Team VK5FI

Well, for something completely different.

Team VK5FI is VK5RR and VK5FO, and FI is ‘5RR’s other callsign.

We decided to have a go in the VHF/UHF Spring Field day.  With the introduction of the (up to) 4 band section, and having both reasonable power and antennas for the task on the 3 low bands where we put the station together over a few weeks and yesterday morning got out and had a good solid go in the 8 hour section.  The intention was to operate SSB and FM on 6m, 2m and 70cm

For the location, we decided on the Ardrossan lookout at PF85WN – which is about 80km (los) across the Gulf back to Adelaide.

spring-vhf-uhf-2015Screenshot from contestradar

Now a little about the station we put together

The Common Equipment

To power the station we had a 165aH AGM 12V battery, and A huge thanks to VK5AKH for the loan of his Honda Generator – which we used to “float” the battery and to also provide power to the logging Laptops – we had no issues at all with power for the day.

We had the battery in the trailer, which also served as a support for all the antenna’s.

The station consisted of 3 txcvr’s – 1 for each band we were operating.  All 3 Radios used have remote heads, which makes setting up a lot easier than having to set up right next to the battery in the trailer!

We used the Armstrong method for rotating the beams.

The 6M Station

The station was quite simple – we put back into service the ancient IC-706  and coupled to a 2 Element Beam (horizontal), running a full 100w.

The antenna was on the same pole as the 70cm beam and up at about 4m High.

The 2M Station

On 2m we used the IC-7100 feeding a 6 Element Beam (Vertical) on it’s own pole up at around the 4.5M mark.  After about the first 2 hours, we realized that when you unplug the remote head from an IC-7100, that it reset the output power – so for the first 2 hours, we were only running 1W output instead of the intended 50W!  (and surprisingly, we did not really suffer too much as a result).

We also put up a Slim-Jim vertical at 10M high for 2m and had it connected up to a handheld, but in the end did not use it or the contest.

The 70cm Station

On 70cm we opted to us the TS-2000 – as it is the highest power we have on this band.  It was coupled to a 17 Element short boom yagi (approx 2m long) and put on the same pole as the 6m antenna at about 5M high.  We set the polarity to be 45deg – so not truly vertical or horizontal.

We arrived at the Ardrossan lookout with a bit over an hour to set up.

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Overlooking the Gulf from the lookout with the antennas on the roof racks.

So, we positioned ourselves where we could set up and operate and also so as not to be in the way with other visitors to the lookout and set up the station.

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The station, set up and ready to go.

Just out of the photo to the left we set up the generator near the rock,  The trailer – it has the battery in it and also supports the 2 (3*) poles for the antenna’s.  The plastic box on the draw bar contains the 3 transceivers – all close to the power source!  On the Other side of the car we tied up a tarp to provide shade over the table we set up to operate from.

The 3rd pole was the 12m spiderbeam pole with the 2m Slim Jim.

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The other side.

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The trailer with the battery and the poles for the antenna’s – and under the tarp is ‘5RR starting to operate on 2M.  The esky was lunch!

We did a simple split – based on the antenna’s – Ray operated the 2M station and I contended with 6m and 70cm.

We were able to plod along and work a reasonable number of stations from this location.  For the most part on all bands we were able to simply leave the antennas pointed (roughly) at Adelaide, but there were a few exceptions where it was necessary to swing around to the North to make contacts.

The day was not great and the wind was quite strong and at around 5:30 the wind literally ripped the tarp to bits!  We had to take a bit of a break and move from the table into the car to keep operating.

With all stations having remote heads, this was not too much trouble to do – just pick up each remote head and feed them in the back of the car.  It made the rest of the operating more difficult.

According to VKCL we ended up with:

6m –  33 contacts
2m – 48 contacts
70cm –  51 contacts

Lessons and Improvements

Now, we are not really big VHF/UHF operators and it has probably been around 20 years since we did any sort of VHF/UHF contesting, let alone operating portable like this.

A decent, high operating point is a real advantage and having additional antenna gain was most welcome.

2 operators would still be easy to add a 4th band to the mix.  The combination of 6m and 70cm worked out ok.

The Good
  • It was a Fun day out!
  • We made a decent number of contacts on both FM and SSB on the chosen operating bands.
  • The set-up proved to be effective – set up in about 45 minutes, same for station pack-up.
The Improvements
  • Antennas for each band on their own pole.
  • Headphones/headsets!  With 2 operators literally sitting next to each other, and all 3 radios turned up at the same time it was difficult at times to hear.
  • Antenna’s – with the wind they moved around a bit!

For this sort of operating, on even these bands we literally pulled together all the gear we had at short notice and went out to give it a go.  It was obvious that there were stations we could not hear from our location and we later found out that there were several stations in the metro area using nothing more than a handheld – these are the one’s we could not hear.

Even the very modest home stations we were able to work in the Adelaide metro area.

For this style of operating, we had about the right mix of power and antenna gain from where we were.  We had no real issues of interference between the bands, maybe a little be of de-sense but nothing too be worried about.

The antenna choices were proven to be effective – vertical polarization (except 6m – we didn’t have the mast height) and the boom length on 2m and 70cm meant we could rotate them without it physically interfering with the other ones on the other pole – it was not necessary to go larger in this case.  It might be a different story if there were stations further afield that  you were chasing – but with the majority of the activity within close proximity to the Metro area  it was a good mix of being both physically easy to manage and gain.

A review on the logs and we determined that the range of all stations worked was between 61 and 158km from us.

Update – The Results

 

Division 1

 Portable Loctn: PF85WN - Ardrossan Lookout

 L'tors Actvtd: PF85 

 Section: B2b: Portable Multi-Op, 8 hours, Four Band

 Division: 1: Locator Based Scoring

 Operators: VK5RR Ray, VK5FO Bob

 No.of Contacts: 132

 Total Score: 792

Division 2

 Portable Loctn: PF85WN - Ardrossan Lookout

 L'tors Actvtd: PF85

 Section: B2b: Portable Multi-Op, 8 hours, Four Band

 Division: 2: Distance Based Scoring

 Operators: VK5RR Ray, VK5FO Bob

 No.of Contacts: 132

 Total Score: 24037

 

Leeches and Ticks

On a recent trip to VK4 I wanted to get in a couple of summits, so a quick look before going, and tried to work in a couple with where I would be and I ended up getting up to 2 Summits – VK4/SE-117 and then VK4/SW-001  As an added bonus, VK4/SW-001 is also in the middle of the Bunya Mountans National park – and VKFF-0067

Friday 23rd October – Tenision Woods Mountain

First off VK4SE-117 – Tenision Woods Mountain   a 6-pointer, looked to be easy from the Maps – with the summit a few hundred metres off the Mt Glorious road, about 2km West of Mt Glorious –  which itself is to the North-West of Brisbane.

As it turned out, it was an easy to access summit – with just enough room on the Mt Glorious Rd for 1 car to pull over on the track to the summit.  An un-expected surprise, was that the path to the summit was fenced with a National Parks’ sign on the gate!  So, I suspected, that this was also a VKFF location as well.

Now I am home, I have searched out the details and sure enough, Tenision Woods Mountain is within the D’Aguilar National Park, and is VKFF-0129.

Ok, onto the Activation. First off the Locality photos- 20151023_135450

The Sign at the side of the road at the track up to the summit.

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The plaque located right at the summit.

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The “shack”  Sitting on a log on the side of the walking trail just back from the comms tower at the summit.

As I was flyig to VK4 I was not able to pack my squid pole and had to rely on just throwing a rope over a convenient tree branch to pull up the Dipole.  I managed to get it about 5m high in the center in the rainforest.

Now, the first part of the blog post will become obvious – The Leeches -Yep, there rainforest here was home to leeches and the little blood-suckers jumped on everyone but me! So, take my advice – carry the insect repellent and apply liberally before venturing onto this summit!

Now, this was probably a bad time to be actually activating the summit it was Friday 23rd Oct in the mid afternoon – just after 04:00 UTC when we made it to the summit on the drive thru and were set up.   Knowing that I only had a short time, I only planned to activate on 15M and then 40M (both just using the 40M dipole).

I was able to post an alert and then post a spot as I set up and it wasn’t long before I was rewarded with my first contact.  Logging just 2 contacts on 15M and then jumped down to 40M where we were rewarded with a further 9 contacts (with 7 uniques).  As I had just 9 unique calls in the logs I decided to give 20M a quick go – to try and get the 10 required for VKFF – and   making it a valid VKFF activation as well, so I decided to give 20M a quick try.  I was rewarded with my efforts with a further 4 contacts – and 2 more uniques to give me 11 unique contacts for the dual activation.

With contacts to VK4, VK2, VK3 and a single DX contact to RA3PCI it was successful for my first VK4 Activation.

We packed up, did a double-check for leeches and headed off to our destination.

Saturday/Sunday  24/25th October – Mt Kiangarow / Bunya Mountains

I had planned to spend a couple of hours on the Sunday Morning and activate the 10-pointer VK4/SW-001 across the UTC roll-over on the Sunday Morning.  I had already determined that this would be a dual activation being within the Bunya Mountains National Park VKFF-0067.

With the Guys meeting in Wagga Wagga and the expected activity of several summits being activated in the Riverina Area of NSW, I was hopeful of at least a couple of S2S contacts.

Like Tenision Woods Mountain this summit was one that was
reasonably accessable with a rad thru the National Park, and a short  1.3km walk along a well-maintained track to the Summit lookout.

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The Sign showing the walking trail around and up to the summit.

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The entrance to the track to the summit.

After an easy 15 minute walk up the track you could se thru the rainforest a comms tower on the summit, and about a 100m further on we came to the end of the track, with spectacular views out to the north and a convenient seat!

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Sitting on the seat on the Summit.

As it was only 15 minutes util roll-over, I wasted no time in getting the Dipole strung up.  Unlike on Friday, there were not many tall tree’s here and I really wished I had a squid pole, but made do with what I had – and the dipole was strung up about 3m from the ground!

I decided to work 40M before roll-over to maximize the chance of a as many contacts as possible -and managed to get 5, including 2 operators on VK2/RI-031.

Post roll-over, I stayed on 40M and continued to work contacts and again worked the 2 Activators on VK2/RI-025 for some more S2S action.

I worked 10 contacts on 40M before moving onto 15M and worked a further 4 chasers before jumping onto 20M, working another 8 chasers including a S2S contact to VK2/RI-026.

On a whim, I jumped onto 10M and worked my only DX for the day and also my only contester (CQWW) W5PR in Texas. and again a repeat chaser as well.

I took a look over my logs and decided o jump back to 40M after looking at the spots in an attempt to work a couple more S2S contacts.  I tried and tried but had an incomplete – the other station could not hear me and was about to give up and finally completed a contact with my 4th S2S for the day to VK1/AC-009.

I was well please with this contact as It gave me something new that I had never done before when activating any summit – that last contact put into my Log  VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5, VK6, VK7 and VK8 from the same summit (across 4 bands) -and all using just 10W with the KX3 and a dipole that was no more than 3M high!

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Another shot of the shack for the day – with the stunning views!  That black thing in the top right is the winder at the end of my dipole about 2M high!

Yes, I do have more photos but have not pulled them off the camera yet – I’ll get to them soon!

It was nearly 2 hours, and  S2S with 4 unique summits, working All VK call areas except VK0 and VK9, some (well a single) DX and a total of 26 contacts (22 uniques) it was a great day to be out Portable.

Again, I had enough chasers to make this a successful VKFF activation.  I’ll get the logs up in the near future!

A big thanks to all the chasers who made the 2 activations I did in VK4 a success.  Yes, conditions were a bit tough and I know that there were a few that I just could’t hear, but next time!

I almost forgot – the Ticks – Well, yep, when we got home, I discovered that I was the unlucky one this time and picked up a couple of ticks!  1 uner the arm and another one on the other arm – so yeah, should have sprayed on the Aerogard!

2 new summits,  1 New association and I can’t remember who, but I even managed to give out a complete on VK4/SW-001 to someone else who had activated it on a recent trip to VK4.

I just wished that I had more time and had a chance to see more of the summits in VK4 – but there is always next time and a lot of summits to chose from!

It has been a while

… since the last time I have managed to get out portable, but this afternoon,  the opportunity came up and I grabbed it with both hands.

Yes, the band conditions were not great wtih a CME less than 48 hours ago, but regardless, I still went out.

The location was Mt Gawler – VK5/SE-013 and today, I chose just to operate 15M then 40M, both off the 40M inverted V.

Firstly, it was good to see that the vegetation is slowly regenerating after the fires.

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Well, a few things have changed with my setup since last time that I was literally trialing in the field for the first time.  Firstly, the new KX3 firmware that will allow 10W output with a power supply voltage above 10V.  This change means that I can use a 3S lipo and eliminate the (noisy) DC-DC converter I was using with the 4S lipo.  Glad to say it worked out great – and everything worked as expected.

The 2nd one is the ever-elusive quest to simplify logging!

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Yep, got a QRPWorks SideKar to go with the KX3 – and a micro wireless keyboard to drive it.

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A bit more on it shortly…

It was a really pleasant afternoon and started on 15M

Posted a spot and started calling and only had a single contact on the band – VK5PAS.

After abut 20 minutes of calling CQ SOTA (thank heavens for the voice keyer and playback repeat functions of the KX3!) I moved to 40M and again started calling.

Like 15M the bands were pretty quiet but with the alert, over the next  hour, I put a further 10 contacts in the log.

As expected because of the conditions and time of day there was not much close-in activity – just a couple of mobile stations.

A few of the regular chasers were there, but a surprising number of VK6 stations came back to me – I have never had 3 VK6’s in the log on 40M from here before!

Stations Worked on 40M

VK3PF, VK2IO,VK6NU, VK5AK/M, VK1MA, VK2HRX, VK6NK, VK2JAZ, VK6WE/P and VK5FSPJ

Now, Simon, VK2JAZ was asking what I could see from up at Mt Gawler – so I told him exactly what I was seeing – the sunset – and as promised – here is the photo of the sunset I took while we were talking – the photo does not do it justice!20151009_191840

Now, onto the SideKar.

Well, it was a little bit of getting used to using it – and today, I was thankful of it being fairly slow so I had plenty of time to actually use it and get to know how to do the logging.

At the start of the session, I had to read the manual – on how to do some of the setup.  This device is specifically designed with SOTA in mind – and first things I did was to set the clock,  then set my SOTA Reference.  From there, it was pretty much just learning the keyboard shortcuts to make a log entry.

As the SideKar interfaces to the KX3, I did not have to be concerned with frequency and time – it was all recorded with each log entry.

I  was able to enter every contact into the SideKar in real time, It is a couple of keystrokes and all good!

Now of course, with the logs being entered real-time and then when I got home it was simply a matter of exporting the ADIF right from the SideKar to the computer.

As we all know – we need a V2 CSV format for uploading the logs – and I managed to find an online converter to do this.  The converter was not perfect, but took care of most everything – with just a few minor edits needed to get it ready to upload.

I guess that I’ll look at developing a suitable conversion App in the future to export the ADIF as needed for upload to Sotadata.

Now, one of the issues I have had is managing the logs for WWFF – and now, I will be a lot closer to making this a lot easier as well in the future.

Of course, you will see that I used a very small wireless keyboard for interfacing with the SideKar – and it is perfect in so much as it is very lightweight – less than 50g.  You can use any USB or 2.4G Wireless keyboard, so a bigger keyboard might be used in the future for contesting etc, but for now – the lightweight one wins out.

At the moment, I have not really used the other features of the SideKar – extended display for PSK, RTTY and CW, but there is plenty of time for that.

As toys go – Pretty happy with this one, knowing that it makes the job of logging for the portable awards much easier.  Not only is it small and lighter than a laptop – it is useable in full sun – unlike the laptop!

Yes, a big success – and it is going to simplify my logging.

Ok, yeah, I know it turned into a mini-review of the SideKar, but by lowering the burden of having to enter all the paper logs when you get home, it makes the whole idea of going portable a lot more attractive!

VI5MCP so far

With Winter hitting us here in VK5 and cold, wet and windy conditions it has made for some very short expeditions out to activate VI5MCP.

On Saturday afternoon (11th July), we got out and set up on 20M and logged 7 stations before it closed out – the very first contact was a DX station S58AL from Slovenia. Also on 20M we logged Germany, Azores, Indonesia as well as a few VK stations. We switched over to 40M and worked a further 12 stations from VK1,2,3,4 and 5. As it was now dark, and very cold (around 3deg) it was time to pack up and get warm!  We were using a vertical on 20m and an inverted V on 40M with the KX3 running 10W.

Sunday Morning saw very similar wx – cold and windy with a threat of rain. as we arrived there was a very light drizzle, and as soon as it stopped we set up. Again it was quite cold and windy and we also did get a few spots of rain. It was fairly slow going, and worked 19 stations across VK3 and VK5 on 40M before going to 15M, where we worked our only dx station of the day KA1R. We tried other bands – 30M and 20M each without any takers. We were joined by Andy Vk5AKH and he added a further contact to the logs on 40M for a tally of 21. As it was slow and starting to rain, we called it a day.  For this activation, we were just using an Inverted V dipole on each band and the KX3 at 10W.

This morning, Ben, VK5BB braved the elements and set up the station. He worked 13 contacts on 40M before the rain came in. I managed to work him from the Office on 2m Simplex when the rain stopped and he was packing up the HF antenna and he also made a 2nd contact on 2m to give him a tally of 15.

So, as of right now, this gives us 55 contacts and 6 countries in the logs. not too bad considering that it is the middle of winter!

The next activity will be on Saturday where we will be running a 100W 20m station with a 2 ele beam looking for EU.

Clublog of the last 50 contacts.

Warren CP

On Thursday afternoon I found myself with a few spare hours so on the spur of the moment, grabbed the Kit and headed out to a new (for me) Conservation Park.  It was good to be able to just get out into one of the Parks and play radio for a few hours.

I took a look on the map and decided that a new one was in order – and Warren CP is just a short 35 minute drive.

Warren_CPWarren CP is not far from Willamstown, and the entry that we chose is just 4km down a well-maintained dirt road.

There is a boardwalk for the first 100m or so of the track, and a good close look at the various Maps – Google maps and a newer resource – SA Maps http://www.location.sa.gov.au/viewer/  – using a combination of various overlays (including topo, and the Conservation boundaries overlay) got me not only to the park, but also assistied in finding a decent operating position once there.

I decided that a short 800m walk into the park and set-up in a cleared area on the hill near the entrance was a pretty good location and a short 10 minute walk in and started setting up

The operating Spot was in a small clearing just up among the trees
The operating Spot was in a small clearing just up among the trees

I had decided that I was going to have a crack on 20M and of course finish up on 40M.

So, I chose to go with just a single 1/4 Wave vertical for 20M and hope it was good enough to get a few contacts logged.

I was using a brand new “Sota Post” as a support for my squid pole and was also trying it out in the real-world for the first time.  It is a 12mm round SS spike that gets driven into the ground, and a lightened “star picket” with an in-built slide hammer.

The ground was surprisingly hard and By standing on it, I could get the post about 200mm into the ground.  then, this is where the slide hammer came into play and it was used to drive the post the next 300mm in.

New "SOTA POST"

 

This is a custom made post and proved to be just the ticket – sort of a trade off between being not too heavy to carry with you and not so light that it would not support a squid pole.

So first off was to set up the 20M vertical

Warren CP setting upRay ‘5RR was checking the tuning of the Antenna once we set up.  You can see some of the elevated ground radials as well.

Managed to get set up and on air just before 06:30UTC – which is about the right time to work a bit of EU DX.

Calling CQ Parks on 20M
Calling CQ Parks on 20M

It took a few minutes to find a clear frequency and then start calling CQ Parks.

The first Reply was from Italy and over the next 45 Minutes or so managed to work 29 Stations in 8 Countries.  the Highlight of the day was working F5XL who was portable in FFF-034 – not only my first EU WWFF contact, but while portable as well!

Countries worked on 20m were  Italy, Australia, Germany, France, Belgium, Azores,  Hungary, Ukraine and the UK.  What was good was to see not only some of the now familiar EU chaser callsigns in the logs but also to get a few new ones as well.

Yes, it does help that I was spotted on ParksnPeaks as well as on the DX cluster.

The bands did start to close out as the sun started to dip, so it was a rapid pull down the vertical and put up the 40M dipole to try and work a few.  On 40M Worked VK1, VK2, VK3, VK5 and VK6 stations with the highlight of being able to give VK3OF another unique SA park for his list.

With the sun almost gone it was a rapid pull-down – and again the slide-hammer on the “Sota Post” was very helpful in actually getting the pole back out of the ground!  Yes, it took a few hits in the upwards direction to get it to jump out!

We got packed up and back to the car just as it got dark.

All in all it was a pretty good activation – especially considering it was a week-day evening with less than 1 hour of notice.  It just goes to show how popular the chasing of the parks is – so if you have even a couple of hours on a week day evening, get out there and give it a go –  you never know what you might come up with!