Amateur radio is a hobby that often has to defer to other priorities. You do what you can, when you can. The radio amateur’s code, the ARRL’s famous manifesto of principles of American amateur radio happiness, says as much… the radio amateur is, the manifesto declares:
BALANCED…Radio is a hobby, never interfering with duties owed to family, job, school or community.
So it was for me on Saturday 19th March, the first half of the John Moyle Field Day, I was on Taxi duty for First Harmonic who had a party to attend in Heidelberg. Then there was a dinner with friends to follow. The best I would be able to manage on this day would be an hour and a half while the Prince of Portal 2 (said harmonic’s current favourite computer game) was partying. I packed the activation bag in the back of the car. With PP2 dropped, I had 90 minutes to find a nearby park, set up the squid pole and make some JMFD contacts.
The nearest was Shelley Park, Heidelberg West. In about 5 minutes I was walking toward an innocuous public bench in this utilitarian suburban park. A local Australian Rules football game was being played on the oval. Distant sounds of young men calling to each other and the slap of leather on boot. The small crowd of family and WAGS (Australian for wives and girlfriends) assembled on the far side, far enough away for them to not notice a strange looking man with stranger equipment.
The setup of the 40m center loaded squid pole vertical was quick. The band was not packed but there was enough activity to make hunt and pounce worthwhile. There were some noisy patches on the band that I do not normally hear on a summit. Tuning up and down over the next hour I made 12 contacts. Not exactly earth shattering but better than nothing. Meanwhile the local footballers broke for half time.
Five watts to a vertical in a suburban park in the middle of the day is not ideal. I was able to get through to most of the stations I called but came of second best and had to wait whenever there was competition. The contest practice of not varying reports from 59xxx does not allow you to form a more informed view of your portable station’s reach or propagation. Higher power really is necessary to make for a better portable contest experience and score.
I did not get a chance to re-activate on Sunday but I did listen via VK3LPs very helpful web SDR on my phone. This is a great way to keep an ear on 40 meters when you are nowhere near your station. It allows you to listen to the band almost anytime and anywhere. Several portable JMFD stations had run up impressive numbers. My short participation gave me a renewed appreciation for ‘real’ contesters who must put in significant effort in preparation, then operation over the contest period.