June 2005

Posted By: W3DIO

2005 June VHF Contest Report

The Preparation:

Always looking for ways to improve, we made a couple of equipment additions for this trip as well as a change in the rover route. The net result was a slight improvement over September 04.

Equipment wise we added a 903 MHz, 30 watt transverter from DEMI at the last minute. (Thanks to Sandy and the gang up there for getting it out in time for the contest! You’re the greatest!) We ran it on a 33 element looper on the bad side of the car. (More about that later) The results were spectacular!

We also added a TE Systems 185 watt 432 amplifier. This basically doubled our power on 432 but when added to repairing the stacked beams resulted in an increase in ERP from 2.5 KW to around 12 KW . This also allowed the backup rig to run around 100W on 432 with the old amplifier.

Other improvements included repairing the 2 meter driven element Gamma match connector so that the 30 year old piece of coax that was frozen on there could be replaced. All of the antennas with N connectors got re-built coax harnesses with the new 2 piece N connectors. For the first time we didn’t have troubles with the coax pulling out of the back of the connector. (Rovers are hard on N connectors!) The MOXON was installed with double nuts to prevent the vibration from letting it get loose on the top of the mast (and falling on the antennas below as before.) A new driven element connector assembly was ordered from Directive Systems to repair the 1296 looper that had a broken center pin.

The plan was to install antennas on the Expedition on Sunday before the contest. All equipment would be installed and tested and even operated. But, that’s when Murphy showed up. Dave’s Expedition had some nasty electrical malfunctions and had to go to the shop. We finally got it back mid week. The Rover installation was scheduled for Friday and we both took off work that day. During the antenna installation, Dave stumbled and accidentally stomped the daylights out of the 2 meter reflector. It just wouldn’t be contest time if we didn’t have to solve several patch and repair jobs. I didn’t have a replacement 3/16″ rod long enough for the reflector (39 1/4″) so I made a bracket that would hold two halves of the reflector. We retuned the match and proceeded on only loosing an hour or so. Saturday morning all we had to do was test a couple bands and get rolling.

The Equipment:

TS-2000x (Primary)
IC-706MK2G (Secondary)
DEM 222-28 for 222 Mhz
DEM 902-28 FOR 903 Mhz
TE Systems 1452G (144 Mhz – 350 watts)
TE System 4452G (432 Mhz – 175 watts)
Power System
3 – 115 AH Deep Cycle Batteries (Radios)
1 – 115 AH Deep Cycle Battery (Amps)
350 watt Power Inverter (Noisy)

The Configuration:

Band Power Antenna
6 meters 100W PAR Stressed Moxon
2 meters 350W Cushcraft
1 1/4 meters 25W Cushcraft 11 Element
70cm (432) 175W 2 – 432 19 Element RIW’s
33cm (903) 30W Directive Systems
33 Element Looper
23cm (1296) 10W Directive Systems
45 Element Looper

The Trip:

As noted above we made a change to our proposed route. We decided to try to get a couple of rare grids by starting off in range of another rover that we normally don’t hear until Sunday. W3IY/R starts off in North Carolina and comes up to the eastern shore of Maryland. So we started in FM27 and this allowed us to work him in FM15 and again in FM26 after we moved up to FM28. Activity was fair from these two locations but the tropo was not helping us and we didn’t hear much at all out of the NE.

Departing FM28 we managed to whack a tree with the 6m Moxon and the 903 Looper. The Moxon was OK except for aiming the wrong way. The looper had a smashed last director and damage to the 2nd reflector. The match on both still looked good on the Bird. We went through FM18 making a short stop continuing up to FM29. Here we finally worked K1TEO and a couple of other stations up that direction. We quit for the night after operating in FM19 for a while.

Sunday morning we headed for the mountains of FM19 at McConnellsburg, PA. The trip took longer than expected and when we got to our stop …… There was already another station there operating! It turned out to be Brian ND3F. Have you ever seen 3 hams meet each other and not stop to have an eyeball?? Of course not! Well, we spent far too long chewing the fat. We finally set up and operated for about an hour and decided we had best leave Brian to his QRP portable operation and move on.

The next stop was a mad dash up to FN10 on another mountain ridge for time was running short. We spent about 3 hours up there but some of it was wasted due to repairs to the 903 Looper which took another tree hit. One of the 2 screws that hold it to the mast plate sheered off. This time, my 100′ hunk of rope was sacrificed. A length of it was cut off and the looper was tied off to hold it on the mast and off of the other antennas. Loop Antennas are really fragile but this one seems to defy nature and keeps on running. After working most of the big multi stations and running the bands with them we moved on.

Next it was FM09 for a short venture into FN00. Both were just whistle stops to activate the grid and move on. Our goal was to get to Skyline drive with enough time to operate before the end of the contest. After a couple of stops beside the road to re-tie the rope on the 903 we finally made it to the entrance to the park at about 0100z. The bill machine at the main entrance was malfunctioning and delayed us a few more minutes. Finally at 0115 we arrived at the Signal ridge overlook at only 2085 feet. To my surprise it had a clear shot to the north and north east so we decided to stay there rather than wasting any more time.

The payoff and the highlight of the trip came during the last hour. We hooked up with W2SZ/1 again and signals were pretty good as we worked them up to 432 on SSB. So, Dave ran a sched with them on 903.1. At first there was nothing but noise to hear. But then they came popping out of the noise with both calls copied. A quick (calls with report) and they were back with RRRR’s and report. 73 and it’s over. We used the 6 digit grid squares and figured the distance to be about 368 miles (center to center) with 30 watts and 33 elements held together with rope and chewing gum! Not bad for a mobile station!

The Results:

As usual we tried some new things and learned allot. Hardware wise we need to beef up our antenna mounting as well as plan the antenna arrangement a bit better. The cures for some of our past problems such as RFI from one rig to another have been proven. By the way, the IC706MK2G still doesn’t like to be on the separation kit cable in the presence of 400 watts of 2m from the other station. But, mate the control head to the main body and it all goes away!

We still suffer from time management problems. It is just so hard to tear ourselves away from a mountain top to head to a new grid square. Both Bill W3IY and Brian ND3F have said “Ya jes gotta set your mind to it and leave after 90 minutes or so!” They are so right! We had fun any ways! We’ll do much better next time.

Possible improvements for the next outing include more power on 220, 903, and or 1296. After that maybe high power on 6m would do well. The 2 meter beam could stand to be replaced but it may not make much since to put a brand new antenna into harms way. Replacing the Loop Yagi’s with Linear Yagi type antennas may be worth while. We’ll see.

The Rover already has a new mobile computer. It was not ready for June but got a trial run during Field Day. It will have the GPS maps, logging, grid calculators, digital modes, and much more to enhance the operation. All it needs now is a 12 VDC LCD monitor.

Thanks to all the fixed stations Big Gun s and Little Pistols alike for working us and making a fun weekend out of it. It is so nice to be able to work all of you on 6 bands one after the other. We really look forward to adding bands in the future as well.

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