Well another year has passed and we managed to survive another edition of Field Day. I have fond memories of my first FD in 2001 as I had my first opportunity to get on the air since getting my license. It was a magical time of cooperation by dedicated club members, coming together to get this herculean task done. As a new member of the Club, I was inspired to participate, and to contribute to a worthy goal. I had joined the Club with my own, personal goal of learning to work a radio and make contacts for my own enjoyment, but that first FD made clear to me the much bigger goal I should have been aiming for as well; the goal of providing a essential service to our community in times of disaster.
My first FD also taught me that despite our inspiring goal as a Club, we are all still human. There were personalities that interacted like oil and vinegar, but then again what group does not have that? If you shake it up enough, they interact and become salad dressing called FD. The other thing I noticed as a new Ham was that many people from different walks of life came together to make a team with the sole humanitarian goal to be prepared to assist the rest of humanity in case there was a disaster and all communications were lost. A rather lofty goal for a small group. A worthy goal that has stood the test of time and secured our place in society and our place in the frequency spectrum. We must continue to be that resource for society or loose our hard won position. Each one of us is as independent as a hog on ice (Ham on ice?) but yet we all come together to DO FIELD DAY! Lets not forget why we are here and loose our purpose.
This year was my 20th FD. It was held at the Oakwood school, which has generously allowed us room to put a ham station, a tower and antenna permanently there and use the room pretty much when we want to. Our sincere thanks to Oakwood. We have become “soft” in our old age and like the AC in the room while brining in the power and antenna feed lines through the window. The only thing we are missing is the tent! The important thing is being able to communicate independent of the electrical grid.
Saturday 6/26/2021, 6:00am: I was called into surgery to help someone Friday night and had to see them Saturday morning (post op). On the way to the hospital, I dropped off the first of two trailers at the FD site, saw the patient (doing well) and then returned to get the second trailer (ARES,EmComm, Gota trailer). I arrived at the site by 9am and found some club members assembling. Our antenna specialist of the day was David K1KK who got started assembling antennas and feed lines out in the field. Mark KG4GVJ put out the visitor forms and a guest sign in form and that was much appreciated. Lou W3LPR came and helped with the radio station set up and antenna farm that was growing. Eileen sent sandwiches, drinks, fruit, and snacks for everyone. Jim AC4JL and Beth KN4FZB arrived and helped secure the food for the dinner that consisted of Parkers BBQ with all the fixings! Susan WA4AKB came from Raleigh with her pies. Judy W3JUU helped set up the tables and Doug K4ROK in his “hover mobile” was helping direct the crew. Most impressive was in the take down phase of the operation where Doug was running his “hover mobile” right through the shallow ponds of standing water getting things and not getting stuck! Impressive driving! Dave W4YDY was taking pictures and documenting the herculean effort. Mike KD4MTT and Linda were real troopers helping out every where and especially in the take down. Many others came to help and brought food, helping hands or advice (many thanks to all the crew). By 2:00pm we were not ready but still got two of the three stations on the air. Of course the Digital station was having Windows problems with the software and the logging program could not communicate over the WiFi like I had set it up at home where it all worked. The laptops that I provided had three versions of Windows and seemed to have problems connecting to each other. The logging software N1MM worked beautifully but the feature that allows the three stations to interact was hampered by Windows problems. This did not get straightened out until we abandoned WiFi and used ethernet cables. Typical Windows problem of interfering with the drivers to connect to the rigs was another challenge that eventually got straightened out. Talk about high end technology failure in the middle of a critical mission, this is why we exist as amateur radio. When the “chips” hit the “fan” the simplest solution will survive and the complicated ones will fail.
The best part of Saturday happened at about 4pm when I was exhausted and sat down in a chair to drink water and rehydrate watching Bob AF4QY and Beth KN4FZB at the phone station working together to make and record contacts. The delight on their faces as they figured out the rig settings and controls and then made multiple contacts was fun to watch and made all the frustration and hard work of setting up FD worthwhile. In the mean time Lou W3LPR and Jim AC4JL were running the FT8 station that finally was working and making contacts. David K1KK was hard on CW “paddling” his way to fame by coming slightly short of reaching 500 CW contacts.
6:00pm dinner bell rang in everyone’s head except David who was out there setting up another antenna as the bands were going to change with sunset. Parkers BBQ with all the trimmings including Mac & Cheese was the highlight but also Beth brought a fabulous orzo salad and Eileen came in with three different salads (Greek pasta and vegetable salad, cut vegetables and dip, and a garden salad). Of course we had a flowerless chocolate cake, Linda’s delicious cakes, Key Lime pies and Coconut pies, as well as imported (from Baltimore) Berger cookies and a tray of fresh fruit. No one left hungry including the guests and other family members. Mike KE4UGG visited and has older equipment to offer. After much rag chewing, we got back to work on the rigs and pulled an all nighter.
Sunday 6/27/2021: Judy and Doug had offered to come back to the stations after a nap and they arrived at 3am to man the phone and digital stations. We eventually changed to two phone stations while David was whacking away on CW. David took a nap in his car while I decided to go home for a shower and a nap. For the first time in the last 5 years of FD, I felt that the stations were manned all night long and I did not need to stay to guard the equipment like I have done in the past sleeping on the floor of the room. For the first time people had volunteered to come back at all hours and man the stations to keep at least two rigs on the air. Now this works! We were visited by a new ham (Kevin KO4DXI) who had gotten his license during lock down and came out to see FD. David Price K4KDP of ARRL came and surveyed the site and was impressed with the antenna farm. Eileen sent a breakfast casserole and cooked sausages, as well as coffee to help us all stay awake.
Take down started at about 1:30pm as all operators were still at it and making contacts. We had to pull the plug on David as he worked it to 2pm trying to make 500 contact (got to 495). Everyone including the Gonzalez family and all their sons came in to help clean up. By 4pm we had stowed all the equipment and cleaned up the place so it looked like we were never there! We sat in the AC cooling off when David realized he could not find his car keys. Thinking that they had fallen out of his pocket while sleeping in the car, we tore apart his full car but found nothing. A plan was hatched to drive David home and pick up his second set of keys and come back. Trying to lock the door of the car and walk away I noticed that it would not lock. I realized that the keys must be inside and looked again, they are hidden behind the wheel in the ignition! Words cannot describe the grin on David’s face. That just tells you how tired we all were. Two trips with trailers accomplished the final cleanup.
We all decided that this was a “successful FD” as many dedicated members, and their families, pitched in and had fun getting everyone on the air. This was the first time in a long time we were working at least two stations all night long, no interruptions. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that we all VOLUNTEER TO HELP the Club from time to time, and then actually follow through on what we promise to do. Our survival as a Club depends on everyone doing what they can willingly and reliably. Thanks to those who did participate in this FD, whether in person or behind the scenes, and to those who are dedicated to keeping the Club active in other ways, our community can rely on the promise we have made to provide an essential service in times of need. We can be ready in an emergency. I am so grateful for all the help so many Club Members offered selflessly to make FD a success. If I have forgotten to include anyone who contributed in my thanks, please forgive me, since I had serious sleep deprivation brain fog! Remind me so I can thank you, since you should be recognized and appreciated for your extra efforts to support the Club.
73 Peter, N4PVH
PS: At three in the morning I went out and filled the generator tank, walked over to my car and heard this in the open but flooded field. The frogs were in full singing mode. When I approached the pond, they all went quiet. I held still and they started up again, I could wave my hands and they would get quiet again. I could control the level of sound by moving my arms or holding still and they would crescendo again! I had my own Frog Symphony and I was the conductor! Yes, I was in a sleep deprived state but here is the recording: