In 2022, I decided to try my hand at VHF contesting. Being a mobile-only operator, what better way to contest than as a “Rover.” Rovers are not just mobile stations. They move from one Maidenhead grid square to another during the course of a contest. Moving to another grid square allows stations to work Rovers as a new station. Each new grid means a new contact, even with repeat stations. A team of Rovers can accumulate quite a load of contest points by moving between the squares and then working each other and the other same stations after each crossing. This is called “grid circling.”
I’m still building my station; but here’s what I’ve done so far: What you see above is my setup for CQ’s World Wide VHF Contest. That contest covers just 6m and 2m, or 50MHz and 144MHz. I reinstalled my discontinued Yaesu FT-857D multi-band/multi-mode transceiver and acquired horizontally-polarized 6m and 2m loops by M2Inc.com. This is a modest setup and less effective than what most Rovers use. But it’s something that was quick to install on short notice. I used the CQ VHF contest as a “training run” for ARRL’s larger VHF contests, which occur in January, June, and September.
ARRL has three categories for Rovers: Classic, Unlimited, and Limited. I will focus my efforts in the Limited category, which is confined to 6m, 2m, 1.25cm, and 70cm (50MHz, 144MHz, 222MHz, and 432MHz) and has power restrictions (200W at 50 and 144MHz; 100W at 222 and 432MHz). The most successful Rovers have directional beams to focus their signal toward their intended contacts. I have began construction of a 20-inch “micro-tower” that will have a rotator and four antennas. My rotator controller is shown in the photo album below. I’m modeling this build very closely after that of Jim, K5ND.
I had hoped to be ready to work 50, 144, and 432MHz with beams in September 2022. However, other expenses have derailed that plan. So, I’m slowing my ham radio purchases and will work with horizontal loops until I’m ready to buy the beams. Perhaps I’ll be ready to run beams in January 2023? In the meantime, I have acquired a 432MHz halo and will run that in my setup until I’m ready to build more. The 222MHz band will have to wait until at least June 2023 since it’s a much greater expense. Stay tuned for updates.
While not related to contesting, I’m also considering a package that will enable me to experiment with working FM satellites. My ID-5100 features full duplex capabilities, which makes it a good candidate for working FM satellites and the International Space Station (ISS). Satellite tracking with boom antennas while mobile is probably quite a challenge, especially without automated antenna controllers. With these “eggbeaters,” satellite tracking and polarization are not a concern and should enable me to work FM satellites from nearly anywhere that has a clear view of the sky. This is a back-burner idea for now, but it’s too easy of an enhancement to postpone for long.
At first, I simply fed the coaxial cables into the car through a rear window and sealed it using a piece of pipe insulation. Soon thereafter, I created a pass-thru with HPDE (plastic) that mimics the shape of the window and has weather-sealed type “N” connectors, making the setup completely modular and easy to remove. I currently have ports for 6m, 2m, and 70cm. The fourth port is for a future 1.25m cable. I still have use of the rear door so that I can access the equipment area that’s just inside and under an access panel while all of the feed lines are connected. This window may eventually pass up to six feed lines.
Just for fun, I’ll leave you with a photo of all of my current active antennas mounted. If I’m honest, each of these setups provide at least a little interference with each other. I’ve designed each “system” to be modular so that I can mount them individually as needed. Most of the time, my car has just a dual-band vertical mounted. But it’s nice to have the option to go completely nuts!
See You on the Air!