I’ve been doing some rover operations. It began by activating a few nearby grids and vacation grids for satellite operations. Those can happen anytime of the year and the satellite community is always delighted to pick up a new grid. Then I started to seriously consider a contest rover operation. Here’s what I’ve done so far.
I’ve activated a few grids on satellites, all on FO-29 and SO-50. I’m using a IC-910H with a MacBook Air laptop and MacDoppler. I record on the laptop using the NoteBook app. So far I’ve activated EN62 and EN63 on vacation in Michigan and EM23, EM22, EM11, EM03, and EM02 nearby my home base of EM12. And recently activated the EM74 and EM84 gridline in eastern New Mexico.
My first contest operation was the ARRL September 2017 VHF Contest. I activated 8 grids around the Dallas – Fort Worth Area. But interestingly enough most of my contacts were south of DFW including Austin. For the ARRL June VHF and CQ July VHF contests, I’ll probably stay at home to snap up six meter grids. But the September and January contests are usually sparsely attended here in North Texas. So it makes more sense to get on the road and light up a few grids.
The painter pole works pretty well. However, but I plan to use the 10-element 70 cm version that is currently on my home mast, next time to minimize the weight and wind load. Even so, if the winds kick up, I’ll probably need some sort of guy line. I’ve also added an Arrow Antennas 4-element portable 2 meter yagi to replace the Diamond yagi as the reflector is bent and near breaking.
The pole is perfectly positioned by the rear passenger door. That allows me to sit down, operate the radio which is sitting on the folded over front passenger seat and use the computer on the folded over rear passenger seat. Plus, I can reach out the door and turn the mast to point the antennas. Not the best ergonomics, but it works.
Skookum Logger worked well in September 2017 for this application. While it’s not set up specifically for rover operations, it does allow entering different grids for sending as well as designating stations as rovers. The latter allows you to work them several times without getting a “duplicate” warning. It also has location services, which I need to investigate further.
For January 2018 I’m going to deploy a Windows laptop, which I picked up to handle all those ham radio applications that just don’t work on Apple computers. I tested RoverLog and W3KM Rover but they were just too complex and challenging for me at this stage. So I’ve elected to use N3FJP VHF Log which appears to work well with rover operations.
My one challenge is determining where to point my antennas to call CQ or to work a schedule. I had the iPhone compass and I could look up the grid-to-grid bearing on the iPhone. But the screen was really cramped for the latter. I probably should activate a personal hotspot on the phone and use the laptop to activate the Internet queries. N3FJP has some settings that might work for this challenge. I’ll let you know.
From what I reading about this contest, there are a great deal of digital modes on the air. I can do that, but need to get it all set up with the IC-910H and the new Windows laptop. Plus, it will be only on 2 meters, which is probably MSK144. We’ll see what happens.
For power I have a small 12 volt battery that is also connected to the car’s power system. My thinking is that this puts less stress on the car’s system. I also have a fear that I’ll be so engrossed in making contacts that I’ll run the car’s battery down and won’t be able to start it.
I’m also using a power inverter to run the laptop’s charger. You can tell that I don’t trust batteries. I like to keep them fully charged whenever possible.
That’s my rover operations. We’ll see what happens for the next contests and for satellite operations. It’s one more ham radio adventure.