N2SLN -- all planning, driving, operating, and logging, under the callsign N2SLN/R


N2SLN personal vehicle



    Icom IC-706mk2g
    100 watts

    Icom IC-706mk2g
    10 watts
    Mirage B1016G amplifier at 150 watts

    Radio Shack HTX-100 10m mobile
    50 milliwatts
    Downeast Microwave 222 transverter
    25 watts

    Icom IC-706mk2g
    20 watts
    Mirage D-3010 amplifier at 100 watts


The annual ARRL September VHF Contest starts 2 pm eastern time each year, and runs through 11 pm the next day, all on a weekend. This was a solo trek with a little bit of experimentation planned for both the rover sites and the new 432 antenna. I activated a new site in FN11 to start the contest. It was 2345 feet above sea level, but when I arrived, there was a gate across the road to the summit. So I made the decision to snag a few contacts with the smaller equipment which was already set up, rather than spend the time assembling the larger stuff (which would make it nearly impossible to move out of the way of the gate quickly if requested). Here is a picture showing the 2m squalo (square loop) turned with a corner facing forward to minimize wind drag, and the 432 squalo is under it. After making 10 nearby contacts and realizing that rain was imminent, I decided to start heading back toward home and hit FN12 along the way as planned if the weather would be clear. Besides, 2m was getting "desensed" about 60% of the time up there--most likely a result of a county sheriff repeater on VHF-hi band. On the way home I began seeing C-G lightning to my east when I was still in north central PA. On the interstate I ran into N3TVJ/M and sure enough, he reported running into downpours in Scranton, PA. As it turns out, NWS preliminary Local Storm Reports (LSRs) indicated that the thunderstorm had turned severe, producing sizeable hail in Scranton and elsewhere: LSRs.

Arriving in FN12, I was over 1980 feet above sea level with a great shot to the southwest (and I heard one distant station in that direction--Ohio--briefly on 2m, but he moved on before I could work him). The shot to the south is also good, since I was able to work W4IY/FM08 on 2m. Even so, the site was not good enough for me to make a single 432 contact even with a brand new 15 element yagi and 100 watts (the highest power allowable on 432 for the low power rover category). But on the bright side, in this grid I had longer, more interesting QSOs with a couple stations since I was not going all out for points.

The next day I started by activating FN23 which would end up being my second-best performing grid despite being the lowest elevation. Continuing in my experimental mood, I tried a spot just a few hundred feet through the woods from the usual spot. This move noticeably decreased the quality of my shot toward the east (K1WHS was weak), especially since the hill peaks in that direction, but there was still a good shot to the west through south like usual. Pleasant temperatures and no wind made for a stress-free setup and tear down of the antennas, which included the 11-element end-mount 432 yagi that replaced the 15-el for the rest of the contest. But even with the antenna swap, only 2 out of my 33 contacts were on 432, so the tropo maps were right when they predicted poor conditions in central NY for both Saturday and Sunday. I made four times more contacts on 222 than 432 in this grid. Although there was no E-skip during this contest, I did hear one distant station come through during a meteor burn. I heard the tail end of a callsign and then the grid "EL98" mentioned at 1524 UTC Sunday in FN23.

This time I saved the best for last--FN22. My home grid provided the highest elevation and QSO points, but again, very few contacts on 432--only 4 despite multiple tries with multiple stations (again). I also battled receiver desense on 6m/2m. While getting desensed on 2m, I remembered a trick that another rover had told me about: Turning the radio's preamp off would increase the readability & signal strength of the desired signal a bit. There are both 6m and 2m repeaters, as well as a VHF-hi band (156 MHz) county sheriff repeater on that hilltop. I also noticed that W2SZ was so strong on 50.127 that I was unable to use anything from 50.125-50.135 since we were line of sight from hilltop to hilltop, so I missed some easy contacts as a result.

Total contesting time was 9 hours 5 minutes (27.5% of the contest). That's down a bit from the previous September contest, partly due to longer drive times with this year's sequence of grid activations. I was again pleased to see the 6m loop exhibit a workable SWR at such low heights (less than 20 feet above ground). The 4-el 2m yagi performed quite nicely and even delighted me with a contact to VE3OIL/R in FN04. [As it turns out, a few weeks after the contest I figured out that the coax being used on 432 had a bad connector, and that's what gave me the surprisingly poor performance on that band. By November I had ordered two new coax lengths with N connectors installed on smaller diameter, more flexible coax, so in January the 432 performance numbers will be back to normal.] Future plans are to get the new Directive Systems 6-el 2m rover yagi, and then perhaps trying a 6m Moxon Rectangle which is known for good rejection. Despite the use of the bottom 4 bands instead of last September's bottom 3 bands, this year's score was lower.

unique grids worked on each band:

50     18
144    18
222    15
432     7


Band     QSOs    QSO pts.    Mults.
50        49        49        18
144       45        45        18
222       23        46        15
432        8        16         7
TOTALS   125       156        58
                              +4 grids activated

       --- Claimed score = 9,672 ---

If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the N2SLN rover team.