Well, my first September VHF Contest could simply be described as rough. Unlike my other reports, I’ll cut to the chase up front and say I only made six contacts during the weekend with a claimed scored of 42. While this probably sums up my frustration, there is a lot of backstory to how things went which I think is worth diving into.
My original plan was to spend Saturday in EN20 given its relatively needed status (at least compared to other nearby grids) for FFMA ops. I selected the Nodaway Valley Conservation Area since it was 1) fairly close to my QTH in Kansas City, 2) a public place that I believed I’d have no hassle utilizing, and 3) was not in a river basin like many of the other public parks/areas nearby. I sent out a post on the FFMA groups.io advertising this operation and got some good feedback from other hams needing the grid, so I was really excited to make this work out.
For my first CQ WW VHF contest, I decided to try my hand at some VHF roving. I set out to hit four grids around the Kansas City area using my Par Electronics 6m Moxon, Diamond 5 element 2m yagi, Max-Gain Systems mast, new Yaesu FT-991a, and new 10 Ah and 16 Ah LiFePO4 batteries.
My first stop was EM38 at the Odessa Reservoir outside of Odessa, Missouri. Despite it being a Saturday afternoon, the area was very quiet. A few fisherman left shortly after I arrived leaving me alone for a few hours out in the hot sun. My setup in the car included a backseat tray for the laptop (Amazon affiliate link) and the radio on the seat next to me. This worked fairly well (the shelf was excellent in fact), but I desired a better “shelf” of sorts of the radio so that I didn’t have to turn 90 degrees to use the radio. This was one of the key takeaways that I have since solved (see my upcoming 2022 Kansas QSO Party report for details on that). At this spot, I made a total of 21 QSOs including four on 2m (one SSB and three FT8) and 17 on 6m (three SSB and 14 FT8).
For the first time in several years, I decided to participate in a club Field Day operation. I headed to down Orlando, Florida to operate with WD4WDW, the Disney Emergency Amateur Radio Service (DEARS), of which my brother (KK4LWR) is the current club president. They had been planning to run a 2A, so I asked if they’d be interested in me running a free VHF station for 6m and 2m. Coming off June VHF, I saw this as an opportunity to get some more practice with my setup and try the antennas (6m Moxon and 5 element 2m yagi) with some more power. I checked the antennas and mast in a hard-side golf bag case on my Southwest flights to Orlando and back without any issues. Once at the site, I set up in the communal screened-in tent (many bugs in Florida) and used my brother’s Yaesu FT-857D as the radio. Although not as nice as my IC-705 in many perspectives, I appreciated the extra 10 dB this radio provided, and it certainly worked well for me.
I’ve wanted to give a VHF contest a go for awhile, it never seemed like I could have a workable station for real weak signal VHF being an apartment dweller. With all my travel plans canceled this summer due to COVID-19 and plenty of time to experiment, I figured I might as well clear a few weekends to test a portable VHF setup and then work the ARRL June VHF Contest. I decided I’d largely use equipment I already had which meant entering the contest as Single Operator Portable (SOP) with only 5w.