SNB /LEFARS Field Weekend

The August Bank Holiday weekend traditionally sees Loughton and Epping Forest Radio Society out and about on a field day, and for the past few years LEFARS has accepted an invitation from Kelvedon Hatch ‘Secret Nuclear Bunker Contest Group’ to share the SNB location for a join event.

SNB/LEFARS Autumn Field Day (Photo John Ray G8DZH)

Highlight of the weekend is usually the barbecue on the Saturday evening which usually consists of Ron White G6LTT and his long suffering XYL White flipping Burgers and sausages, why I brew up a large vat of chilli!

This year was no exception, and learning from last years BBQ, more planning went into this years, and RSVP’s were sent out to all club members and prospective guests in order to plan numbers.

For just £5 a head you got a burger in a roll, a hotdog and a bowl of chilli. There were also copious amounts of Tea available for those that had not taken any alternative beverages!

I was busy the night before (turning in at 2am) cooking the chilli with my own secret formula. My plan was to cook a chilli that has loads of flavour but not too much heat.. I was also brought along a bottle of Chipotle BBQ sauce to add a bit more zing if required!

Everything was going to plan until it came to the rice.. I left the container with the rice on the side in the kitchen and it was too much of a drive ot go and get it. Fortunately a quick visit to a local supermarket in Ongar resolved the immediate rice issue, but unfortunately another cropped up back on the site. Due to starting to cook the rice later than expected, the poor camping stoves available could not provide enough heat to boil the rice! This year I used a much bigger pot which needed considerably more heat. Panic avoided by Chris Smart who had a Petrol Stove which with it’s 5Kw output burner had the rice boiling in a jiffy!

Chris Smart makes sure I am not wrecking his stove! (Photo John Ray G8DZH)

Feedback was all positive and with no-one receiving food poisoning or chilli after-effects the next morning, my title of ‘Chilli Dave’ is safe for another year.

Lefarians and the SNB guys wait for Chris to give his verdict! (Photo: John Ray G8DZH)

It is well worth noting that some operating took place during the the weekend, with the Saturday being a little more laid back due to the effort required to setting up in the heat! Sunday was quite active with the stations able to take advantage of of the lift on the higher frequencies courtesy of Sporadic E. Even the UK was workable Inter-G on 20m!

Committee Member Andy Markham G8RZA on the left on 2m with Club chairman Dick Clark G4DDP working 6m both as GX4ONP/P (Picture John Ray G8DZH)


It has been a while since I have made an entry on the blog, so here it is:



This spring we decided to go on a short cruise. Because I have just taken over another company, I could not afford to be away for too long, so we booked a cruise from Southampton to Portugal. It would take in Vigo (Spain), Lisbon, Porto and Cherbourg and have two ‘sea days’.

As the cruise was so short, I was not going through all the rigmarole of getting the HF radio on the shop like I did for the Caribbean  on the Ventura, as I did not plan on operating on the ship.

I just packed the trusty MD380 and also a selection of codeplugs that I had on my laptop. It was all very last minute and I had not researched any of the repeaters that might be in range at any of the destinations, this would however not stop me from having a bit of fun!

Arriving at Vigo (feeling a bit woozy after the P&O Azura crashed through 6m swells in the Bay of Biscay), I tried every channel I had on the radio & could not connect with anything, so left the radio on the ship. All was not lost though as Vigo was celebrating the expulsion of Napoleons armies from the city in 1809. much fine local food, drink and music was on offer int he old town, as the locals came out to play (while the rest of the shops were all closed!).

I was back on the ship for our next stop, Lisbon, where the CT codeplug I brought with was duly loaded on the MD380. This was a much more successful affair with a number of repeaters opening up when interrogated. During a lull in the sightseeing I took advantage of a quiet moment to shatter the peace and tranquility with some CQ calls on the Worldwide Channel (See Photo above), using the call CT7/M0MBD/P. First response was a chap in Maine USA! Our taxi driver was mightily impressed with the American drawl emanating from my tiny radio and asked if the other station was really in America! Whilst the rest of the family took photo’s of a fine aqueduct (and me) I was deep in conversation relaying weather conditions and a description of the visa to my new buddy in Maine. The problem was I did not have a pen and paper to record the callsign and personal details of my American contact, but you will have to just trust me that I was not talking to myself in the photo!

Back to the ship and it was all on deck for the leaving party. I cheekily went up on the sun deck out of the way and had pit out a quick call as CT7/M0MBD/MM and was inundated with calls, once again from America. I worked about 4 stations as we steamed under the 25 De Abril Bridge (formally know as Ponte Salazar), with contacts on both the East and West coasts of the USA, including some chap in Yellowstone Park! One remarked that they could hear the wind, which was indeed getting up as we approached the mouth of the river Tigus and back into the North Atlantic Sea, so I beat a hasty retreat downstairs and got ready for dinner.

The visit to Oporto was uneventful radio wise as the codeplug did not feature any repeaters that were in range at this location, so the radio stayed n the ship and I concentrated on more important mattes, like visiting the wine cellar of my favourite Port manufacturer, Taylors! The weather was also highly changeable and we gave up walking around the centre of Oporto when we got drenched in a downpour!

A day at sea ensued where we were once again battered by ship ploughing through swells of 6m again at a speed of over 20 Knots! The jarring of the bow coming down into waves was so fierce that equipment from the roof over the main stage parted company with it’s fitting, crashed to the stage and bounced into someone, causing some of the shows to be cancelled for safety reasons. It also made for a weird experience trying to sleep at night as your body weight appeared to fluctuated +/- a few Stone with the rise and fall of the ship. Our location of our stateroom, near the bow of the ship did not help matters.

The last stop of the cruise in Cherbourg was more of shopping trip with our party stocking up on French bread and cheese! I got called back to the ship on business and had to attend to some work online, but managed to get off the ship again in the afternoon to have a look around the Nuclear Submarine ‘Le Redoubtable’ which is open to the public as part of a Maritime exhibition next to the cruise terminal. This was a fascinating look inside a ballistic missile carrying sub, which is the largest submarine open to the public in the world. What was impressive was how they managed to cut out the whole nuclear reactor section of the sub and replace it with a shell which, once you went past the engineering control room, made it appear you have entered a totally empty part of the cylinder!  Interestingly, from the sea (on the ship as we left port), you can still see the actual nuclear reactor portion of the sub which is being decommissioned in the naval dockyard! There was absolutely no playing radio on this part of the cruise as I could not find a suitable codeplug for France and I could not find anything that made any sense about DMR in France while surfing online!

So That was this years ‘Radio on Holiday’ so far! Just a few short contacts from Portugal on DMR, but even then it a too many for my family. It is perhaps just as well I did not take the HF station with me on this trip then!

Aerial Masts and Agricultural Machinery – a Bad Mix!

Field days are always a great day out and a challenge. The thing is that even in the middle of an empty field (or near empty), and no matter what risk assessment you may perform, there is accounting for the stupidity of others and serious damage and financial loss could be the result.

This summer I was invited to take part in an event and turned up to a field with my van packed full of gear for a serious portable session for the weekend.

Upon arrival I checked out the field and asked the organiser where I could set up and was told, anywhere you like..we have the field to ourselves.

Having no reason to question the fact that we were indeed alone in the field, I set up my Racal PU12 mast and set up my NATO tactical Antenna on it which was huge, but as I was well pass the access points into the field, I thought I was well away from anywhere people would be driving vehicles in and out. I asked if I should put some fluorescent picket fencing around the base of the inverted V antenna ends, but was told that I am so well out of the way, no one is going to go anywhere near me.

Everything was going swimmingly for the first day, then I decided to drop the antenna and change it for a three element tri-bander. I disconnected the antenna ends in preparation to swap the aerials and dived in the back of the van and started putting together a workmate bench which I was going to use to support the main boom of the tri-bander while I attached the elements. While is was in the back of the van I heard a noise which sounded like tractors.. I came out the back of the van to see my mast almost bend double with a piece of farm machinery spinning and spooling up my antenna.

Some contractors had come into the field to pick up a load of dried grass and bale it as hay. The problem was that no-one told the field day organiser, or the guy who gave him permission to use the field.

Perhaps it did not seem important for the contractors to perform a risk assessment before charging into the field, but whatever, it caused a real lot of damage and some real political issues about who was responsible and how the damage was going to be resolved. Sadly it was impossible to find spare sections for the mast to replace the permanently bent or snapped sections. I was therefore out of pocket to the tune of about £500!

The site is important to the group and it was not practical to take the owner to task over the mixup about who should have been doing what in the field. Pursuing the contractors and causing ill will would have also created an issue, so in the end another club member who happened to have a ‘spare’ mast offered to help restore the losses.

In the end, the message I took away from this was: If you feel that certain procedures would be good to follow on health and safety grounds, then do it, even if people say you don’t need to. I allowed myself to get dissuaded from putting up picket fencing as a warning about aerial ends. Also that no matter how confident you are that the people in a field know what they are doing, there is no accounting for the poor work practices of others, who should not have been in the field at the same time as the field day group.

I have not mentioned any of the parties involved, but apart from me being totally apoplectic at the time and wanting to sue the pants off of anyone involved, taking a step back and being reflective allowed for other things to happen to help repair my losses. Hopefully it means that the field can still be used by the radio group, and the status quo is restored.

It just means that Risk Assessment will be a higher priority on my next /p expedition, and to presume that everyone will act like an idiot around my mast and aerial setup! OK My NATO antenna can’t be replaced as they are as rare as hens teeth, but the upside is that I have plenty of kevlar aerial wire with which to make new home-brew dipoles, delta loops etc!

An update since this event. The club Chairman Dick Clark actually donated his ‘spare’ Clark PU12 mast to the M0MBD equipment pool. I will be forever grateful to Dick who’s unselfish act saved me a whole wad of money and allowed me to continue with portable operations during the subsequent months. Thismast was also used in liu of the LEFARS trailer mast for the LEFARS field day the following year, due to the trailer mast being refurbished.

LEFARS Field Day approaches

It’s one of the times of year I always look forward to. It is when the club members pack all the gear into the cars and descend on a little pub called the Rainbow & Dove at Hastingwood, just off the M11 junction for Harlow.

The Rainbow & Dove. The location of good food and beer! and a big field for playing radios.

The Rainbow & Dove. The location of good food and beer! and a big field for playing radios.

What with the increase in electronic noise and interference (QRM), decamping to the countryside and setting up portable stations is sometimes the only way radio amateurs can work some of the more elusive distant stations around the world (DX). It also gives club members the opportunity to try out new antennas or equipment they might not be able to use at home do to having a diddy garden or being unable to run power without causing interference.

Me I have a neighbor with an extremely noisy plasma TV, who refuses to even allow me to get him a new LCD TV for FREE to replace it! So it is off to the field for me this weekend.

Field Day @ Rainbow & Dove 2015. (My Tri-bander was behind the camera)

Field Day @ Rainbow & Dove 2015. (My Tri-bander was behind the camera)

This week will be unlike others, as the battle wagon is currently off the road awaiting an MOT, so I will be turning up in the Jag, with a lightweight setup this year. I will be trying out my lightweight fiberglass military mast with an inverted V for 20 meters and running data (PSK 31, RTTY and anything else I can try). I might actually try the radiator of my 3 element beam on its own as a tri-band dipole & see how that works.

Tactical antenna mast ready for the weekend

Tactical antenna mast ready for the weekend

Whatever I get up to it will also include the club dinner on the Saturday evening, which usually sees about 18 of us crowd around a table for some fine food & beer. Some of the members will stay overnight and mind the fort, whilst I will have to go back home for the GB2RS news broadcast that I make at 09:30 every Sunday morning!

LEFARS will start to set up for the weekend starting Friday afternoon 26th and ending on afternoon of the 30th May 2016. Visitors are always welcome, although if you would like to join us for dinner on Saturday, you will have to book with Club secretary Marc Litchman.