FYBO '09 & Feb '09 PBMME: CF3RCS multi/multi de CF3SIE

by Martin Gillen, CF3SIE.

» More Photos, Videos & station log/score at the end of the article!

FYBO (Freeze Your B___ Off) is a Winter QRP Sprint (Short Contest) sponsored by the Arizona ScQRPions.  Like many QRP (Low Power) contests, you score a point for making a contact (QSO) and exchanging the required information.   Also in common with other QRP contests, you multiply your score by the number of unique US states, Canadian provinces or countries with which you make a valid QSO.  Furthermore, and again in common with other QRP contests, you multiply your score if you make a valid QSO with the sponsor club station or using very low power or alternative (solar for example) power.  However unique to this contest you also multiply your score by a factor depending on how cold it is at your operating position.  That is where the fun starts!!

Thanks to the Az ScQRPions for organizing and sponsoring this fun event and to all the amateurs who I was able to complete an exchange with, I have enjoyed reading your stories and viewing your pictures immensly!

Polar Bear Moonlight Madness (PBMME) is a monthly event sponsored by the EPA QRP club in which a group of adventure radio enthusiasts with polar bear numbers hike to high points at or near the full moon and make contact with other polar bears.

Bob VA3QV (also VA3RCS) and I were discussing a previous outing we made in the winter of 2006/2007 when we activated Bate Island for the Canadian Islands Award Program.  From time to time, Industry Canada allows Canadian licensees to use a special prefix - CF or CG - to celebrate some event or other.  This time around the special prefix was allocated to commemorate Galileo Galilei's first look through an optical instrument towards the heavens.   The CF3 prefix went well with Bob's other call sign VA3RCS.  Last time around we spent all night on an island in the middle of the Ottawa River in -15°C/5°F temperatures and we used the following phonetic representation of Bob's call sign:

Canadians Freezing -3- Real Cold Spot

So what contest could we participate in between January until the end of February using *that* call sign? FYBO and Polar Bear Moonlight Madness of course!  Furthermore we made a plan to get together with 2 other amateurs VE3WEH and VA3CMD who are members of the EPA QRP Polar Bear club and operate as a group from the highest populated point in Ontario to satisfy the requirements of the PBMME which is also an astronomy observing site to honor the special prefix and operate outdoors to satisfy the FYBO.

As the big day drew closer, the weather forecast worsened…  On the evening before FYBO we decided not to drive all the way to Foymount because if the freezing rain which the forecast called for actually arrived it would make for a pretty miserable outing exposed up on the ridge.  So we made a contingency to operate from a covered picnic shelter in Vincent Massey Park in Canada's Capital instead.

My own FYBO fun started the evening beforehand.  I had received a pair of 31′ Jackite Poles in the mail the previous week so I went to work building a pair of ground plane antennas for 20m and 40m.  Both antennas follow the same design:  Close to a ¼-λ wire and 4 X ¼-λ radial wires.  I soldered the wires directly to the coax inner conductor and shield and covered the exposed metal with adhesive RTV compound, then wrapped in electrical tape once the compound dried.  Finally I crimped on a pair of BNC coaxial connectors after 40′ of feed line. I stumbled into bed at 3am full of anticipation for the day ahead!

The big day! 1400Z


Coordination on 2m in the morning revealed that VE3WEH and VA3CMD were not able to join us, but they both fired up their home station to see if they could find us.  I'm not sure if they knew to concentrate on the 14060->14063kHz band segment as this was where 80% of the FYBO activity was located and where I also spent most of my time.  We were unable to contact Larry and Patrick from the site.

Bob VA3QV arrived at the park first and put up an 88ft doublet at about 10′ elevation in order to work some nearby states and provinces on 80m and 40m SSB via the NVIS mode. Bob was using a Yaesu FT-817 with a battery which had been charged from a solar panel on one of the covered park benches.  Roy VA3CKD arrived next and it was a nice surprise to see Roy when I arrived a little later.  We also had a new amateur (Sandy) who has not yet been on the air join us and both he Roy helped out a lot with set-up, *thanks Fellas* !

Vincent Massey Park Tour

We attached the two Jackite poles to a wooden post and a tree with bungee cords.  The 20m vertical runs from the top of the pole to the feed point halfway down the pole, turned around it 3/4 times in case the wind came up.  The radial wires were extended outwards and at a downward angle and tied off in nearby trees or a driveway marker where there was no convenient tree.  The radial wires were tied off at the 6′ level.  

Vincent Massey Picnic Shelter

Vincent Massey Picnic Shelter

The 40m vertical runs the full length of the pole again wrapped around it a few times for the wind.   The feed point is at the base of the pole where the radial wires run outward along the snow.  I attached a small twig to the end of each radial wire and buried them in the snow to keep the wires straight.   The coax feed lines were each 40′ long and reached comfortably back under the shelter and to my Elecraft KX1 which was powered by lithium ion batteries to develop 1.5W on 20m and 1.9W on 40m.  The only other equipment was a clipboard, a notebook and a pair of Sony ear buds.

I tuned the weather radio station on my Yaesu FT-51R H/T to find out the temperature, and I had written out a °C to °F conversion chart in my Rite-in-the-rain notebook.

Temperature data for February 7th in Ottawa

Time(Z) Temp Wind Chill

Tuning in the Weather Radio

Once the 20m vertical was up I tuned around 14060kHz and heard Dick W0NTA coming in nice and strong from Colorado.

A little farther up the band was Mike with the sponsoring club station NQ7RP (Arizona ScQRPions). Mike was fairly strong but with some QSB so I took my chance to call!  We needed a couple of repeats but managed to complete a QSO.


I took a walk over to see how Bob was getting on.  Bob had not found any polar bears or anyone F'ing their B O.  So Bob concentrated on contacting some of the special event stations instead.   It was tough going though!  The special event stations were not interested in hanging around once they got the signal report it was right into "QRZ please?" so we never got any temperature or power level from those 40m & 80m SSB stations.  It was fun to make the contacts anyhow they enjoyed hearing about our activity…Were there any 40m/80m SSB FYBO stations out there??  Bob worked Tim WB2KAO in NY, Bob AG9C in Indiana and Fred AB8QS in Virginia.


Bob VA3QV calling the Big Guns


After listening in to the 40m SSB activity with Roy I walked back to the 20m CW station and tuned around some more, and heard Randy K7TQstar and we managed an exchange.  Randy was operating from under his back deck in Idaho because his snowshoe trail was inaccessible.   Randy's 5W from his Elecraft K2 to his Force 12 C4SXL beam at 60 feet were doing great.

I tuned up the band a little and heard HI3AN Andres in Santiago in the Dominican Republic, so I called him, gave him a signal report, I was planning to ask for his temperature and power level on the next over but there wasn't one!  He gave me his name and PO box number and right away sent 73.  Oh well a fun contact and a good test for propagation to the Caribbean Buddies.

You can click on any star icon to read that station's FYBO report!

I wandered over again to the 40m SSB station and heard Bob make contact with the Jacques NI8G at the Thomas Edison Memorial Radio Club.  This was a special event station so perhaps we will receive a nice QSL card from the contact.

Contact with NI8G

Back to 20m CW and there was W0RW/PM star high up on Pike's Peak in Colorado.  Paul reported the « lowest temperature» I heard from all the contacts 27°F…brrr!  Paul explained it was due to the 12,000′elevation.  Both Bob and I have operated pedestrian mobile in the past so we were pleased to find Paul on the band!  Paul was operating a PRC319 Military Backpack Radio at 5W and his antenna was a 10 foot center loaded foot whip, with drag wire counterpoise.


Down the band a little and there was Rick at W7DKstar the Radio Club of Tacoma FYBO station set up at Owens beach, Point Defiance, Tacoma, Washington State.  Boy did they have a beautiful signal, from that vertical/sloper planted in the sea-water.  I wonder which one of the several CW rigs Rick was using for our contact?   Meanwhile over on 40m SSB Bob was working Ed W3C a special event station at a sporting event.  

Bob had to leave but I chose to stay in the park and continue operating CW.

On 20m CW I then completed exchanges with Larry K0LWV, Joel K0JEM and then Chuck AF4Ostar a new polar bear in Tennesee.   Chuck was operating in FYBO for the first time from a non-electric tent campsite in Big Hill Pond state park using a Yaesu FT-817 and 5W to and end fed ½-λ wire.

Martin VA3SIE

Martin VA3SIE Polar Bear #20 running 20m CW

I called CQ on 20m CW and who should come back but Maurice André VA2MA running 75W on the key at VE3JW the amateur radio exhibit station in the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa.  My first ground-wave contact of the day!

Also strong on the band was N4BP Bob Patten.  Bob is always able to pick out my call sign with ease.

I snagged another polar bear #144(!)  The polar bear moonlight madness QRP event was running concurrently with FYBO and I heard John N0EVHstar so during the exchange I added a big GRRRR to my FYBO exchange.  I'm not sure if John realized there was a fellow bear on the key.   John was sitting at a timbered ridge with limestone rock outcrop on a conservation trail running 5W from an Elecraft K2 from a solar panel.


Over the next hour I exchanged QSOs with Jim, K4AHO in Florida on 20m CW then I switched to 40m CW and contacted Chas W3KC in Maryland.  I spent some time searching for FYBO stations on 40m CW and also called CQ for a while but with no takers so I switched back to 20m CW and contacted Gary K4MF in Florida, John W7SOM in Washington State and finally Bill KF6RMKstar in California.  Bill was set up on the beach at Morse Cove (San Pablo Bay in the San Francisco bay area) using a K1 with 5W to a vertical antenna.   The salt water & Elecraft mojo(®) sure helped Bill's most excellent signal!

VA3SIE Antenna Tour

I then had a QSO with WA5RMLstar.  Andy was operating 5W from an Elecraft K2 with a buddi-pole from a park on the shores of Lake Arlington in Texas.

Right after Andy I worked Jim N5IBstar who was basking in 76°F temperatures at the Highland Road Park Observatory in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (This was the warmest temperature I received)   Jim was using 5W from an ATS-3A altoids-tin-sized radio into a dipole.


At this point I decided to switch over to 40m CW.  I searched the band and heard a familiar call sign NK8Qstar - another polar bear #4.  Mark was only running 1W from his Elecraft K2 to a Black Widow 31' vertical from his parents farm in Frankenmuth, Michigan.  Mark's 1W was the lowest power received by me and I was impressed he was doing very well!  I enjoyed meeting Mark in person when we operated from the Appalachian Trail in the Delaware Water Gap a few years ago, so it's always fun to run across him in these QRP events.  I fumbled Mark's call sign a few times I think the prolonged exposure to the cold was slowing down my brain (although it was not especially cold it was very damp and that made the cold seem much worse).

After the QSO with Mark I cracked open a flask of Cocoa Camino hot chocolate and slipped a pair of glove warmers into my gloves!!

Staying on 40m I ran across Cal K4JSIstarsitting in his car with the windows open running 5W from an Elecraft K1 to a 44′doublet.

Suffering from serious *BRAIN FREEZE*

I called CQ on 40m CW and got a super strong call from Bob VA3RKMstar who was stuck at home catching up with paperwork.   Bob worked both Bob Patten N4BP and myself.  After we exchanged 5999/599 reports :)  I went back to CQ and after a few minutes Bob called me again and asked me if I wanted to run the bands.  Why not!   We exchanged signal reports on 40m, 20m and 80m CW for 2 additional multipliers.  I was surprised to see a 1.2:1 SWR from my 40m ¼-λ antenna, I expect there must have been a great deal of loss in the 40ft of RG-174 feed line. Bob reported that my 40m signal was medium strength, my 20m signal was much stronger and my 80m signal was barely audible.   I will need to check the feed point impedance for that antenna and do the sums to satisfy my curiosity about why the SWR was so low on 80m.  I did a quick NEC-2 model of both antennas over medium ground and I noted that the 40m antenna model showed a max gain lobe of -1.3dBi @ 26°.  The 20m antenna model shows a max gain lobe of 0.3dBi @ 19°, so the difference in signal strengths for that ground wave/NVIS multi-path is likely a combination of the higher gain and lower elevation of the primary gain lobe of the 20m antenna versus the higher elevation and lower gain of the 40m antenna combined with higher feed line losses in the 40m antenna.  Thanks for the detailed signal report Bob I'm tempted to try this out in the far field as well with the same pair of antennas.

NEC model data for Antennas

EZNEC NEC-2 model data for the vertical antennas


I QSY'ed back to 20m CW and made a somewhat scary contact with WA5BDUstar.  Nick was operating his ATS-3A radio in an old deserted farmhouse amongst tortured trees groaning in the wind against a backdrop of high pitched squealing from the rusted roof.   Is this the Zombie shuffle??  Nick was firing 5W into an end-fed half wave antenna from Short Mountain near Paris, Arkansas.

My final 2 contacts were on 20 CW with Dana AD5VCstar and Terry K4KJP.  Both these stations were using less than the maximum 5W power.  Dana was set up next to Jim N5IBstar at Highland Road Park Observatory in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  He was running 3W from an ATS-3A.


I had called CQ for 15 straight minutes with no takers, so I did a sweep of 20m.  I could still here some of the stations which had been running almost continuously, but they were weaker now as the sun lost its strength.   I switched over to 40m but 7030kHz->7040kHz was a wall of RTTY, so 40m was not going to be very productive.  I decided that with imminent freezing rain or drizzle on the way I would pack up and go home rather than try 80m, I bet I missed out on a lot of fun on 80m though :)

Thanks to the Arizona ScQRPions QRP club for sponsoring this *FUN* contest.  Us freezing Canadians in our Really Cold Spot(!) had a great time F'ing our B's off!  Thanks also to the EPA QRP Club for organizing the concurrent Polar Bear Moonlight Madness events too.

Don't forget to check the logs and score summary below as well there are some bonus photographs and video footage right at the bottom of the web page.  Don't forget to check the FYBO results page (here) and check it regularly as the reports trickle in!  Take a look at Bob's blogs too (here) & (here).  Finally, there are some FYBO reports on the QRP-L reflector, the archives can be read (here).   The login and password are "qrpl".

Station Log

Station Log

Time Band Call RST State Name Power Temp
1725Z20CWVE3JW599ONMaurice André75W5C
 * ? - log data missing.
 * »Highlighted« - Polar Bear.
 * star - Click for 2009 FYBO Report!!

Score Summary Sheet

Summary of CF3RCS Score for FYBO Contest

Field – Yes
Category – MultiMulti
Operator(s) – VA3QV, VA3SIE
Alternative Power – 1 station was/1 station was not
Lowest Temperature – 16F
QRPp – No

BAND     Raw QSOs   Valid QSOs   Points   SPC   NQ7RP  
Totals 33 26 26 17 1

Final Score = 26 QSO Pts X 17 SPC = 442 X 6 (Temp Multi for 16F lowest temp) = 2,652 X 4 (Field Ops) = 10,608 + 100 X 1 NQ7RP bonus points = 10,708 Total points


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