1. a CW/Phone station on 6 meters using a 3-element beam antenna
2. a CW station on 40 meters using a wire antenna and counterpoise strung up in an L-shape
3. a CW station on 20 meters using an inverted-V dipole antenna
4. a Phone station on 20 meters and other bands using a wire vertical antenna strung in the tree
I have some new friends who probably never heard me write about this type of thing before. So for them, let me provide a little background :)
For starters, I'm a licensed amateur radio operator. That means that I have permission to transmit radio signals for the purpose of communicating with other "hams" (amateur radio operators). We each have a call sign, just like a commercial radio station does. Mine is KB3RGW. When we talk via the radio, we can use a number of different methods: we can use our voice (called Voice or Phone), we can use Morse Code, or we can use digital methods that act sort of like internet messenger programs except that we send the messages via wireless radio rather than via the internet. I got licensed because I wanted to learn and use Morse Code, but I've dabbled in the other modes, too.
Hams use amateur radio for all sorts of things: chatting with new people or old friends, assisting in emergency communications at events such as marathons, contesting to see how many stations one can contact in a set time under certain rules, etc. Field Day is a 24-hour event that takes place once a year. It's a sort of hybrid between an emergency communications drill/contest/picnic event. The idea is to set up stations out in a field or some other atypical location and to enjoy operating the radios there for the day. Since people get on the air from all over the country, the bands are filled with signals and contacts. That's a pretty exciting thing to hear. It's also nice to get together with local hams for some fellowship and fun.
So that's the basic overview of Field Day :)
Getting back to yesterday...
We spent Saturday afternoon operating from W3AWU's backyard. I had never operated on 6 meters before, so I set out to give that a try. It was fun - the band wasn't too crowded, but there were plenty of people to be contacted there. I tried a little Phone operation (eeep, I left CW and joined the dark side :P) operating above 50.125 MHz. I made a contact, tried at several others, but wasn't being heard. I poked around the CW portion of the band below 50.090, but didn't hear anyone who was calling for FD contacts that we hadn't already contacted. All together, I think our crew filled about 3 log pages with contacts. We managed to contact people from as far as Newfoundland, Florida, and Wyoming with just 5 watts. (The typical cell phone transmits to a cell phone tower with about 1 watt, so our radios were not much stronger than that. Some people operate Field Day with as much as 1500 watts. This explains why I wasn't always heard over the crowd!)
Our hosts were very gracious. There were plenty of drinks, sandwiches, and friendly conversation to be enjoyed. Half of the fun of Field Day is hanging out with friends. The other half is building antennas and playing around with all sorts of radio equipment, Morse Code keys, etc. (Wait, I forgot - making contacts on the air is fun, too!) Thanks to everyone from the NOVA QRP Club for this fun Field Day!