Field Day 2014 prep

For my previous two Field Days I set up on the roof deck at my rowing club on San Francisco bay with Rob, AK6L. But the site has some drawbacks: it can be incredibly windy, we have sometimes had bad QRM from local electrical sources, and the physical act of setting up and breaking down gear (hauling it up three flights of stairs and clamoring around on a roof) is very arduous. Last year we spent more time setting up and breaking down than we spent on the air, with precious few contacts to show for it.

This year there was some talk that Rob’s dad would fly out from Minnesota for the event, and my co-worker Wil, W6FU (yes, really), was also interested in joining us. He and Rob both live in the East Bay, so it seemed like picking a site there would be more fair to them from a travel perspective. After a bit of Google Maps research we homed in on the Sea View trail inside Tilden Park in Berkeley. It seemed to afford great elevation for signals from the east, good distance from any household electronics that could cause QRM, and reasonably easy access. Rob agreed to scout the area on foot ahead of time, and reported that there was a prime spot at the top of the ridge with great views and a picnic table and benches we could make use of. His attempted hiking route was pretty arduous, but after further research he found another that looked a little easier, so we settled on this for our site.

Rob pointed out that this operation would be really in the spirit of Field Day, as we would be, “In an actual field!” We would also be using battery power and portable radios and antennas. The plan was for each of us to bring his own self-contained station. Rob would bring his KX3 and Buddistick and work PSK31, Wil would bring his FT-857D and Buddipole and work voice, and I would bring my K2 and an end-fed half wave wire and telescoping pole for an antenna, and work CW.

I didn’t have a battery suitable for running my K2 for long periods of time, I thought, so I invested in two 7Ah SLA batteries. Both together would be way more power than I needed, but I got them on Amazon for $22 each and free 2 day Amazon Prime shipping. Wil only had one SLA, and since his rig can put out 100 watts, I thought having a spare he could use could come in handy. I bought spade connectors and made up some spade to PowerPole cables, and also bought a PowerPole splitter so I could power my K2 and my LDG autotuner. But I realized that if I wanted to run the two batteries in parallel, the easiest way would be to use some spade T connectors. I ordered some from Amazon Supply, but for once Prime shipping let me down and they did not arrive in time.

I built a matching transformer for an end-fed antenna recently, and tried using it at home with a ~30 foot long wire running up the back of my apartment building to the roof. But SWR with it was poor on all bands (though it is intended to be used with a tuner) and it just seemed deaf. I heard little and only received one or two spots over numerous operating sessions. I was worried that it wasn’t going to be suitable for Field Day. It was my birthday a couple of weeks ago so I took the day off work, and Rob offered to help me set up the EFHW out in the open and see if we got better results. I read on W2LJ’s blog that a 53′ radiator for it is one of the optimum lengths, so we went to the beach at Crissy Field on San Francisco bay and set up with that. My antenna analyzer showed SWR below 2:1 on most bands, except for 20m. We didn’t make any contacts on that outing, but it seemed like proof that the antenna would work. Just in case, I also brought my 20m dipole setup to Field Day.

I packed all my gear on Friday night so that on Saturday morning I could just get up and go. Into my big frame pack went the batteries, log book, K2, tuner, HT, various coax lengths (mostly RG-316, which I am now a big fan of for portable ops), power cables, antenna wires, headphones, mic, key, sunscreen, and two 750ml bottles of water. I also packed a sandwich and a bag of cherries for fuel.

I bought the Elecraft hand mic kit for my K2 a couple of years ago but never got around to using it. Doing so involves opening up the radio and soldering a bias resistor across two pins on the microphone jack. I impulsively decided to do this at 9pm Friday night, in case I wanted to operate voice during FD. I pulled the K2’s front panel off easily, but then I noticed that one of the screws that holds the control panel board onto the housing was loose. I went to tighten it, and it wouldn’t. Investigation revealed that it threads into a standoff with two lock washers on top. Visions of these falling off and shorting things when I was operating would not allow me to just leave it alone, but fixing it was going to require removing all the front panel knobs so I could put pliers to the spacer while tightening the screw. Thus a five minute soldering job ended up taking me an hour. I didn’t get to bed until midnight.

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