John Moyle Memorial Field Day 2015 Report

For the first time, the Sawyers Valley Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade participated in the John Moyle Memorial Field Day, operating a portable station from their fire station in Sawyers Valley.

Work started at the station a little behind schedule, with the usual brigade business and vehicle checks needing to be completed first. Attention was first turned to antennas, and a short game of "I can throw higher than you!" was held, with Keith VK6WK, Andrew VK6WK, Peter VK6IS, Rick VK6XLR and several others taking it in turns to throw various objects on the ends of ropes into the many trees surrounding the fire station. Eventually two dipoles were hoisted aloft; one for 20m and the other for 80m.

Adrian, VK6NAK, also erected his special "pool-pole and fishing-rods" 20m dipole. Some work was also put into standing up an assortment of galvanised pipes, approximately 10m long, to mount a 2m folded dipole, however it was decided that the structure wasn't sturdy enough and the whole rickety enterprise was abandoned.

With some wire in the air, and some food in our bellies, courtesy of Keith and the local deli, power supplies became the next order of business. Andrew had brought along his 100Ah SLA battery and a box of power pole connectors. Some crimping and soldering later we were ready to power on... or would have been if the battery had held its charge. Adrian was making do with a 72Ah wheel-chair battery, however it was decided that even that wasn't up to scratch and was limiting the transmit power of his IC706MKIIG. Time to roll out the big guns, in the form of the fire station's 5KVA generator! Some lateral thinking by Keith pressed into service some halogen work lights to help properly load the genset.

And with that Sawyers Valley Volunteer Bush Fire Brigade was on the air! It quickly became apparent that propagation conditions were less than ideal, being still depressed from the recent solar activity. However the Hills Amateur Radio Group and the Peal Amateur Radio group were both set up reasonably nearby and provided a few guaranteed contacts across a variety of bands.

Having only one radio with an ATU also soon proved to be a minor problem, effectively limiting that radio to a single band. A venerable Codan 7411Mk2 Antenna Tuner and a hastily strung up random wire allowed for a little more frequency agility, although performance was a little underwhelming.

Peter, Keith and Adrian managed to spend about 4 hours on the air before family duties (Adrian's birthday dinner) brought the operation to a premature close. Contacts were made with several Eastern States stations, as well as most of the other WA groups.

The field day proved to be an excellent learning experience, with members learning a lot about some of the difficulties involved with operating a portable radio station effectively. The brigade will hopefully be able to build on this experience for both next year's field day and also any potential emergency operations in the future.

Many thanks to all of the visitors who attended the station to assist; Peter VK6IS, Andrew VM6WA, Rick VK6XLR, Reg VK6BQQ, John VK6WC, and some members from the Mt Helena bush fire brigade who called in to take a look. Hopefully next year some more volunteer brigades and emergency services groups can be encouraged to join in the fun. Adrian VK6NAK and Keith VK6WK.