The weather broke from sub-freezing up into the 60s and 70s for the ARRL January VHF contest. From that perspective it couldn’t have been better. The wind did move my painter pole mast around quite a bit. But nothing broke there, which is a blessing.

Limited Rover Category

K5ND/R mobile ham shack.

The ARRL Limited Rover Category calls for low power and four bands: 6 m to 70 cm. I went a bit better, to VERY limited, and ran only 2 m and 70 cm. This is the same way I ran in the September 2017 contest using an IC-910H barefoot into yagis.

Nearby, you can get a glimpse of the operating position. I put in play a Windows laptop and N3FJP’s VHF Log. It worked well and did everything I needed in my simple rover setup. You can also catch a glimpse of the Palm Radio Mini Paddle for CW contacts on the top of the IC-910H using its magnetic base. Only one QSO made during this rove on CW.

Saturday Rover Route

I pretty much followed the route I’d outlined in my Rover Route post. I got to EM22 and found that the microphone connector had a bent recepticale that ended up broken. Still, I managed to get it plugged in and working for the contest. I made 13 QSOs in the roughly one hour I was on the air in that spot.

Sunset on my EM12 activation.

As soon as the traffic stopped and I’d worked the usuals, I moved down the road to EM21. I was only able to make 8 contacts there. Next was EM11 where I worked 11 stations. Near sundown I headed to EM12 and worked 14 stations including KG5MD in EM36, my longest distance contacts on both 2 m and 70 cm.

This section of my route worked particularly well as I was roughly near a grid corner and could easily move between the grids with little lost time on the road.

Overnight Fiasco

Next was a two-hour drive back home. Once home, I decided to take my battery out of the car for recharging. Doing that caused a lead on the battery to come into contact with the opposite polarity battery post. Sparks and flames resulted, which were pretty spectacular in the dark. Fortunately, it continued to work the next day. Lesson learned — don’t do things in the dark when you’re very tired.

Sunday Route

My Sunday route started at sunrise in EM03. You can see the photo at the top of this post. It’s one of my favorite locations as it is high on a ridge with great visibility for 360 degrees. But, the wind was pretty high, which nearly brought down my painter pole mast and would have done serious damage to the antennas. Fortunately, I was able to catch it in time. Only 9 QSOs from EM03.

Next it was on to Mineral Wells State Park and EM02. There I was able to get 11 QSOs in the log. I ended near Hico in EM01 as the winds picked up a bit of steam. I added 19 QSOs to the log there. It was clear that the fixed stations that could pick me up were in the Austin area, EM00 and EM10.

I had given thought to activating EM11 and EM12 again on the way home, but I was just too tired. Plus, those would have been duplicate QSOs for most of the stations already in my log.

Lessons Learned

My 70 cm 10-element Diamond yagi got great signal reports and I actually managed in a few instances to pick up stations there first and move them to 2 meters. However, the 2 meter antenna, an Arrow 4-element yagi, was down a few dB at most stations. Of course, having fewer elements didn’t help. For the next contest, I’ll be looking to perhaps bring back the Diamond 5-element yagi or even the Diamond 10-element yagi that I’m using at home.

The other lesson was that activity times varied a great deal. The fixed stations get tired of listening to white noise and go watch sports or do something else. Publishing my schedule helped but I probably need to arrange some schedules. I also need to get on the chat pages to let people know where I am and to beg for contacts.

I further need to give consideration to adding 6 meter MSK144 to the rover. I could use my IC-9100 from home. That could also allow me to add 23 cm, but then I’d move up into a different rover category.

Finally, if I add the 6 meter stressed moxon and larger 2 meter yagi, I need a heavy duty push up mast to hold it all. That might be worth doing.

I also may give consideration to trying a similar 4-corner grid route to the west of Fort Worth as I implemented to the east of Dallas. That will cut down the drive time during the contest.


Thanks to K5AND and K5LLL for working me on both bands in all but one grid on my route. I missed K5AND from EM21 and K5LLL from EM02. Also thanks to K5QE and WA5LFD for 9 QSOs each.

What do you think?