LARC Field Day 2015

An exercise in emergency operations in less than ideal conditions

If ever there was a time when members of the club proved their resilience, it was during this past Field Day Exercise.

The weather forecast was for more than 25 mm of rain in the 24 hour period from Saturday morning to Sunday afternoon, with winds gusting as high as 85 km/hr during the evening. 

That was the forecast but how many times has the weather person been incorrect? Well, unfortunately for once the forecast was correct!

Several hams were on site by 8:00 a.m. Saturday morning when Mike VE3ACW and I showed up and since the rain had only just started as a very few drops, those on site decided it was best to get up the tents that were there as quickly as possible.

By 9:00 a.m. it was raining moderately and tents were going up quickly. A hardy crew started erecting the food services tent which is a major undertaking. By the time that job was completed it was raining pretty heavily, and the stalwart crew was soaking wet.

Mike had got his tent up but all my gear was still at my house. Mike and I left to go and have a quick breakfast (thanks Tim Horton’s!) and then we went to my place and loaded all my gear.

When we arrived on the site for the second time, it was raining pretty heavily. Mike VE3NLP was very helpful in quickly erecting my shelter. It was a brand new Coleman 10 x 10 shelter, but rain-proof it certainly was not! A sun shelter, maybe, but it dripped water in many spots. Eventually to keep things as dry as possible Mike rigged a “drop ceiling” with a 10 x 10 tarp which deflected the leaks to the sides of the shelter.

Once we were all set up it was a case of standing around waiting for the start time and trying to keep dry as the sky just kept on leaking lots of water with occasional gusts of wind. There was not much to worry about at that time, but the incessant rain was not very pleasant.

At 2:00 p.m. local time, we got under way. I was the 10 meter Band Captain and I quickly determined that 10 meters was not going to be very productive at that time. Since we did not have a 20 meter Band Captain on site, and since ten was not looking too good, we decided that Mike VE3ACW would give up 15 meters and go on 20 meters and I would try 10 and 15 meters.

Simon VA3SII volunteered his Buddipole (I had been using a John VE3MGR 10m ground plane antenna) and once it was tuned (1.2:1 SWR across the band) I got on 15 meters with the help of Robert (I’ve forgotten his call sign for which I apologize) who operated while I logged. We had some good contacts including two Hawaiian stations, a Hungarian station, a Puerto Rican station, a station from the island of Dominica in the West Indies and one with Argentina.  There were contacts made with US stations as well.


Seems the rain drove the spiders to look for shelter and since we had resolved the leakage issue, it would appear that one spider found some respite from the rain and sent out a message to his brothers and sisters to seek shelter in the 15 meter tent! There were so many of them I began to wonder if they were having their own Field Day and communicating the good news that a much drier area existed under the 15 meter tent! I am not afraid of spiders, at least not the ones we had as company, but as they crawled over us they certainly tickled.

As many know I am recovering from hip replacement surgery and I must admit that I am not as fully recovered as I would like and certainly not as well as I thought. By the time it was getting on for 6:00 p.m. the cold and dampness were getting to me and despite my having on a winter coat, I was starting to shiver and my feet and legs were staring to hurt. I thought it would be better for me to take a break, go home and get warm, and get something to eat.

After discussing things with my wife I decided that staying out in the damp and cold in my less than one hundred per cent condition, risking getting sick was just not worth it. Regrettably I decided it was in my best interest to abandon ship. And this ship certainly was taking on water!

My daughter accompanied me back to the site to break camp. It was drizzling a little but the winds were gusting quite strongly. As we drove in we saw Corbin VE3NIS working on the shelter that had housed the PSK31 effort run by Tom VE3HOR and Jim VA3AHQ. The wind was just about destroying the shelter and would have done so had not Corbin taken some quick action to secure it.

With some help from Simon, my station and shelter were quickly broken down and loaded, and I headed out. No sooner had we got to the gate to the park than the skies REALLY opened up and it rained very heavily for a good half hour or more. As we drove home along Southdale Road the road was awash and driving was very difficult in very poor visibility.

The rain continued on and off during the night with varying amounts of wind gusts, but I was not one of the hardy souls who stayed on site all night. I slept in a nice warm, dry bed!

Sunday, at midday I went back to the site and there were still operators making contacts. It was still raining although not as hard as it had been and the wind had died down considerably.

Was it a wise decision to set up and hold the event as planned?
After everything was set up and prior to the start of the event, a safety briefing was held with all present, and very definite rules and plans were laid out as to what to do if things got untenable or thunderstorms approached. We had VE3ZBG, Brett,  the club’s Canwarn mainstay at home monitoring the weather conditions and hand helds on site were monitoring the VE3OME repeater so any advance warning of dangerous weather would have been passed on to those on the site. Plans were put in place to ensure the safety of those who stayed on the site overnight.

What did persevering actually do?
It showed that there is a core group in LARC who can go out in an emergency, throw up some shelters in inclement weather and trying conditions, put up some antennas and get on the air if, or when, an emergency arises in the City, even if the weather is adverse, and conditions are not perfect, which is entirely a possibility should an emergency arise requiring the communications skills of members of the London Amateur Radio Club.

Kudos to those who made this event happen, from those who organized it (VA3SII and VE3NIS) to those who showed up, helped to set up and tear down, those who provided refreshments for the group on site, and those who were prepared to operate in much less than ideal conditions.

On a personal note, my thanks to those who helped me set up and take down my station, helped with erecting the antennas I was to use, given that I am under medical restrictions as to what I can and cannot (should not!) do for a while yet until I am back to one hundred per cent, something I’m told is still at least eight months away.

I am not aware of the total number of contacts made, nor do I have the breakdown as of this writing, but I do know a sterling effort was put in by all in so many ways.

Those who turned up are to be heartily congratulated on holding a very good event under very difficult conditions.

The organizers deserve a huge round of applause also. Let’s hope that the weather is far more cooperative next year. Snow, anyone?

Organizers:Simon Wilton VA3SII and Corbin Lippert VE3NIS

80 Meter Band captain:Doug Elliott, VA3DAE

40 Meter Band Captain:Don Tod VE3MGD (The best seat in the house in his Airstream trailer!)

20 Meter Band Captain:Mike Watts VE3ACW

20 Meter PSK 31 operators:Tom Pillon VE3HOR and Jim Morris VA3AHQ

Multi-band CW operator Extraordinaire: Gary Wabersich VE3XDM

10/15 Band Captain: David Lambert VE3KGK

Commissary:Ruth VE3RBO, Paul VE3PFN and those who pitched in to help

Logging:John Visser Sr. VE3FDV and John Visser Jr.  VA3MSV

I may have missed some who helped. For that I sincerely apologize. Even though you may not be mentioned, your contribution was certainly appreciated.

David VE3KGK