Field Day ’13 at Margaritaville Int’l Airport
Wherein your humble scribe belatedly describes how he helps raise a loaded antenna tower, operates QRP off of a solar/battery combo for the first time, commiserates with fellow Field Dayers at the Bruins’ fifth-game loss to Chicago in the Stanley Cup finals, and gawks at Jimmy Buffet’s slick turboprop, parked at the airport during his gig at the Comcast Performance Center just across the interstate. Lou Harris, N1UEC, put out the final email on Friday night, June 21. Muster at the Eastern Massachusetts Amateur Radio Group’s (EMARG) work-in-progress home at Mansfield Municipal Airport at 0900 EDT sharp, more or less, the next morning. Field Day, the American Radio Relay League‘s annual take-it-to-the-streets operating event, was dawning and it was ‘tenna raisin’ time!
In the past, of course, this typically meant setting up a military-surplus portable tower with a two-element beam for 20, 15, and 10 meters at our hilltop location in Wrentham, MA — on Buck’s Hill, the tallest hill in eastern Massachusetts after Great Blue Hill.
Not this year. Antenna raising meant erecting a 40-foot tower, circa 1970 something, topped with the aforementioned beam, a three band beam for 6 meters, 2 meters, and 70 centimeters, and ultimately crowned with a VHF-UHF vertical antenna.
The tower would become a permanent installation for EMARG’s spiffy white trailer — a labor of love on the airport perimeter.
The club picked up the trailer for $1 as the Civil Air Patrol chapter that owned it beat feet for greener pastures. Ask Lou to tell you that story. He’s good in QRZ.com. It’s worth the email.
The ‘tenna raisin’ took nearly four hours, expedited by prep work Lou and others had done — installing a hinged base plate on a foundation and clamp-like supports to hold the tower up against the side of the trailer. We were glad this wasn’t a commercial attempt. OSHA would not have been pleased. All I can say is: The rope held, in short increments the tower slowly went from horizontal to vertical with an occasional excursion off center, and no hams were harmed in the raising of this tower.
During this process, we marveled at a mighty roar we heard as what sounded like a NATO fighter touched down on runway 14. After the pilot parked the craft, Lou pointed to the registration number on the tail, which ended in JB. Yes, the Parrothead in Chief had arrived in his raucous turboprop for a concert that night. And no, we couldn’t coax the pilot to join us for our Field Day BBQ dinner. Oh well…
Once the tower was up, we could focus on setting up our stations. The station inside the trailer, a 100-watter, ran off of a gas generator. My station was the munchkin of the bunch. Overall, I made about 30 contacts — this is a fairly mellow group, after all.
And for all its trappings as a contest, the true purpose of Field Day is to demonstrate the ability to operate off grid. So I count it as a success that I ran for the first time off of solar-charged batteries (more on that in another post). In the end, it was a great weekend, despite the Bruins’ loss.
The BBQ drew a good crowd, including spouses. At this point, a tip of the hat to my wife, who showed up as Lou was putting the first burgers on the grill. She came bearing homemade potato salad, pasta salad, cole slaw, and something called Seven Layer Salad, a.k.a the greens. Yes, we ate well that night!
What follows is a selection of photos from the weekend. If you want to see the whole, unedited bunch, you can view them here.
I’m really looking forward to next year!
OK, normally I don’t interrupt a slide show, but what happened next bears a bit of description, if not embellishment.
First, a bit of orientation. Directly behind the trailer and nicely aligned with the tower on its hinged base plate and the mounting hardware on the side of the trailer stood a tree whose trunk divided into a wishbone maybe 30 or 40 feet up.
That would have been the right tree to use for rigging the rope that would raise the tower. But nothing is ever that easy. The tree was on someone else’s property. So Lou and the gang rigged the rope through a tree off to one side of this otherwise harmonious alignment.
Which, of course meant that pulling on the rope would pull the tower increasingly to starboard as it rose. That, in turn meant that a handful of hardy souls would have to tug on a second rope to keep the tower lined up with the mounting hardware on the trailer.
Meanwhile, Lou traded the two volunteers for his pick-up truck, to which the main rope was firmly tied. The first motorized attempt to raise the tower wound up hauling the five guys trying to keep the tower aligned a couple of yards across the lawn in a tug of war with the tower that they were losing.
What followed, with yours truly as the out-of-practice coxwain, was a gradual approach. Lou drove a few feet forward, then stopped while the course-correction team tugged the tower back into alignment. After about four or five of these increments, the tower was up.
This entry was posted on 2013/07/07 at 08:04 and is filed under Contests, Field Day, Portable operations with tags amateur radio, ARRL Field Day, CW, Ham radio, ham radio outdoors, portable operating, QRP. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.