On June 23 the American and Canadian amateur radio operators participated in an event known as Field Day. It is an annual event which has been running since 1933. It is put on by the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL) and Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC). Technically it is an emergency preparedness operation. It’s a great test of how quickly one can set up a way to communicate via amateur radio during an emergency situation (e.g. hurricane, tsunami, earthquake, etc.). Many radio clubs get together to set up an off-the-grid site to operate from. Some individuals do this as well. Others set up at home on-the-grid, or even off-the-grid. Participants attempt to make as many contacts as they can in a 24 hour period via voice, cw (morse code), and digital modes (jt65 and psk31 are popular). Points are also earned (though it’s not officially a contest), for relaying simulated emergency communications.
Well, Devin and I participated in the event with the Maui Amateur Radio Club out at the old radio communications bunker in Ho‘okipa. We got out to the site on Friday evening after Devin finished work. We would have loved to have arrived earlier to help with the set up, but the rest of the club participants did a wonderful job. Friday night was spent shooting the breeze, double checking everything, and making a few contacts before the contest began the next morning. While everyone had pizza from Flatbread, I pulled out my homemade mini pizzas. I was inspired by the “pizzettes” from Susan Yuen’s blog. She wrote “Hawai‘i’s Bento Box Cookbook” which is super cute. I used the pizza crust recipe from Artisanal Gluten Free Cooking.
Friday also saw a bit of rain, but some gorgeous rainbows because of it. The sunset was stellar as well. Here are a couple shots.
The next morning the contest began. From 8 am Saturday until 8am on Sunday someone was on the radio at all times. After about an hour or so we would have a switch out. Sometimes the person logging the contacts in the computer which take over the voice communications, and sometimes two new people would take their positions. I had my fair share of time on the radio and at the computer. Let me tell you, after an hour of making contacts your tongue starts to trip you up. Everyone experienced this. At one point I couldn’t even hear straight anymore, so I had to hop out of the chair and hand the traffic jam of callers to someone else. We didn’t make any contacts through cw this year, but we did log contacts through digital communications. Devin and I wanted to take our radio rig out for that, but unfortunately we had to send our radio in for repair the week before and it didn’t make it back in time. Thankfully another member brought his computer for just this purpose. I learned the basics of jt65 and a bit more about psk31 (Devin likes to use that mode at home). JT65 is a bit like twitter, except you only get 13 characters per message. It’s also like Twitter because a lot of people talk at once. PSK31 is like an instant messenger, but you usually use abbreviations for the communications. The fewer characters you send the faster it all goes.
The wife of one of the gentlemen brought out dinner on Saturday night. I just had some of the rice and simple salad she brought out. I had packed my own dinner for that night, and then forgot the pot to cook it in. I also had some leftover pizza sauce I brought with me to go with my “breadstick” stars. I dumped that over some quinoa I’d brought. Oh, and I ate some Kinnikinnick “oreos.”
Sunday morning called for us to break down everything. We logged our last few calls in before 8am (we’d operated all night with sleep shifts). We ended up with somewhere over 1400. It was pretty darn amazing. To wrap up, here are a few more shots of our site and setup.
I hope you had fun reading this, because we all had a lot of fun out there. We even had some visitors from the community drop by. Maybe next June you can come check it out too!