Winter Field Day

This year the West Georgia Amateur Radio Society (WGARS) decided to hold winter field day at Little Tallapoosa Park in Carroll County, GA. I would call the event semi-serious. I don’t think any of us are real hard-core contesters, but some of us watch the numbers. The majority of our members operate using SSB and I was the only one operating CW. The plan was for me to get as many bands as I could for multipliers. That meant I had to be able to swap bands fairly quickly in order to advantage of changing band conditions. We had five stations set up, 4 of which had bandpass filters. Because I didn’t have any bandpass filters I was located about 100 yards away from the main group.

Gear. I brought the FTDX10 with me to see how it would do in a semi-contest environment. It fed a Mat Tuner, Mat-30 tuner, and then to my 29-foot random wire antenna. This has become my favorite antenna. I logged with N3FJP WFD software and used a K1EL keyer. The computer and radio were powered by a Honda EU-2200 generator (we ran alternate power). This generator is very quiet and is very fuel efficient. The rest of my camper was fed with shore power at the campsite. I kept warm with a little ceramic heater.

Operation. This year I tried something new. Not only did I use the N3FJP software for logging but I also used it to send CW, in other words, I did everything from the keyboard. I was a little apprehensive, aren’t we all when it comes to something new? But I found it worked quite well. Band conditions, on the other hand, were not that good. They were up and down with a lot of fade. By being able to jump around I was able to work 100 contacts on 5 different bands. I was hoping for more, but there weren’t a whole lot of stations out there to work. I thought it might have been my station, but looking at the QSO Map, I was getting out okay.

Cold weather may have kept some CW ops at home. It gets harder to work a key or paddle when your hands are cold.

FTDX10. Part of my ongoing review of this radio. You really can’t get a feel for a radio or any piece of kit unless you use it over a period of time. My other radios are feeling the pain of neglect. How did it do? Not bad really. I made an effort to try the CW decoder. There were times were I really needed it due to QSB (fading). Sometimes the band would drop as I was getting the exchange. The decoder often picked up what I missed. It is not a replacement for your ears and mind. But it did help and made me a little more efficient. My hearing is not that good. The decoder is sensitive to CW speed. It does best when it is close to the sender’s speed. I set the outer dial (MVLP) to CW speed for this purpose. While I normally set the function knob to RF power, because band conditions were so variable, I set it to level (waterfall level) which allowed me to adjust the waterfall as needed. The radio performed well and I appreciate the roofing filters. I had one issue and that was I would tune across the band and about every 10 KC the waterfall would go dark and I would have to retune the antenna system. That became rather annoying. There is an example of what was going on in the activation video below. Very quickly, I got a response from one of my subscribers stating that it was the tuner and not the radio. This morning, I broke out the radio and tested it with the Mat-30 to make sure I still had the problem here at home (I did). I then swapped the Mat-30 for my old LDG Z-11 Pro and viola! The problem disappeared. You can see the results in the second video.

I think my club as a whole had a good time. It is fun to get and socialize, plus throw in a little operating. When testing a radio, or any piece of kit, You can’t really do it justice over a couple of days. I’ve had the radio for a couple of months, and as I work through the issues, I find that sometimes we don’t know each other that well yet. It’s still early in the dance. I will say that I am warming up to the radio more than I thought but I still say that if I had to choose between it and the 7300, the 7300 would still be my choice. However, that gap is getting narrower. If Yaesu would make a few software upgrades…