Friday, September 19, 2008

K2NUD/MM Limited Multi-Op - Part I

As I mentioned late last week, I had a opportunity to operate the ARRL September VHF QSO Party with Matthew, K2NUD. I've operated VHF contests with Matthew before, most recently during the June version of the same contest (which I wrote about here, here, and here). There were two significant difference for this contest though: First, we'd be operating using Matthew's callsign as a limited multi-op entry (more about that later) instead of operating with a club callsign, and second, and most important, we'd be operating from aboard a boat.

As I've explained previously, the primary goal in VHF contests is to make contacts with as many other stations as possible, with the "multiplier" being the number of different grid squares that you contact. The reason for using a boat (aside from the fact that it's just plain fun) is that we'd decided to operate from a grid square that is located entirely in the Atlantic Ocean, FM39. As a result, because you do need to have a boat to operate there, this is considered a "rare" grid, meaning that there is rarely a station located there.

The story actually starts a year or two ago, when Matthew and I were kicking around the idea of trying to find someplace interesting, yet relatively local, to operate from during a contest. We'd thought about doing something simple like operating from one of the islands that count for Islands On the Air (which includes Long Island, NY, and a bunch of islands along the New Jersey shore, such as Long Beach Island), but Matthew really enjoys VHF contesting so that meant that we'd want to find an interesting grid square.

Somewhere along the line, Matthew discussed the idea with some non-ham friends of his with the result being that they offered to let him use a boat to get to FM39. After a not-very-successful trial run a month or so earlier (Matthew tried operating from the boat while it was taken up to Martha Vineyard; unfortunately, it was shortly after the remnants of one of the hurricanes passed through the seas were extremely rough), Matthew decided that he had enough of boats for a while (except for the cruise ship variety!), and that the boat trip idea wasn't going to happen.

A few weeks later, Matthew changed his mind, and the trip was back on again ... probably. A week or so before the trip Hurricane Ike was still in the southern Atlantic, and some the tracks showed it starting to head north. We put off making a final decision until the Tuesday prior to the contest, by which point Ike looked like it was going to head for the Gulf of Mexico and the generate weather forecast for the weekend was at least decent. As the weekend approached, the forecast actually got worse, with rain showers predicted in the morning and a chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. By that point, we were committed to the trip, and figured we'd make the best of it regardless of the weather.

In order to get on the air at around the start of the contest (2PM local time), we figured that we needed to leave Matthews house at around 9AM or so. When I woke up, it was so foggy at my house that I could only see a few houses down the street. While I knew that the boat had radar, the idea of going out to sea in a pea soup fog didn't seem terribly appealing to me. Fortunately, by the time I'd driven a couple of miles, the fog was gone, and the sun had come out. When I got to Matthews, not only was it sunny, but it had gotten quite warm out. I was glad that I'd tossed a pair of shorts in with the gear that I brought, since it didn't seem like I'd be too comfortable wearing jeans all day in that kind of weather.

Matthew introduced me to his brother-in-law Karl, or rather, Captain Karl, who was going to drive the boat for us. He also drove his truck down so that we could fit the 6m beam in the bed. After about an hour's drive, we arrived at the marina, and I got my first view of the Marylee, the beautiful 32 foot fishing boat that would be our operating platform for the day.

To be continued ...

No comments:

Post a Comment