by William Eric McFadden



Two members of the Southeast Ohio Radio Adventure Team operated the 2010 Freeze Your B___ Off, an operating event sponsored by the Arizona ScQRPions. Eric McFadden, WD8RIF, operated the event outdoors from a tent at QTH WD8RIF near Athens, Ohio. Mike Hansgen, K8RAT, operated the event indoors at QTH K8RAT near Galion, Ohio. A third member, Drew McDaniel, W8MHV, had planned to operate FYBO with WD8RIF using his recently-acquired Hendricks QRP PFR3 transceiver but was unable to travel due to the weather conditions.


Following forecasts of significant snowfall to occur the Friday before the event, Eric and his son, Miles (KD8KNC), erected their ancient field-operations tent Thursday afternoon prior to the event so that they wouldn't need to erect the tent during the snowfall or on top of significant snow-depth.

'RAT tent groaning under snow -- click to enlarge Saturday morning found the tent groaning under a massive amount of snow so the first thing Eric did (after snapping some photos: 1 | 2) was to remove the snow from the tent to prevent it from being damaged. With Miles' help, Eric erected the 33' MFJ-1910 fiberglass mast and the 88' broadside doublet. This is the first time Eric had used either the 33' MFJ mast or the 88' doublet and he was pleased at how easy the mast was to erect using the TV-mast rooftop-tripod he had modified for this purpose and at how well the mast supported the doublet. With the center of the doublet supported at the top of the second-from-the-top section of the mast, there was only insignificant bowing of the mast. (See photos in Field-Deployable Antennas to see how Eric's 20' Black Widow pole bends under the weight of his lighter 44' doublet.)

After setting up his K2 Travel Kit inside the tent, Eric checked to see how well the LDG Z-11 autotuner matched the 88' doublet on 80m, 40m, and 20m. Unfortunately, the best the Z-11 could do on 80m was a match of about 2.5:1 although it achieved 1:1 on both 40m and 20m. This disappointed Eric because he had built this antenna specifically to improve performance on 80m over that of his 44' doublet.

Because Eric's fingers have become quite sensitive to cold the past few years, Eric wore woven gloves--thin to allow use of the iambic paddle and straight key--with chemical hand-warmers inside the gloves. These items, plus long-johns, wool socks, insulated boots, and occasional trips indoors to warm up, kept Eric fairly comfortable during the event.

Because of other evening obligations and a desire to drop the antenna and take the K2 Travel Kit indoors before darkness fell, Eric stopped operating just before 5pm local time.

Eric's first QSO of the event was about a half-hour after the opening of the event and was with fellow Southeast Ohio Radio Adventure Team member K8RAT on 80m. Eric made a total of 24 QSOs on 80m, 40m, and 20m operating CW. His lowest recorded temperature was 35°F in the late afternoon. Eric calculated his final score to be 14,592 points.

80m CW 2 2
40m CW 19 14
20m CW 3 3

Stations Worked
80m CW: K8RAT, NK8Q

Eric heard very few stations on 20m and was surprised when later told by K8RAT that 20m had been very crowded with FYBO stations. It's possible that the 88' doublet with its center at about 27' was too directive and oriented improperly to hear many of these stations. While it's also possible that the antenna had been improperly constructed or otherwise faulty and wasn't delivering the expected pattern, Eric was unable to find any faults with the antenna when he examined it carefully after the event.

As indicated in the above table, Eric found 40m to be the most productive. However, he was frustrated and disappointed by the number of "First Class Operators Club" (FOC) stations operating their event right on and around the international QRP calling frequency of 7030kHz. He was also frustrated by the number of digital-mode stations operating on or around the former QRP calling frequency of 7040kHz. (UPDATE: The FOC's 40m club frequency is 7025kHz, so intrusion on 7030kHz is probably inevitable during an FOC contest.)

K8RAT informed Eric that many FYBO stations moved to 80m as darkness fell. Eric was unable to work many stations on 80m because of his decision to tear the station down before nightfall.


Because he was trapped at home due to the snow that had fallen the night before, Mike Hansgen, K8RAT, worked FYBO indoors using his Ten Tec Omni D at 5-watts and his permanent 98' doublet.

Mike made 56 CW QSOs, with 9 on 80m, 16 on 40m, and 31 on 20m. Mike worked 26 SPCs, all within the U.S.: AL, AR, AZ, CA, CO, FL, ID, LA, MI, MN, MO, MS, NC, NJ, NM, NV, NY, OH, OK, PA, TN, TX, VA, WA, WI, WV. Mike's temperature at the key was 61°F.

Mike notes that he didn't work even a single station in New England. He speculates that his 98' doublet might do poorly into that region and that had there been less QRM on 40m he might have heard some New England stations there.