National Field Day was meant to involve operating a portable amateur radio station to simulate disaster response, but it has evolved in to an excuse (if one was ever needed) for consuming large quantities of alcohol and barbecued food, while playing radio with friends. The RSGB VHF Field Day took place this weekend, 3 and 4 July and up and down the country radio societies and clubs were out if force.
According to G4ILO, "Conditions could hardly have been worse for the RSGB's VHF Field Day contest this weekend. Yesterday I worked a few southern Scottish portables on 2m and 6m, plus the Lincoln Radio Club station G5FZ/P on 2m, and that was that. There did not appear to be a shred of Sporadic-E on either 2m or 6m, according to DX Sherlock. 6m was so quiet my K3 S-meter wasn't even moving." and on Sunday when he turned on he tuned both 2m and 6m without hearing a single signal.
I was not available on Saturday, due to having work, but the weather here was fine so it should have been okay and going by some of the serial numbers I got early on Sunday it was. I should have been on nights on Friday and Saturday but I was needed on days, which meant I could play radio on Sunday. It was a pity I did not have more advanced notice of this because I would have made arrangements to do something, possibly involving the guys from the radio club and some higher ground. As it was I stayed in the shack and tried to give away as many points as I could.
I stuck to 2 metres SSB as I have a fault on my 6m antenna, I don't have a beam for 70cms up and I heard nothing on 4m or 23cms. I could have put up my Delta loop for 6m but I was having fun on 2 and would have missed out while I was erecting the portable mast for it.
We had high winds which made the beam swing about a bit and a couple of short showers but I had lots of quality contacts on 2m SSB. Most of what I worked was around 150 miles and furthest 240 miles, there seemed much fewer locals than I expected. Maybe they were all out just on the Saturday? In between I worked a few SOTA stations on 2FM and HF for an all round good day. There seemed to be more EI and GI stations on than I am used to (which is good) but most of the propagation seemed to be towards Southern England. The furthest North was Northumberland and no GMs at all which surprised me. G4ILO suggested the GMs all packed up and went home because of the heavy rain and gale force winds that covered most of Scotland and down in to the Lake District. GD was sadly missing as well but at 19:53, well after the end of VHF Field Day and the Backpackers Contest I worked Rob GD4RQJ/P on Mull Hill in the Isle of Man on 2m SSB. Mull Hill is GD/GD-005 for SOTA.
After the contest finished I heard one station tell his pal "We haven't done much radio, we have been too busy eating burgers and drinking beer!", which about sums up what it is all about, having a good time. Field days are about socialising as much as they are about radio and when the crunch comes if there is an emergency it is always easier to work with people you know. Ham radio is not an emergency service the way some would have you think, but it is a group of concerned people who can help out when push comes to shove. My concern is that these days the average ham will be stopped from doing their bit to help if they are not part of a group like RAYNET, because of insurance and public safety issues. The bureaucratic and legal nightmare we find ourselves in has become so counter productive that it will and has cost lives because those that could help were prevented from doing so. In a sense the idea behind Field Day has been lost, but the spirit remains. If you were not involved this year now is the time to start planning next year's and if you don't make too many contacts what the hell, light the barbecue, chill the beer and have fun.