KBěZEV/Rover

Photos and text from the ARRL UHF contest,
August, 2000

Like many other contests I've participated in, this one was hampered by circumstances that prevented me from getting my preparations done ahead of time. Some of this is due to the fact that I don't have a dedicated rover vehicle. The vehicle I use to rove is the one I drive to and from work every day. So I can do some of the setup ahead of time, but certainly not all of it. I usually schedule a few days of vacation prior to a contest like this so I can get the setup done without having to drive a fully configured rover vehicle to and from work. And, as is often the case, the demands of my job in a local hospital required me to cancel the vacation time that I was going to use prior to the contest weekend for setup, on very short notice.

This left me with no prep time until the Saturday morning of the contest. I spent most of Saturday assembling the rover station, which led to a few shorcuts that would prove to have serious negative consequences at the end of the contest. It was not until Sunday morning that I was ready to head for my first grid! I made one contact on 446 MHz FM at 1416 UTC, while driving from home to the grid corner that I had planned to use to activate four grids. I immediately decided that it was too dangerous to drive, operate the radio, and keep any sort of log, so I made no more attempts to operate while in motion. However, this single contact would end up boosting my meager score significantly, because it meant that I had activated the EN34 grid. This would be my only contact from that grid, but it gave me one more multiplier for the contest.

By the time I got to the grid corner (EN 33/34/43/44) and set up for my second contact, it was well after 1630 UTC. With so little time left before the end of the contest (at 1800 UTC), I decided to ignore EN33 and EN34, and concentrate on activating only the somewhat less-common grids of EN43 and EN44. My second contact occurred at 1641 UTC.

For 222 MHz, I was using a Down East Microwave 222-28 transverter, connected to an Icom IC-706MkII radio as the IF rig, and an RF Concepts RFC 3-211 amplifier, which boosted my output power to around 100 watts. This equipment worked flawlessly.

For 432 MHz, I was using a Yaesu FT-847 radio and an RF Concepts RFC 4-310 amplifier, again providing me with about 100 watts of output. No problems there, either.

For 1296 MHz, this was my first real use of the gear. I had purchased a complete system from Ron, KAØRYT, which included a Down East Microwave 1296-144 transverter, a Down East Microwave 2340 power amplifier (about 36 watts out), an extremely high performance preamp that Ron had designed and built, and an Icom IC-251a IF radio. Ron had set up the system with external T/R switching to accomodate the external preamp and power amp, but unfortunately for me, he used an 18 volt SMA relay which was powered by an extremely simple AC transformer and half-wave rectifier to get something approximating DC. (The IC-251a was also set up to use its internal AC power supply, and the rotator required 120 VAC, so I was committed to using a DC-to-AC inverter to power all of this.) The problem that I had not seen during home testing with sinewave AC power, that showed up with the squarewave pseudo-AC power, was intense chattering of the T/R relay on every transmission. Had I known about this problem in advance, I could probably have fixed it with something as simple as a filter capacitor, but I was far from home with no spare parts and very few tools. I had to minimize my use of the 1296 MHz system for this reason. Weeks after the contest, I would eventually re-work the T/R system to use 13.8 VDC plus a Down East Microwave RVD-1 relay driver. I still haven't gotten around to fabricating the necessary cable to allow me to operate the IC-251a from 13.8 VDC, but five years later, I at least have gathered up the necessary parts to do it...

My last contact was made in the final minute of the contest. The final score was a paltry 1209 points. The details are near the bottom of the page, where I have reproduced my log file.

I guess the trip was something of a success, in that I got my second-hand 1296 MHz system on the air for the first time, discovered a serious problem there that was simple to fix for next time, and contributed a little to boosting the score of some of the Northern Lights Radio Society members who were more active in the contest.

As can be seen from the photos below, the trip was also nearly a disaster, as my second-generation rover antenna support structure turned out to be far too weak to do the job, and I almost destroyed 3 antennas in the process of discovering the flaws in my design. My next rove would require extensive modifications to the design.

Unfortunately, I have no pictures of my working setup, since I barely had the time to get it assembled and drive to my target grid corner before the contest was over. However, as seen below, I did hook up with Matt, KFØQ, who was set up as a portable station in EN43 (quite close to me), after the contest, and he took a few photos.

Click on any photo to see a full-size version. All photos courtesy of Matt, KFØQ


Photo 1
After the end of the contest, I got a call on the radio from Matt, KFØQ, who was surprised to discover that I was in the same grid where he was set up for a portable operation in the contest. He invited me to stop over at his site, and he gave me directions to his location, which was quite close by. Unfortunately, part of the journey involved driving down a heavily rutted dirt road through the farm field, and in the process of bumping up and down the ruts, my antenna supports gave way. Here you see Matt's portable setup on the left side of the photo, and my 1992 GMC Safari Van with precariously dangling antennas on the right.

Photo 2
Here is a slightly closer view of my ill-fated antenna setup. The bouncing on the dirt road caused the baseboard to which the rotator was attached to split lengthwise, allowing the mast to tip backwards. Three of the four restraining straps pulled out of their connections to the thrust bearing, and only one strap was still in place to prevent the whole mess from falling over backwards.

There are three antennas visible on the ill-fated mast assembly: one for 222 MHz, one for 432 MHz, and one for 1296 MHz. The 222 and 432 yagis were borrowed from Kevin, NØBEL. These are the antennas he has used when going out roving in the past. The 1296 MHz loop yagi is mine. Close inspection of the photo shows that the front loops of the 1296 Loop Yagi were also mashed down when I drove under a bridge overpass that was right about at the height of the loops of this antenna. The antenna was not quite level at the time, so only the front loops got squashed. I did not notice this until after the contest was over.

You may also be able to see two verticals for FM contacts that are mounted directly to the roof of the van, on SO-239 mounts. One is a dual-band 2 Meter / 70 cm antenna (only used the 70 cm part for this contest), and the other is for 223.5 MHz FM use.

In retrospect, I can't quite remember why I am smiling in the photo. Maybe because I realized how close I came to complete disaster without quite reaching that stage.


Photo 3
This photo shows Matt (on the left) and me (on the right) standing in front of Matt's portable setup. His SUV is on the far left, and the yellow camping trailer is where he operated. To the right is his mast setup. I belive that he has horizontal (SSB/CW) antennas for 222, 432, 902, and 1296 MHz, plus vertical (FM) antennas for 223.5 and 446.0 MHz. (I could be wrong about 902, the loopers might have been for 1296 and 2304 MHz.)

Photo 4
If you look closely at this photo, you may notice that I used a PVC cross-boom that originally had 4 upright PVC pipes, for mounting up to 4 antennas side by side. The "more than close encounter" with the bridge overpass caused the vertical pipe on the far right (over and behind my head) to come loose from its Tee connector, so the loop yagi was moved to the next vertical section closer to the main mast, and the loosened pipe was taken out of the cross-boom for later repairs, when I reached my first stop in EN43. I didn't notice the squashed front loops at that time.

Fortunately, I had my multi-jointed aluminum ladder with me, so I could climb up to the roof of my van and remove the antennas for the ride home. Ain't roving a whole lot of fun?

Since my log is pretty short, I will include the whole thing here.


KB0ZEV/R CONTEST LOG FOR:  ARRL AUG UHF
===============================================================================
Name of Contest:      ARRL Aug UHF

Call Used:            KB0ZEV/R
Call of Operator:     KB0ZEV

OPERATING LOCATION
   Grid(s) Activated: EN34 EN43 EN44 
   Location Name:     Minnesota
   ARRL Section:      Dakota

Entry Type:           Rover
===============================================================================
                Valid
                QSOs    Pts/QSO   QSO Pts   Mult
222 MHz          6       3         18        3 
432 MHz          13      3         39        4 
1296 MHz         6       6         36        3 

Total 
All Bands        25                93        10 

GRIDS ACTIVATED                              3        Rover Scoring Used

KB0ZEV/R CLAIMED SCORE:   1209 
===============================================================================
I have observed all competition rules as well as all regulations
for Amateur Radio in my country.  My report is correct and true
to the best of my knowledge.  I agree to be bound by the decisions
of the Awards Committee.

John P. Toscano KB0ZEV    08.08.2000
5220 132nd Street, West
Apple Valley, MN  55124-8714

===============================================================================
KB0ZEV/R CONTEST LOG FOLLOWS:

column 1: frequency (MHz)         column 6: complete exchange sent
column 2: mode                    column 7: complete exchange received
column 3: date (dd/mm/yy, UTC)    column 8: indication of new multiplier '*'
column 4: time (UTC)              column 9: points claimed
column 5: call of station worked

note:  Incomplete & Dupe QSO's in the log are listed with  - 0 - points.


KB0ZEV/R CONTEST LOG FOR:  ARRL AUG UHF    

432      FM        08/06/00   1416   KB0N/R         EN34   EN35   *  3 
432      SSB       08/06/00   1641   W0JMP          EN43   EN34   *  3 
432      SSB       08/06/00   1642   KF0Q           EN43   EN43   *  3 
222      SSB       08/06/00   1643   KF0Q           EN43   EN43   *  3 
1296     SSB       08/06/00   1644   KF0Q           EN43   EN43   *  6 
432      SSB       08/06/00   1700   KA0RYT/R       EN43   EN34      3 
432      SSB       08/06/00   1710   WA0BWE         EN43   EN34      3 
222      SSB       08/06/00   1711   WA0BWE         EN43   EN34   *  3 
1296     SSB       08/06/00   1712   WA0BWE         EN43   EN34   *  6 
432      SSB       08/06/00   1715   W0UC           EN43   EN44   *  3 
222      SSB       08/06/00   1716   W0UC           EN43   EN44   *  3 
1296     SSB       08/06/00   1717   W0UC           EN43   EN44   *  6 
432      SSB       08/06/00   1730   W0UC           EN44   EN44      3 
432      SSB       08/06/00   1730   KF0Q           EN44   EN43      3 
222      SSB       08/06/00   1731   W0UC           EN44   EN44      3 
222      SSB       08/06/00   1731   KF0Q           EN44   EN43      3 
1296     SSB       08/06/00   1732   W0UC           EN44   EN44      6 
1296     SSB       08/06/00   1732   KF0Q           EN44   EN43      6 
432      SSB       08/06/00   1734   W0AUS          EN44   EN35      3 
432      SSB       08/06/00   1740   KC0EPV         EN44   EN34      3 
432      SSB       08/06/00   1745   WB0GGM         EN44   EN34      3 
222      SSB       08/06/00   1745   WB0GGM         EN44   EN34      3 
1296     SSB       08/06/00   1747   WB0GGM         EN44   EN34      6 
432      FM        08/06/00   1757   K0NY/R         EN44   EN43      3 
432      FM        08/06/00   1759   K0NY/R         EN44   EN44      3 

Last edited on 2005-08-01, only 5 years late!