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 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.
After my experience in the 2020 June VHF contest, I decided to participate again this year with a better setup and more dedicated effort as a Single Operator Portable (SOP) station. After searching for good campsites around eastern Kansas, I booked a campsite at Fall River State Park (POTA K-2338) which is around 70 miles west of Wichita. This put me in a rural area with an open and secluded campsite to set up a mini Field Day operation for the contest right on the shore of Fall River Lake.
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.