for allowing me to come along and take part in the event. They fed and watered me and made me feel very welcome. If you are in the Cheshire area and would love to join a friendly and knowledgable radio club, I strongly recommend you go along to MIDCARS and say hello!
Check them out on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/groups/midcars/

Also a big thank you to Stuart M0WTX for inviting me and picking me up and dropping me off.

Day 1 – Friday 5th July – Set up Day

The day kicked off with Stuart M0WTX picking me up from my house and then heading over to Northwich. We popped into Screwfix to pick up some LED floodlights and insulating tape. Sadly Stuart’s generator had been stolen on a previous field day, so extra measures were being taken to secure the field.
We went back to Stuart’s house and loaded up the camper van with our gear, a pole for the lights, some wood and some clamps (or so we thought). We hit the road and headed on over to Chirk in Wales IO82KW.
On arrival, we found the field we thought was the one and parked up. We both had our handhelds and were in contact with the rest of MIDCARS on the 2m talkback channel. Turned out we were on the wrong field, so we moved down and across to a much higher field with a very good takeoff.
At this point, we started setting up the camper and my tent.

Stuart M0WTX posting on social media.

As we were setting up, the rest of the MIDCARS convoy arrived and everyone started setting up camp.

Here is a list of all who took part over the weekend:

M0WTX Stuart
M6PJV Kenny
2E0ISK Keith
G8NKX Mike
G0VOK Niall
G7DZX Steve
G0DQQ Steve
M0XPA Peter
G0NGL Nigel
2E0KOL Colin
2E0DOB Paul
G4DVS Brian

Putting up the catering tent.

The deployment of the camp was very slick. Everything was in a trailer that drove around the field dropping off the relevant equipment at each station.

G0DQQ Steve, G4DVS Brian and Paul 2E0DOB riding in the back of the trailer and Stuart M0WTX (and his new generator) making a guest appearance.

We were delivered our 70cm (433Mhz) WiMo Yagi and began assembling it.

Stuart M0WTX and Paul 2E0DOB

Most long Yagi antennas come in two parts, or even more and have to be assembled. Once the antenna was assembled, we mounted it on a tripod as seen lying on the left above and placed it behind the camper van. Peter M0XPA leant us some coax which we fed through the window and you could put your hand out to turn the mast in the direction you wanted.

The 70cm (433 Mhz) station complete

We then went on to set up the tent for the 4 and 6-meter station, while others set up the 2-meter tent and the catering tent.
All done we headed over to the catering tent where Nigel G0NGL and Steve G7DZX were cooking up our tea. They did a fantastic job of feeding and watering us all for the three-day event.

Nigel G0NGL and Steve G7DZX were our catering crew for the weekend
Steve G7DZX made a fantastic curry
The kitchen facilities
The serving area and pantries. Nigel G0NGL making a sneaky appearance

Having filled our faces we had a beer from these cool machines I need to google. I met Paul 2E0DOB for the first time. We have spoken on the radio many times.

Paul 2E0DOB and me 2E0ISK

As night started to fall, everyone went to bed for the night, as we had a busy start in the morning. In the campervan, however, work carried on making the security lights. This was very much a ‘make it as you go along’ project. We had some wood, some screws, 4 LED floodlights, a 4-way extension lead, some cutters and a drill/screwdriver.
The challenge was, we needed to mount the lights to point N/W/S/E and mount to the top of a pole.

We set to work only to fall at the first hurdle as the connectors on the lights required a small electricians screwdriver. Thankfully Brian G4DVS came to the rescue with one. Next, we needed a power cable, Stuart had some but sadly it was too thick, so we sacrificed an old 4-way extension lead. A few safe blocks later we have a power line.

Stuart M0WTX assembling the security lights

In the end, Stuart devised a plan to mount the lights on a price of wood and then screw those into some supports to make a square. He had some very long wood screws and so they were drilled through popping out of the bottom, the plan to drop those into the opening at the top of the pole and gravity would do the rest.

The finished head unit

By now it was gone 12, so we all headed to be to bed fresh for Saturday morning.

Day 2 – Saturday 6th July – final set up and contest start

The day started and we set to work setting up antennas.masts and stations. Niall G0VOK and Colin 2E0KOL worked on the 4 and 6-meter (70Mhz and 50Mhz) station, Peter M0XPA on the 23cm (1.2Ghz) station and Steve G0DQQ, Paul 2E0DOB and Brian G4DVS on the 2m (144Mhz) station.

Colin 2E0KOL setting up the 4 and 6 meters (70Mhz and 50Mhz) Yagi
Colin 2E0KOL making the final touches

Meanwhile, Stuart M0WTX and I assemble the security lights onto the pole.

Stuart M0WTX stood proud with his lighting creation

Over on the far right of the field, Brian G4DVS, Steve G0DQQ and Paul 2E0DOB are busy raising the 2-meter mast.

Steve G0DQQ (left) pacing out the guidelines and Brian G4DVS (right) preparing the antenna

As I learnt from watching Steve G0DQQ, there is something of an art to setting up large masts. Everything is meticulously calculated, he would pace out every guideline, measuring the length of the mast poles and placing the stakes accordingly. Steve was very much the coordinator for raising and lowering the masts. Making sure everything was done safely and correctly.
At the base of the mast, there is a scaffolding pole and a very clever winch system. The mast pivots on the scaffolding pole, secured by rope to a stake on the other side.

Once happy with the masts set up, it was time to add the antenna to the top and raise it ready for use.

Steve G0DQQ, Paul 2E0DOB, Brian G4DVS and Niall G0VOK assembling the 2 metres (144Mhz) antenna
The 2 meters mast being raised

In the opposite corner of the field was 4 and 6 meters (70Mhz and 50Mhz) . Niall G0VOK and Colin 2E0KOL assembled the rotator, mast, antenna and station.

Niall G0VOK setting up the rotator
Colin 2E0KOL and Niall G0VOK aligning the top section of the pole into the rotator

The pole that the antenna is attached to, has to be slid into the rotator and bolted up. The challenge is to ensure the pole is bolted in straight, so you don’t end up with it rotating off centre. Colin holds the pole central while Niall tightens the bolts.

Colin 2E0KOL and Niall G0VOK staking out and attaching the winch

Now that the rotator is inline and set up, its time to prepare for mast raising. Colin and Niall get to work while Steve G0DQQ does his thing and plots out the various stake points.

Steve G0DQQ attaching lines to stakes ready for raising the mast

As the 4 and 6-meter mast was raised, Steve G7DZX and Stuart M0WTX discovered the field was full of lucky clovers. 4,5 and 6 leaves! Many of these were in the stations to bring them good luck.

Next, I headed over to the 23cm (1.2Ghz) station to help Peter M0XPA set up.
We had 2 WiMo Yagi’s which would be stacked. Peter taught me how stacking antennas improves forward gain and also explained how the matching T bar (which feeds the two antennas) is set up to ensure the phase is the same for both antennas.

I was working mostly so couldn’t take any pictures, but I held onto the various coax connections and T bar while Peter applied self-amalgamating tape to them, to ensure they would be waterproof.

From left to right, 24v Power supply, synchroniser, 12v Power supply, Icom transceiver, Yaesu rotator and mic. Bottom centre is the linear amplifier
The 23cm (1.2Ghz) station operated by Peter M0XPA

There was a great diagram on the left above that showed how all the station parts fit together. There is a box fitted to the top of the mast, which contains a Low Noise Amplifier and a switching system. This is controlled by a device called the synchroniser. This ensures that the transmitter only transmits once the switch has changed over. When receiving the amplifier in the box operates. This amplifies the signal close to the source, if we had the amplifier in the station, we would have the loses from the coax and end up just amplifying lots of noise with the signal. When the transmitter is engaged, the synchroniser operates the switch, to disconnect the LNA so we can connect directly to the antenna. In the station, there is a linear amplifier which will start to transmit once the synchroniser tells it to.

The masthead amplifier/switcher box
The completed 23cm (1.2Ghz) station with stacked Yagis

Steve G7DZX tooted ‘The dog did it’ (this is how I remember the letter L) di dah di di on his car horn which means lunchtime.

Ploughmans lunch

With that, we were all ready to start the contest. The contest ran from Saturday at 2 pm Zulu or UTC and finished Sunday at 2 pm Zulu or UTC (3 pm BST).

Kenny M6PJV manning the 70cm logging station
Stuart M0WTX manning the station on 70cm

A visit from Stuart GM7VEC

Having met Paul 2E0DOB for the first time, came a second first, to meet Stuart GM7VEC who lives up the outer Hebrides in North Uist. He was down in Wales staying in a caravan park while he has been doing some work at his second house in Manchester. He showed me some of the antennas he uses portable, which we had spoken about on the radio, but I had never seen.

Stuart GM7VEC and me 2E0ISK
Stuart GM7VEC and his Spider Beam
Stuart GM7VEC and Stuart M0WTX with the I-Pro Traveller
Stuart GM7VEC with his Log Periodic for working satellites

We worked the stations hard until the evening when Steve G7DZX tooted da di di on his horn. The letter D for Dinner. Dinner was beef in ale and tasted amazing, so much so I didn’t take a picture of it as I woofed it pretty quickly. However, I did get a picture of pudding which was sweet cherry pie custard and squirty cream.

Cherry pie, custard and squirty cream

We carried on working the station and at about 10 pm we shut down to go to bed. Myself 2E0ISK, Stuart M0WTX and Nigel G0NGL were scheduled on the 1 – 3 am shift. I was providing security while the other two worked the station.

Day 3 – Sunday 7th July

Me 2E0ISK on night watch
Stuart M0WTX working the 2m station at 2am BST

Having done the night shift, we all went to bed.

Morning arrives and we all head into the catering tent for a cooked breakfast.

Steve G7DZX and Nigel G0NGL preparing breakfast
Me 2E0ISK on rotator duty for 2m
My map showing me where to point the mast and Steve G0DQQ operating the station

While listening to the 2m station I heard a familiar voice, Peter G7RPG was coming through. I wish I had taken a video. He was coming in clear as a bell. The coolest part was when he said what his station set up was. A magnetic mount on his car on a hill in Portsmouth. No Yagi beam and no linear amplifier!

This was my first time ever at a field day, let alone a contest. I was watching how everyone was operating and had enjoyed rotating the antenna to get the best reception. Stuart M0WTX told the world on air how a new operator was about to come on and have a go. I was a bit scared and a little lost, but I took a deep breath and got on the mic. Brian G4DVS logged for me while Steve G0DQQ gave me advice on operating style. I would do it again for sure and hope I could get good at it.

Me 2E0ISK working the 2m station with the lucky clover on the radio

The day drew to a close and we started to pack away. Steve G0DQQ coordinated the lowering of the antennas.

Steve G0DQQ and Brian G4DVS preparing the 2m mast for lowering

The end of the day was upon us. A good time had been had by all. Nigel and Stuart went on one last hunt for clovers….no really. The evidence is below.

RSGB Contest Bot feedback from logs taken during the weekend

50MHz (6m)

112 QSO’s
Countries worked = 8
Best distance = F6ARC, France, JN08UN @ 594km

Map of contacts made at https://www.rsgbcc.org/cgi-bin/vhfresults.pl?kml=2019/FZZReqgUp8q0sYXQw8q1pdgQuKE1bJC

70MHz (4m)

70 QSO’s
Countries worked = 6
Best distance = 9A3EME, Croatia, JN83FM @ 1780km

Map of contacts made at https://www.rsgbcc.org/cgi-bin/vhfresults.pl?kml=2019/hXgwAzvf3kSwBl2tYMpVtOAUyXNkx14

144MHz (2m)

300 QSO’s
Countries worked = 11
Best distance = DF4T, Germay, JN39NR @ 796km

Map of contacts made at https://www.rsgbcc.org/cgi-bin/vhfresults.pl?kml=2019/qQlSWU9oEPPHCrmPgmRRcYTnWv9cvIb

432MHz (70cm)

29 QSO’s
Countries worked = 4
Best distance = OR4T, JN20KV @ 595km

Map of contacts made at https://www.rsgbcc.org/cgi-bin/vhfresults.pl?kml=2019/op6ZfzXwJRbPCLIBNBP5XaTEmAdJdP8

1.2GHz (23cm)
30 QSO’s
Countries worked = 3
Best distance = G5LK/P, England, JO01QD @ 367km

Map of contacts made at https://www.rsgbcc.org/cgi-bin/vhfresults.pl?kml=2019/3ulrgQDJTo4NktuHgd9J1AIPARyrxoI

While I have made every effort to get the above post factually correct, if you find an error, please drop me a line using the ‘Say Hello!’ button at the top of the page and I will be happy to update the post.