Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Handiham World for 30 June 2010

Welcome to Handiham World!

Raining on a parade


Now that Field Day is over, we can look forward to a relatively quiet time on the HF bands. Summer thunderstorms are making a lot of racket, and even the 6 m band may have already peaked for the summer season. June is typically a good month for 6 m, and some activity was still being heard early yesterday morning. Sometimes sporadic-E skip can help make the VHF bands exciting during the high summer months, but you have to be on the lookout. Ducting can occur and enhance long distance communications, even on 2 m repeaters. One way to check conditions is to set your radio to scan, especially in the early morning hours. You never know what you might hear!

So let's get to the topic at hand. I'm sure you have heard the expression "raining on a parade". What it means is that someone has mostly negative or uncomplimentary things to say about someone else's idea or event. After all, no one enjoys going to a parade and then having a rainstorm come up so that everyone gets soaked and the parade is ruined, right? When someone disrupts an activity for someone else, whether by simply proselytizing against it and saying negative things or by actually getting in the way of that activity, that is "raining on the parade."

I was tuning the HF bands, listening for potential contacts, as were many other people during last weekend's Field Day event. While my interest lies mainly in the social aspects of the contest rather than the point score, I do still enjoy listening around the bands to find out who is making contacts and what the HF propagation conditions are like. I ran across an unfortunate QSO -- if you can even call it that -- around 14.270 MHz. There seemed to be some kind of argument or perhaps even a monologue going on about one guy suing another guy, and then there was a CQ for a "no contest contest", during which the caller went on and on without much listening time and sparse identification. It didn't take long to figure out that he hated Field Day and was not shy about letting everyone else know his opinion.

Of course anyone is entitled to an opinion and the regulations say that you only need to identify your station at the end of the series of transmissions and once every 10 minutes. While making domestic contacts, there is actually no requirement to identify your station right away. The thing I find disturbing is that it seems so confrontational to behave in this ungentlemanly manner. Field Day is a popular operating activity, and this really amounts to "raining on the parade". Why not just let people enjoy the contest during this one weekend out of the year and let it go at that? Or, if one really wanted to operate without competition from contesters, one could just as easily get on one of the bands that is not used in the contest.

Most of the amateur radio operators one meets either in person or on the air are really friendly, but a single loudmouth can give our service a bad name.

My advice?

Ignore the loudmouths and lead by giving good example yourself. Avoid the temptation to make a contact with anyone who seems primed for a verbal confrontation. Avoid giving them the satisfaction of knowing that they got your attention. This is pretty much the same thing we have been told by seasoned operators about how to deal with people who cause interference on repeaters or during scheduled nets. While it is seemingly passive to let someone blather on and simply ignore them, it is probably the most effective course of action because it does not lead to an escalation of the situation on the air. Of course willful violations of rules and regulations should be documented and reported to the governing authority, the FCC in our case, if the situation is ongoing and serious.

Wise old Elmer says:

Always identify your transmissions.
Be polite while sharing the bands.
Welcome those who are new to operating, and be patient with them when they make mistakes.
Be thoughtful and kind to others.
Respect the fact that other operators may have different operating goals, and give them their time and space on the bands to pursue them.

For Handiham World, I'm...

Patrick Tice

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Handiham World for 23 June 2010

Welcome to Handiham World!

A Field Day from the 1970's - Pat & Newt set up a generator

Photo: Pat, WA0TDA, left, and friend Newt, a farmer who let us use his barn for a Field Day ham shack, set up a generator. This was a Field Day with a real field - the end-fed Marconi antenna was hundreds of feet long, extending from a high point on the barn out to a solitary tree in a soybean field. Look at that head of curly hair I had back then, which I think was sometime in the early 1970's! The old gas generator made considerable racket, so it was located as far as we could manage from the operating position. This rustic setting for the generator was in the farmyard next to Newt's machine shed. Field Day has changed quite a bit for some of us...

Field Day is this coming weekend, June 26 and 27, 2010. We are looking forward to joining the SARA group, a Handiham-affiliate as well as an ARRL Special Service Club, for this annual operating event. Look for W0JH, our club callsign, and give us a shout. We will be operating on the HF bands as well as on 2 m, and you may even find us on Echolink.

Yes, I know that Echolink contacts do not count for Field Day points, but we will be in this contest for fun, fellowship, the promotion of amateur radio to the general public, and to use and have fun with new technologies. Earning Field Day points is far down on our list of priorities, and that brings me to what I have mentioned before in my columns and podcasts: Different clubs and individual amateur radio operators have different priorities for operation on ARRL Field Day. Some will be in aggressive contesting mode and will work hard to earn as many points as possible, often with multiple CW stations earning double points for Morse code contacts. Considerable effort will be put into impressive antenna systems and station staffing will include the best and most experienced operators. The logging system will be state-of-the-art and the entire operation will be carried off with military precision. Other clubs, like ours, will not consider high point scores as our first goal. The success of our operation will be whether or not we had fun getting on the air. I've had decades of ham radio experience, and that has given me a chance to approach Field Day from different angles. This leads to the observation that Field Day rules, while designed to be broad enough to include a variety of interests and goals, also set up a certain tension between contesting and the other goals, such as showcasing amateur radio to the general public, training new operators by getting them on the air, exposing seasoned operators to new technology, preparing for and operating in a simulated emergency situation, and drawing in family members to observe and participate.

Tension? What do you mean by that?

Well, here's the deal. If a club is really in it for the points, the top priority will be finding a location for the event that enhances operating, setting up stations with elaborate antenna systems, spending a significant amount of time operating CW for the double point score, designing and deploying bulletproof supporting systems that include multiple power sources independent of the grid and a shared logging system. Serious clubs will prepare all year long for this event and operator training will be a significant part of the preparation. All of this is well and good, and all of it is rewarded handsomely in the point scoring system. And who can argue with extensive preparation and training? Both are important aspects of emergency preparedness.

The problem is that the very nature of this kind of operation is that it can suffer enormously if it is compromised by allowing inexperienced operators to run the stations. True, those inexperienced operators may hold General or Extra licenses, but they may have little or no Morse code experience. If they do operate CW, they may do so at a much slower speed than the experienced operators in the club. Relegated to the phone stations, these relative newcomers to HF operation may still work stations at a far slower rate than experienced phone operators. The best Field Day location for antenna systems that are really competitive may not be the easiest site to get to. Club members who have family, work, or school obligations will find it difficult to participate in multiple planning and training sessions in the months prior to the contest. Do you see what I'm getting at? It might be said that "winning" in contest mode requires quite a different mindset and singular dedication toward scoring points than the other goals typically associated with a more inclusive Field Day experience. Let's take a look at the object of Field Day, as stated in the official rules: 

"To work as many stations as possible on any and all amateur bands (excluding the 60, 30, 17, and 12-meter bands) and in doing so to learn to operate in abnormal situations in less than optimal conditions. A premium is placed on developing skills to meet the challenges of emergency preparedness as well as to acquaint the general public with the capabilities of Amateur Radio."

Okay, working as many stations as possible probably means a no holds barred contest station. However, developing skills to meet the challenges of emergency preparedness is quite a different matter unless you are willing to compromise your point score to spend a significant amount of time during the event training relative newcomers to HF. Furthermore, if your site is optimally placed for contesting but inaccessible to people who can't hike up a rocky slope, I would have to argue that you would not only be shutting out club members with disabilities but also discouraging observation by the general public.

Some considerable effort over the years has been made to meld these otherwise incompatible goals. The "GOTA", or "Get on the Air" station concept was designed to fulfill the goal of getting newbies on the air while still allowing the more experienced operators to run up the point score on the other stations. The GOTA station could then also served as a point of demonstration to members of the press or general public who happened to show up. Still, there remains a sort of stigma about the GOTA operation in some clubs, where it is looked upon as a necessary but inconvenient compromise to the primary goal, which is to earn lots of points. Still, the rules do allow bonus points for locating in a publicly accessible place and having an information table. The question for any serious contest group will be how to compromise between optimal contest operation and putting on a show for the general public and training new operators. Some points are awarded for copying or passing messages. Again, this remains somewhat of a sideline activity to simply working as many stations as possible, preferably in a mode that allows for a higher point score.

Can you imagine a real-life emergency situation in which amateur radio repeaters, if they were available, would not be used? When the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed here in the Twin Cities several years ago, you can bet that the repeaters were buzzing with activity. Nonetheless, making Field Day contacts on repeater systems for points is prohibited by the rules. Some clubs will use their repeater systems for so-called "talk-in" information to guide participants to the Field Day site or to give out information of interest to the greater amateur radio community. Of course Echolink and IRLP contacts are not valid for points, either. If your club wishes to use these new technologies, you may not list the contacts for point scoring purposes, though they may be of great interest to the general public.

Extra consideration is given for CW operation, which earns two points for every contact as opposed to a phone contact, which earns only one point. Similarly, digital mode operation counts for two points per contact. From what I have observed over the years, CW is a highly efficient mode of operation that lends itself to really racking up the points, at least at the hands of experienced operators. I'm not sure exactly why it needs the extra boost of a point subsidy, but I suppose this could encourage the old timers to let a couple of newer, less experienced CW operators take over for a shift or two. The two point subsidy for digital contacts might be somewhat more justified as a means to promote more digital operation. Still, if special point considerations are given for digital operation and satellite contacts (bonus points), I do have to confess that I am somewhat at a loss as to why Echolink, IRLP, or WIRES capability isn't at least recognized in some kind of bonus point scheme if not outright point scores per contact. After all, these technologies will define amateur radio operation for a significant part of the ham radio population in the years to come -- as they do right now in this rather disappointing lingering sunspot minimum when HF operation has been lackluster at best.

Yes, I have heard all the arguments before about how repeaters cannot be tied up with any sort of contesting activity and how Echolink isn't real ham radio. I understand the reluctance of clubs to step too far outside the bounds of tradition. There are good and compelling reasons why unleashing contest activity onto repeater systems might be a really bad idea. Visions of repeaters tied up for hours on end come to mind. A repeater tied up with contest activity would be unavailable in an emergency. Contacts through an Echolink repeater would be said to make use of non-ham radio technology, doing an end run around the purpose and scope of amateur radio. These are all valid concerns, but I would counter that one can drive across the country these days scanning for repeater activity and finding city after city where the repeaters sit virtually dormant if not outright comatose. What would be wrong with actually using these resources? I'm going to stick my neck out and say that the horror stories of repeaters being tied up and in constant use will not come to pass. If using a repeater as a talk-in station or just to make random contacts to demonstrate the repeater and ham radio to the general public suits you, go for it. Believe me, with most repeaters going hours and sometimes days on end with no activity, you probably won't stand much chance of causing a problem.

And what if you make an Echolink contact or two? Don't count it in the Field Day log, but at least use the opportunity to enjoy the latest communications technology.

For Handiham World, I'm...

Patrick Tice

Oh, and if you want to join the Field Day fun with us, check out the Oakdale Discovery Center, starting at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 26, when we will be starting the station setup. The SARA Field Day will include a cooperative project with University of Minnesota students to launch a helium balloon, which will be tethered to fly above the Field Day site and transmit ATV - Amateur Television - pictures to the ground from aloft. Points? No. Fun? Yes.

Oakdale Discovery Center
4444 Hadley Ave N
St Paul, MN 55128-2651

W0JH Repeater Talk-In

The SARA 2m repeater is on 147.060 MHz, with a positive offset (transmit on 147.660 MHz). It is an open repeater. You need a tone of 114.8 Hz on your transmit signal.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Handiham World for 16 June 2010

Welcome to Handiham World!

What coax should I use?

Feedline loss calculator screenshot from website


The repeaters I want to use are all just a bit too far away for me to work with an indoor antenna or a handheld radio. I want to install an outdoor antenna so that I can use several different VHF and UHF repeaters. I already have a dual-band 2m/70cm vertical antenna, but what kind of coax should I use? I am thinking about RG-58 or RG-8X, because they are cheaper and easy to work with than the thicker RG-8 or RG-213. My cable run will be about 100 feet.


Since the repeaters you plan to work are probably located in different compass directions, your choice of a vertical antenna is a good one, as long as the repeaters are not so far away that you would need a directional antenna with more gain. The directional antenna usually means an extra investment in a rotator system, a considerable expense and an additional accessory to maintain over the ensuing years.

One thing you will not want to skimp on is your feedline, especially if it is to be used for VHF and UHF work, and when the feedline is going to be run for a considerable distance. A short run of RG-8X, under 25 feet, is probably acceptable for VHF work. The problem with these thin, cheaper feedlines is that they lose quite a significant amount of signal - both on receive and on transmit - and the savings in initial cost for the coax are quickly offset by the poor performance they introduce to your otherwise well-designed system. RG-58 is such thin, fragile coax that it is a poor choice for anything but temporary use or short connecting cables used in test situations. It is very lossy and should not be used over long runs, even for HF operation. Its fragility means that it can easily break.

Let's take a look at the loss for a typical VHF frequency, 146.52 MHz for three common types of coax, all assuming a 100 foot run.

RG-58: Power in = 100 Watts. Power out = 34 Watts. Total loss is 4.7 dB. Ouch!
RG-8X: Power in = 100 Watts. Power out = 39 Watts. Total loss is 4.1 dB. Ouch!
RG-213: Power in = 100 Watts. Power out = 55 Watts. Total loss is 2.6 dB.

As you can see, the unfortunate truth is that all of these cables have significant loss, but the cheaper cables will end up turning most of your signal into heat. Only the RG-213 comes close to being acceptable for VHF use with a 100 foot run.

Now for something really scary, let's try a 70cm frequency, 446.0 MHz, with the same cable run.

RG-58: Power in = 100 Watts. Power out = 13 Watts. Total loss is 8.9 dB. Double Ouch!
RG-8X: Power in = 100 Watts. Power out = 15 Watts. Total loss is 8.2 dB. Double Ouch!
RG-213: Power in = 100 Watts. Power out = 32 Watts. Total loss is 5 dB. Ouch!


Even with the best of these three coax types, you are still getting less than one third of your signal to the antenna. Remember that it works the same way on receive. And why would you even bother with RG-58 or RG-8X for UHF work, when 100 Watts turns into only 15 Watts or less? Long runs of cheap, lossy cable might as well just be dummy loads!

As you can see from the results we have listed, the loss per distance unit of feedline goes up when the frequency goes up. Therefore, a cheaper grade of feedline might be acceptable for use on 3.9 MHz, but far too lossy for use at VHF or UHF. Another consideration is that if one intends to use even higher transmit power levels, cheaper coax must not be used because it may arc over and fail. It is generally acceptable only for lower power levels.

The results we listed are for SWR readings that are virtually perfect, 1:1. Since no antenna installation is perfect and minor mismatches occur in even a carefully-designed system, the actual loss will be even higher than what we listed. This makes using good feedline even more important.

To summarize, you will have several important choices to make when you plan your VHF/UHF antenna system. You will want to decide which repeaters you want to work, their compass directions from your station, and whether you will need to choose a directional antenna or a vertical antenna. The supporting structure will add height, which is generally a good thing for effective VHF/UHF work, but also add to the length of a feedline, and longer feedline runs mean more loss. If you want to try weak-signal work on VHF and UHF, you will need a rotator and a horizontally-polarized directional antenna. Unlike repeater operation, weak signal work on SSB and CW absolutely demands good quality feedline for the lowest loss possible. FM repeater operation is less demanding, and will require vertical polarization. You may be able make your horizontally-polarized system work for repeaters, but your vertically-polarized antenna will not be effective for weak signal work on SSB and CW.

Our recommendation is to use good quality feedline for every installation, avoiding higher loss coax except for short connectors and temporary use in sort runs.


Are you wondering how we calculated the loss for examples we used in this article? It was easy with the online calculator we found at the KC7HXC website!

For Handiham World, I'm...

Patrick Tice

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Handiham World for 9 June 2010

Welcome to Handiham World!

Beam antenna rises above flowering crabapple trees

We are definitely in the summer ham radio doldrums. I can tell that we have reached this time of year by some of the comments I hear, usually by word of mouth or by e-mail:

"What is wrong with the bands?"
"When will the bands get better? I don't hear anything on HF."
"I never hear anything on the repeater."
"My radio club doesn't meet during the summer."
"No one is around to help me with my station/antenna projects."
"When I went to check into the net, there was no net control station and no one ran the net."

Does any of this sound familiar? I hear most of this same kind of discussion every year about this time. As summer arrives here in Minnesota, people start thinking seriously about outdoor activities and taking vacation. Of course we have ARRL Field Day in June each year, but the overall disconnect from many ham radio activities really begins in mid-Spring, generally following Dayton HAMVENTION.

Mother Nature contributes to the problem of HF operation by throwing thunderstorms at us all summer long. The resulting radio interference pretty much makes operation on the lower HF frequencies something that would try any operator's patience. Then there is the onset of spring and summer jobs waiting for everyone when the snow finally melts here in central North America. I have noticed that radio club attendance usually starts to decline in March. Many radio clubs don't even meet during the summer because everyone has so much going on that it is difficult to find a quorum for a meeting.

When I hear questions about the HF bands, I know that they are usually coming from newbies who don't have too much experience and have never learned about the seasonal fluctuations in HF and VHF propagation. Old timers know that the 6 m band comes alive in the late spring and early summer, just as the lower HF bands start to get plagued by thunderstorm static. If these newbies haven't learned about seasonal fluctuations, they certainly don't know about or understand solar weather or the sunspot cycle either. Oh, well... I look upon it as a teaching opportunity.

Last week we reminded you to get ready for Field Day. As long as band conditions aren't too good, now is the time to head out to the backyard for an antenna inspection. Those of you listening to the podcast can hear me as I go through my usual checklist to make sure that my antennas are going to keep working all right. An antenna inspection should be done several times each year, or even more often if you have experienced severe weather in your area.

What to look for:

Are the antennas still up in the air?

Don't laugh -- I have heard from people who didn't even know half of their antenna was lying on the ground someplace after one of the supports broke. A visual inspection will include making sure that any wire antennas are still in position and that tree branches are not impinging on the radiating element or feedline. Other types of antennas, like vertical or beam antennas, should be visually inspected just to see that all of the elements are in place. If an antenna is designed to rotate, you should look to see that trees have not grown so close to the antenna that they enter the turning radius. So far, all of this can be done by simply walking outside and looking around. If you are blind or have low vision, you will want to get a helper to do this part of the job with your direction.

What about the feedline?

Next, you are going to pay particular attention to the feedline or feedlines, and if the antenna is really high in the air, a pair of binoculars can bring the feed point (center insulator) into focus so that you can see if everything is connected properly. This antenna inspection is a pretty simple one and it does not include any tower climbing. You can follow the feedline down to the point where you can do a close inspection, being sure to include where the feedline enters the building. Since you can actually feel and manipulate the feedline at that point, you can check for any deterioration that might indicate a need for replacement. You will also want to check to make sure that where the line enters through the wall that water or insects cannot get into the building. If coax connectors are covered with a sealant, check to make sure that they are still being protected from the elements. I hope you have some kind of lightning arrestor and grounding system where the feedline enters the house. Check to make sure the connections are solid. If you do any actual work on the antenna or feedline, all of the radios inside should be disconnected from the AC mains to avoid any possibility of electric shock. Remember, at this point we are just doing a visual inspection.

Have animals damaged the coax?

Since one of my antennas is a ground mounted Butternut vertical, I will need to do a close up inspection of the feed point to make sure that the coaxial cable is connected at the base, both the center conductor to the vertical radiating element and the coax braid to the grounding system and radial field. Since this particular antenna model has several capacitors that I can reach from the ground, I can also check to make sure that they have not come loose or broken over the winter. My antenna has a small fence around it to protect the base, and even the fence deserves a quick look over to make sure that it is still structurally sound. The vertical is fed underground, so I will need to inspect the parts that are visible in the feedline system, looking for signs of deterioration or damage caused by rodents or rabbits. (I once looked out the back window and saw a squirrel happily eating away at a plastic lawn chair. Animals can cause similar damage to coaxial cable.)

Towers need special attention.

If you are lucky enough to have a tower, you should also include it in your periodic inspection to make sure that it is structurally sound, and that includes a close-up inspection of at least some of the hardware that holds the tower together and the tower base to make sure that corrosion has not compromised its integrity. Naturally you want to inspect as much of the feedline as you can easily reach around the base of the tower and take a look at the grounding system as well.

A checklist can help. Pilots use them before takeoff - you can use checklists, too.

Every antenna installation is different, so I can't get overly specific about a check list. However, I can say that it is my responsibility to know and understand the design and layout of my own antenna system so that I can make sure that it remains safe and effective. You have that same responsibility for your station, whether you have a disability or not. Perhaps you cannot easily get outside or see the antenna system yourself, but you should still have a complete understanding of where things are and how they work and how they should be inspected so that you can direct your helper or helpers during a routine inspection. Of course it helps to have amateur radio operators -- hopefully friends from your local radio club -- to help you with your antenna inspections. But if you don't, you may have to call on friends who know very little if anything about amateur radio and antennas. In that case, you really have to be able to take charge of the inspection and give good directions so that the inspection can be done properly and your helpers can be safe as they are following your directions. You may want to make a checklist of basic items so that you don't forget anything.

Yes, summer may be the ham radio doldrums, but it is a lot easier to do an antenna inspection on a nice summer day than it is in the middle of winter. So if you can't hear anything on the bands it might be time to think about an antenna inspection followed by iced tea on the veranda.

For Handiham World, I'm...

Patrick Tice

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Handiham World for 2 June 2010

Welcome to Handiham World!

June is here, and that means Field Day planning

ARRL 2010 round Field Day logo says: 2010 ARRL Field Day - Explore the world. Globe of the world with ARRL diamod logo.

As you know, we have been at Handiham radio camp last week, and because the camp session ended just as the long Memorial Day holiday weekend began, today is our first day back for routine office duties. We hope you had a pleasant and thoughtful Memorial Day weekend and were able to set some time aside to remember those who have gone before us, serving to protect our freedom.

Memorial Day seems to be the unofficial start to the summer season here in North America. Yes, I know that the official beginning of the season begins later this month at the summer solstice on June 21. In fact, in the Northern Hemisphere, summer solstice begins on Jun 21 2010 at 7:28 AM EDT. Nonetheless, nothing flips the switch to summer quite as well as a long holiday weekend, and once people get into the mood of summer, they tend to forget about spending time with indoor activities and look to the great outdoors for fun in the sun.

That doesn't mean that ham radio will not be an important part of the summer. To the contrary, June is an excellent month for ham radio. Amateur Radio Field Day is coming up on the first full weekend in June, as it always does. ARRL Field Day is June 26-27, 2010. If you have never operated during a Field Day, you are in for a pleasant surprise: Field Day is the largest on-the-air operating event in Amateur Radio. Combining elements of a contest with setting up portable stations is a brilliant strategy. Field Day provides an opportunity to practice setting up for emergency situations, learning new and better operating skills, participating in a competitive event as a group or as an individual operator, really learning how your equipment works, and -- in the case of a radio club Field Day event -- being able to socialize with your friends and just have a lot of fun sharing this operating event. Some radio clubs have a family picnic to make sure that spouses and children can share in the fun. Others are in it for the contest and run stations day and night, focusing on that all-important point count.

If you are a person with a disability, you can participate in Field Day, but you may have to do just a little advance planning to make sure that you are able to operate effectively and safely, either as an individual or in a group. Here are some things to consider:

Field Day has many different options. You can operate from your home station without setting up any portable antennas and portable radios. You do not need to operate using power from a generator or batteries. In fact, you can operate your existing station just as you always do and still participate and have a great deal of fun on Field Day. The object of the exercise is to work as many stations as possible on any amateur radio band except 60, 30, 17, and 12 m. If your disability requires that you stick close to home, you may want to simply participate using your own station.

You don't have to operate during the entire Field Day exercise. Even if you participate for a couple of hours, you can have fun and gain experience. So, even if your disability makes it inconvenient to be away from home for long periods of time, you will be welcome at most radio club Field Day sites during the time it is practical for you to be part of the group effort.

Check out the Field Day site in advance for accessibility, especially if you are using a wheelchair or electric scooter to get around. Some sites are truly rugged and not accessible. Others may be the ultimate in accessibility, with wheelchair ramps and accessible restrooms. Since several radio clubs in your area may be participating in Field Day, now is the time to start shopping around for an accessible site. Don't be afraid to call the contact person listed on the club website and discuss accessibility. It is better to find out in advance what is and what is not available.

Sometimes special needs can be accommodated at the operating positions of a club Field Day site. For example, if it is known in advance that a blind operator will be participating, a radio or radios equipped with voice frequency output might be made available. Again, this is something that needs to be planned in advance, so now is the time to speak up.

If you are a ham radio operator with a disability, I certainly hope that you are part of a local radio club already. But if you aren't, a club Field Day is sometimes the perfect opportunity to meet club members and find out if a particular club will meet your needs. Don't forget that as a club member you will be expected to participate and take on some club duties as well.

Sometimes we concentrate on accessible radios and wheelchair ramps when we think about Field Day, forgetting that it will be necessary to take care of life's normal requirements. Since the contest goes on for at least 24 hours, if you expect to stay at the Field Day site for long periods of time or even for the entire length of the contest, you will have to consider whether the restrooms are accessible, if the food and beverages meet your dietary needs, whether it will be possible for you to stay on your medication schedule if you must take medicine on a daily basis, and what kind of shelter is available on site in the event of inclement weather.

If you stay overnight, you will need to determine where you will sleep and how you will stay warm since it can get quite cool in the night and early morning. Generally speaking, if you are comfortable with camping and already do so on a regular basis, you will have no problem managing a Field Day where the crew is "roughing it". On the other hand, if you would rather fill out 100 tax forms than go camping, you should look for a club that has its Field Day indoors with lots of amenities. Either one will be a great experience, but you have to be sure you pick the right one for you!

Field Day rules change a bit from year to year as new ideas take shape and technology changes. If you have never been to a Field Day or if you have been away from Field Day for a number of years, take some time to check out the ARRL website and find out more about this excellent operating event.

My radio club, the Handiham-affiliated Stillwater Amateur Radio Association, is holding its Field Day indoors in a completely accessible modern city park building. SARA goes the extra mile to serve Handiham members and is an ARRL Special Service Club.

I hope to hear you on the air during Field Day 2010.

Patrick Tice, Handiham Manager