Winter Field Day 2021 – Cooooold Outside in NH
Two weeks ago I decided to participate in Winter Field Day. In years past, I’d always made excuses why not to do it. This year I was bound and determined to get outdoors. The contest organizers make it worth your while to do this. Check out all the bonus points available for you should you decide to get outdoors into the fresh air and embrace Mother Nature and the Old Man:
- 1,500 points for being outside
- 1,500 extra points for being away from my home
- 1,500 bonus points for using a battery instead of commercial power
I also got two points per Morse code (CW) contact as well as a 4X multiplier for using just 5 watts to make each contact. Believe me, you can make lots of contacts with just 5 watts and a great antenna.
I operated from inside my uninsulated parked truck on top of the crusty snow cover at the historic New Hampton Town House. The building was constructed in 1799. My truck was turned off the entire time I was there.
When I made the decision to participate, the future forecast showed milder weather with temperatures in the low 30s and snow. That’s relatively mild weather for New Hampshire in the winter. But the Old Man changed his mind as he frequently does.
It was 5F when I woke up and the forecast was for the temperature to claw its way to 15F. Fortunately, abundant sunshine was also forecasted. My plan was to point the front of my Ford F250 4×4 truck cab south and the glorious infrared radiation would convert my truck cab into a greenhouse. I’m good with that!
Years ago Jim and I were convinced we could operate in cold NH on a sunny day if we were out of the wind and could capture the infrared energy just as we captured radio waves. We decided to make our own greenhouse using a teepee frame and clear plastic. It was a fun activity, but it was a lot of hiking to get to the teepee.
No Time for Tangles
Many moons ago I went on my first winter outdoor radio outing with my mentor Jim Cluett, W1PID. We went to a small quintessential ski hill, Veteran’s Memorial Ski Area, in Franklin, NH. It’s only open on the weekends and staffed by volunteers.
It was a gray cold day and I didn’t realize the exercise was to see how fast one could deploy the antenna because as Jim later said, “You only have seconds/minutes to get set up and make a QSO before your hands are numb.”
While I was playing patty-cake on an HT helping SOTA friends Herm and Myrle on a nearby summit get one of the four QSOs they needed, Jim was busy getting his lanyard line in a tangle. It’s a day we’ll both never forget. It brings tears to our eyes each time it comes up in conversation.
Jim will tell you that I’ve mastered the skill of throwing a water bottle up into a tree 50 feet or more. He was a great teacher of the method.
But we tend to do it in t-shirts and maybe a light jacket. As I was getting ready to deploy my string on the frozen snow crust, I kept thinking, “No tangles. You get one chance to get this up in the tree. It’s COLDER now and windier than it was that day with Jim.”
Within seconds of starting to take the string off the reel, it was tangled so bad I thought I’d have to go home! The wind was howling and you can’t untangle a thin string with gloves on for goodness sake. Off came the gloves and I was desperately running out of time to get the string in a nice layered coil on the snow so I could loft the water bottle up into the branches.
Once I had the string untangled and the cold was taking control of my hands and emotions, it took me three tries to get the water bottle over the perfect branch. I had vastly underestimated how my heavy jacket would encumber my throwing motion!
29 QSOs in 2.5 Hours
I’m a so-so CW operator. I can just about hear Morse code at 17 words-per-minute (WPM) in a normal casual conversation. During contests, I’m able to make out call signs with operators pushing 25 WPM. This past summer I made a point to participate in the Wednesday afternoon CWops one-hour sprint to try to improve my listening speed.
A few years ago Jim encouraged me to start doing contests to help increase my CW speed. Once I gained some experience, I started having some fun. My first low-stress contest success was the Zombie Shuffle back in 2015.
Short Window – Decent Results
On this day, January 30, 2021, I decided I’d only operate from the start at 1900Z until the sun went down. I have trouble driving at night and wanted to be back home at least 30 minutes before dark. This time of year in New Hampshire, that means I’d only operate for 2.5 hours.
I was happy to make 29 QSOs during that time. Part of the time I was on the phone with a friend who lives in Washington, DC. After the call, Jim and another friend texted me to check on my progress. These interruptions cut into my operating time but I’m always happy to hear from friends. Friends are far more important than log entries as far as I’m concerned.
If I had devoted my full attention to the magic cool waves that seeped into my thin 29-gauge antenna wire and slithered their way into my KX3, I’m sure I would have had 40, or more, QSOs. I had a blast and will do it again next year unless the Good Lord has a need for me to do plumbing or carpentry work up in Heaven!
Here are some other photos that hopefully convey the spirit of the event. My thanks to the team who put on Winter Field Day.