The Tallahassee SARnet repeater 442.100 is back online. Randy has worked his magic and the repeater is back and operational.
Field day is a time of excitement for everyone but take some time out to think about safety so that a fun afternoon does not turn into a painful experience.
These are a few ARRL recommended practices for a large gathering but they are still valid if you are just working from your home station or out in your yard. Make sure that:
- Fuel for generator properly stored.
- Fire extinguisher on hand and appropriately located.
- First Aid kit on hand. First Aid – CPR – AED trained participant/s on site.
- Access to NWS alerts to monitor for inclement weather.
- Tent stakes properly installed and marked.
- Temporary antenna structures properly secured and marked.
- Site secured from tripping hazards.
- Site is set up in a neat and orderly manner to reduce hazards.
- Stations and equipment properly grounded.
- Access to a means to contact police/fire/rescue.
- Minimize risks and control hazards to ensure no injuries to public.
- Monitoring participants for hydration and ensure an adequate water supply is available.
In addition since we are in Florida and it is summer:
- It is going to be hot – make sure you drink lots of water
- The sun is bright – If you are in the sun put on sunscreen
- Be wary of lightning – Disconnect your radios when it is close, or not so close
- There are going to be critters about – make sure you watch for pesky fire ants, mosquitos and other creepy crawlies
by Stan Zawrotny, K4SBZ
The ARRL Field Day rules say that you can operate on the “160, 80, 40, 20, 15 and 10 Meter HF bands, as well as all bands 50 MHz and above.” That’s a big help – anywhere except the WARC bands (60, 30, 17 and 12 Meters). But where should you actually operate? And when? Which modes?
Let’s start off with a general rule for HF: You should operate on the higher bands (20, 15 and 10) during the daytime. At dusk, move to 40 meters. After dark, operate on 40, 80 and 160 Meters.
To narrow that down a little more, 20 Meters is the “Money Band” during the day. 40 and then 80 are the best choices at night.
But, if you want to make the most contacts in the most ARRL and RAC sections, you need to have all of the bands in your arsenal. Here is a band-by-band synopsis of the current band conditions, as I see them. “Your mileage may vary” – by mode, time of day, changing propagation and capabilities of your station. A summary of the band’s frequencies and modes follows each band’s forecast.
20 Meters: As previously mentioned, 20 Meters is the “Money Band” during the day. It is also the busiest. That’s because you can work the world on 20 Meters. Don’t expect to hear many locals here. Their signals are going over top of you to the ionosphere to be reflected down hundreds of miles away. It’s difficult to work Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina on 20. Most of your contacts will be west of the Mississippi or north of the Mason-Dixon Line. 20 may be a little slow during the middle of the day and then pick up after 3 pm. After sunset, 20 usually closes down, but has been known to be open all night.
20 Meters starts at 14.000 MHz and extends up to 14.350. As with most bands, CW occupies the lower end, from 14.000 to 14.150 MHz. Only Extra Class operators are allowed in 14.000 to 14.025. Imbedded in the CW band are “watering holes” for PSK31 (14.070), FT8 (14.074), FT4(14.080) and RTTY (14.083 to 14.110). Voice (SSB) occupies the upper end of 20, from 14.150 to 14.350. General Class operators must stay above 14.225 MHz. The band will be busiest between 14.225 and 14.300. If you are looking for an opening to call CQ, you stand a better chance of finding one above 14.300 MHz. Avoid the SSTV watering hole at 14.230. You should probably also avoid 14.280 which seems to be a favorite for Latin American hams.
15 Meters: 15 Meters is an alternative to 20. It is also a longer distance band with the West Coast and South America most common. 15 is more likely to be open during mid-day, closing around 4 pm.
The range for 15 Meters is 21.000 to 21.450 Mhz. CW occupies the lower end up to 21.200 MHz, with the first .025 MHz reserved for Extras. Technicians may operate CW, but not voice, on 15 Meters. You will find PSK31 at 21.070, FT8 at 21.074, FT4 at 21.140 and RTTY from 21.080 to 21.110 MHz. SSB starts at 21.200 with Generals restricted to above 21.275 MHz.
10 Meters: During this low sunspot period, 10 Meters has mostly not been open except for short periods. However, during the early summer months, 10 has been known to be open for long distances, with the skip usually favoring the West Coast and South America. This usually occurs during late morning and early afternoon. However, at the time of this writing (two weeks before Field Day), 10 has been open later. I have made FT8 contacts around the clock.
The 10 Meter spectrum is quite large: from 28.000 MHz to 29.700. The lower end, up to 28.300 is for CW. The PSK31 sub-band is at 28.070. RTTY starts at 28.080. FT8 is at 28.074 and FT4 is at 28.180 MHz. Voice starts at 28.300 with no sub-band set aside for Extras. It’s important to note that Technician Class may operate up to 28.500 MHz.
40 Meters: 40 Meters is actually open most of the day for short-range contacts, so you will nearly always find a little activity there. 40 opens up right around, or just before, sunset. As the Gray Line moves westward, so does the range for 40 until it reaches the West Coast or beyond. From sunset on, 40 is very crowded.
40 Meters is the 7 MHz band, extending from 7.000 to 7.300 MHz. CW occupies the lower end up to 7.125 MHz, with the usual .025 beginning reserved for Extras. The PSK31 watering hole is at 7.080 (note that the “.070” pattern is broken here). RTTY starts at 7.0430, FT8 is at 7.0740 and FT4 is at 7.0475. Technicians have CW privileges along side the Generals on 40. SSB starts at 7.125 for Extras and Advanced Classes and at 7.175 for Generals. The range from 7.175 to 7.200 is the busiest. Look out for the “Good Ole Boys” who occupy 7.200 MHz. They don’t take kindly to anyone encroaching on “their” frequency. The section above 7.200 also has a couple of European shortwave AM stations. Remember that from 10 MHz down, SSB is Lower Sideband. Doing “search and pounce,” it’s easier to start high and tune down into the signal.
80/75 Meters: After dark, 80 Meters starts to open up and remains open all night. 80 is not as crowded as 40. Many hams fill their logs on 40 Meters, then move down to 80. Most activity will be East Coast and Mid-West.
80 Meters (3.500 to 4.000 MHz) is so broad that it is sometimes broken into 80 Meters (3.5 to 3.7 MHZ) for CW and 75 Meters (3.6 to 4.0 MHz) for SSB. It is sometimes difficult to get an antenna tuned to both ends of the band. The 80 Meter CW band has the first .025 reserved for Extras. Generals and Technicians share the rest. PSK31 occupies 3.580 MHz, RTTY is from 3.590 to 3.600, FT8 is at 3.573 and FT4 is at 3.575 MHz. On the 75 Meter Band, SSB starts for Extras at 3.600, for Advanced at 3.700 and for Generals at 3.800 MHz. You will encounter a lot of rag chewers in the General portion of the band. They don’t like “contesters.”
160 Meters: This is known to many as the “Top Band.” 160 is definitely a nighttime band, not opening up until well after dark. It is also a high QRN band, especially during the summer months and any other time when there are thunderstorms. Another factor resulting in low activity is the size of an antenna resonant at 160 Meters. Most multi-band antennas do not include 160.
The entire length of the 160 Meter band from 1.8 to 2.0 MHz is both CW and SSB with no sub-bands for Extras. There is a PSK31 watering hole at 1.838. FT8 can be found at 1.840 MHz. There are no watering holes for RTTY or FT4.
6 Meters: Most HF rigs also have 6 Meter capability. 6 Meters, the “Magic Band,” is best during the summer months, especially June. During the ARRL VHF June Contest, June 13 and 14, the FT8 sub-band was as active as 20 meters. While the propagation favoring 6 Meters usually occurs during the day, the band was open to some degree all night long from Tallahassee to New England and the Mid-Atlantic during the contest. Many multi-band HF antennas will operate on 6 Meters. In a few hours, mostly on Sunday, I was able to make 77 contacts in 17 states, mostly in the Southeast, Mid-West and New England. Reports on 3830Scores.com from other hams indicate that CW and SSB were also active. Please note that I was using a multi-band HF OCF dipole, not a beam antenna. There have been recent reports of 6 meters being open to Europe for short spells.
Although 6 Meter extends for 4 MHz from 50 to 544 MHz, activity is mostly on the first MHz. CW will mostly be found from 50.0 to 50.120. 50.125 is the SSB calling frequency. You will find SSB CQs from 50.120 up to 51.000 MHz. The primary FT8 frequency is 50.313, with some activity also on 50.323. 50.318 is the FT4 sub-band. You can use FM simplex from 51.1 to 52.0 MHz. From 52.05 to 53.0 MHz, FM simplex shares the band with FM repeaters.
You can use any authorized mode for Field Day. However, most of the activity will be CW or SSB. RTTY is fairly active on FD. PSK31 will have some activity, however, PSK31 operators usually don’t understand about contests and FD, so you may find them sending their “brag” reports rather than the FD exchange. If so, try asking for the necessary information. They won’t know their class, but most will be operating 1D. FT8 and FT4 have both been very active in contests recently. Because of their weak-signal capability, FT8 and FT4 may be active even when CW and SSB fade out. A Field Day reporting feature is now built into WSJT-X.
Many hams report (“spot”) their contacts to the DX clusters. You can monitor a DX cluster to see who is active on what frequency. Be aware that the DX clusters are world-wide, so a spot may be by someone in Europe and not workable by you. You can usually filter the clusters to give only the modes, bands, and reporting stations that you need. There are a number of DX clusters available. One popular cluster is DX Summit at http://www.dxsummit.fi/#/.
Most of the contesting software packages provide a direct link to a cluster and also show a band map with the stations heard on the band that you are on. If you have activated the CAT capability, linking your rig to your computer, you can click on the callsign and the logger will change your rig directly to that frequency. Check your logger’s user guide for specifics.
Monitoring the DX cluster will also enable you to tell which bands are open. When you see only a few spots on the band that you are on, it’s a good time to move to another that shows more activity.Please feel free to contact me or any of the TARS Field Day coordinators with any questions that you may have. My email address is K4SBZ.Stan@gmail.com
It’s only 12 days to Field Day (Saturday 6/27/2020. I wanted to take a minute to remind everyone of a few things since this year you will be the captain of your own station:
- Take a few minutes to upgrade your logging software or print out logging/dup sheets. The rules have changed this year and you want to make sure your logging software is up to date. You also may want to try it out and make sure it is still working. If you are using a computer, you also want to make sure your system updates are done early. The worst feeling in the world is when you go to do something and your computer decided to update in the middle of something important.
- Verify the equipment you are going to use still is working correctly. If you test everything now you have time to order the parts you need to fix anything that is broken, missing or has gotten used on other projects. You also want to make sure your radio settings are what they should be for the modes you are going to work. You don’t want to be in my shoes several years ago and wonder why 20m is dead for me but every one else it doing great just to realize several hours later that the filters are set super narrow from a previous experiment.
- Review the exchange you will be using for Field Day. Make some notes/flash cards of the exchange and frequencies you will be using for quick reference.
- Scope out where you are going to be operating. If you are going to set up a special antenna for Field Day is the tree branch you are going to hang it still there? Is your antenna(s) still resonant on the bands you are are planning to use? If you are going to run off of your generator, do you have gas and have you changed the oil recently?
- The Internet is your friend – Google “arrl field day tips” for tips on field day.
- Remember that your club affiliation is “Tallahassee ARS” when sending in your scores
- Share your field day setup with us before, during and after Field Day by sending mail to firstname.lastname@example.org . We will post it on the web page and in the news letter
- If you need help/advice ask on the local nets or send mail to: email@example.com
We are putting the Field Day 2020 emails on https://k4tlh.net in case you miss any of them
Just an up date on the SARnet Tallahassee, 442.1 UHF repeater. The Power Amplifier in the unit failed on June 9. I have taken the repeater off line and making repairs. Until the finals are replaced the SEOC 443.5 will be the only point of contact for SARnet in the region. As a reminder the antenna pattern on this machine favors the South (Wakulla, Franklin Gulf Counties in concert with the Sumatra repeater. Mobiles in Leon will have the best ability for reliable communications, portables will be very limited. I will keep you posted with any updates
Please read this message from the ARRL. It will help answer many of the questions being asked about Field Day.
Many people still use paper logs, both for every day use and for contests. Most, however, have found that computer logs are much more efficient and offer a wealth of benefits. Simply type the contact information into the logging screen and you have a permanent copy of your log that you can use to keep track of your WAS and DXCC status, upload to various QSL sites and produce many other listings, depending on the software used. If you set up CAT control, the computer can input the time and frequency for you making logging as simple as typing in the callsign. Following a contest, you can upload a Cabrillo formatted log to the contest website to “officially” enter in the contest and see you score along with others after the scores have been tabulated.
There are many software loggers available. Asking which is the best is like asking which is the best automobile.
N1MM Logger Plus – The most popular contest logger is N1MM Logger Plus, which is free to download (https://n1mmwp.hamdocs.com/). It is the most powerful and, therefore, most complicated. In addition to logging, it has CW macros and can decode RTTY with the aid of MMTTY or 2Tone. There are many YouTube videos and other tutorials on how to use it. N1MM+ is not designed to be an everyday log, although some hams do use it that way.
N3FJP Logging Software – Also very popular is a group of loggers from N3FJP (http://www.n3fjp.com/index.html). This is the logger used by TARS when we do a group Field Day. It is easy to install and easy to use. The Field Day logger is a one-time $8.99. Each separate logger for different contests is also $8.99. However, for $49.99 you can get all the contest loggers, plus the every-day ACLog (a $24.99 value), with free life-time updates. This is a real value. ACLog is very useful for daily use with many listings available and the ability to automatically upload your log to Logbook of the World (LoTW), eQSL and ClubLog.
There are a number of other logs that you may use. A few popular logs include:
DXKeeper – DX Labs has a suite of free software for managing an amateur radio station. DXKeeper (http://www.dxlabsuite.com/dxkeeper/) is the logging module. (Modules may be installed independently). It is very easy to use and is useful for daily use as well as contests.
WriteLog – WriteLog for Windows (https://writelog.com/) is very powerful contest logging software for CW, SSB, RTTY and PSK31. Registration is $30. There is a free demo copy. It is for contest use only.
Win-Test – Win-Test (http://www.win-test.com/) is another very powerful contest logger. It also has CW macros and a RTTY decoder as well as an integrated voice keyer. It costs 50 Euros (converted to dollars by PayPal) and has a free demo copy. It is for contest use only.
DXLog – DXLog (http://www.dxlog.net/) is a full-featured contest logger. It is free and is for contest use only.
FDLog – FDLog (http://www.fdlog.info/more-about) is a free set of software programs for logging contacts during Amateur Radio Field Day operations. This program cohesively ties together the stations in the Field Day activity, maintaining copies of all data on all computers via a wireless network. It has several features for managing the Field Day activity. It is capable of preparing nearly the whole FD Entry form for ARRL submission, making it much easier to actually send in the results.
See the N5PA Website (https://www.n5pa.com/contest.software.php) for a longer list of loggers with links to their websites.
*** Please send any questions or comments about this article to: ***
*** Stan, K4SBZ at K4SBZ.Stan@gmail.com. ***
Field day is one of the main events each year for the club going back as far as anyone can remember. Unfortunately COVID is causing us to change our plans. Instead of operating as a club in Tom Brown Park we will operate individually from our homes or other places that insure social distancing.
How will this work you might ask? Well the first thing is you will operate using your own callsign. You can operate at your normal station, in your backyard, in your car or wherever you want. The way we operate as a club is by filling in “Tallahassee ARS” in the “Club or Group Name” field when you turn in your scores. The ARRL is going to do a club aggregate tally for this year as a recognition of the challenges COVID brings supporting social distancing.
A few other things we will be doing as a club to help:
Field Day is a good time to ask questions and get help. Take an opportunity during the scheduled nets to ask questions or for help. Also feel free to send an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org and ask questions.
There will be some more email sent to everyone from the club with tips & pointers. One good presentation that points out the changes for this years field day is at: http://tiny.cc/fdsd.
If you just operate for one hour or you operate all twenty-four Field day is a good opportunity to get on the air and make contacts.
The Tallahassee Amateur Radio Society has restarted VE testing, under limited conditions, for all Amateur License classes. Also because of the new Extra test that goes into effort on July 1st we want to give all amateurs the opportunity to take advantage of the current exam by holding extra exams during the period from June 27th through June 30th. Exact dates and times will be determined by the number wishing to take advantage of this offer.
Test sessions for both June 2nd and for the morning of June 27th are filled.
Exams are limited to five (5) participants and pre-registration is mandatory.
All participants are required to wear face masks that cover the nose and mouths.
For a complete list of requirements go to https://k4tlh.net/faq/license-testing/
To register send an email to Norm, K4GFD at TALLYTARSVE@GMAIl.com
June 2020 Club Meeting
TARS will be having or June Club Meeting on June 4th at 7:00. We will be using the same format as May due to the COVID pandemic which seemed to work out well. We will be conducting the first part of the meeting on the 147.030 repeater starting at 1900 and it will consist of the business portion of the meeting:
Approval of minutes
Treasurer’s Report – Doug – KD4MOJ
Education – Phil – N4IPH
Testing Coordinator – Norm – K4GFD
Repeater Committee – Randy – AG4UU
Program using Zoom Teleconferencing
Theo Titus (K4MVL) will be presenting:
An overview of the critical performance parameters of your amateur transceiver. Emphasis will be on the receiver side with both FM and SSB operation covered. Topics will include receiver testing and the interpretation of the data as well as primary transmitter performance parameters. References to additional source materials and industry standards will be provided.