FRYEBURG, Maine — A pair of mosquitoes flitted around laptop keys early Saturday afternoon beside ham radio operator Tim Bubier of Lovell.
He sat inside the parked Androscoggin County Incident Management Assistance Team van on the midway at Fryeburg Fairgrounds.
It was Field Day for Bubier and several other members of the Oxford County Amateur Radio Emergency Services group as well as other ham radio operators across the nation and Canada.
Field Day is designed to encourage amateur radio operators to set up their equipment in a temporary location to develop their emergency communication skills.
They were set to do this for 24 hours straight, from 2 p.m. Saturday through 2 p.m. Sunday.
For Bubier, a ham radio operator for almost 30 years, it was a chance to test the equipment and his preparedness for emergency communications.
The deputy director of emergency management for Androscoggin County, he said Lewiston-Auburn uses the van as a backup dispatching center.
It is equipped with eight public safety radios and six portable radios, three amateur radios, computers, a fax machine, wireless network, a satellite phone and operating stations for two dispatchers.
On Saturday, coaxial cable ran from a large antenna anchored on the ground to the van, the roof of which bristled with antennas of various size.
A honeybee buzzed past Bubier’s dog Jack as he lay on the van floor. Bubier reacquainted himself with radio controls and software that would monitor his contacts on the laptop.
“Whiskey One Charlie Alpha,” he said into his headset microphone.
“Oscar Charlie Alpha, go ahead,” came the reply.
“Whiskey One Oscar Charlie Alpha,” Bubier said.
“Uh, Whiskey One Charlie Alpha this is, uh, Whiskey Eight Delta Foxtrot and you’re about a five nine here in Battle Creek, Mich.,” the contact said, telling Bubier he was coming in loud and clear. “My name is Ron.”
“Good afternoon, Ron,” Bubier said. “I’m just preparing for Field Day here. My name here is Tim — Tango India Mike — and, uh, QTH is Fryeburg, Maine, over.”
“OK, great!” Ron in Michigan said. “Nice to make contact into Maine, yeah. I always like to make contact into Maine.”
Ron told Bubier he used to live in Connecticut, but it was difficult to contact anyone in Maine due to the behavior of radio waves when transmitted from one point on the Earth to another, or into various parts of the atmosphere.
“It’s great to talk to you today, Tim,” Ron said. “Hopefully, you’ll have some great times on Field Day. W1OCA, this is WADF.”
“WADF, I’m W1OCA,” Bubier replied.
“On living in Connecticut, yeah, you’re right,” Bubier said.
“It’s hard to make contacts on 20 that close,” Ron said. “So, um, good luck to you and perhaps we’ll catch you actually during the contest. This is Whiskey One Charlie Alpha at seven three.”
“OK, thanks a lot, Tim. This is seven three.”
During Field Day contests, ham radio operators compete against themselves and are judged nationally by how many points they score.
“We’re limited to the contiguous U.S., but we have made contact with Alaska and Hawaii,” Bubier said. “For me, personally, Antarctica.”
“We used to send each other postcards when we make contact, but now it’s all done electronically,” he said.
He adjusted a tuning dial and picked up a voice in North Carolina trying to contact anyone listening. Another slight turn and he heard a different Michigan contact saying he was testing equipment.
“I enjoy this because it’s fun,” Bubier said. “It also builds camaraderie between hams. We get to hang out, eat good food and share barbecue, and just to know that we’re ready.”
A short walk from Bubier’s station, Ray Hanson of Oxford was communicating via digital mode with a radio and computer.
“This is my first Field Day here, so I’m asking lots of questions,” he said.
Hanson can have up to 95 conversations with contacts across the world without saying a word.
He taps a keyboard key, emitting call signs that tell people where he is. They reply with their call signs.
“I usually run 30 to 50 watts and I can get clear around the world on that,” Hanson said.
“Wednesday night, I chatted with a guy on the Turkish side of Cypress,” he said. “I’ve made contact in South Africa, and about the farthest west I’ve gone is New Zealand.”
Just north of Hanson, Norm Clanton of Newry was hamming in Morse code.
“We’re running on emergency power with temporary antennas, and most of it we built ourselves,” Clanton said. “Field Day is a good test of our emergency capability and also, it’s a lot of fun.”
See more news from the Sun Journal at http://www.sunjournal.com/.