Field Day 2018 Debrief

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    Mike, KJ6VCP

    We didn’t have a formal debrief after Field Day, so I’m starting one online before we forget all the items.

    I’ll kick things off with my observations, but please chime in and add to the list (or disagree with my opinion!)

    – We had pretty much everything we needed, so awesome logistics and planning work.
    – We were short on gas – my fault, I forgot to transfer gas back to the main gas can after generator testing.
    – We needed longer 3.5mm audio connectors from the radios to the headphone amps.
    – The GFCI’s on the generator panel and in the trailer worked. I was a little worried about how they would behave
    under field conditions.
    – The trailer AC inverter needs a higher rating circuit breaker.
    – We did not have any major RF feedback problems with the antenna locations.
    – We didn’t have a lot of visitors from our PR outreach efforts.
    – We were pretty thin on operators, so people worked long shifts.
    – Peter successfully tested a new tower raising method using the magic of electric motors.
    – Bands were tough – 40 and 80 were ok. but 20 was rough and 15 and 10 were just not there on Saturday.
    – The 40/80 sloped dipole was the most effective antenna connected to the radio tent.
    – The hustler seemed to be much improved with radials
    – It’s better if we keep the trailer within 100′ of the generators since we can use a single power cord.
    – Our posters and PR should include a location map
    – OES seemed impressed by our setup and ICS discipline.
    – Our site was overbooked.
    – We need to test the gate code early on setup day.


    Thank you, Mike, for an excellent Field Day! We set up a veritable little town up on the ridge, and that took a lot of work. We learn more and get a little better at it each year. I hope everyone appreciates how far we’ve come in the few years we’ve been doing this. It’s fun, but more importantly, we’ve been able to work out the details of what we might need to do during a major disaster to provide communications under difficult circumstances. Thanks to everyone who helped out.

    Laurel, AJ6AS

    Agree with all of this. Field Day was great this year and a lot of fun. It would be good for next year to get more adapters for 3.5mm into the 4 channel amplifiers (it didn’t seem like we had enough) as well as writing a press release to get sent out early to bigger newspapers (I’m thinking of something like the Daily Journal or another well-known local paper, but not as big as something like the SF Chronicle) or maybe even TV and radio stations? The ARRL has some Field Day predone ads with fill in the blanks for your club name and location, and if we have photos/videos from our own events I have editing software to make our own too. I think part of the lack of visitors is people either didn’t know we existed, didn’t know what it was, or didn’t know where we were, so maps would definitely be a good thing to add.

    I also heard that there were issues with phone on 40m blowing out digital on the same band, so I wonder if there’s anything we can do with antenna placement or type to get better reception? It also might have been the bands just not cooperating too, but it seemed like everything was happening on 40m so basically only one rig could get contacts at a time.

    David, KM6DOV

    Two proximate radios can’t really share a band, even with decent antenna placement. The transmitter will pretty much always interfere with receiving. The real issue is at night, when only 40 and 80 are usable. 20 was hopping during the day. Digi is sort of easy to saturate the available stations in a relatively short period of time, with a diminishing return after contacting the ones who are active. It would be useful to arrange a swap of 40 and 80 at some point during the night to let the digi station pick up the big players during the evening shift for about 1 hour every 4. I believe that will optimize the scoring potential for digi, which really fell behind last year’s numbers.

    Another hope is that someone sorts out a reasonable FT8 exchange process that lets us reach out farther into the distance to pull in weak station digi with a fast and reliable exchange. I suspect this will be looked into over the next year, even if it means that Mikey hacks the code to auto-sequence the prevalent FD exchange.

    Another hope for next year is an operator rotation that will let folks get some rest throughout the 24 hour period. I think I might be able to manage 4 hours of operator time, 4 hours of scribe, and 4 hours of downtime before pulling another shift would be effective.

    One other thing that I’d like to do is set up an SDR receiver with a long wire as a monitoring station, keeping an eye out for band openings and activity on 440, 2m, 15, 10, and 6.

    David, KM6DOV

    One thing to note in our “emergency drill” setup was the HEAT! We clocked 104 on Friday, which was absolutely brutal. The setup team pulled off an heroic feat to get all that wire in the air in those conditions. I think it would have been helpful to set up a misting system at the food tent or other refreshing and shady places first thing to give the setup team a little bit of a respite. Speaking only for myself, I was burnt physically and mentally after Friday setup, and it wore on me through Saturday, even though the temperatures were milder.


    If we’re going for contact points then we should try to follow the bands around the clock. Don’t spend a lot of effort (and time) chasing a difficult contact that will likely be easier later in the day. The vertical antennas are supposed to focus more energy toward the horizon so in the afternoon and morning use those on 20m to work the farther away stations and use the low, horizontal antennas like the Off Center Fed (OCF) on 40m for stations out to, say, 250 miles or so. At night 40m and 80m will open up so you can use those bands for the cross country contacts. David’s suggestion of setting up a monitoring receiver is a great idea: Assign someone with experience to monitor the “big picture” conditions by following the logs and/or a separate receiver and suggest which bands to work.

    I suggest that we arrange the OCF antennas so they’re at more of an angle to each other: They were pretty much parallel and so their coverage foot-prints were pretty much identical. If they covered different parts of the country then the contacts that one station might miss, the other would pick up when it made its sweep.

    Reiterating: Each station had more than one antenna and the antennas have different characteristics by range and bearing. Operators should be switching the antennas to see if there is a better choice between here and there. Pay attention to the best combinations of antenna, band, location of your intended contact and time of day are. With a bit of experience you can probably predict which antenna will be best given the other station’s section.

    Experiment! For most who participate this is the one time of year they get to play on HF and have all of these options to try out: Different radios, antennas and operating modes like voice, CW and digital. In this target-rich environment one can see how band conditions change over 24 hours, and if this isn’t your first Field Day you can see how the conditions have changed from year to year.

    I was there to play and socialize, so for me it was an exceptional event no matter what the final score comes to.

    Mike, KJ6VCP

    The results and charts have been uploaded to the web site:

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