FBB 2011 — tap like a CW op, flit like a bee

A pad and pen, a key and radio, and thou. My set-up for July 31's Flight of the Bumble Bees at King Street Memorial Playground in Franklin, MA.

Ah, the window has closed on Flight of the Bumble Bees 2011 — one of the most anticipated outdoor operating events for low-power enthusiasts during the year. Thanks for the contacts, folks!

For me, it was a low-intensity event. I set up at King Street Memorial Playground in Franklin, MA. It’s about two miles from home. A nice change after various excursions across the state to activate state parks for Parks on the Air.

I picked the site in large part because, aside from proximity to a shower, the park hosts trees with sufficient spacing that I could set up my Norcal doublet, instead of operating with a wire vertical antenna. Or so I thought.

I tend to seek out picnic tables to support my collapsible mast. Ordinarily, I’ll plop my gear on any table out in the open if I’m going vertical. But this time, the table had to be roughly centered between two trees I’d scoped out as end supports for the doublet.

Scanning up and down the park, I was the lone Homo sapien. Which meant t’wern’t no way I was going to single-handedly move one of the adult tables 30 or 40 feet to the spot I had chosen.

What ho! There is a child’s picnic table, which I can manhandle!

I hauled it into position and began setting up my antenna, holding it to the usual spots on a picnic table with my usual bungee cords. With the mast raised, one leg went to the northernmost tree, the other to the southern most. Leg one went up. Then I heaved  a second carabiner, which weighs down the support line, over the second tree. As the carabiner dropped toward the ground on the far side of the tree, I jogged over to finish the installation, eagerly anticipating the use of a “real” antenna for a contest/operating event.

As I approached, the carabiner — slowly at first — began to rise up the backside of the tree. I sped up to catch it, only to turn and watch the final two or three feet of the center pole’s indelicate fall to the ground. It had been felled by what I thought an inconsequential gust of wind, nay, breeze.

Question: If a ham shouts %$##@**! in the park and no one is around to hear it, did he really shout it?

In the end, this little snafu — which put me on the air about 30 minutes after the Flight of the Bumble Bees began — was a good thing. For two weeks I’d been spending hours at four state parks — typically out in the sun — operating and chatting with passers-by. The felled pole forced me to revert to Antenna Plan B, the vertical, which I could erect against a picnic table — adult this time — under a shelter. I merely had to slide part of the table out from under the shelter to give my 31-foot Jackite pole clear space to rise into.

Shade. It can be highly underrated. But not on a day with plenty of sun and temperatures in the upper 80s F.

When the contest ended three and a half hours later, I had amassed the princely sum of 22 QSOs (one a dupe), so make that 21 — 15 with other Bumble Bees (I was BB 7), and six with QRPers taking part but not sporting a number.

Collapsing antenna supports notwithstanding, a good time was had by one. Many thanks to Larry Makoski, W2LJ, for serving as event coordinator (or whatever the title is) and to the stations with which I swapped FBB info.

BB next year!

One Response to “FBB 2011 — tap like a CW op, flit like a bee”

  1. Frandy Johnson, N1FJ Says:

    29 Qs for me from Goat Peak (near Mt. Tom) and a score of 1596. I operated a leisurely 2 hours, 20 minutes or so. Man it was hot. I had to be fully dressed since I was all sunburned (very lopsidedly) from our operation on Greylock the day before!

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