This weekend was the ARRL Sept VHF contest. BARA, my local ham radio club, sets up 2 towers at an old Nike Missle base in Orangeburg, NY (FN31) and we run some amps on 4 stations cover 6m, 2m, 70cm & 23cm. We operate mostly SSB but we also have a couple of FM antennas up and a little CW thrown in. The conditions for the June VHF contest weekend were phenomenal but because of potential severe weather forecast for the weekend and being on the top of a hill, the club cancelled the contest and many folks, myself included, operated from home with whatever VHF/UHF equipment they had.
Saturday was a beautiful day so loading up a truck with 2 towers, antennas, tents, etc wasn’t rough and took about 1 hour. We then went to the site which is about 20 mins away and unloaded and prepared for setup. Seemed we had a few less folks then normal but it wasn’t bad. First up was the 6m beam and tower followed by the 2nd tower which contains the 2m, 70cm & 23cm beams. I think where we missed having some more folks was while everyone focused on getting the antenna and towers up, setting up the radio equipment in the tents was lagging behind. We had the 6m station setup first and on the air around 2:45pm which is about 45 mins after the contest started. Everything with the 6m station was working great.
Within about 30 mins after 6m was on the air, the other 3 stations started to come up, though there seemed to be some issues with the 70cm & 23cm stations and their amps. Folks were working all 4 stations, but most contacts (which is to be expected) were on the 6m and 2m bands. Activity on 6m and 2m was ok but certainly slower then I would have expected. What never materialized for us, at least while I was there, were any openings. Late in the afternoon I made a contact with WV on 2m and that was the longest contact all day on any station up until that point. In the evening we did work some stations a bit farther south, but nothing in FL and nothing west of WV. In other words, we didn’t notice a single opening whatsoever.
During the contest, on 2m and 6m, there were a couple of local folks I chatted with throughout the day and I asked if anything interesting was being spotted on the cluster and they all said that they hadn’t noticed any spots indicating there were any openings. At least it wasn’t us. We were running 600-700 watts on 2m & 6m I’m sure there could be stations that heard us we might not have been able to hear, but we normally hear stations from the midwest and southern Gulf states sometime during the day of a VHF contest. Nothing on Saturday for us.
The FM stations are handy because there’s a very small 5 mile loop near us that covers 4 grid squares. If someone drives the loop and has FM capability in their car, we can log 4 contacts. If they have multiple bands, we can log 8 contacts in a short amount of time. I’m not sure but we might have logged more FM contacts then 23cm contacts by the time I left Saturday night.
Since it was 9/11, off in the distance we could see the beams of light at Ground Zero pointing into the heavens and hitting the clouds that had moved in. I stayed at the site until around 10:45pm or so before I called it quits and headed back home.
Sundays weather has a pretty good chance of all showers all day long. I won’t head up to the site as I’m off shortly to the NY Giants opening home game. I hope the teardown at the site goes well for those that will be there today. I’ll find out how overnight Sat/Sun went as well as during the day on Sunday. Hopefully something will open up for those folks that are up there at on the air.
73 & Never Forget,