Field Day Disappointment

Discussion in 'The Okie Corral' started by rrog, Jun 24, 2007.

  1. rrog

    rrog

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    I was really disappointed in the field day event I attended yesterday. I was able to talk my wife into taking our young girls with us to the METERS, Inc field day (middle east tn emergency radio service). They were all very nice and polite and after brief introductions with group members, they sent me over to the GOTA radio. Since I'm only a tech, that's the only one I could get on. It was a high dollar Ten-Tec radio. I tried for about 30 minutes to make a contact. I got one person in Georgia, and then tried working some stations anywhere from Florida to Pennsylvania to Arizona. I got great reception, but after that first contact, no one was able to hear me. One guy in western PA was making contact after contact. The extra class guy sitting with me kept pointing to me whne there was a chance for me to answer his cq. I'd answer and get nothing. Did this for 30 minutes. My wife and daughters were just standing there waiting and as you can imagine, they got pretty bored. Several of the other members came over to see what was going on and each one made a comment that I should be getting out better than I was. I was on the 80 meter band. But after the whole time, I still got nothing. The girls got antsy, so we finally left, with the METERS members scratching their heads trying to figure out what was wrong with the set up. They said it had something to do with it being one guy's radio and someone else's antenna.

    A few weeks ago, I also talked my wife into going to a hamfest here in Knoxville. It was pretty weak too. So the chances of me getting the wife and kids to go to something like this again are slim. I was hoping we could all get on the radio and make some contacts, but it just didn't work out. I hope everyone else had better luck than me.

    rrog
    ki4vyv
     
  2. FN64

    FN64

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    Darn rrog.. I'm really sorry things couldn't have gone better for ya.. especially since the wife & kids were along. Sometimes it's hard to get the YL to understand ones like for radio & poor propagation or a shoddy setup doesn't help.
    It's a shame too cause theres yl nets & organizations as well as youth nets on the bands.
    Hopefully as the solar cycle climbs your chances will improve to get the YL & kids on the air.

    73..FN
     

  3. G23Adam

    G23Adam .- -.. .- --

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    I worked poor man's propagation yesterday ;) IRLP on 2 meters... ;)

    Working California and Hawaii on a 5 watt HT with only one channel programmed in has a ring to it.

    Tried for the ISS, couldn't get through though. I did however design a nice yagi mover to track the arc for satellite work, now I just need to build it. I've already been dubbed "That guy who comes up with weird stuff" which isn't a bad thing!
     
  4. Torontogunguy

    Torontogunguy

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    Part of your problem can be attributed perhaps to poor band conditions, part to equipment, but the majority of the problem, as of late, has been that ham radio is getting just plain boring in comparison to many other hobbies. That's not to say that it couldn't be much more interesting; rather, the nucleus of most clubs is aging and getting 'stale'. They are, in many cases, holding off the young blood that could stimulate and reinvigorate and as a result? Stagnation. Boredom. Dwindling numbers.

    We installed an ICOM 706 in the car a few years back and put up a TH7 antenna system at home that is a "knock your socks off" system.

    Our experience has been that there just are not the numbers on the air that there used to be... and those that ARE on the air don't want to speak with you.. they want to speak with their old cronies.

    I volunteered to serve on a club executive last year; they elected to go with the same old executive because, incredibly, they were happy with the present executive. Lesse now. When I was last a member of the executive we used to get 100+ out to every meeting. Now? They get about 6 - 10 on average. Same old guys. The executive. Happens all over. Did they ask me to assist ANYWHERE else? Nope. So I joined another club. Happy to have me. An ACTIVE group with guest speakers and an interesting program. But they are an hour's drive from us. So we attend rarely if ever.

    Don't give up. There are many great clubs out there and ham radio in general is loads of fun with lots of room for experimentation and so on. Don't give up. Find an active group before you take them out again though.

    My old club? Although I have attended Field Days since 1963 and am a crack CW contest op and tech. Didn't even bother to ask me to participate. Fact is, they didn't ask anyone to participate. So for lack of participation I don't think they held FD this year. The exec had no place arranged. Nothing. Pity.

    The other club? Well, let's just say that we were real sorry that we were out of town this past weekend.

    Don't give up. It is a great hobby.

    VE3HI
     
  5. rrog

    rrog

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    Thanks for the words of encouragement. But like you said, my biggest disappointment was for my wife. I'm trying my best to get her to at least get her tech license, but so far, she's seen nothing to make her want to do it. :sad: On the plus side, we did get to see a FEMA-sponsored communications truck (paid for by FEMA but used locally). Wow, that thing was nice.

    But I'm still in for the long haul. And from what little I've learned, I now understand why it was hard for y'all to answer my newbie questions. Man, there's a lot to this ham thing! :shocked:

    73's
    rrog
    ki4vyv
     
  6. FN64

    FN64

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    Generally speaking, ladies aren't as technically oriented as guys are.. However there ARE a lot of YLs of all ages on the air. There's a forum for YL's hosted out of the UK that's got a pretty good membership. Ya might get your YL to join up & ask some questions of the ladies there.
    http://www.ladiesontheair.proboards37.com/index.cgi
    Run your zipcode at http://www.qrz.com/i/name-search.html & see if you & the YL know any of the folks listed.. it might be a way to spark her interest if she knew someone (especially another lady) that was involved with ham & from the local area.

    I tried for a time to get some interest in a ham club here.. (I'm ~~50 miles from the closest active club) No luck.. we had 4-5 get togethers to discuss it & no one wanted to do anything but set around & BS so no ground was gained.

    You'll find that getting the license isn't the end all.. it's where the learning begins. Now you have a good basic understanding to form your questions around. The same holds true for those that hold an extra license. It's just another stepping stone to better understanding of radio theory.
    You'll find some particular part of ham that catches your interest & read, experiment & tinker with it till it works.. then you'll find another..& so on. There's no end in sight where one can honestly say that they "Know It ALL"..

    Do you have Echolink installed on your computer??
    It's a great voice chat program for hams & has access to repeaters worldwide!! Download a copy at http://echolink.org/ & get it set up.. we'll have a chat.

    73..FN
     
  7. martho

    martho

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    If they told you that the only station you could operate is the GOTA station, they lied to you. They may have wanted you to only operate the GOTA station, but you could have sat down at any station, on any band, with the appropriate control operator.

    Sorry Field Day wasn't a success for you. FD is the biggest event of the year for attracting new hams and encouraging the techs to upgrade.

    Let's get to the heart of the issue.

    80 meters
    80 is a noisy band in the summer. Then, add field day QRM and you are going to have a tough go of it. Furthermore, most FD sites are running 150w or less and on 80m that can be a challenge. Let's add in the fact that you have never used this radio before and it's unknown if the person you were sitting with knew how to use the radio. Could be the RF power was turned down....you never know?

    I don't know what the 80m antenna was at your station. A multiband vertical used on 80m, or a very low wire will play very poorly in a field day setup. I can tell you that when I was on 80 phone about 0500z, we needed a beverage run east/west to hear. We set up 3 beverages, one for each of the HF stations. We were using an inverted V at 65' and a full sized vertical for the two 80m antennas. We switched back and forth between the antennas for the 80m phone and 80m CW station several times. We were able to run 80m phone and 80cw simultaneously most of the night, however the noise was definitely rough, especially on phone.

    We had two full size 40m yagis at 60'(one for CW and one for phone) 40 was so noisy that we sent the 40m phone op to 20m during the day on Saturday.

    I was able to make 3 quick Qs on the bird as soon as FD started for our quick 100 pt bonus. Our field day ran like clockwork. The only issue was the noise. We made just shy of 5,100 Qs, with 3,250 of them being CW.


    RROG: This is my opinion... Forget about echolink and other internet backed communications. This hobby is based on communications made via RF. The QSO you made on field day with Georgia had nothing to do with the internet. I know it had to be neat to work GA, even if it's only 100 miles south from where you are. I'm sure hearing all the states on 80m was neat, too. It's a bummer you couldn't work them. Just remember, there is no skill in talking into your PC for echolink. Sure, you can talk into your HT and work a repeater that is 10 miles away, but once you hit the machine, the audio is fed over the internet for echolink communications.

    Stay focused on the main part of the hobby which is making contacts via RF. Whether it is 2m FM or 80m SSB, a RF QSO is much better than a VOIP QSO. If you can work the world on your computer/via the internet, what desire will you ever have to upgrade and play on HF? You have privs on 10m between 28.300 and 28.500 right now. The Netherlands and other Europeans were into Chicago on 10m today and you could have worked that if you had a HF radio hooked up. While 10m is only open once and awhile right now, there are still days like today where you could have worked several Europeans.

    As FN64 said, learning in this hobby occurs everday. I have been in the hobby 13 years and I am an extra(from the 20 CW requirement days) I surely don't know everything about this hobby. There are aspects of the hobby I have never seen and modes I have never used. You will become more versed in the hobby as time goes along. Don't give up.
     
  8. GySgt D

    GySgt D

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    I've had great experiences on Field Day, and not so great. Much of it had to do with the personality of the people running whichever club's Field Day site.

    They should not have left anyone at the GOTA station without proper mentoring and technical support. That's a good example of just "going through the motions". No wonder you were disappointed. For all we know, the radio was dialed down to 5 watts or the mic gain was set at "1".

    All that being said, I usually operate alone on Field Day. There is no question as to the equipment in use, there is no whining about "so-and-so is letting everybody else do all the work", and there is nothing compelling you to stick around after you or your spouse have had your fill.

    I worked Field Day from my driveway; one charlie, north florida. A non-fixed, battery operated station which required no setup time with all the hassles that that can entail.

    Stress-free, with the wife handing me beers every half hour ;)
     
  9. rrog

    rrog

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    I wasn't alone. There was an extra class sitting with me. Each time it was appropriate for me to try to make contact, he would point at me and I'd read off the script they had printed out. I didn't feel abandoned; I just couldn't get out. I'm not disappointed with the club members and I certainly don't want to disparage them. The guy was checking meters, changing from lsb to usb and trying to make all sorts of adjustments. So it wasn't that they just said, "here's the radio; have at it..."

    However, they never did mention that I could have used any of the other radios. There were several others who talked the whole time I was there. These guys (and one lady) were members of the METERS club. I thought I might have been doing something wrong, so I suggested the elmer sitting with me try it. He said he couldn't because it was the GOTA radio. I don't know if that was FCC rules or just club protocol. Anyway it just didn't work out for me that day. Also, the club members were friendly. They brought drinks for my wife and kids and gave them a tour of the FEMA truck while I was trying to make contacts.

    Now see, if I'd had a gunny sitting with me, I would have made some contacts. Gunnys can handle anything! Semper Fi.

    rrog
    ki4vyv
     
  10. martho

    martho

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    The GOTA station can only be operated by Novice/Technicians or those who do not have a station at home and/or are generally inactive. They wanted you at the GOTA station because you were worth bonus points if you would have made 20 QSO. It was their attempt to get bonus points with you on GOTA and to not slow down the rate they were getting on the main HF stations. Historically, the new guys/visitors operate the GOTA station. However, that does not mean that you can only operate the GOTA station. You could have sat down at any station on the site, with the proper control op.

    The one operator was correct that he could not work the GOTA station as he probably did not fit the guidelines above. The idea of GOTA is to learn, not to have a ringer sit down and run 500 CW QSO for max points.
     
  11. JBlitzen

    JBlitzen .22 Hater

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    I'm sorry you had a bad experience.

    I'm sure you can see now why we say "practice practice practice". It is nowhere near simple enough to be able to trust someone else's setup to work properly. It takes a broad understanding of propagation, the RF spectrum, and your equipment, antenna, and environment.

    You can very easily sit down pretty much any day and find a conversation on 20 meters with proper equipment and experience. Even then, though, it takes patience and is not typically a spectator sport. Your best bet would be to get on the air on your own time, and once you have a conversation going, then grab the wife and introduce her.

    It's sort of like message boarding. You wouldn't have the wife and kids sit in the room while you visit brand new message boards and look for conversations and people to talk to. Instead, you'd do that on your own, then if you find one that might interest her, or that's representative of why you like message boards, you'd show it to her.

    What happened here, though, is you went to the library and asked the homeless guys browsing pr0n to help you get online, and they threw you at a BBS running since 1983, with a broken keyboard.

    As I've mentioned elsewhere, I have zero patience and little respect for the old boys club chattering about lumbago; this is a typical example why.

    That being said, there ARE a ton of good guys around in amateur radio, I hope you don't let this discourage you too much. I think the fact that it was field day is the root of the problem; the club was obviously heavily into the contest, and it's a bit like going to an IDPA match to shoot for the first time.
     
  12. rrog

    rrog

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    (chuckling as I write this...) That's probably a pretty good analogy. Since I originally posted this, I've now got a mobile rig in my truck. And yes, it's been pretty hard to be able to get in on some of the conversations that are going on between the good old boy. Maybe I just have to pay my dues before they'll let new guys in. And yes, maybe I'm doing something that's just a little outside the protocol because I'm so new and inexperienced. I really can't imagine someone getting all this equipment and then trying to get it up and running AFTER a survival situation hits. I see what y'all mean about that.

    And it's interesting to note that I've heard several people talk and while they're talking, one will be looking up the other one's callsign and then ask that person about their home page or profile. I'm not sure if they're just curious or if they're checking up on them to make sure they are who they say they are.

    Have a good day,
    rrog
    ki4vyv
     
  13. JBlitzen

    JBlitzen .22 Hater

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    Not sure about the callsign thing, but I suspect they're just curious. Your callsign is in every way public information. If you give it to anyone, you're giving them your name, address, phone number, etc.. It's not really considered a privacy issue for hams, it's what holds things together. They're probably just sitting down anyway, so they can run your call on arrl.com or wherever and immediately have stuff to talk about. I wouldn't read too much into that.

    As far as the old boys club, well, there's not much to say. Think of the guys who post a LOT to these forums, and what the signal to noise ratio is with them. But there's also people who you're interested in hearing from, and vice versa.

    You can also look into other clubs in the area, and other repeaters, and contests, or just learn the stuff for fun. Or just focus on setting it up for emergencies; you can hit CB guys with a CB, but you can mod a lot of ham radios to hit police, NOAA, marine, etc. frequencies with ease in an emergency, never mind HF.

    What you experienced, incidentally, is not really HF. 20M is a very common band for conversations, nets, whatever. Large phone section and typically excellent band conditions make it the go-to band. And because of those, it also gets the most people, which reinforces the effect. 10M can be sort of the doldrums just due to its allocation, and the propagation's difficult with the current weak ionosphere, so you really need a good setup to have fun on it.

    That being said, there's something quite thrilling about spending a couple hours trying to make a contact in bad conditions on a slow band, and finally getting through to someone. Not a spectator sport, sadly. 20M seems to be, though, for at least a few minutes. The voices are understandable by novices, the signals are good, and there's usually quite a bit of chatter.

    You can also look into echolink and such if you're stuck on VHF. I'm not sure about the logistics if there isn't a repeater set up locally, although of course you could just set up your own repeater, in theory.
     
  14. martho

    martho

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    NEVER NEVER NEVER transmit on public service frequencies, even in an emergency. Contrary to public belief, this is not something you ever want to do unless you are willing to pay the price for your violations. Some say they would rather be alive to face the penalty than die and this is the reason they would TX on public service freqs. While I understand their point, just remember it is a no-no to ever TX on public service freqs regardless of the situation.

    -----------------
    Or just focus on setting it up for emergencies; you can hit CB guys with a CB, but you can mod a lot of ham radios to hit police, NOAA, marine, etc. frequencies with ease in an emergency, never mind HF.
     
  15. JBlitzen

    JBlitzen .22 Hater

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    Well, bear in mind I spend a lot of time on the SHTF forum, so when I say "emergency", I mean it on an astronomical scale, not, like a little gang war.

    So, if you guys are thinking about chatting with cops, consider yourselves warned.

    That being said, FCC rules do permit use of any available frequency when the amateur bands aren't enough. I would be quite surprised if there was even one dude a year who had a situation that really justified it, but still.
     
  16. martho

    martho

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    I have never been able to find anything to that effect. Would you please provide a link so I could read it? Thanks!

    --------------------------------
    That being said, FCC rules do permit use of any available frequency when the amateur bands aren't enough. I would be quite surprised if there was even one dude a year who had a situation that really justified it, but still.
     
  17. G23Adam

    G23Adam .- -.. .- --

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  18. JBlitzen

    JBlitzen .22 Hater

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    Bingo. That's on the tests too, by the way.
     
  19. rrog

    rrog

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    Thanks for the heads up. That's good to know.

    rrog
     
  20. JBlitzen

    JBlitzen .22 Hater

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    Yah, thanks to Adam for the direct link, too.

    As a corrolary to all this, note that nearly all ham radios are built with band limiters, like speed governors on a car. You can transmit at 144.000, but not at 143.995.

    The solution is usually to mod the radio. Typically, this entails unscrewing the case and destroying a resistor or something with needle nose pliers or a nail trimmer. Very simple with proper instructions, and there are websites around with the instructions.

    http://www.mods.dk/ is a great example.

    Modding isn't a bonanza; the radio and antenna (when it comes with one) is still designed to transmit optimally within the bands it's designed for, and you usually can't stray too far from that due to physical limitations.

    For instance, the mod I did to my IC-T7H opens transmit and receive to around 118.0 - 174.0 and 400.0 - 470.0, according to some google return (didn't bother logging into mods.dk). By comparison, the designed specs are 144-148 and 420-450. What's in the opened range? At least one public safety band, NOAA radio, maritime VHF, FRS, GMRS, and some other stuff.

    Aviation's in there as well, though that's AM. The T7H receives AM but doesn't transmit in it. There's an AM transmit mod to the T7H, but the pictures didn't match my layout precisely so I'm nervous to try it. Theoretically illegal to test it as well.

    Note that the T7H is a relatively stupid dual band radio; my VX-7R is approximately nine thousand times more sophisticated, and mods to TX anywhere from 40-222 and 300-550, with naturally varying output power. On the other hand, the only available AA packs for the T7H put out a puny 4.5 volts compared to the T7H's relative blowtorch of 9 volts from a 6 cell pack, or 7.2 using rechargeables.

    :brickwall: