Monday, June 26, 2006

Field Day retrospective

Field Day is over and after some restorative sleep, I’m ready to return to life-as-usual. The change in venue from the soccer field to the new fire department meeting room that was indoor, air conditioned, nicely carpeted, with an easily accessible restroom, nicely appointed with furnature, and a TV showing the weather channel was an enormous improvement in the operating environment. I was dry and comfortable for the whole event.
Because of the last minute change of venue, though, there was no planning for how antennas would be deployed until Saturday morning. I brought all the things I had mentioned in my last post: buddipoles, military mast material, etc., but in the end I only used the Cobra UltraLite antenna for my SSB station, one run of 100-foot RG8 coax, and the contents of my 50-pound 100-watt Pelican case with its FT-897D. (I did exercise the new power supply. It performed beautifully.)
This might seem obvious but I’ll say it here: the site survey and corresponding antenna plan is key to a successful operation. Sandy and I spent a long time puzzling over what our options were in St. John before deploying the antennas used there. I had also spent time with topographical maps, Google Earth, and looked at photographs from both the villa’s web site and from shots taken by a friend (non-ham) who had been to that villa last year. I had lots of rough-cut plans even before I had stepped foot on the island--and it paid off.
I’m forced to compare that to last weekend’s effort. We were very short on time (the venue was changed Friday afternoon) but I can’t help but think we should have spent more time on Friday night looking over the site and considering our options.
The point of all this is simple: the next time you go on vacation, do a site survey and figure out where you would put antennas (even if you didn’t bring your radio). Measure off how much feed line you would have needed. Ask yourself how two or more transmitters could be accomodated. What would you have to do to make this site be a successful DXpeditioning site? Like any activity, the more you do it the better you’ll get. I believe I learned something even from last weekend’s exercise.
One last point, just to drive the message home, because we didn’t have a good plan for what we needed I had to fill the car with stuff that never got used (or even got a look). Hundreds of pounds of stuff got hauled out to the car, driven to the site, only to hauled back to the car, driven home, and subsequently unloaded again. What a waste! Planning more means less weight. This was an extreme case of that lesson, but it was reinforced again on me this weekend.


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