2021 ARRL Field Day from Wassamki Springs – a Huge Success!

SCARBOROUGH, ME – On the weekend of June 26-27, the WS1SM team participated in their 11th ARRL Field Day from Wassamki Springs Campground, in Scarborough.

Information table near the main entrance at Wassamki Springs Campground

Activities began Friday morning when a handful of club members helped to setup a utility trailer, tower, and antenna, that would make up the CW station. The station, which is the design of Rick Fickett K1OT, goes together smoothly, as it’s nothing short of an engineering masterpiece. After assembling the antennas which consist of a 40 meter yagi and a 10/15/20m tribander, and tower components, the tower is pulled up by a winch, so it only needs to be guided on the way up, and when the tower is almost upright, a custom made bracket which holds the yagis, allows them to move into position and lock in place. After this was complete, the guys were tightened and the area was roped off for safety. The station consisted of an Elecraft K3 that runs on a pair of deep cycle batteries. The station was operated throughout Field Day by Rick K1OT and Greg W1GF.

Overnight CW ops

Later in the afternoon, another team helped setup a tent that would make up one of the SSB stations, and more antennas, including a DX Commander vertical and a Buddipole (in an NVIS configuration). The team also setup radios in the CCEMA communications trailer, and installed a 40m rotatable dipole atop the trailer. The two SSB stations consisted of a Yaesu FT-857d (in the tent) and Icom IC-7300 (in the trailer), which would run on battery power throughout the event.

Waylon KC1HJN operating 20m SSB

With the stations already setup, all that was needed Saturday morning was to check SWR, update the logging software, and help folks who were camping overnight setup their tents. By 2:00 PM we were ready to get on the air!

The weather was pleasant for the entire Field Day, including setup and break down, although temperatures were approaching 90 by Sunday afternoon. The band conditions seemed very good as well. 40 meters was steady throughout most of the weekend, and 20m opened up nicely late Saturday afternoon and lasted well into the evening. One of the highlights was making contacts with Australia, Hawaii, and New Zealand at around 11:30 Saturday night – on 20 meters! We also made lots of contacts on 10 and 15 meters.

Overnight SSB ops

Jason W1SFS, Waylon KC1HJN, Tim KB1HNZ, CJ W1CJC, and Dylan KC1PDS (who just earned his ham radio license), each took turns operating the SSB stations. Eric N1RXR had a really good run on 15 meters Sunday morning, and Stefania K1GJY made lots of QSOs on 40 meters Sunday morning and early afternoon. Brad KC1JMH and Josh KC1KTX, took turns operating the 40m station and also exchanged lots of messages on Packet and Winlink.

Our Safety Officers for 2021 ARRL Field Day were Mike N5QYQ and Eric N1RXR. Eric reported that he made sure any trip hazards were marked, that fire suppression was handy, and first aid was accessible. We also made sure to have RF exposure reports on hand for each operating station and antenna combination.

The kids watching cartoons Saturday night

Fellow club members, Frank KR1ZAN in Plano, TX, Ryan Michaelson KB1YTR, in Duluth, MN, and Brad Bown Jr., KC1JMH, helped us copy the W1AW Field Day message, which was super helpful because many of us were setting up antennas during the broadcast.

Tim KB1HNZ sent radiograms to the Section Manager and several others by way of the Digital Traffic Network via our Packet station on VHF.

A few times throughout the weekend, Eric N1RXR attempted to make a satellite contact, but although hearing a few passes really well, was unable to make a contact.

Stefania operates 20m SSB Saturday

Mike N5QYQ and Steve AA1HF reprised their roles as GOTA station coaches, setting up a nice station in the Wassamki Springs Ham Shack. There were both modern and classic radios to try out. They welcomed three operators Nick KC1MSR, Waylon KC1HJN, and Dylan KC1PDS, who took turns getting on the air throughout the weekend, and Dylan and Nick operated at both the GOTA station and the 40m SSB station in the main field.

Steve AA1HF with the “modern” GOTA setup

The GOTA station was a good opportunity to learn about different aspects of the hobby, and Mike and Steve were great teachers. Mike N1QYQ explained the operation and function of the Kenwood TS-520S transceiver and related components and compared this older technology with the newest technology (ICOM IC-7300). Mike also explained basic HF propagation and its relation to the sunspot cycle. Mike helped Dillon troubleshoot and solve an issue with his straight key and his TS-850S. Mike also explained the basic operation of the Hy-Gain 18AVQ trap vertical antenna. He used the Kenwood SM-220 monitor scope to show transmitted waveforms and how the scope was used to monitor output of the transceiver to ensure the transmitted audio signal was not clipping and that the RF emissions from the transceiver were “clean.”

The “classic” GOTA station setup in the ham shack

Steve AA1HF explained the tracking of weather balloons using one he “caught” and its features and process for tracking and reporting the unit to the sender. Steve also explained the features and operation of his (Steve’s) ICOM IC-7300 and ICOM 9700 software defined multiband radios and the basics of calling and answering “CQ Field Day” and how to log the contacts.

Besides the lessons learned at the GOTA station, we also offered a formal educational activity about radio direction finding. Tim KB1HNZ hid a small purpose-built transmitter and explained some of the various methods that can be used to track it down, including using doppler finder technology, attenuators, body shielding, and a directional antenna. Brad’s son, Jordan, had a fun time trying to find the transmitter and eventually did!

The Yaesu FT857d setup in the tent

Operating as 3A (three fulltime HF stations on emergency power), 2021 ARRL Field Day was not only a fun time, but a huge success! We logged 1776 QSOs for a total of 2,958 QSO points, and nearly maxed out on all the bonus points.

Operating overnight in the CW trailer

Special thanks to Chris Wheeler, and everyone at Cumberland County EMA for their support and allowing us to use the CCEMA communications trailer, and to the Hillock Family for their continued hospitality, allowing us to operate from Wassamki Springs Campground for the 11th consecutive year! We’d also like to thank Steve’s wife Marilyn, who provided us with a fantastic cookout Saturday evening and breakfast sandwiches Sunday morning!

Click here to see more pictures from 2021 ARRL Field Day.

2020 Maine SET Review

On Saturday, October 24th, members of the Wireless Society of Southern Maine Emergency Communications Team (WSSM-ECT), which meets monthly in Scarborough, participated in a statewide drill to test their communications capabilities between various different sites throughout Cumberland County and the state. The drill, known as the Simulated Emergency Test, or SET, is an annual exercise, sponsored by the American Radio Relay League, which encourages amateur radio operators from across the country to test their communications skills during a mock disaster.

During the SET, hams are required to quickly establish communications between various Emergency Operations Centers and exchange formal messages and traffic, which contain requests for supplies, medical or weather reports, or other information that may be of importance during a disaster. They do this via voice and digital two-way radio, on bands ranging from HF to UHF, as required.

“There has been a lot of statewide coordination for this year’s event, and they’ve developed an extensive plan that involves testing both amateur radio and EMA communications,” says Tim Watson, of Saco. Watson is president of the Wireless Society of Southern Maine, which provides communications support to Cumberland County EMA, as well as the National Weather Service. “The SET tests how we respond during large-scale disasters, where commercial infrastructure has failed. In these events, hams are often called upon to provide communications support.”

“The hams in our club are a dedicated group,” adds Brad Brown, of Waterboro, “Amateur radio has a long history of volunteerism. Sure, it’s a hobby and there’s some fun things that we do, but so many like to stay sharp by providing support for community events, and drills like this, so they’ll be ready to offer their time and expertise when disaster strikes.”

The purpose of this year’s SET was to test the ability to communicate inter-county and between counties, using various modes: VHF FM repeater, VHF FM Simplex, HF SSB, VHF Packet, HF Digital, and Winlink via VHF Packet and HF Ardop.

Objectives included: Testing voice communications with other counties on amateur VHF repeaters, exchanging digital data with other counties on VHF repeaters, and the Maine Packet Network, testing voice communications with other counties on VHF Simplex, testing voice with other counties via HF, and exchanging digital traffic via HF. Each of these tasks were outlined in the 2020 Maine SET statewide plan. Other tasks were assigned to various EMA personnel to test their communications systems as well.

One of the most enjoyable parts of the 2020 SET was helping to relay a radiogram message from the York County EMA to Washington County. The message was originated in York and was relayed through several counties before reaching its destination. Steve Hansen KB1TCE reported afterwards that the message was delivered with near perfect accuracy. The only part that was missing in the final message was the signature. A possible reason for this is that the ARRL radiogram form has no place for a signature, compared with a Radio Relay International form, that does.

The SET scenario took place over 4 hours, from 8AM till noon, and as we approached the final hour, we decided to ask some of participants that checked in via FM simplex from their homes, to deploy to various shelter locations across the county. Eric Emery N1RXR visited Memorial Elementary School, in New Gloucester, Gray New Gloucester High School, in Gray, Greely Middle School, in Cumberland, Brunswick High School, and Falmouth High School, while Waylon McDonald KC1HJN was deployed to Windham High School and Gorham Middle School. We exchanged signal reports and exercise traffic from each location.

Brad Brown Jr., KC1JMH, was deployed to a strategic location on Chadbourne Ridge, in Waterboro, and acted as a VHF relay between York County to the south and the Cumberland County EMA.

Tim Watson KB1HNZ operated from the Cumberland County EMA. Do to COVID-19 restrictions, which limited the number of people in the building, he was the only ham operator at the EMA.


Lessons Learned

The WS1EC team successfully completed all but one task, which was to send digital traffic via FM Simplex. Having not been to the CCEMA in nine months, due to COVID-19 restrictions, one casualty was the Kenwood D710G VHF/UHF radio. After doing some trouble shooting to determine why it wouldn’t power on properly, the morning of the SET, it was determined that the best thing to do in the short window of time before the start of the exercise, was to use the backup radio, that was located in a backpack on a shelf in the radio room. The backup radio performed well and the programming was identical to the primary radio, so it was a seamless transition.

The only problem was discovering that there’s a difference in software settings between the D710A, and the newer D710G, which affected its ability to transmit when using Fldigi. This could’ve easily been fixed by downloading the appropriate RigCAT file, but in order to preserve the integrity of the SET, which listed among its scenarios, an internet outage, we chose not to update it at the time. In a future work session at the EMA, we plan on configuring the software to handle both radios, in case a failure happens again.

The Emergency Communications Team performed extremely well in this year’s SET, and many participants expressed a desire to do more exercises throughout the year, and more on-air training, like we did in the spring. In response, we’ll be starting up a training net again after the Holidays, to continue developing the skills necessary to perform at a high level.

Click here to view the WSSM-ECT After Action Report for the 2020 Maine SET.