G4WSM Field Day

Browsing the website of the Weston super Mare club (G4WSM), I found the video below. ¬†As its rather fun, I’m posting it here too ūüôā ¬†Whilst we’ve just had our field weekend wouldn’t it have been good to make a video like this? ¬†Unfortunately, the sound is a bit corrupted with funny ‘dit and dah’ noises. ¬†Only kidding ūüėČ


RSGB national SSB field day

The RSGB SSB field-day takes place over the weekend of 5 & 6th of September.  I agreed earlier in the year to organise something but now realise I am not available that weekend so organising a field event is difficult.

Would someone else like to organise this event?

To take part in the contest our station would need to comply with these RSGB guidelines.


Field weekend (3)

TSGARC Field WeekendThis is the third post in a three part series regarding the late May field weekend of the Thornbury and South Gloucestershire Amateur Radio Club (TSGARC).

So Tuesday arrived.  Four days on site had passed very quickly.  The final day was set aside for taking everything down, packing it away, clearing the site and getting home.  No radio operation was planned. This proved a good choice as it was mid-afternoon when John finally left.

Just like the setup day, we had a good attendance and it didn’t take long for the tents to come down and packing to start. ¬†What took time was all the little things like tables, chairs, food etc not to mention the coax, antenna masts and guys… ¬†Anyway, by mid-afternoon everything was packed and the only evidence we had been there was the trampled grass. ūüôā

TSGARC Radio TentThe objective of the weekend was not just to setup a station and make contacts but to try things that we could not try at home where space or equipment are constraining factors and to facilitate the exchange of skills and knowledge between club members.  Measured against these objectives, the weekend was a great success.  Everyone who attended had a good time and the English bank holiday weather was kind to us.

The club was active on 2m, 6m, 12m, 15m, 17m, 20m and 80m making contacts around the world. ¬†In total we spoke to 19 countries excluding the UK. ¬†We did not generally participate in ‘rubber stamp’ contacts, most lasted several minutes, some significantly longer. ¬†The countries worked were:

  • America
  • Argentina
  • Aruba
  • Austria
  • Bulgaria
  • Canada
  • Israel
  • Japan
  • Kenya
  • Kuwait
  • Russia
  • Spain
  • St. Helena Is
  • Svalbard
  • Sweden
  • Turkey (maritime mobile)
  • Ukraine
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Uzbekistan

The event had 2 x 2kW and 2 x 1kW petrol generators.  The intention was to operate 1 or 2 of the 2kW units and the others would be used in case of failure.  As it turned out one of the 2kW units failed but the other worked flawlessly so no others were needed.  But just having one of the primary generators fail proved how important it was to have backups.  The amount of petrol consumed was surprisingly low (approx. 40 litres) considering almost full day/evening use.

Almost everything went well but things of special note are:

  • site access incl parking
  • the site location was close to home
  • excellent member turnout, especially on setup and tear-down days
  • the chemical toilet
  • separating the radio tent and social/domestic tent
  • trailer tower
  • G-600RC rotator.

TSGARC Catering/Domestic TentOf course there were some things that didn’t go to plan or that could be done better¬†next time:

  • catering – bring your own food & drink failed
  • conversations still occurred in the radio tent and were hard to limit
  • disappointingly low¬†use of VHF despite having some excellent antennas
  • failure of a primary¬†generator.

As organiser of this event I would like to express my special thanks to the following:

  • John’s friends for the use of their field (We have bought them a bottle of Pernot and some flowers)
  • John Laney for the tents and cooking
  • Graham Clark for petrol
  • Rob Dodson for his TS-2000
  • Shirley for the wood burning stove.

Final thoughts

The message from those who attended was that this sort of event is something the club should do again before the year is out.  We will have a rethink about catering and try something different next time.  Possible options have already been identified, discussed and sound promising.

When we do this next? ¬†Well almost anytime is possible, but there is the RSGB VHF Field Day on the 4th and 5th of July and the RSGB SSB Field day on 5th and 6th September. ¬†We should also not forget the ARRL Field Day on June 27th and 28th….


Field weekend (2)

TSGARC Field WeekendThis is the second post in a three part series regarding the late May field weekend of the Thornbury and South Gloucestershire Amateur Radio Club (TSGARC).

The trouble with camping during May is it gets light early! ¬†Setup had been a long and busy day but the birds knew nothing of our endeavours and were chirping their happy, annoying¬†song at first light. ¬†John (M3EQQ), despite¬†slumming it at the house, was up just as early as the birds and made sure everyone was awake also ūüėČ ¬†To his credit he woke people¬†with a cuppa but it was clear there was to be no sleepy lie-in… ¬†Mind you, it was going to be a busy day as there was food, rotor cable and plugs to purchase not to mention the completion of tasks outstanding from the previous day, delayed due to the extended time working upon the trailer tower.

Generally speaking the noise floor at field/portable sites is very low so you can hear almost everything, but making yourself heard is harder. ¬†For this event I wanted to make the club¬†heard. ¬†I’d heard many good stories and good signals from stations around the world using hex beams, so I purchased a Hexbeam from Anthony (MW0JZE). ¬†This was fed with 400w from an¬†Ameritron AL-811XCE amplifier. ¬†The result was fantastic, not only could we hear the DX but we could also work it ūüôā

MW0JZE HexbeamA large part of Saturday morning was spent assembling the hex. ¬†Yes, it took a while as I was careful to assemble it correctly and as per the YouTube video instructions. ¬†The antenna does not come with instructions which is a nuisance but the video instructions are excellent – just accessing them from a remote field is a little challenging… ¬†Next time, however, assembly will be much quicker.

After the hex was on the tower,¬†John (M3EQQ) and I went to get the much needed food and cable to replace the damaged rotor control cable. ¬†The little castle town of Berkeley has some good shops so food was not a problem, but cable needed a drive further afield. ¬†Fortunately there is a branch of Attwoolls not far away and they were able to supply 30m of cable and new connectors. ¬†On our return it was clear the other members had been equally busy as¬†we now had a full sized vertical 80m loop and a¬†Beverage receive only antenna for the 80m band. ¬†Both the 80m loop and Beverage were connected to Rob’s (G4RNK) Kenwood TS-2000.

The Beverage was the creation of John (M0HFH) who¬†had read much about its ability to overcome noise on the lower frequency bands; the field weekend gave the ideal opportunity to try a 1.2őĽ,¬†80m Beverage. ¬†Researching the many methods of construction John (M0HFH) came across some old papers published by the BBC research team at Crowley. This gave in-sight into the height of the antenna from the ground and some surprising information, higher is not always better!

The Beverage in various designs has been around since inventor Harold H. Beverage developed the antenna design based on designs used by Edmond Bruce at the Otter Cliffs US Transatlantic listening station in 1919.  The antenna used during our field weekend was the simplest form of this design and consisted of a 9:1 home-made balun feeding a long wire (120m galvanised steel electric fence wire) terminated at its far end with a non-inductive resistor into a copper earth stake with 4 x 15m radials. A similar ground plane earth system was set up at the feed end to be the earth point for the coax feeding the radio. The antenna was set at 1.5m above the ground.

We attempted to match the Beverage terminating resistor to the earth system using a method adopted by W8JI which involved measuring the range (not the value) of SWR indicated on an MFJ-259 antenna analyser sweeping a frequency range from 1.8HHz to 7MHz and varying the termination resistor until the variation in SWR was minimised.  Kyle (M6KBP) recorded the values of SWR in the form of a table whilst John (M0HFH) varied the terminating resistance using a switched resistance box; communications from one end of the Beverage to the other by 2m handheld.  We settled for a termination resistance of 640 Ohms after some discussion of the results.

Listening to weak signals on the lower frequency bands, in particular 160m, 80m, 40m, the Beverage revealed a substantial reduction in background noise and an increased signal to noise ratio as compared to the TSGARC vertical with radials.

Rob (G4RNK) was responsible for the 80m loop.  It was made from hard drawn, PVC coated, copper wire about 265ft in length.  Its matching stub was made from 75 Ohm coaxial cable a quarter wavelength long, (66%).  This matching stub was then connected to 50 Ohm coax which ran back to the TS-2000 transceiver in the radio tent. With a view to working stations to the East (Europe) and the West (USA and beyond!), the loop was orientated to face East/West with its nulls to the North and South.  The feed point of the loop was 1ft above ground, the top of the antenna was at 30ft, suspended between to masts, so the mean height of the loop was 15ft for 80 the 80m band. This sort of antenna can be tuned for use on other bands with a transmatch antenna tuner.

TSGARC Radio TentThe hexbeam replaced the 2m beam on the trailer tower as at 12kgs it needed a strong support.  The tower will support something much heavier but the other masts would have been overloaded.  It was raised to about 13m above ground where it pretty much remained for the rest of the weekend. Feeding the hex was an Icom IC-7200 and the aforementioned amplifier.  The system worked faultlessly and some nice contacts were made, my personal favourite being Tokyo. Lots of contacts were made by myself and the mic was shared with John (M3EQQ) and Kyle (M6KBP).  This gave John and Kyle the opportunity to see a capable station in operation and to talk with stations further afield.

Around 20:00hrs GMT about S3 of pulse type interference was observed from the West, this continued till we shutdown just after midnight. ¬†Interestingly the interference seemed to start around 14MHz and spread across all higher parts of the spectrum up to 50MHz. ¬†Higher frequencies were not checked. ¬†The interference was not observed on lower frequency bands – nothing was heard on 3.7MHz using the 80m loop. ¬†Swinging the hex to the East also greatly reduced the interference. ¬†In the adjacent field on the Western side there is a large overhead power line, but we understood this was not in operation… ¬†If the interference was emanating from the power line I would have expected it to hear it on 80m. ¬†A mystery, but there was speculation that it may be some farm machinery in the big shed located to the West.

Tonna 5-ele, 6m YagiSunday morning dawned with another early call, cuppa and breakfast from John (M3EQQ). ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†The remaining 10m masts were erected. ¬†With these we now had an impressive selection of antenna’s and the site looked great in the sunshine. ¬†In total there was the 12m trailer tower, 2 x 10m masts supporting the Tonna 2m and 6m antennas plus 2 x 12/10m masts supporting the 80m loop. ¬†With this selection of antennas it was a shame that we didn’t have more radio’s and operators. ¬†However, Rex (G4RAE) made use of the 5-element, 6m Yagi making several Morse contacts.

HF propagation was superb, strong phone contacts were had with Aruba on 20m, 17m and 15m,  St. Helena and numerous other stations in the USA.  It was clear that the hex, amplifier combination was delivering good performance.  Band conditions remained excellent till shutdown soon after midnight.  The mic was again shared with John and Kyle allowing them to make some excellent contacts.  The interference noted the previous evening was not present till a similar time when it returned with exactly the same characteristics.

Shirley, John’s (M0HFH) partner, lent the club her wood burning fire. ¬†Its an excellent piece of kit that burns wood exceptionally well and provides lots of surface area on which to cook. ¬†So late in the afternoon, John (M3EQQ) started to barbecue chicken and sausages. ¬†Whilst we ate the food a friend of Rob’s (G4RNK) arrived with his quadcopter. ¬†The quadcopter had a small camera attached and despite it being a little windy good photo’s of the site were captured.

9-ele, 2m TonnaMonday was very different, the HF bands appeared to be in good shape for a few hours in the early morning when we had some great contacts, but soon after deteriorated leaving signals either well down on preceding days or non-existent.  Andrew (G0RVM) took the opportunity to run an antenna workshop with Kyle (M6KBP).  The workshop started with the basic principles of the dipole then progressed to calculating its size, construction and finally adjustments for resonance and on-air testing.  The dipole was made for the 17m band and it clearly worked when compared with the hex.  Another Foundation class member, Derek (M6xxx) got involved, helping Kyle with the physical construction of the dipole.

Nighttime arrived and conditions appeared to improve greatly.  Again many contacts were made culminating with an excellent conversation between Kyle (M6KBP) and Ray (N4LEM) using his Collins HF-80.

Andrew G0RVM, John M0HFH and Rob G4RNK

Field weekend (1)

TSGARC Tent ErectionThe Thornbury and South Gloucestershire Amateur Radio Club (TSGARC) held its first ever field weekend over the late May 2015 bank holiday weekend. ¬†This post is¬†the first of three¬†that describes what happened,¬†what went well, not so well and thoughts for the next time….

Although the event was to take place over the Saturday, Sunday and Monday it was clear from early planning that additional time would be needed to establish then remove the camp, equipment and clear the site.  Early planning also identified two key items essential to the success of the weekend: large, dry tents and toilet facilities.  Fortunately the club, via John, had access to several 6m x 4m tents and had sufficient funds to hire a chemical toilet from Abbey Loos of Gloucester.

Another key feature of the event was a barbecue would be held on the Sunday afternoon assuming it was permitted by the notorious and traditionally wet bank holiday weekend weather.  As it turned out, fortune smiled and the weather remained dry.

So, early planning done, 10¬†members arrived on the Friday morning at 10AM and work started to erect the 2¬†large tents. ¬†One was to be the radio/operating tent, the other cooking/hospitality etc. ¬†This two-tent idea was conceived so¬†that noise and conversations could be kept to a minimum in the radio tent to¬†provide a quiet environment for the operators. ¬†The 2 tents were erected in a non-overlapping ¬†‘L’ shape with the apex towards the South West. ¬†The intention was that this would provide a space, sheltered from the wind, in which the BBQ could be held and a space, in the outside corner, for the 12m trailer tower. ¬†This configuration proved successful.

TSGARC Tent ErectionWith ample hands the erection of the tents proved a quick and easy job.  Attention then turned to getting the stove connected, for that much needed cuppa, and moving the trailer tower to its chosen position.  Around this time someone noticed that the pin which secured the winch drum to its assembly was missing rendering the winch unusable.  Show during transit this pin had come loose and fallen out.  The unusable winch would have been a disaster had we been in a remote location, however, the land owner was able to provide a suitably sized bolt which saved the day.  A quick phone call later and John (M0HFH) had the necessary information to machine another pin which he installed the following day. We were lucky John was at work and had the time to make a replacement.  Thanks John.

The second key item, the chemical toilet, arrived around lunchtime which was excellent timing and just when it was needed ūüėČ ¬†Compared to the loos I’ve experienced before, at music festivals such as Glastonbury, it was spotless – a real palace! ¬†The only negative was that it didn’t have any loo roll – the holder was empty… ¬†Fortunately, ¬†loo roll was one of the items early planning had identified and thus we had a good supply – happy camping and second disaster avoided ūüôā

As it turned out the most time consuming task during setup¬†was the elevation of the trailer tower. ¬†This was not expected¬†and occupied pretty much the whole of the afternoon, completing¬†just in time for the clubs VHF net at 20:00hrs. ¬†One of the first renovation jobs the club on the trailer tower was to replace all winch cables as they were in poor condition. ¬†In doing this job someone had the bright idea to replace the old cables with string so that when it came to installing the new cables they could be installed quickly and correctly. ¬†This was a great idea, but it was predicated on the assumption that the old cables were correctly installed! ¬†TSGARC Trailer TowerAs it happened they weren’t and we thus spent hours re-routing the new steel cables so they did not catch or rub unduly on the lattice members. ¬†It was just as well that we had a generous helping of tools, spanners etc as this could have been the next disaster! ¬†Anyhow, all turned out well and we got the TSGARC Yaesu G-600RC rotor installed and a 9 element Yagi (Part No. 220089) from Tonna for the 2m band installed on the top. ¬†Tower raised, the antenna was at about 13m above ground. ¬†With about 30 minutes to spare we were setup and ready for the clubs VHF net.

Using a highly directive antenna¬†for a net is not ideal but on this occasion the majority of members who normally take part where in the field. ¬†The remainder, were fortunately, located along¬†roughly the same beam heading ūüôā ¬†Excellent signal reports were obtained from all¬†stations. Actually, that was¬†as no¬†surprise as 50w into an antenna with 13dBi gain at 13m above ground is going to work well! ¬†The antenna was also deliberately attached to the tower to be vertically polarised thus aligning with the convention that VHF, FM activity is vertically polarised.

At this point its worth mentioning an issue we had with the rotor. ¬†Just prior to the weekend Paul (M0ZMB) had reconditioned the clubs rotor, installing new multi-core cable and some nice weather resistant plugs. ¬†Unfortunately, the length¬†of cable from the rotor to the first plug was less than the height of the tower and this meant the cable could not be placed in the towers cable cleats without snagging. ¬†So instead the cable was left to run free by the side of the tower moving about slightly in the light breeze. ¬†On one occasion when raising the tower no one spotted that the plug had become snagged by a lattice cross member. ¬†The resulting load ripped the cable from the plug and shattered the connector. ¬†The electrical connections were easy to repair but it was clear that a new, longer length of cable was needed that¬†could be run through the cleats without snagging and thus an emergency shopping trip was needed the following day ūüôĀ

And that was pretty much the first day – setup day.


Mobile Foxhunt

Gentlemen start your engines!!

Our annual Mobile Fox Hunt will be next Wednesday 20th May.

I have this evening chosen the Fox’s location after a lengthy search.

Start time for the hunt will be 7:30pm with a CQ call on 145.500, I will then move of to 145.450 assuming the frequency is clear.

Hints and tips;

  • Start off somewhere high.
  • Check for bearings at locations without power lines or metal buildings.
  • Use a directional antenna or the body shield method.
  • Take multiple bearings and go for the crossing point.


Field-day Weekend. Update 2

On Thursday April 9th, Rex, John and Andrew went to view the field that the TSGARC will be using for its three-day extravaganza. ¬†It was such a warm, sunny day that we could not resist the temptation too do some portable work¬†in addition to just looking at the field ūüôā

40m DipoleWe arrived about 1530hrs and were quickly on the air and making contacts across the UK despite the skip being a little longer than anticipated at that time of day. ¬†Andrew brought along a 10m mast which we used to support¬†a full-sized 40m dipole in an inverted ‘V’ configuration an IC-7200 HF radio plus¬†the all important generator. ¬†After spending some time on 40m we raised a 20m dipole from the same mast and then worked 20m for a while.

The image to the right shows the 10m mast and 40m dipole situated toward the S.W. end of the field.

Later in the afternoon we had some unexpected visitors:¬†Rob, Andy and Dave somehow found us! ¬†Was our signal that strong! ¬†We stayed till dusk then packed everything away and went back to Rex’s house for tea and hot-crossed buns. ¬†Nice ūüôā

Andrew, Rex and RobEveryone was impressed by the size, location and RF quietness of the field despite some large overhead power-lines in the adjacent field. It will make the perfect spot for our three-day portable event.

To the left, Andrew, Rex and Rob man the temporary station setup on a plastic patio table… ¬†The black box to left of the picture is the Palstar manual ATU.


JOTA Planning & Operation

This week at the Thornbury & South Gloucestershire Amateur Radio Club is the final planning for JOTA.

JOTAWe will be¬†operating a VHF and UHF station at Conygres teaching Scouts how to send a message over the air to Woodhouse Park Scout camp using Voice or¬†Morse code. ¬†The intention is to use VHF for FM phone and UHF for phone/slow Morse. ¬†If you have time this weekend please say ‘hi’ to a Scout by responding to a CQ call. ¬†We will be using the callsign: GB1WSG

Anyone who would like to help can operate with Peter and Rex from Woodhouse or operate from home.

Full details including operating frequencies are on QRZ.com.

GARES will be operating the HF Station during the day on Saturday18th and Sunday 19th hoping to make longer range contacts.

My thanks to John M0HFH for the content ūüôā