Flight Of The Bumblebees
The "Flight of the Bumblebees" is a cool little field QRP contest sponsored by the Adventure Radio Society and held on the last Sunday in July. The basic goal is to work as many stations as you can running 5 or less watts from a field location. But, there are a couple of wrinkles.
The contest starts at 10:00 AM PDT, and ends at 2:00PM PDT. If you plan to operate in the field (i.e. as a "bumblebee"), you pre-register with the contest organizers and obtain a bumblebee number. Mine was 142. Contacts with Bumblebee stations count 3 points, and with stations operating from home count 1 point. All operating contests include some form of "exchange." In this case, if you are a bumblebee, you send a signal report (RST), your state, province, or country abbreviation, and your number (e.g. "569 CA 142"). If you are not registered, you send the RST, state, province, or country abbreviation, and your power (e.g. "569 NV 4W").
One "wrinkle" in the contest is that you are highly encouraged to get to your operating location by some means other than driving or using any transportation means that employs fossil fuels. The distance you hike, bike, paddle, etc., is up to you. A second wrinkle is that you are encouraged to power your radio with other than a fossil fueled power source. That of course rules out the power grid or a gasoline powered generator. Primary batteries, rechargeables if charged without resorting to petroleum, a bike powered generator, are all possibilities.
My 2005 Effort
I decided to use my Elecraft K2, running from a 12V gel cell that I charged from a small solar panel. I took my Elecraft KX1 as a backup radio in case my gel cell ran down before the end of the contest (it operates on 6 AA dry cells). I was only able to operate for 3.5 hours as we had an engagement later in the afternoon. I also decided to operate from a regional park, a few miles from my house. I'm a bit mobility-challenged from old injuries, so I drove to the parking lot, and then schlepped my gear into the park. It took me two trips each way which totalled about a mile, and was far enough for me. I set up on a card table in the shade. The temperature was around 105 deg F but there was a warm breeze and it was pretty comfortable in a T-shirt and shorts.
The K2 with the KAT2 automatic antenna tuner will load power into just about anything that is conductive, so I took a 27' wire antenna that I made from a piece of RG-58 by snaking the center conductor out of the shield, and then using the shield as a single radial. I got the rope up in the tree on the first try with my slingshot and a fishing weight. I also took an MP-1 knockoff as a back-up antenna but didn't use it.
The spot I chose in the park turned out to be fairly close to one of the "holes" on the frisbee golf course, and I got a few visitors. Anticipating this, I had prepared a little single page explanation of what I was doing so that I didn't have to stop and explain everything each time. I had taken a splitter and a second pair of headphones so visitors could listen, but since it's a CW-only contest, it didn't mean much to any of them. All my gear worked just fine and the gel cell lasted throughout the entire contest. I made 19 contacts, 14 of which were other bumblebees, for a total score of 798 points. The winner, K5OT, did 127 contacts with 77 bumblebees for 29,337 points, so you can see I was down pretty far in the pack.
All in all, it was a fun little adventure. I think next year, I'll take a better antenna ... maybe a dipole with ladder line and a balun at the rig. The single wire worked OK, but I could hear a lot of stations in the contest that I couldn't work, so something a bit more efficient would probably up my score some.
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