NFD 2023 Report by David Honey M0DHO
Setup started at 10:00 Saturday in sunny conditions on a different field from our usual one. Setup went well, and we seemed to be operational by about 13:00. Initial testing of Jim’s automatic switched dipole showed it was working as expected on all bands. So it seemed like we we’re going to be gremlin free. Spoiler alert – that wasn’t to last!
Conditions seemed good on 15m and 20m, but with 5W QRP, it seemed to be a struggle to work on 15m. A few hours later, on trying to open the multipliers window on the 1st laptop, Win-Test crashed, and any attempt to open the contest file resulted in Win-Test crashing. Panic! Fortunately the 2nd laptop had its own replicated copy of the contest, and I was able to export Cabrillo, share it across the network, create a new contest file on the 1st laptop and import. However, about an hour later Win-Test crashed again. I decided to switch to DXLog which fortunately was installed on both laptops. Exported the log again from 2nd laptop, and imported into DXlog on 1st laptop. The Win-Test crashes lost us about 30 minutes operating. DXLog was mostly trouble free.
Late in the evening, we tried 160m, but this time, the antenna would not tune as it had done earlier. Investigation showed that the switch box at the end of one of the 80m ends was not working – it must have failed in some way. We found that if we bypassed it, the auto ATU at the feedpoint would tune OK for 80m and 160m, so we had a workable solution. That probably lost us about 15 minutes operating time. So in total, these various gremlins cost us 45 minutes.
Conditions were variable. 20m was a solid band for us. During the day, 40m seemed more of a struggle, but was better in the early morning and late evening. Conditions on 80m and 160m seemed OK – it was nice not to have heavy static crashes on those bands that sometimes plague NFD.
But there seemed to be fewer German portables, and less activity on both lower bands than I remember from previous years. Perhaps we were a little late switching to the low bands. There had been good signals on 15m when we started, but it seemed to be struggle to be heard with 5W. The only significant opening on 10m was on Sunday. There was Es around, but not often to southern UK.
Operators rotated mostly around Jim G0LHZ, Michael M0MPM, Geoff G4AAO, and David M0DHO, taking turns operating and spotting. It was cold overnight – I could see my breath in the tent in the small hours of Sunday. I was glad when Nick M0NPK relieved me around 4am on Sunday – by then my hands were getting cold and I was glad to climb into my sleeping bag to warm up!
There was the usual Saturday evening BBQ, and the Sunday morning cooked breakfast, both courtesy of Simon. Chris bought down his recycled washing machine drum for a camp fire along with firewood. Tear down was in sunny conditions but not too hot, and went smoothly.
Many thanks to all who operated, helped with set-up and tear-down, or just visited us.
Thanks to Ace G0ACE for the photos!