One of the many facets of Ham Radio that I have taken part in and enjoyed for many years is operating in the various contests that make up the Ham Calendar. It is not quite the same though operating from my home shack as going out into the countryside and setting up a “Field Station”. Many new operators may be scared off thinking of how difficult this must be……NOT SO! It is actually very simple.
Recently I decided to travel out into the Ceres / Matroosberg area to set up a portable station. This was done from Klondyke Cherry Farm just north of Ceres where we had set up our caravan and tent in readiness to operate the Feb 2012 SARL HF Field day. Please understand I am not at all technical so simplicity has to be the order of the day.
The first step is to make a list of the requirements for the station:
- Portable mast
- Antenna (G5RV or similar)
- Co-ax cables (approx. 25 mtr)
- Table and chair (Camping type)
- H.F. radio complete with microphone and power lead
- Antenna tuner
- Power source (car battery)
- Log sheets, pencil, eraser etc.
- Portable clock (or cell phone)
- Tool box….. including all the “Bits and Pieces” that may be required like connectors, insulation tape, cable ties, guy ropes, tent pegs and rubber hammer
- Some-one to bring you food and drinks (optional but definitely advisable)
Arriving on site we set up the caravan and side tent to our normal requirements, got the fridge going to keep food and refreshments cold, and relaxed for the night with a lovely braai as the full moon appeared over the Matroosberg Mountain some 5 km’s away.
Saturday morning we woke to the sound of rain and saw heavy cloud and mist covering the mountain tops! Undaunted we had a leisurely breakfast and then made a start on putting up the station (in between showers) to be ready for the noon start to the contest.
The Antenna (an old wire “spider type” inherited 15 years ago) was connected to the co-ax and fastened to the pulley cord that would hoist it to the top of the portable aluminium mast purchased recently. The guy ropes were attached to the mast, 3 pegs hammered into the ground to take the guys once the mast was vertical and heave-ho up it went. Out came the “operating” table and radio, tuner, antenna and power source were connected up. All in all from start to finish it took no longer than 30 minutes from unloading the equipment to being on the air calling CQ. How difficult can that be?
Twelve o’ clock arrived and we were under-way making contacts with other contest stations all over the country. Contacts were made with ZS1, 2, 3 , 4, 5 and 6 during the contest period. Contacts were also made with 2 maritime mobile stations; one, a Russian ore carrier east of Madagascar and the other a solo yachtswoman who was some 400 kms south of Port Elizabeth en route from Cape Town to Hobart. 57 contacts were made during the contest period which is not spectacular but we had a lot of fun. One of the best weekends I have ever had since starting my radio hobby many years ago.
Give it a try, it’s easy and you may just enjoy it!