Back in a Flash

The low-power community, whose minimalist tendencies are often perfectly suited for trail-friendly radio, has its own subculture when it comes to lots of things — but especially contesting. You’ll find QRP events riddling contest calendars through the year, from CW Foxhunts held monthly and annual QRP QSO Parties, to Homebrew and Hoot Owl sprints. One of the most popular on-air competitions for trail-friendly operators is the Adventure Radio Society annual Flight of the Bumblebees. Its a four-hour event on the last Sunday in July during which ”—people who have committed to operate from an outdoor location —fan across the countryside to work as many fellow ”and at-home stations as they can. The ”are scattered across North America —literally. In addition, homebound operators work as many ”and other home stations as they can. There is a multiplier applied to an operator raw score based on how many ”he or she has worked. Each field operator is assigned a ”number to distinguish the ” from the home operators. For the 2012 FOBB, held July 29, there were 150 ”field operators in a mind-boggling smorgasbord of locations —from banks of the Cumberland River, near Clarksville, Tennessee” and between Philadelphia and Erie, Pennsylvania,” to Cove, North San Francisco Bay near the Richmond San Raefel Bridge” to in the woods in Vicksburg, Mississippi.” It a mini-Field Day and both home and field operators enthusiastically look forward to it every year. Particularly impressive this year was 24”— the operation of George Fuller, KX0R, who entered the contest from unnamed mountain 8,900 feet high east of Nederland, Colorado.” It was near old Magnolia mining area in Roosevelt National Forest.” Operating 20-meter CW, Fuller made 101 FOBB contacts during the four-hour contest. A total of 69 of those contacts were with other ,”giving him the highest score of the field operators: 20,907 points. He was the bee,” for sure. It was my most challenging Flight of the Bumblebees,” KX0R wrote. hiked up to the mountaintop site early with a big pack full of gear. I got the three-element, 20-meter reversible Bird Yagi up 45 feet high, with lines over the tops of four nice pine trees. The patterns were east and west —relay switched. I added a 20-meter folded dipole/FW loop with lobes northwest and southeast, so there were three patterns available.” KX0Rfield station equipment included: •Two window-line feed lines, each about 55 feet long •Two balanced-line antenna tuners •Two antenna switch boxes •An ATS-3B transceiver, with 5-watt output and 12-volt lithium-ion battery •Palm paddles, relay battery, and headphones first two hours were great, and the radio and antennas worked just right,” Fuller said. spite of predicted rain storms, the weather was nice and there were many BBs (”) calling. It was impossible to work them all!” 1900Z, 1 p.m., thunder started rumbling over near the Continental Divide,”KX0R said, then dark clouds rolled in overhead. Soon rain started, and I quickly put up the tarp.” As KX0Rexperience shows, it important to use extreme caution when lightning is near. No contest is worth putting a radio amateur safety at risk. Never, ever. QRN (static) from the lightning was nasty, and the thunder was growing deeper and closer. It was hard to copy the stations calling. Then the real action began, with bright flashes of lightning less than a mile away. I touched the relay battery, and it bit me like a spark plug! That meant serious voltage building on the high wires. were several bolts within 1,000 to 3,000 feet —hitting around the edges of the mountain. I went QRT (off the air), got my rain jacket, and ran about 100 yards away from the site. I kept reminding myself that most of the trees near my site showed no lightning damage, unlike most of the disfigured trees near the high points of the broad peak I was on. the lightning moved off, and I crawled back under the wet tarp and got back on the air. The rain detuned the window lines —I had to retune both antennas.” KX0R went on to make few more Qs through the incessant QRN, and then there was a loud pop as a spark jumped from the headphones to my ear, followed almost immediately by a huge explosion close by. Amazingly the radio stayed on! Again I ran away from the antennas and waited in the rain and hail. another 10 or 15 minutes I got back on the air, and was able to resume calling CQ — but I was wet and cold, and it was quite a challenge to operate. The last hour I heard fewer stations, and the rain and thunder continued, but I continued logging more stations! Many ops helped me with repeats and fills.” By 2100Z, KX0R was feeling and lucky, until I started taking down the two antennas, rolling up the wet window lines, running around in the soggy forest, trying to get the Bird Yagi wires and ropes all back on the spool untangled, rolling up over 800 feet of Dacron line, folding up the tarp, and stuffing all that gear back into the pack for the trek down the mountain to the car.” In true trail-friendly radio spirit, Fuller said it was nice to have the rain. few weeks earlier we had hot, dry winds, and fires raging only a few miles away.” He thanked all the operators helped with repeats and good listening —there were many sharp operators this year. What a wonderful FOBB it was!”

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