Island Lake Recreation Site - June 23-26, 2022

For the second year in a row, NORAC members chose to do ARRL Field Day at the Island Lake Recreation Site up on the Aberdeen Plateau.

Island Lake is an operator-run forestry recreation site that resembles a provincial park, but with slightly relaxed rules (allowing for unlimited vehicles per campsite - exactly what we need for a NORAC event). The location is at 1400 meters ASL (4600 ft) atop the Aberdeen Plateau - a perfect spot for great 20m take-off angle with a S0 RF noise floor on all bands.

Mike VE7KPZ and Jane VE7WWJ drove out to the location on the Thursday before the event in order to "get" the preferred sites: 21, 22 and 23 for the group.

Friday morning Ritchie VA7RLX and YL Rose dropped off Cranky, NORAC's affectionately-named mobile crank-up tower. Unfortunately they could not stay for the full event due to visiting family but we thank them greatly for both towing in (and later towing out Cranky) as all other vehicles with tow hitches already had trailers attached.

Friday early afternoon David VA7SZ stopped by on his Suzuki DR-650 to check out the site and chat.

Friday afternoon the campers rolled in after work. First to arrive was Brad VE7WBM with YL Jennifer, son Byron and daughter Josie. Then Jerome VE7JAR with sons Elijah, Reuben and Isaiah plus puppy Ginger. Jake VE7WEA rolled in to claim a nice shady spot and finally Kevin VE7XY arrived to round out the group.

Mike and Jane had some non-HAM friends Adam and Andrea surprise stop by for a paddle and fire BBQ. The visitors generously sponsored a wheelbarrow of wood for Friday night's fire. This plus Jake's massive wood supply kept the fire going late into the night.

Friday night's good fire and BBQ was enjoyed by all, pushing Cranky setup to Saturday morning.

Saturday morning started early (6 AM) to try and have Cranky up for the 11 AM Field Day event start. Greg VE7CD plus Michal VE7TMZ and son Alex arrived early to assist with the setup. Cranky's 3-element 20/15/10m beam was assembled and mounted to the mast, and then Kevin's long 2m beam attached stacked on top of that. Coax was run. Guylines attached. And finally the tower raised to vertical and cranked up for the first of three crankings.

The first challenge the team had to sort was the tower brake. It was just not catching the tower when in the braked position. So, down came the tower and Jerome got it to almost perfect. Up went the tower, brake applied but it was still off by just 1 mm. So down the tower came, a bit more adjustment and up again for what we thought would be the final time.

The second challenge the team had to sort was the resonance of the beam. Mike had just rebuilt the feed point so that was not the issue. Jerome, having the same antenna at his QTH, suggested that the issue was the anti-corrosion paste used in the element joints. We had two options: 1, bring it all down, disassemble the beam and re-do all of the joints, or 2, run a bunch of RF power through it. Plugging in a radio and running 100w SSB TX did the trick! Scans with multiple RigExpert antenna analyzers afterwards showed a lovely SWR plot right across the entire 20m band. Jerome for the win!

So now all was good except for that we forgot to attach a pulley and rope to hoist the Jerome's (previously Mel VE7STR Stratton's) 40/80m trapped dipole wire antenna. So, down came the tower again for the third time and back up to finally get to work.

Michal and son Alex jumped on the HF beam first to start off. It was tough going with sooooo many stations on the band but QSOs were made and logged. The early hours of Field Day are often like this with everyone raring to go and really just creating a lot of QRM in the small 20m band. Most of the early work was S+P as finding a clear frequency to call on was tough.

Brad was next on 20m, starting S+P and then finally finding a clear frequency to do some calling. Brad did not use his voice keyer, if you can believe it, and started to get a really good QSO rate going. Brad was logging to paper as he somehow forgot his laptop at home so exact QSO rate cannot be confirmed, but he was working fast.

Meanwhile, Mike jumped on 40m and somehow was able to work at the same time as Brad. The dipole was 90 degrees offset from the beam. 40m was packed as well but Mike finally found a clear frequency as well and could so some calling. Mike ran a mellow 40 QSO/hr rate on 40m.

While all this was happening, many visitors showed up. Here is a list of our Saturday day visitors (in no particular order):

Greg VE7CD
Michal VE7TMZ and son Alex
Doug VE7VZ
Peter VE7PAE (all the way from Salmon Arm with both drinks and food for the group - thanks Peter!)
Shawn VA7TBD (on his KLR-650)
Doug VA7CPS with YL Joyce
Wilf VE7OHM and son Alex (with donuts for the group - thanks Wilf!)
Lorne VE7LWK (with firewood for the Saturday night fire - thanks Lorne!)

After chatting with other HAMs, Wilf began to dream of a bit of contest operation himself and given that his son Alex was wearing a Yaesu hat, asked Brad if he could borrow Brad's FT-991a rig. Brad graciously agreed and off went Wilf operating and Alex logging (via Mike's tablet N3FJP software) for a good hour and a half. Wilf started S+P but quickly found a clear spot on 20m and started to call. Things went well and he held a very impressive 80+ QSO/hr rate for about an hour. In the end, 100 contacts were in the log. Alex was also able grab the mic and make a couple of contacts first-handedly as well.

Unfortunately Jake had to leave for a wedding (not his) but the rest of the operators kept the station fairly active for the rest of the day.

Around dinner time Saturday evening Jerome fired up the deep frier and fried up a bunch of chicken and sweet potato fries for the group. Mike brought some Maritime Madness Carolina reaper hot sauce that was enjoyed by many including some visitors who joined us for dinner. Jane's home-made chipotle ranch dressing was really nice on the fries as well.

Over the day we also had several other campers come by to check out the action. Each were given a tour of the site and all had their questions answered.

Kevin was able to get a 6m phone contact in the log in the late evening.

Radio operations finished around 10:30 PM Saturday night with a proposed early start the next day.

Brad started again on 20m Sunday morning, then Jerome for some 20m action as well. Mike slept in until 8 AM and then attempted both 2m FT8 and 6m FT8 with no luck. Mike tried switching to 40m to make some FT8 digital contacts, but Sunday was not like Saturday and the TX of both radios interfered with each other so 20m phone took priority.

Jerome had to leave the HF station at 10 AM to run the NORAC weekly VE7RSS net so in the last hour of the event Mike got a bit of time with the 20m beam. Mike found a clean frequency on the left-hand side of the band (American extras and Canadians only) and proceeded to sustain a record (for Mike) QSO rate of 120 QSOs/hr for about half an hour to finish out the event. Mike could barely speak after so much operating.

A quick breakfast was had at 11 AM and then everyone pitched in to bring Cranky down. Disassembly was much quicker than assembly and all were on the road home soon afterwards.

Mike, Jane and Kevin stuck around for some nice conversation while waiting for Ritchie to come pick up Cranky for the tow back home. Waiting was a blessing because the drive home was much more enjoyable later in the day without air conditioning in Mike's Unimog.

Weather during the event was all sun during the daytime, but overnight temps were down close to 0C/32F and there was a bit of rain overnight Thursday to Friday. Daytime temps on Sunday were up into the mid 20s Celsius.

Lots of fun was had by all.

Please check out the photo gallery of this event. Big thanks to our official photographer Jane VE7WWJ and our contributing photographers as well.

Now let's take a movement to give big thanks to Ritchie, who was unable to actually attend the event and operate, but was gracious enough to tow Cranky into (on Friday) and out of (on Sunday) the site for everyone to enjoy. We should also recognize the efforts of Paul VE7PDE and Paul VE7KWA leading up to the event - the Pauls did an incredible amount of maintenance on Cranky to get it skookumed up for towing. And lastly we also thank Jake VE7WEA for getting Cranky a new spare tire to match the two running tires we replaced last year.

Fun and 73s,
NORAC FD2022 Coordinator

Ps: all NORAC FD2022 operators (at Island Lake or wherever you were) please submit your log directly to ARRL (with the exception of Wilf, whose log I will submit on his behalf) and ensure that you put "North Okanagan RAC" as your club. Ensure it is spelled exactly like that so that all of our points get grouped together by club.