2024 ARRL January VHF


After a 6m antenna failure during September VHF, the big station change leading up to January VHF was a 6m antenna upgrade. The 6m moxon has been replaced with a new Directive Systems 3el yagi. The moxon was mounted on a section of PVC conduit that I just happened to have laying around at the time and fit nicely down into the main aluminum mast. That worked fine for the moxon, but was nowhere near rigid enough for the yagi. So, the upper mast section has also been upgraded to a length of aluminum pipe that loosely fits down into the main mast so it is still relatively easy to raise and lower. As a bonus, the yagi is a couple feet higher than the moxon was with the mast fully extended.

I had given some thought to venturing out a little farther from home for January. But, as the contest grew closer it was clear that the weather was going to be downright horrible. With the weather in mind, I finally settled on just staying closer to home. My hats off to others much farther north than me. Braving not only the frigid temps, but doing it in a foot or more of snow to get to a good operating location and setup antennas as needed takes some dedication.

I haven’t been west from home really in a contest rove, so this seemed like as good a time as any to explore one of the closer grid corners that I hadn’t been to yet. So, Saturday morning I headed toward the EM38/39/48/49 corner out near Columbia, MO. The plan was to start in the 38/39 grids, move to EM49 later in the evening and hang out there overnight. With any luck, I could hopefully catch some meteors in the early morning hours before moving back to a grid closer to home for the rest of Sunday.

After getting setup in EM39 and warmed back up a bit in the van, it was finally time to start operating. Like many contests, I tend to start out trying to work some friends back home. In doing so, we quickly discovered that the bands were simply horrible… just like the weather. Falling back to FT8 to work stations I can usually easily work on phone at this distance did not bode well for how the day would go. Unfortunately, it only continued to get worse as the day went on. Temperatures dropped, activity levels dropped, and my enthusiasm to stay holed up in the van overnight in a state park dropped right along with it. After making only a handful of Qs in EM49, there were simply no other stations to work. To add insult to injury, cell coverage where I was parked was less than impressive so I couldn’t even curb the boredom by surfing the net. With that, I decided to just pack up and head back towards home early.

After making it back home around midnight, I pulled the stuff out of the van that wouldn’t survive the sub-freezing temps and be usable again the next day and headed off to bed. At that point, I wasn’t even sure if I was going back out Sunday or not so didn’t even bother to set any kind of alarm. Apparently the cold and boredom was more exhausting that expected because I didn’t wake up until almost 8am Sunday. Got up, found a little bit of motivation, and decided to at least give Sunday a shot. By the time I got the van started, warmed up a bit, packed everything back out to it, and got out to a relatively close spot in the next grid over from home, it was around 10am local and I was finally back on the air.

What the band conditions looked like after the first hour or so of operating was going to determine just how long I was going to stay out. Well, wow, Sunday might as well have been a completely different contest. The bands weren’t great early, but it was much better than Saturday. There was actually a fair amount of activity and even some voices coming from the speaker, not just the faint sound of FT8. Then, as afternoon rolled around, some workable Es on 6m provided a bit more excitement to the mix. By early evening though activity had again fallen off and there wasn’t much left to work. I ended up calling it a night a few hours before the end and headed home.

Overall, for me, it was just a so-so contest. The weather was miserable the whole weekend and the bands were miserable on Saturday at least. But, my new 6m antenna remained operational the entire time and even performed well, so I guess that part was a success. With less operating time on my part and less overall activity in the local area at least, my score was down for this year. Oh well, here’s to looking forward to warmer temps and better bands come June!

Until next time… thanks for the Qs!

Flex 6600 / Q5 Signal 5BVUX
50 - 200w - Directive Systems 3el Yagi @ 20’
144 - 200w - Directive Systems 6el Rover Yagi @ 12’
222 - 100w - Directive Systems 10el Rover Yagi @ 10’
432 - 100w - Directive Systems 15el Rover Yagi @ 8’