2023 ARRL January VHF


Only a couple minor improvements have been made to the rover setup since Sept VHF. I finally got the cables made and the third N8XJK booster installed. There should now be plenty of excess capacity to keep from running the individual boosters near their load limits even at full output on any band. I also got a new cable to change one of the computer displays from Mini DisplayPort to USB-C. For whatever reason, when the display is connected via Mini DisplayPort on the NUC, there is noise that completely trashes the entire 432 band. Simply changing that display cable completely eliminated the noise issue.

As for the actual route, I was a little lackadaisical and in the end simply decided to hit a couple grid corners I have visited in the past. Saturday would be EN51-EN60-EN61 and Sunday would be EN40-EN50-EM49 and then a stop in EM59 and EM58 on the way home Sunday evening. There was snow in the forecast for the weekend, but it wasn’t expected until late Saturday into early Sunday and only about an inch, so it looked like the weather would be decent for the route.

Since the first grid is a few hour drive from home, I was up before dawn to get the van warming up and finish packing in the last bit of gear. Some things like the LiFePO4 station batteries really don’t like below freezing temps, so it took a little longer than usual before I was on the road heading to the first stop. As it turns out, I overestimated the time needed to get everything ready, drive time, and getting setup at the first top. So, I ended up with some time to kill on Saturday morning. No big deal though, better than rushing to get there or not getting started on time.

After the couple hour drive everything in the rover was good and warmed up and it was finally time to settle in to play radio. As other have reported and is to be expected on the VHF+ bands in January, conditions were just pretty average. Even with the so so band conditions, there seemed to be quite a bit of activity during the first several hours of the contest. After a few hours in each of EN51, EN60, and EN61, the Qs were slowing down and it was time to start moving toward the new corner for Sunday. After an hour or so of driving I decided to stop and grab a few ZZZs before continuing on early Sunday morning.

I had kind of expected there to be snow on the ground when I got up Sunday morning, but it was well into the drive to the next stop before I saw the first snowflake. Just on the west side of Springfield, it started snowing and continued until I got to my spot in EN50. As predicted it only amounted to about an inch and was gone almost as quickly as it showed up. It did make for a couple nice pictures of the rover, even if I did try to kill myself slipping and sliding on the fresh wet snow in the ditch across the road trying to get that “perfect picture”. It was not one of my more graceful moments to say the least.

After a few MSK Qs to pick up a couple multipliers first thing in morning, Sunday just turned out to be another day of average band conditions for me. Though I did see some other folks calling / working the Caribbean, I never heard any of them. I did see the random decode of an east coast or southeast station on 6m FT8 throughout the day, but none of them ever lasted long enough to complete a Q.

After several hours hanging out around the grid corner, it was time to start heading closer to home. As planned, I stopped in EM59 and EM58 along the way to get in another shot at the handful of stations that had been following me through the weekend (thanks guys!) and even managed to snag a couple new multipliers with some local stations around home that I hadn’t heard yet earlier in the contest.

All in all, another enjoyable weekend playing radio…

Flex 6600 / Q5 Signal 5BVUX
50 - 200w - Par Moxon @ 18’
144 - 200w - Directive Systems 6el Rover Yagi @ 12’
222 - 100w - Directive Systems 10el Rover Yagi @ 10’
432 - 100w - Directive Systems 15el Rover Yagi @ 8’