The Bainbridge Island Amateur Radio Club will be participating in the ARRL Field Day event on June 26th from 11:00 to 20:00 at the BPAA Observatory in Battle Point Park. We will be setting up two transmitters and possibly a GOTA station (see below).
Field Day is a contest run by the Amateur Radio Relay League (ARRL), the national association for Amateur Radio. While the competitive objective is “To contact as many stations as possible on the 160, 80, 40, 20,15 and 10 Meter HF bands, as well as all bands 50 MHz and above, and to learn to operate in abnormal situations in less than optimal conditions,” our club objective is to further advance our amateur radio knowledge and skills while having as much fun as we can. If we score a lot of points, great! If we learn a lot while not scoring points, even better.
The BPAA Observatory
The Battle Point Astronomical Association (BPAA) has kindly offered to host the event at their Observatory located in Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island. To access the observatory, you must enter at the park’s western gate (map). From there, look for the building with a big dome on it across from the baseball fields. There is also a map with directions on the BPAA Page.
GOTA stands for “Get On The Air.” A GOTA Station is a separate radio transmitter at a Field Day. As stated in the Field Day rules, “The GOTA station may be operated by any person licensed since the previous year’s Field Day, regardless of license class. It may also be operated by a generally inactive licensee. Non-licensed persons may participate under the direct supervision of an appropriate control operator.”
So, in order to have a GOTA station, we need help from hams that have a license less than a year old, hams that are not active on HF, or people who are not licensed and would like to try ham radio. If that’s you, please join us.
If you use Google Calendar and want to add the club events to your view, you can easily add the club calendar to the collection of calendars that you have in your Google account. All you have to do in your browser (while logged into your Google account) is to navigate to the club calendar and push the “+GoogleCalendar” button at the bottom of the calendar. The picture below has an arrow pointing to the button, in the event that you can’t find it.
My old car was a mobile shack, having an HF radio mounted in it. It was great. I could stop anywhere and work HF stations all over the world. While I was driving, I could listen to my local repeaters on the VHF or UHF bands that were built into the radio. Now that I had a new car without a radio, I began to miss having the VHF and UHF bands while I drive.
In my garage, I have a collection of antenna parts. In my shack, I have a collection of radios. Surely, I could come up with an installation that would at least give me local repeaters with minimal effort.
You may not have a collection of parts laying around. At the end of this article is a list of the parts that I used and a list of parts that cost less than what I used.
Step 1: Antenna
The magnetic-mount base and triband antenna.I always start by thinking about the antenna, mainly because getting the antenna outside of the metal shell of the car greatly increases the effectiveness of your install when compared to having a handheld radio inside the car.
In my case, I had a magnetic-mount NMO antenna base laying around the garage. This type of mount is a magnetic disk with an NMO connector on the top and a coaxial cable running out of the side of the base to a PL-259 connector. The magnet holds the antenna on the roof or trunk of the car (because the car is metal). These are great because you can replace the antenna without having to dispose of the magnetic base if the antenna becomes damaged. You can also upgrade your antenna for less cost if you decide to add bands with a different radio later.
I also had some dual-band antennas (antennas tuned for 144 and 440 MHz) that connect to an NMO mount sitting in the garage. These were perfect for this install because I was only concerned with these two bands.
I screwed the antenna onto the base and place the magnet on the trunk of the car. Then, I run the cable into the trunk, under the back seat and between the seats to the area where I want the radio installed.
The antenna is installed.
Step 2: The Radio
There are many radios from which to choose. Amongst them are several low-cost radios.
I had a Baofeng 25×4 laying around that I had not yet installed. The cool thing about this radio is that it isn’t much bigger than the microphone. For newer cars, where dash space is consumed by screens and other controls, a smaller radio will fit into spaces where a larger radio would not. If you’re going with a bigger radio, like the Yaesu FT857D, the faceplate comes off so that you can mount the radio in the trunk and remotely mount the face-plate on the car’s dashboard.
On the back of most radios, there is a SO-239 socket. Even though they don’t have the same number, the PL-259 plugs into the SO-239. Once I’ve screwed the connector onto the radio, the radio and antenna are now installed.
Step 3: Power
To power the radio, I did the simplest solution available. I took the cigarette-lighter adaptor and plugged it into the DC socket in the car. The radio is rated for 20A maximum current, so be sure that your socket can handle that current (by checking the car owner’s manual).
This solution will get you on the air. There are improvements that could be made to make the installation more permanent and more reliable.
A better power solution would be to wire directly to the car’s battery. This solution requires more effort to do in a way that keeps from letting water in. I’ll do another post on this when I do this step on my car. I’ll post pictures and include the steps that keep the power clean and the rainwater out of your car.
If you want your antenna to be more permanent, there are NMO mounts that you can place right in the metal of your car’s roof or trunk lid. This requires skill with a drill and can destroy your roof or trunk lid if you don’t do it right. If I get to this point with my car, I’ll post it, along with pictures.
I have a cheaper radio in my shack that acts as a base station. A dual band antenna is also cheaper than the tri-bander above. So, if you’re looking to spend less and still have a workable solution, this parts list might do for you.