Summer Thunder (Field Day 2022)

The ARRL’s annual summer field day ran this weekend part of Saturday and part of Sunday, finally drawing to a close at 2pm local time, Sunday the 26th.

As it was pretty hot outside in our wonderful Arizona desert, the Ocotillo Hams decided to operate separately from home, while sipping cool lemonades indoors. (However, there was sporadic monsoon storm activity all weekend, which dumped a little rain, rattled windows with summer thunder, and cooled it off a few degrees!)

About four members of the group ran contest operations, though the band conditions were not the best.

Norm K7NWF, Don WQ1E, Tim N1QKD, and John AI7AQ all thrust in the contest oars for varying amounts of time, counting total unduplicated contacts, and contest points.

Norm’s Field Day Contest Logging results

Ocotillo Hams Member Field Day Results In order of Total Reported Contacts

Norm: K7NWF – 220 Contacts
(His personal best Summer Field Day, last year, 175)

John: AI7AQ – 182 Contacts
(Single day total, John actually went outside in the heat!)

Tim: N1QKD – 110 Contacts

Don: WQ1E – 25 Contacts
(Don was busy building a new motorized Mag Loop this weekend!)

Lisa: KJ7DJR – 0 Contacts (OOps! Out sick the last couple weeks)

And this year’s Summer Thunder King Ocotillo Ham is..


Congratulations to our favorite all around nice guy and terrific Elmer. 🙂

Now go relax… here’s a little of my favorite “thunder and rain” music to wind down to.


HF Round Robin in May

May’s park get together was held at Tumbleweed park in Chandler. The park was quiet as I pulled in, with just an honorable police man’s car parked at the entrance. (Na wei jing cha, if you’re a Mandarin speaker)

In spite of having my car all packed up the night before and leaving much earlier than usual, I was still the last one there. I think there’s a subtle contest for the best tables at the ramada, and the antenna setup spots going on… Lol. They say be there by 9am, and then get there at 8am!

Norm brought a new higher power Wolf River Coil with him, but was having trouble with his SWR meter, and tuning it, so he had me test drive it using my analyzer and rig instead. Turns out he just needs a new meter and there was nothing wrong with his new screwdriver setup. (Another excuse to buy a new toy!)

The bands looked really good, and we did a little bit of band hopping, playing round robin with who was on 1st, (20m) 2nd (15m), 3rd (17m) and lastly, 30m or 10m, or 12m. 20m was so busy we could hardly find a gap to transmit in.

I made a couple of contacts on about 4 different bands, sneaking in while the boys weren’t looking or were busy chatting. And then I ran out of juice in my laptop, the backup “Bolt” and then my battery box. OOps! Forgot to charge everything last time!

We had a couple of guys swing by who had been sitting on the park bench across from us and talk electronics, ham radio frequencies, and getting licenses. Who knows, maybe one of them will decide to join the hobby. They seemed much more than passingly interested and we enjoyed explaining the way the signals bounce off the ionosphere to cover long distances.

It was getting pretty warm by the time the four of us packed up and headed to Village Inn for lunch, but it was a nice relaxed day with pretty good band conditions.


RFI Adventures in April

April’s park outing of the Ocotillo Hams was a little smaller than usual as the HOA garage sale spring season kicked in for Don. Three of our rotating number turned up to the Veteran’s Oasis Park in Chandler on April 9th bright and early to the Curved-Bill Thrasher Ramada.

John (AI7AQ) and Norm (K7NWF) both brought different Mag-Loop antennas, while Lisa (me, KJ7DJR) turned up with a Wolf river coil mini-bullet on a MFJ tripod with custom measuring tape radials.

Setup was a breeze for the mag-loop posse, and only slightly more complicated for me. We were all setup by 9am, tuned up at different times for 10, 12, 15, 17 and 20m bands.

As usual, there was at least one technical issue to work through. This time Norm was the lucky target of the radio gremlins, filling in for Don and I. =)

Norm was encountering an audio problem with his setup, which turned out to be a case of RFI on the USB cables between his SignaLink and radio. One of the symptoms is that the SignaLink will flutter on and off, or the USB interface will just stop, and need to be disconnected and reconnected or the laptop rebooted.

This is a problem I’ve had more than a few times at home on different bands. I ended up resolving it by attaching some good size ferrites that I got over at to the USB cables. I usually wrap it around the ferrite about 5 times and then snap it closed.

Giant Snap on Ferrite wrapped with USB cable multiple times.

Don’t bother with those tiny piddling little snap-on’s the size of a thumb though. They don’t do the job!

John’s RFI solution on HIS cables is a little more aggressive.. he has a toroid the size of an elephant’s bracelet wound with his cables. =) He giggles delightedly about it every time we meet at the park.

Lol. You want to see someone’s eyes light up like it’s Christmas, just ask John to show you his toroid.

Norm usually hasn’t had a problem with RFI in the park, so it may have been the different antenna, or a bad cable. John had a spare TripLite USB cable to loan, which seemed to get Norm up and running.

We made plenty of contacts, including Cuba, Ecuador, Canada, and a plethora of stateside QSO’s.

The weather was beautifully mild, the park was not as busy as the March outing, but we still got plenty of visitors dropping in to ask what we were doing, talk about ham radio and admire our antennas.

We wrapped up with lunch at Village Inn, and headed home, happy little hams for another month.


M is for Mag Loops in March

March’s portable radio gathering of the Ocotillo Hams group featured two different mag loops in use at Veteran’s Oasis Park in Chandler. Two vertical antennas were also tossed in the mix, but the fastest setup time and most contacts were definitely had with the mag loop configurations.

We set up early in the morning at the Curved-Bill Thrasher Ramada, which is close to the parking lot, and thus a pretty short walk with our gear in tow in an array of little wagons.

A small wedge of grass to the east of the ramada was filled with our antennas, cones, and radials, along with a plethora of warning signs to keep the other park visitors at bay. 😉

Now that the weather is warming up the park is quite busy on Saturdays and we had many interested people stop by to find out what we were doing.

The Reason for Hams to Practice Often

As many hams offer their services in event of emergencies, it really useful to get out in the field frequently to test your equipment and make sure it’s working as expected.

So far, there hasn’t been a single portable radio event where all the equipment has worked flawlessly for everyone. But this gives us an opportunity to correct problems before we end up in an emcomms situation in the middle of the night deployed far from home with non functioning equipment.

M is also for Midway

The bands were looking good and were so busy that it was hard to find an open spot to transmit, but some fun DX and US contacts were made, including one from a ham stationed on the USS Midway Museum (the museum ship parked in San Diego California) made with Norm, K7NWF.

Gorgeous QSL Card from the USS Midway Museum received by Norm, K7NWF

Ocotillo Hams at Play 🙂

While there is quite a bit of work involved in going portable– packing up and hauling the gear to vehicles, and hauling it into the park and setting up, stringing wires, and radials etc.. this hobby is also supposed to be FUN.

So here are a few pictures of us happy hams playing on the air 🙂

Don WQ1E grinning ear to ear finally getting his G90 back on the air after chasing out all of the vicious gremlins.
Norm K7NWF chasing DX on 20m
Lisa KJ7DJR working FT8 and FT4 on 20m
John AI7AQ burning up the band on 15m with his Icom-7300 and MFJ Mag Loop.
Happy Hams “synchronized surfing” the airwaves 🙂 Norm and Don resorted to transmitting on alternating time slots to work the same band at the same time.

Winter Field Day 2022

Members of the Ocotillo Hams came out for Winter Field Day for the first time on January 29, 2022. It was a terrific portable event for us, and fun was had by all.

We met at Tumbleweed Park in Chandler, AZ, where we set up a variety of antennas on the lawn near the Cottonwood Ramada, which we rented for most of the day.

Our Equipment:

Among the antennas deployed were a home built Mag Loop, a random wire antenna, a Wolf River Screwdriver Antenna, and a Wolf River Otophone, set up as a dipole.

Rigs ranged from a Xiegu G90, to two Yaesu 891’s, and an Icom 7300.

Off Grid power for radios and tuners and computers was supplied by several battery boxes, and a halo car jump starter, among other things.

We used our phones as mobile hot spots for call sign data lookups.

AI7AQ’s random Wire Antenna hanging from a portable mast to the ramada post.
WQ1E’s homebrew mag loop antenna
K7NWF’s Otophone antenna configured as a dipole.

Contest Conditions:

Of all the bands that were included in the contest, by far the most traffic was found on 20 meters, with 15 meters coming in second. There was very little traffic on 40 meters and 10 meters. In fact there was so much traffic on 20 meters that it was hard to get a word in edgewise to make contacts.

We rotated frequencies to allow everyone to take a swing at the busier bands, without interfering with each other.

Members in our little pod worked mostly RTTY and PSK-31 digital modes, though we did see some stations calling using Olivia, and a few modes we didn’t recognize by ear.

AI7AQ busy raking in the contacts on his Icom 7300
KJ7DJR setting up her gear. K7NWF behind the camera taking the pictures.

The One Heart Attack:

Safety being important when operating portable out where the general public passes by, we had our antennas “roped off” using bright orange mini cones and some RF danger signs..

…but there’s always that one person who doesn’t hear “KEEP OUT” from the signs and cones.

Towards the end of our field day operations we observed one fellow leave the sidewalk and wander across the lawn through the middle of all our antennas, ignoring cones and signs, completely oblivious to the danger that antennas could pose during transmission (RF burns or crispy critter level voltage).

When he stepped into the circle around the mag loop antenna which is low enough to the ground to really do serious harm if touched), we got a bit alarmed and warned him off vocally. Just kind of scary!

WQ1E working his G90 and chatting with KJ7DJR. Mag loop and circle of cones in the background 🙂

Next time we’ll probably bring the crime scene tape! Yiiikes.

After we packed up, we all met at Denny’s down the road for a light dinner before saying goodbye.

All in all it was a fun day for all, and we hope to do it again soon.