You know it's going to be a tough portable operation when the forecast is a 100 percent chance of rain. I checked the forecast for two other sites that I had considered using, hoping that one of them would show a reduced chance of rain, but no luck. So I was just going to have to accept getting drenched as part of the effort. I felt like I had just received my sentencing and was just waiting for the punishment. The extra gear for this outing was going to include a rain jacket, a spare set of footwear, and a second set of clothes.
The one good thing that came out of the toughest winter in memory is all the research I did while stuck indoors. The operating site chosen for this event was the result of that research. I had been looking for good locations in eastern FN13 for many years unsuccessfully, but now I finally had one that I wanted to try. The last time I can remember activating FN13 from a fixed location was over a decade ago in the September 2002 VHF contest when I was part of the AA2YG/R effort, but the site we used at that time was nothing more than us pulling over to the side of a rural road for a couple hours. [As an interesting sidenote, I remember hearing W3IY/R on 2m while we were set up at that spot. Bill was on a Virginia mountaintop more than 300 miles away.]
I wanted to get to the site a half hour early, but ended up an hour early because I tried a more efficient route. I figured the extra time would come in handy, allowing me to wait for a break in the rain to begin setting up. Well, not only was there no break, there wasn't even a slow-down. What's worse, I noticed a roof leak, so I had to dump out my drinking water and use the bottle to catch the rainwater. When the clock struck half an hour to go, I went outside and began assembling the mast. The terrain is level at this site, so it was a time saver not having to drive on the leveling blocks. The bad part is that with adding in one more section of mast for the power divider, the top antenna was now out of alignment with the bottom antenna, something I should have looked for the day before the event. So I just decided to use the top antenna by itself. I got back inside with ten minutes to go and now there were two leaks...thankfully they were both close enough to each other that I was able to catch both with the same plastic bottle. The van's defrost would be on high for the entire sprint to help dry things out.
The sprint was off to a decent start with 9 contacts in the first hour. Not bad for a single-yagi station with one third the elevation compared to usual, and no chat page available. I was able to work into Maine over a 274-mile path with good signals on both ends. In the second hour I worked AG3N FN00 who was running only 10w from over 170 miles away--probably the most amazing contact of the sprint and the reason why I insist on operating from low-noise sites. I began hearing W1AW/3 FN10 and heard him for the rest of the sprint but every time I heard him, his antenna was pointing the wrong way, so that was an easy contact missed. In the third hour I heard the unmistakeable sound of lightning crashes in the receiver, but only when I was pointed SW. The third hour also brought my best DX to the south: K1DQV FM19 at 275 miles and my only contact into the FM grid field, although I was also able to hear Virginia beacon WA1ZMS/b FM07 at 420 miles. At one point while listening to K1DQV send CW, his signal jumped to S9 and slowly dropped back down below S1 over the next 10 seconds--lightning scatter! In the final hour I heard more lightning static and began thinking about leaving early. The last callsign I had written down in my log was WN8R EN80 who was calling someone else. He would have been my best DX to the west at 300+ miles. A couple sessions calling CQ on FM simplex on the mobile whip throughout the event netted no contacts as usual. Other stations heard but not worked were W3HMS, WA2FGK, KC2PCD, WS3C, W1XM, N3QC/R FN10, VA3ST FN03, and WN8R EN80. Grids not heard from were FN01, FN14, FN23, 24, FN32, 33.
With a break in the rain showing up at 10:30, lightning on the increase, and no more stations being heard, it was time to pull the plug. The extreme southeast wind at this exposed site had died down considerably but was still bad, and the rain showed up again just as I was throwing the last item into the van. Sure enough, on my drive home I listened to the NWS hourly weather roundup which said thunderstorms were being reported near Elmira, which was to my SW. I saw a few lightning flashes of my own while driving home. Pulled into the driveway at 12:30 and the 8-hour adventure was over just as the thunder showed up.
BAND QSOs UNIQUE GRIDS --------------------------------- 144 22 12 --- Claimed score = 264 ---
MD UTC CALLSIGN GRID OTHER ------------------------------- PH 2305 N2YB FN12 PH 2312 N2DCH FN22 PH 2313 KC2SFU FN22 5x5 PH 2320 WA3CSP FN11 5x5 PH 2323 W2UAD FN13 5x5 PH 2338 K1WHS FN43 PH 2343 K1KA FN42 PH 2347 K1OR FN42 5x4 PH 2359 WZ1V FN31 PH 0004 VE3YCU FN02 PH 0008 KF2MR FN13 PH 0010 AG3N FN00 10 watts PH 0022 W3CMP FN10 PH 0032 K1TEO FN31 PH 0032 K1BXC FN31 CW 0055 K2DH FN13 5x5 PH 0059 W9KXI FN12 CW 0103 KA2LIM FN12 CW 0106 K3MD FN10 CW 0111 K1DQV FM19 PH 0113 N2NT FN20 PH 0118 K2QO FN02
|"All who wander are not lost."|