St. Petersburg Amateur Radio Club

Posts filed under Operating

Field Day 2017

Join us June 23rd, 24th and 25th at the SPARC club house for this year’s ARRL FD activities.

2016 SPARC Field Day

Our goal is not a big score, but for everyone to take part and experience station setup and getting on the air.

  • Field Day setup begins on Friday at 2:00PM. We will begin station configuration. This includes tables, antennas, radios, computers, and power.
  • Saturday morning, beginning at 10:00AM, we will finish station setup and verify all systems are go. We will form Ad Hoc committees to take care of the operating schedule, food and any other necessities.
  • The event starts Saturday afternoon at 2:00PM. Let the fun begin. Operators of all experience levels are welcome to operate. CW/Digital/SSB operating positions will be available at various times of the day. If enough operators are available, we can keep the station open a full 24 hours. Remember to bring your own headphones.
  • Sunday at 2:00PM the operating event ends and station take-down begins. Many hands make light work, so chip in and don’t miss the fun.

The new SPARC FD format should be more fun and less hassle for all members. Look forward to seeing everyone there.

Enjoying the Dayton Hamvention Without Actually Going

Anyone that has been involved with amateur radio for any period of time has most likely heard tales of the Dayton Hamvention. If you have never been, it is an event unlike anything you can imagine. Rows and rows of tables in the outdoor area where you can find most anything you desire related to this wonderful hobby. Inside is crammed full of vendors with all the latest gear. Going to Dayton is something every ham should do at least once in their ham radio experience. Dayton also has extra-curricular activities such as Contest University, banquets for DX’ers, DStar, AMSAT, Contesting and on. But, what if you cannot get to Dayton? What if cramming yourself along with 25,000 others into the inside buildings to hide from the frequent Spring rains in Dayton is not your cup of tea? Whatever the reason you cannot get to Dayton, that does not mean you cannot experience some part of it.

Through the wonders of technology, there are several ways to experience Dayton from afar. While it is certainly NOT the same as being there, you can experience some of the wonder that is the Dayton Hamvention from the comforts of your own home. Read on to see how to see some of these online opportunities.

First up is Contest University. Contest University brings together some of the World’s best contesters to conduct training for everyone interested in radiosport. Thanks to Icom, you can watch most of Contest University online. Click here for a full schedule of events starting Thursday at 8:00 AM. You can use the same link for the DStar events on Friday.

As far as the actual hamfest itself, you can watch live streaming of the hamfest via W5KUB.COM. Tom W5KUB has been streaming the hamfest live for several years. He has a table inside the commercial area and does interviews and walk-a-rounds to allow folks watching at home to get a feel for the happenings in Dayton. A nice benefit is the chat room where folks can share the experience with others and win nice door prizes all donated by vendors. There is absolutely no charge for this service but you are certainly encouraged to make a donation (especially if you win a prize). You can find all the information about the live streaming event at

There you have it. While it is not the same as being there, you can still experience some of what the Dayton Hamvention has to offer from the comforts of your own home.

FQP: A Big Struggle, A Big Success

By Bob Wanek N2ESP

This year, SPARC contest station W4TA participated in the Florida QSO Party with a special 1×1 call: W4S. 2017 marks the 20th anniversary of the FQP. In celebration, twenty Florida stations were given special 1×1 calls such that the proper suffixes, when combined together, spell out FLORIDA SUN as part of this year’s FQP spelling bee. That means that the rest of the country was looking for us.

N4RI works the CW station [N2ESPhoto]

Things started slowly for the CW station on 40M while the SSB station took off like a rocket on 20M. It’s safe to say propagation was equally poor for all event participants. Having amplifiers to drive our new antenna system enabled us to be heard around the country. We worked all 50 states and 8 of the 9 Canadian provinces, with a few DX countries thrown in for good luck. We were also fortunate to work SPARC member Lisa KC1YL who was at her northern QTH in CT. Thanks for the Q Lisa.

The FQP started Saturday at noon, and so did the food. Many thanks to Tom W4CU for the crockpot of chili and to Bob WB4MCF for the donuts. Sunday morning we were treated to fresh bagels courtesy of Tom NY4I.

KB8ESY (L) backup logging while N4GD (R) working the phone station [N2ESPhoto]

SPARC has a policy of encouraging newcomers to our hobby. We invite new hams and first timers to join us in the fun. While this can have a short term negative effect (on our score) the long term effect is very positive. In this sprit, Dave KR4U told us of his five minute QSO. We all looked at him in amazement, as Dave is a proficient CW operator. We all know that propagation was lame at best with lots of QSB. But five minutes? Must have been a lot of fills…FIVE MINUTES? Dave went on to explain that he was calling CQ FQP and a station returned around 5 WPM. Dave reduced his speed and sent our exchange. What ensued was hi, my name is … my QTH is… my radio is… my WX is… the typical newbie QSO. Dave recognized the situation and kept the QSO going…for five minutes. The toughest 2 points in our log, but worth 1000 QSO quality points. Thanks Dave for acting in the true amateur tradition.

KP2N (L) backup logging while KB8ESY (R) works the phone station [N2ESPhoto]


Operators participating in this event were Bob N2ESP, Dave KR4U, Dee N4GD, Johnnie W4TSP, Paul KA4IOX, Rex, KB8ESY, Ron KP2N, Scotty N4RI, Tom NY4I and Tom W4CU.

The final score indicated 613 CW QSOs and 733 SSB QSOs. A great showing for SPARC as we represented Pinellas County to the ham radio community.

KR4U working CW [W4CU Photo]

The LP antenna headed NW. [N2ESPhoto]


Random Lessons from 30+ Years of Field Days

by: Tom Schaefer, NY4I

First, these are my own opinions, but I thought the club might enjoy some things I have picked up over the years. I have seen all of these things actually happen.

  1. Going to Field Day is the best ham radio best decision you will ever make!
  2. This one is only half-joking…The most dangerous place to be is between the Field Day site and the parking lot at 1759z on Sunday afternoon. Teardown starts at 1800z so it is the really committed (and tired) that hang around to help teardown.
  3. You should rarely get to operate your own station. This is about elmering. The best Field Days are when you have new people that you help operate your radio or an adjacent station.
  4. FD is a collective event. It is not 3 station members that bring their radios, man them around the clock and don’t let anyone else operate.
  5. If you are afraid someone might break your radio, leave it at home. Field Day is a place the new people that may not be experienced on HF get to press the buttons and twiddle the dials on different radios. Your Icom 7851 does not belong at Field Day. Your radio will get dusty, there will be BBQ sauce on the display and it may need some cleaning when you are done. This is Field Day after all and things happen. Leave your prized possessions at home and bring your backup rig—but at least the one with good filters.
  6. “Take my ball and go home” has no place at Field Day. If you lend your radio, antenna, generator, etc, it’s in it for the duration. If you get mad, go home and come back at 1830z on Sunday to get your stuff.
  7. Someone will transmit on the same band on which another radio is receiving. It will happen. There are ways to prevent this (such as assigning radios to bands) but refer back to the item that all radios are shared resources used by whomever happens to be operating 20m at the time. Your job is to train them to operate and hand them the mic. Hang around to help answer questions but let them drive.
  8. If you don’t plan out your antenna layout, the 20m CW station antenna will be too close to the 20m SSB station antenna. Interference is no fun but solving it is part of Field Day.
  9. Mosquitoes suck!
  10. Cigar smoke chases away mosquitoes. Find someone in the club that likes a good Fuente and sit by them. Just no Swisher Sweets—they stink.
  11. It will rain. Plan accordingly.
  12. If you do not reserve a year in advance, one of your kids will have the nerve to pick the fourth Saturday in June for a wedding.
  13. You will learn things about what you can do under less than ideal circumstances. FD brings out the MacGyver in every ham. Solve some issue with the coax. Make a new coax choke when the balun fails. Twist wires together when the connectors come off the power supply wire.
  14. Field Day is not a clean room. Perfect is the enemy of Field Day. Perfectionism has no place at FD. Save perfect for your shack at home. Yes, 100 feet of LMR400 technically has less loss than 100 feet of RG-8X, but at Field Day, we just don’t care. 89 watts out of 100 is better than having to drive home for the roll of LMR400 to put 93 watts to the antenna.
  15. If you have booze, someone will get drunk. You have to deal with all its requisite issues.
  16. Sitting on a run frequency calling CQ and working stations for an hour straight is just magic. You will never have an operating experience like running from a well-equipped FD station (meaning a good antenna).
  17. The newspaper or TV station reporter you invited will arrive at Sunday morning right in the middle of your aforementioned 180 QSOs/hour run.
  18. Everyone at the site should know to whom to refer the reporters when they arrive. Coherence and CW signals make good B-roll.
  19. The bonus points will only materialize if you designate someone as the Bonus Point captain. Their job is to make sure someone gets all the bonus points.
    • Did the satellite station make a contact AND give you the log?
    • Did someone copy the W1AW bulletin? Exactly who is doing it and do they know to bring you the text?
    • Does a specific person have the solar charged battery to make the alternate power contacts?
    • Is there a sign-up book?
    • Does everyone know they should direct new people to the check-in table?
  20. FM Transponders for the satellite contact are useless. You will not get into the repeater. Use FO29 or another linear satellite with SSB or CW.
  21. The more complicated the satellite antenna system, the less likely you will make a contact. The Az/El rotator with the dual beams on an H-Frame is cool, but an Arrow antenna or eggbeaters will do just fine.
  22. In Florida–and the rest of the South–it will be unbearably warm and muggy. At 8000 feet in the mountains of Utah, you will need a coat and gloves as it will be freezing at night—yes, after attending Florida Field Days for years, I laughed when they told me to bring a coat at my first Utah ARC Field Day in in the mountains above Payson, Utah.
  23. You are going to have to talk to strangers. Field Day is about emergency preparedness (and contesting) but it is mostly a very public display of amateur radio. If you see someone new, get up and talk to them. Invite them to the check-in table; ask if they are a ham; do they want to operate? If they are new, give them a brochure for the club.  If you are not all that outgoing, make sure there is always someone that can answer questions. Be inviting and open to new people. Field Day is not the time for cliques.
  24. The generator will run out of gas at the worst possible time.
  25. The camaraderie you will experience is unique to Field Day. Field Day is a way for us to work together for a common goal. We all share a love of radio. Field Day allows us to hone our own skills, help others better their skills and test our endurance under less than ideal conditions. We all love to talk about the emergency aspects of ham radio when we need it for things like the Amateur Radio Parity Act, but you cannot say you are an emergency communicator if you cannot pull off Field Day. Field Day will test you, it will make you sweat but it will give you much in return.
  26. Going to Field Day is the best ham radio best decision you will ever make!


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