This past weekend was the ARRL VHF QSO Party and our club participated. We met on Sat morning where all the equipment is stored and loaded up a large rental truck with 2 towers, antennas, cables, tents, tables, chairs, etc. It took about 1 hour and we were off to the location we operate from which is the top of a hill in a park that was a former Nike missle site. If there was no foliage, you’d be able to look out on the Hudson River and the Tappan Zee bridge.
The weather was supposed to be pretty nice all weekend but as usual, the weathermen were 100% wrong. Once we got up to the site and started to get things set up, it started to mist and then rain. It pretty much rained throughout the entire weekend until about Sunday afternoon. It stopped raining and the sun came out as we were tearing down, so we needed to endure the sun beating down on us as we did the hard work of taking all the equipment down and loading up the truck. None of us would have jobs if we were as wrong as the weathermen are! At least there was no signs of lightening.
On Saturday we got things setup and were on the air, first with the 6m station, right when the contest started. It was quickly followed by a 2m SSB, 220 & 430 SSB stations. The 220 station was receiving interference when the 2m and 430 stations transmitted so it wasn’t getting much use at the start. We didn’t have the FM stations on-line at the start but they came up a bit later. We have 2 towers where 1 hosts the 6m beam and the other the 2m, 220 and 430 beams. The towers, antennas and rotators all seemed to worked fine and they both actually went up very well.
6m was the hot band this weekend and we made over 500 contacts across what I think was 92 different grids. There were openings to the southeast coast, Puerto Rico, Texas and a good portion of the midwest multiple times over the weekend, with Saturday seeing the most openings but we stopped midday on Sunday. I don’t think we hit any grids/stations from Colorado and farther west but I wasn’t always there to be sure. We hit all the stations / grids around us and many in-between. Once I get the logs I will try to post a picture of the grids by band. We were running a few hundred watts so folks were hearing us fine and we had to sometimes work to get their call and grid. With 6m, if we couldn’t always hear them right away, a few minutes later could make a world of difference.
2m SSB was the next most productive station but I’m not sure of the call and grid count on the other stations. I’ll get all that info in the coming weeks. I’d guess it was somewhere between 200 and 250. I didn’t operate on 2m on Sunday and I think we were around 175 or late on Saturday. 440 with around 70-75 and I think 220 was under 50 Q’s. FM only provides a few in the local grids around the site.
Saturday night most of the club members left late in the evening with a few sticking around into the wee hours. There were 3 of us left after midnight and we stayed until 2am. 2 of them left right after we shut down the equipment and generators and I slept in my car next to the equipment. I woke up around 6:15 Sun morning, fired up the generator, the 6m station and was back on making contacts at 6:30am. Other ops started to show up throughout the morning and all stations were again manned and operational before 10am.
We continued operating Sunday until probably about 1:30pm on the 2m, 220 and 430 stations before starting to shut them down and lower the tower. We shut down the 6m station between 2:15 and 2:30pm. We had a great breakfast and lunch served by our chef with cold water and coffee always available. Though we were in the woods, the food was more like we were at home on the back deck.
Tearing everything down is hard work and it’s so much harder after being awake and tired from loading equipment, setting up 2 towers, setting up many operating stations and operating for 24 hours. It took some time to properly and safely bring the towers and antennas down, break down all the equipment and shelters, roll up the cables, get everything loaded and then drive over to where the equipment is stored to unload it all. After a regular contest at home, you can just stand up, walk over to the couch and collapse.
It was a great weekend with a great bunch of guys (and gals) and as always, a lot of fun getting on the air and seeing who is out there. I should be recovered in 2 weeks so we can do some more operating on Field Day. This year it seems like we’ll get a tilt-up / crank-up tower on loan from the county so we can focus on just raising that and getting wire antennas up for the lower HF bands hopefully resulting in less physical work then this past weekends VHF contest. I can’t wait.