Winter Field Day 2019

“CQ CQ CQ Winter Field Day, Whiskey Sierra One Echo Charlie, QRZed? We are 2-Oscar Mike Echo Maine, QSL?”

If you were new to the hobby or a passing stranger, hearing these ramblings, emanations of weird radioesque noises like you’ve heard on the original Star Trek, and a blaring generator from a trailer with wires and poles hanging off it, you’d think you have walked into a science fiction movie set. This was us, all day and night for 24 hours.

Winter Field Day is a fun way to practice emergency preparedness. The Wireless Society of Southern Maine used it as an exercise to familiarize ourselves with the Cumberland County EMA’s equipment, and put it through its paces. As a new ham, it was invaluable. I learned how to operate complicated radios, with several visits to RTFM. We identified shortfalls in our plan and the limits of the equipment, and are both updating our plans and identifying resolutions for the equipment problems we had experienced.

160m End-fed antenna strung out over 240 feet

We met Saturday morning at 0800, unloaded our vehicles of sleeping bags, food, and cold weather clothes. Some brought tools and spare parts. At about 9, we started setting up. We can’t use permanent installations as part of the exercise, so we pulled down our folded dipole used for the HF rig installed in the EMA Bunker to hang a temporary end-fed 160m ~240 foot wire antenna; to be draped over the fence, suspended by a makeshift pole on another nearby fence, and strung down into the field, the very end held up by one more guyed pole. From the antenna, a 200 foot coax cable was strung down back of the Bunker, over the hill to the trailer.

Peter Donovan KC1XT, takes down the folded dipole to hang our temporary 160m end-fed

We learned a few things from the antenna deployments:

  • Don’t leave the original antenna on the mast when hanging the new one, even if they’re running in different directions. It means that you’ll be taking it back down again to remove the installed antenna, and re-raising the temporary one to correct the 17:1 SWR.
  • Purchase a cord reel for long cables, especially 240+ feet of wire. It can become a horrible tangled up mess.
  • Learn to tie knots. Thankfully, Rory and CJ are veteran knot artists. My old mantra of “if you can’t tie a knot, tie a lot” is messy and slowww.
  • Raising a temporary large assembled mast and rigid dipole to the trailer in an emergency is not feasible. In our post-op, we’ll be reviewing alternative options that can be deployed by 1 to 2 people of any ability quickly, effectively and safely.
Break time

After setting up the trailer and antennas, it was time for food and warm-up. EMA donated some funds for food and refreshments, in exchange for our testing of their equipment. A few of us brought in some pot luck, as well. Rory on the left brought in meatballs and sauce for meatball subs, and sausage, peppers and onions for sausage subs. Pete W brought in baked beans. I skipped out to the store for chicken and veggies and made a chicken stew. There were also some excellent Hannaford sandwich trays, bagels, english muffins and snacks for later that Pete Hatem KC1HBM and I picked up Friday afternoon with the County’s donation. We were well fueled for our operation.

Eric Emery KC1HJK is one of the operators on 40m in the larger compartment.

Promptly at 1400 hours, 000Z, we get on the air. Several people take turns in the rotation throughout the evening and into the next day. A few people stopped by that we don’t get to see too often due to busy lives, and a few that were new to the hobby. At least one young man will be going home and studying for his license.

We encounter and overcome a handful of challenges, and learn how the equipment operates. It was mostly small stuff. We had to retrieve radio manuals from the Bunker or Google them, found an outlet that needs repair, the hotspot’s charger cord disappeared as all USB cords seem to, we needed to print off the band plan, and only one of us knew that the outlets wouldn’t operate without a flip of a lightswitch. Nothing some time with a label maker couldn’t fix.

The big notable issue of the night was that propane doesn’t seem to work well under the heavy draw of a generator in 9°F temperatures. The gas flow kept dropping down, choking the generator to its death, leaving us in the dark and cold. I thankfully wore thermals and brought a flashlight, not knowing what to expect, but after several bottle swaps and clearing of the connectors, we all took a long break just before daybreak to rest and let the bottles warm up in the sun. During which, we brainstormed some options to keep the bottles warm.

Pete Donovan KC1XT operates CW to try and rack up some bonus multipliers

At breakfast, a fellow named Chris stopped by and made us bacon and eggs. I’ve never seen such perfect eggs over easy. While he cooked, we tried to assimilate him into the hobby. We had him ready to operate after breakfast, but by then the trailer and the bands were alive. Stefania K1GJY stopped in with Tim KB1HNZ and their baby Elliot, and she was pulling in contacts at a steady pace. Pete was in the back trying to rack up bonus multipliers on CW with morse code. While this was an Emcomm exercise, it was also an opportunity to contest and try to bring in a high score for contacts on multiple bands, using different operating modes: voice, digital and CW. I learned a lot about CW, and setting it up on a radio from Pete that morning.

Our WFD Coordinator and Club Vice President, CJ W1CJC. Behind him is Pete Donovan KC1XT, Secretary Pete Warren KC1DFO and Waylon McDonald KC1HJN

Overall, we all learned a lot about our equipment, each other, and what to plan for in the case of an actual emergency.

I must share much praise and respect for CJ Carlsson, who headed up the coordination of WFD or Winter Field Day, this year. He did an admirable job herding the cats and documenting everything that we needed, did and must do in the future. He’ll be providing the club and the County with our After Action Report (AAR) shortly.

73, KC1JMH
-Brad Brown


2018 SKYWARN Recognition Day


Wireless Society of Southern Maine and Androscoggin ARES members ventured to the National Weather Service Forecast Office, in Gray, Maine, to participate in SKYWARN™ Recognition Day.

On-air activities began Friday evening (0000 UTC on December 1st), with Tom N1KTA working Echolink, and Eric KC1HJK operating DMR and VHF, and later EchoLink as well, while Brad KC1JMH operated HF. They operated throughout the night into the next day.

Everyone took a break from the operating at 11am Saturday for the annual SKYWARN™ Strategy Meeting, which featured a presentation by Tim KB1HNZ, followed by a period of discussion, and lunch courtesy of the NWS. After the break, it was back to the radios for a few more hours, until activities ended at around 3pm Saturday.

SKYWARN™ Recognition Day is an annual on-air event, that was developed in 1999 by the National Weather Service and the American Radio Relay League. It celebrates the contributions that volunteer SKYWARN™ radio operators make to the National Weather Service. During the day SKYWARN™ operators visit NWS offices and contact other radio operators across the world.

Antenna-Tower-at NWS-Gray_600.jpg

The radio tower at the National Weather Service, in Gray, ME




WSSM Meeting on the Air – September 20, 2018


Net Report for 09/20/2018

WSSM Meeting on the Air
Net commenced at 7:11PM (2311 UTC)

Moderator: Brad Brown, KC1JMH, (mobile in Limerick, ME)

10 Check-ins, including:

W1CJC, CJ, Portland, ME (Vice President)
KC1RHM, Rich, Poland, ME
KC1HJN, Waylon, Windham, ME
KC1HJK, Eric, New Gloucester, ME
KR1ZAN, Frank, Gorham, ME (Wassamki Springs “Ham Shack”)
KC1AOT, Ron, Denmark, ME
W4FWW, Fred, Gorham, ME (Wassamki Springs “Ham Shack”)
KC1XT, Pete, Scarborough, ME
W1MSA, Sean, Naples, ME (Listening Only)
KB1TPH, Jim, Auburn, ME (Listening Only)

Participant Comments:

W1CJC – Recovering from neck surgery, just listening
KC1RHM – Props from Rich for taking on net control. He is enjoying the temperature change and the colored leaves starting to present themselves.
KC1HJN – Pushing through a cold, operating with his 3-element homemade fishing pole yagi to reach the repeater. He later provided the search terms to find the plans “KD5VIP Backpacker’s Yagi.”
KC1HJK – Advised he’s helping log the check-ins
KR1ZAN – Advised that he’s at the “Ham Shack” at Wassamki Springs Campground, and its 56 degrees. He announced that this is his last full season at the campground; they will be selling their spot and staying in Texas. He hopes to hear folks on 20 meters, and will try to visit us.
KC1AOT – Net control thanked Ron for his donation of books, and the car his son loves. Ron stated that he was having trouble hearing some people on the repeater.
W4FWW – Fred was also at the “Ham Shack” with Frank. He’s heading back to Florida in a few weeks.
KC1XT – Well wishes for CJ, and Pete thanked CJ for heading up the Winter Field Day Committee. Enjoying the Fall weather.

Net Announcements:

Net control provided a brief review of last week’s business meeting notes and upcoming club events, then took further check-ins before closing the net.

Additional Notes:

People are happy at the arrival of Fall, and the break of our run of heat and humidity. Many expressed their happiness of the return of our meeting nets. A few lamented their trouble reaching the repeater. W1DXX from Old Orchard was unable to stay in the repeater for the start of the net. A few others attempted to check-in, but were too far in the static to be copied.

Net closed at 7:42PM (2342 UTC)

The After Net (28.455 USB)
Net commenced at 7:44PM (0023 UTC)

Moderator: Tim KB1HNZ, Saco, ME

4 Check-ins, including:

KR1ZAN, Frank, Gorham, ME (Wassamki Springs “Ham Shack”)
W4FWW, Fred, Gorham, ME (Wassamki Springs “Ham Shack”)
KC1XT, Pete, Scarborough, ME
N5QYQ, Mike, Westbrook, ME

Net closed at 8:00PM (0000 UTC)

Net Announcements:

Net control mentioned that the Maine QSO Party will take place this weekend, and thanked Frank KR1ZAN and Fred W4FWW for assisting net control by making call-ups for additional check-ins.

The Radiogram – Summer / Fall 2018


Click here to view the latest issue of the Radiogram – the official eNews of the Wireless Society of Southern Maine.

In this issue we review the WSSM Field Day at Wassamki Springs, ILLW 2018 from Spring Point Ledge Light, 2018 Maine 2 Meter FM Simplex Challenge Winners, DX News, and more!

6th Annual Maine QSO Party is September 22-23!


Mark your calendars!

The 6th Annual Maine QSO Party takes place between 1200 UTC Saturday September 22, 2018 to 1200 UTC Sunday September 23, 2018.

The contest is designed to encourage Maine stations to expand their knowledge of DX propagation on the HF and MF bands, improve their operating skills, and improve station capability by creating a competition in which W/VE, and DX stations have the incentive to work Maine.

Click here for more information and complete rules.