VA3PCJ Field Day “1C ONE” QRP & Afloat From the Ottawa River

“Sassy” – actually, “Sassy Gaffer” – is a 2010 Com-Pac SunCat 17 gaff-rigged, trailer-sailer mini-cruiser, researched and acquired for solo-sail and gunkhole the inland waters of Eastern Canada. She is a dream to solo-sail, solo-rig, solo-tow, solo-launch and solo-retrieve. She sails from the marina of the Nepean Sailing Club on the Ottawa River. Her preferred site for anchoring in the Ottawa River is the cove at Pinhey Point, some 8 nautical miles (~16 Km) from the marina. There “Sassy” can swing free while at anchor well inside the cove, on the lee of the shores offering  3/4-circle protection from wind and waves (the cove is open to the south-east).

On June 24 2017 at 7:00am “Sassy” undocked from her slip and took the auxiliary channel to mid-river at junction marker KNB. There she hoisted sails and tried to sail up-river but was met by head winds from the west at about 10 Kts and she ended motor-sailing most of the way. She dropped anchor in Pinhey Point around 11:00am in 8-10 feet of water, well inside the cove.

The VA3PCJ station operated from “Sassy” from 2:00pm EDT to 7:00 pm EDT. After a frugal dinner and few hours of sleep during a calm overnight swinging at the anchor, radio operations resumed at sunrise for about 2 more hours. Breakfast-time was followed by a dinghy passage to land for a visit of the Pinhey Estate gardens. Field Day is as much about testing emergency radio equipment as it is about making amateur radio known to the public. The 14 meter telescopic pole towering over “Sassy’s” stern cause some boaters to approach in their dinghies to satisfy their curiosity, but the real crowd had to be met on land. After several nice chats with bikers and other visitors to the Estate, an archeologial dig was spotted behind one of the old buildings. This resulted in a long exchange about Archeology, Paleontology, Science and Life in General, including sailing and, of course, Amateur Radio with a young archeologist and Professor Ian Badgley, who kindly explained the significance of having found at the site large stromatolite rock formations.

Back in the boat, the afternoon weather forecast was found to be less enticing than expected. Hence, “Sassy” weighed anchor around 11:00am. The sky was overcast and towering clouds loomed in the horizon. Wind was from the soutwest at around 10 Kts with gusts peaking at 20 Kts. With her sail fully deployed, “Sassy” took advantage of the gusty breeze and settled in a long beam-reach on starboard tack all the way to the marina. Conditions for sailing this portion of the Ottawa River in such a straight path are rarely so perfect: without burning any fossil fuel she made the distance back to the marina in a time shorter than the previous day. She surfed over 2+-foot cresting waves that occasionally pounded “Sassy’s” starboard bow but she was already securely moored to her dock when a thunderstorm with drenching rain and 40+ Kts gusts crossed the river from the southwest.

In the end, 50 contacts had been logged for the ARRL Field Day: all CW, most in 40m, some in 20m, mostly Ontario and north-eastern states, but also OH, IL, MI, MN, KY and PR. The PAR EndFedZ tribander was rigged at the stern of the boat with the 14-meter long telescopic pole, but it only lasted a couple of hours as the waves from motorboats rushing past caused it to come crashing down. It was soon replaced by the homebrewed W3EDP Jr. rigged as an inverted V at the mast of the boat. The radio-rig was the KX3 set at 5W, the key was the Palm single paddle. Also, the ATU in the KX3 was by-passed. Instead, the Elecraft T1 tuner was used remote.

The VA3PCJ Field Day station was inside a sailboat. However, it could hardly be considered “marine mobile” because the boat was in inland waters and hence not “marine”. Mostly for this reason it is debatable whether such type of Field Day stations should be best identified as class “1B” (i.e., portable) or class “1C” (i.e., mobile). The Field Day rules state that Class “C” is for mobile stations “in vehicles capable of operating while in motion and normally operated in this manner. This includes maritime and aeronautical mobile.” while Class “B” is only indicated as pertaining to “one or two persons portable“. It can be argued that a vessel swinging at its anchor, while clearly not “underway”, is nevertheless very much “in motion“, actively responding to wind and waves within the limits of its rode. Also, “Sassy” is “normally operated in this manner“. Furthermore, operating QRP equipment from a small sailboat afloat a river seems much closer to operating “marine mobile” than to operate “portable” from a park on land. Thus, it seemed more plausible for this station to be identified as “1C” rather than “1B”. There was also at least one precedent supporting this decision: in Field Day 2016, Bill WB2HLM, using similar equipment and conditions, successfully operated a “1C” Field Day station from a sailboat not much larger than “Sassy” (seemingly a Catalina 22) while moored at the marina of the Otsego Sailing Club in Cooperstown, NY (WB2HLM page in, and

Sassy’s was tracked in APRS for the entire length of her trip witha TH-D72A on board (with rubber ducky plus a RatTail). Positions were relayed courtesy of the following stations: VE2REH-3, VE2RUH-3, VE3LTI-1 and VE3OCR-2. The Smartbeaconing while sailing parameters were the following:

  • Low speed: 2 kts
  • High speed: 10 kts
  • Low rate: 3 min
  • Fast rate: 15 sec
  • Turn angle: 25 deg
  • Turn slope: 25 (250)
  • Turn time: 10 secs

The first of the following three composite pictures shows the radio equipment; the second shows the environment at Pinhey Point and the third, “Sassy” at her best:




And for those who read up to the end, here is a short video taken with the iPhone while “Sassy” enjoyed the breeze in the afternoon of the 25th:

Here are further pictures of VA3PCJ’s Field Day 2017 weekend as “1C ONE” AFLOAT from Pinhey Point: