Thanks to the efforts of Joe Grace W1SK and Cory Golob KU1U, who put in countless hours to make it a reality, hams around the state, and elsewhere, gathered for the Maine Virtual Hamfest, on Saturday, March 6th! With in-person events still being cancelled due to the pandemic, this was the perfect opportunity to get caught up on all things ham radio in Maine.
The Maine Virtual Hamfest offered many of the same features you’d expect to see at a regular hamfest, including presentations, club meetings and talks, a place to socialize and make “eyeball QSOs” and even a virtual flea market.
The highlight of the event were the presentations, and the most anticipated of those was “Optimizing Your Audio,” by Bob Heil K9EID. There were also presentations on FT8, antennas, SKYWARN, and an ARRL forum, where attendees could learn about what was going on around the state and at the New England and national level at ARRL.
The Wireless Society of Southern Maine was represented by Eric Emery N1RXR and Tim Watson KB1HNZ, who gave a presentation at 9:30 Saturday morning, about the NWS Gray Amateur Radio SKYWARN program. Click here to view the recorded presentation.
“From our perspective, the Maine Virtual Hamfest was a huge success, and we were proud to be a part of it,” said Eric Emery. “Hopefully, we can all meet in person next year, but if not, this is a fantastic model to go by if it needs to be done this way again.”
If you were busy on the 6th and didn’t have a chance to attend any of the presentations, they were all recorded and are available on the Maine ARRL YouTube page.
Click here to visit the Maine Virtual Hamfest website.
It’s that time of year again to renew your membership with the Wireless Society of Southern Maine. On behalf of the society and its members, I’d like to THANK YOU for your support and continuing participation.
Your membership has enabled us to accomplish a lot in 2020! The year started out with Winter Field Day, where we operated in the Outdoor category from the Cumberland County EMA Communications Trailer. In March, members took part in the annual 2 Meter FM Simplex Contest, which turned out to be one of the most competitive in recent memory, and several were also involved with the Maine 200 Bicentennial Special Event, which was a huge effort and a lot of fun to be a part of!
We were all geared up to have a display at the Maine ARRL Convention in late March and at NEARFest a few weeks later, but both events were cancelled due to the emerging pandemic. During this period, we also weren’t able to meet in-person, but we made the best of it, gathering on-air for “Self-Quarantine Simplex Drills” on Thursday nights. These drills began as simple meetups on 146.580 FM simplex, and evolved into more complex drills that saw participants check-in from various shelter locations, and explore new modes like Winlink, and the FLDigi suite.
As the summer neared, it was time to think about Field Day, which came together quite late as COVID restrictions were eased just in time to allow small gatherings, and the Hillock family of Wassamki Springs Campground allowed us to setup in their field to operate for the 10th consecutive year. We entered in the 2A category with two HF stations and one 6 meter station, with a small team of operators who took turns getting on the air. In the meantime, the rules allowed for other club members to participate from their own homes and contribute to the club score, and several of them did.
In July, a few club members ventured up to the summit of Mt. Washington to activate it for Summits on the Air, and in late August, the WS1SM team visited Owls Head Lighthouse for International Lighthouse & Lightship Weekend (ILLW).
Throughout the year, club members actively support Cumberland County EMA, participating in exercises, including the Simulated Emergency Test (SET), in October, which focused on a hurricane scenario, and tested the capabilities of the Maine Packet Network and voice communications on VHF simplex and HF. We learned a lot from the event, which will enable us to improve our capabilities in the months ahead.
I am looking forward to welcoming you as a returning member. Together, we can continue to improve and advance the amateur radio hobby amongst the public and ourselves. When renewing, please let us know of any changes in your contact information. Memberships can be paid at any club meeting, or online via PayPal.
SCARBOROUGH, ME – On the weekend of June 27-28, the WS1SM team participated in their 10th ARRL Field Day from Wassamki Springs Campground, in Scarborough. Since the pandemic prevented many of the usual social activities that take place during the weekend, such as cookouts and visits from the public and elected officials, Field Day had quite a different feel to it this year, but we still managed to pull it together, and it turned out to be one of our most successful to date!
With limited in-person participants, we operated as 2A (which is a club station, on battery power, using 2 transmitters), for the first time since 2013, maintaining a continuous presence on the bands on SSB, and digital. Meanwhile, we had the support of club members who operated from their own homes, including Greg Finch W1GF, who scored a remarkable 4,706 points on his own – making 1,164 QSOs! Joe Blinick K1JB, contributed over 200 QSOs and Roger Pushor NK1I, contributed almost 50 OSOs! And there were others as well. This all added up to a club aggregate score of 9,694 points!
The plan came together late as there were lots of questions about whether or not the ARRL would make changes to the rules to accommodate COVID-19 concerns, and they finally did about two weeks prior to the event. The temporary rules allowed for home stations, operating as either 1D or 1A, to contribute to a club aggregate score, and also allowed those stations to work each other. Normally, 1D stations would not be able to count QSOs with other 1D stations.
Because of regulations in place during the spring about the number of people who could gather in a single location, we didn’t know if we’d be able to operate from the campground – or any public location at all. The idea of doing an outdoor Field Day began to look more promising, though, as some of those restrictions, especially relating to outdoor gatherings, began to be relaxed after June 1st. The Hillock family, who owns Wassamki Springs Campground, were very welcoming when we approached them, and we were able to implement safety protocols that satisfied both parties.
Eleven participants joined us at the campground for the 2A operations, which is about a third of what we normally have.
Setup began late Friday afternoon when a handful of club members helped to setup a tent, hung a multiband dipole across the field between trees, and also installed a 40m rotatable dipole on the side of the CCEMA Communications Trailer. Mike and Chris from Cumberland County EMA helped out as well. The two stations consisted of a Yaesu FT-857d and Icom IC-7300, both running on battery power. On Saturday morning, Charlie W1CPS, setup his 6m station, which includes a 5 element yagi atop a 40-foot mast and an Icom IC-7000. Not long afterwards, we were ready to get on the air!
Although there was a threat of thunderstorms, the weather was pleasant for the entire Field Day, including setup and break down, and 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 early Sunday. Late on Saturday, our tent station, which multiple club members took turns operating from, switched from SSB to digital and continued to operate that way throughout the evening and into the early morning.
6 meter conditions were excellent Saturday afternoon, as Charlie W1CPS and company started to click off steady contacts. As evening set in, the conditions faded, but they had a similar opening the next day. Eric N1RXR had a really good run going on 40 meters Saturday evening, and Stefania K1GJY made lots of QSOs on 20 meters Sunday morning and early afternoon.
Our Safety Officers for 2020 ARRL Field Day were Brad Brown, Jr. KC1JMH, and Charlie Shepard W1CPS. Brad reported the following: “I made sure any trip hazards were marked, that fire suppression was handy, CDC signs were up and did my best to remind people of PPE and distance. Charlie had his space roped off to ensure guests stay within a socially acceptable distance. First-Aid kits were readily available in my pickup, my go-bag and next to Charlie’s fire extinguisher.”
Fellow club members, Frank KR1ZAN in Plano, TX, and Ryan Michaelson KB1YTR, in Duluth, MN, 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.
Late Saturday, Eric N1RXR, was successful at making a satellite QSO via AO92.
Due to the situation with the pandemic, we chose not to host a GOTA station, which unfortunately means that we weren’t able to spend time introducing any newly licensed or interested parties to ham radio, but it was still good to see Mike N5QYQ and Steve AA1HF, who usually help us with that, at the event.
Special thanks to Chris Wheeler, and everyone at Cumberland County EMA for their support, and to the Hillock Family for allowing us to operate from Wassamki Springs Campground for the 10th consecutive year!
We finished up with 714 QSOs and 3,376 points for the 2A operation, and taking into account all of our contributors from home, we got a total of 9,694 points! It was a massive effort. Thanks to everyone for helping to make our 2020 Field Day such a success!
Click here to view photos of this year’s and previous Field Days.
Where: 200 U.S. Route 1, Suite 210, Scarborough, ME
Please join us this Thursday, October 8th, from 7:00-9:00pm at 200 U.S. Route 1, Suite 210, Scarborough, for our monthly business meeting.
We’ll be meeting in a conference space that is located in Suite 210 of the Centervale Farm building, which is described as being “between Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts.” Please wear face coverings and practice social distancing while in attendance.
Our topic for the evening will be planning for the upcoming Maine Simulated Emergency Test (SET), which takes place Saturday, October 24th. We will share what we know of the statewide plan so far and determine how best to accomplish the goals that have been set forth.
We will be monitoring 147.090 (+ / 100 Hz) for talk-in in case anyone needs help finding the new meeting location.
Getting stir crazy yet? We have a new challenge for you! Join us this Thursday, from 7PM-8PM for the “Self-Quarantine Winlink Drill.” Building on the success of our recent simplex drills, we’re adding a Winlink component.
The purpose will be to relay radiogram messages via Winlink, by connecting to the RMS network using any method you prefer. One option is to connect by VHF, through the Maine Packet Network, or you could connect to a Winlink node via HF.
The drill begins at 7PM Thursday evening. In the meantime, if you haven’t used Winlink before, the first step is to download Winlink Express, and click here to follow the instructions for “How To Get An Account.” First time users can find lots of helpful info, including video links on the Winlink.org website.
Once you’re up and running, get familiar with how to send a message, post it to the outbox, and what templates are available. For this exercise, we’ll use the RRI Radiogram.txt form template (see below). Choose the Region 1 Liaison to send your message.
The suggested content of your Radiogram is “What method I used to send my message.”
The 7th annual Maine QSO Party will take place the weekend of September 28-29, from 1200 UTC on the 28th, through 1200 UTC on the 29th. Last year’s overall winner was Joe Blinick K1JB, of Portland.
The contest is designed to encourage Maine stations to expand their knowledge of DX propagation on the HF and MF bands, and improve their operating skills, and station capability by participating a competition in which W/VE, and DX stations have the incentive to work Maine.
The contest takes place on the 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, and 10 meter bands, and allows for phone and CW for modes.
For an exchange, stations in Maine send signal report and county, while stations outside of Maine, but within either the United States or Canada, send signal report and state/province. DX stations send signal report and “DX.”
For scoring, contacts with stations in Maine are worth 2 points. Contacts with stations outside Maine are worth 1 point. Multipliers are the same for all participants: Use Maine counties (16), States (50), Canadian Provinces (14), and DXCC entities as multipliers. You may work any station once on each of the two modes, on each of the six contest bands.
The Maine QSO Party is a fun contest that offers categories for operators of all skill levels and station capability. Also similar to DX contests like the Canada Day contest or YODX, its open to all contacts as long as the proper information is exchanged. Stations outside of Maine are not required to work only Maine stations for credit, as is the case with most QSO parties. This being said, its important that as many Maine stations as possible are active, and it would be really nice to have participation from all 16 counties. So far, the competition has seen most Maine participation from the more populated southern counties. Help get the word out and share this on contest blogs and social sites!
For more information, including complete rules, click here.
On Saturday, August 17th, the WS1SM team activated Rockland Breakwater Light, in Rockland Harbor, ME, for International Lighthouse & Lightship Weekend (ILLW). Club members operated from 10am-5pm, using call sign WS1SM.
2019 marked the ninth year that WSSM has participated in ILLW, which sees over 500 light houses and lightships activated in over 40 countries. The international event helps promote the preservation of lighthouses and lightships, and at the same time gives the community an opportunity to experience Amateur Radio first hand.
The morning started out with breakfast at Moody’s Diner, in Waldoboro, before the team met up at the parking lot for the lighthouse. Ahead of them was task of carrying the radio equipment across the 7/8-mile long breakwater. This wasn’t easy, as one of the heavisest items, a marine battery, had to be brought out in a cart that wasn’t well suited to the rough surface of the rocks that made up the breakwater. It required two to three people at any given time to help it along. Once at the lighthouse, however, the setting was a beautiful place to spend the day on the radio.
The WS1SM team operated 2 stations full time from the front porch of the lighthouse, which overlooks the breakwater, including a Yaesu FT-857d with a 40m dipole, and an Icom IC-706 MKIIG connected to a BuddiPole (for 6-20m) antenna. Both stations operated on battery power, with solar assistance. 40 meter conditions were excellent and contacts were plenty there. Band conditions were a little more difficult on 20 meters, but it improved later in the day to even include a few DX contacts.
Particpants included Eric Emery KC1HJK, CJ Carlsson W1CJC, Tim Watson KB1HNZ, Brad Brown, Jr. KC1JMH, and Peter Warren KC1DFO.
“This year’s ILLW has been a lot of fun,” said Tim Watson KB1HNZ. “It was fun working all the other lighthouses on the bands and also demonstrating ham radio to the public. We even met some other hams in person, who stopped by to say hi.”
Brad Brown KC1JMH said afterwards, “We’d really like to thank the folks from Massachusetts who helped us carry the cart back,” referring to a gentleman and his two grandsons who saw Brad, Tim, CJ, and Pete struggling with it and helped carry it to the mainland. “The extra help meant a lot at the end of a long day.” Earlier, Eric KC1HJK, brought the battery back on his kayak, so it was a little easier than it could’ve been.
Click here to see more photos from this and previous lighthouse events.