Repeat Performance

After Yesterday at  Brookfiled CP, I was really keen to get out again and look LP EU on 20M, so I headed up to Mt Gawler – VK5/SE-013 this afternoon.

It was a windy and threatening to rain, but got up there and set up both verticals again pointing at around 120Degrees.

Got on the air just after 05:00UTC and found a clear frequency on 20M and posted a spot on sotawatch.  A couple of VK’s responded and then a few EU stations started coming up.  About 20 minutes into the activation the rain did come in and threaten to make it uncomfortable, but fortunately it only lasted 3 or 4 minutes.

It was fairly steady going and in tough conditions managed to get Ed (DD5LP) in the logs – which he subsequently reported I was the 2nd ever VK sota summit he has managed to complete from his home QTH)  and in Ed’s words,

I'd say that your antenna is an unmitigated success!

I had someone else in EU then start calling CQ over the top of me, but lasted only a minute or 2 – and then the floodgates opened for the next 30 -40 minutes and I suspect it was as a result of Ed posting a spot on the Cluster and  in just over an hour, I had logged 45 contacts on 20M with 36 of them being EU DX!

Again, I need to stress that I am just using the KX3 and only 10W – Yes, QRP power only and not running a big battery and a high-powered station.

A highlight was to get VK4FO in the logs! he said there are only a few of us and when he saw my call on the cluster he just had to give me a shout – Thanks Gordon!

Mt Gawler 20150510


Again, I set up the table between the 2 Verticals.  I was able to use an exiting post to mount 1 of the antennas against and had to drive in a stake to support the 2nd one.  Hopefully, next time I am there, I will be able to pick the same spot to set up.

For the 70 minutes I was on 20M I worked the following prefixes.

VK6, VK3, OK2, S58, G0, DL2, HA8, HA6, VK4, DD5 (Hi Ed), VK7, VK5, ON3, OP7, ON7, DL5, I5, OK7, OE5, IW0, IZ8, DK1, IK6, OE8, IW1, 9A7, IK1, IZ3, HA0, I3, DK4, G1, ON4, HA6, PB2,  F2, RV9, DK2, VK2

As always, I fired up on 40M before leaving and worked another 6 stations to finish this cold activation with 51 contacts logged.

So yeah, this experiment of going back to a basic resonant antenna’s has been a real eye opener for me – as over the years I have used all sort of multi-band verticals and never really had much success with them.

Yes, 2 elements on a summit are really a lot better than a dipole and Now I have to totally re-think my portable antenna’s and probably spend the next several month’s building antenna’s for other bands as well.  I can see the weight going up with carrying  more antenna’s.

EDIT: I have just checked my logs – and this activation was my most successful sota activation of all time – with 51 contacts logged. Additionally, I added 3 new DXCC countries to my tally.

Brookfield CP VKFF-822

Today on fairly short notice We had to head out to the Riverland.  As I have driven past Brookfield CP several times but never stopped to activate it, I  made the decision to stop for a couple of hours and Activate a new one for me.

We drove into the CP and followed the tracks around to the Picnic area and found a suitable place to set up.

We were running a bit later than I wanted to be there, and arrived and got on the air just after 06:30UTC – I was hoping to be there around 05:30 to work LP EU.

I have been working on  some New Antenna’s – yes plural – for 20M and thought that this was the perfect opportunity to try them out.

So, I set up, had a listen and the bands were quite busy, found a clear frequency, sent a spot and was pretty busy for the next hour!  It was so hectic that it was about 45 minutes before I had time to pause for a photo of the set-up today!

Brookfield CP 20150509

The Antenna system that I used today is a pair of phased  1/4 wave verticals with elevated ground plane.    Using 2x 7M squid poles,  the feedpoint is at the 2M high mark, and the 4 ground radials on each antenna slope back and are tied off to convenient places at ground level.  Each Antenna is spaced at 1/4 wavelength apart and theoretically I should have about 3.5db gain and around 10db F/B and a nice low take-off angle of somewhere around 17 deg.

Given the requirement for precise  spacing, I used a convenient sign next to the track to mount 1 Antenna to then measured out the required distance and direction and used a post I carry with me to support the 2nd pole.

Each Antenna has a 1/4 wavelength of 50 Ohm Coax attached o them, and for the phasing line, I used a 1/4 Wave length of 75 Ohm Coax, then a “T” to the Feedline (or in this case, directly to the KX3)

Now, My ASCII Art of the feed arrangements

1 represents each Vertical Antenna, physically spaced 5M apart (1/4 wavelength).  The ___50____ is 1/4 Wavelength (electrical) of 50 Ohm feedline, smilar is the __75___ for the electrical 1/4 wavelength 75 Ohm coax phasing line,  The “T” is the Feedpoint, where I can run a 50 Ohm Coax to the operating position or simply plug in directly to the Transceiver.

1_____50_____ – _____75_____ T _____50_____ 1

<<< Direction of Antenna Pattern

When Tuning the Antenna’s, Individually they tuned up very well – with a 1.3:1 VSWR across the whole band.  I took my time making sure that they were both exactly the same before connecting them together.  Once joined together, the Antenna Array came in at 1.4:1 across the 20M band, and of curse tuned no problem at all with the KX3.

I realize that given the need for 2 poles and to actually get them into the ground at the right places that I may not be able to use this antenna set-up on every activation, but yeah, when I can, I’ll give it a go.

Up until now I have only been using a dipole as an Inverted V on 20M at about 8M high when I go portable – and while it has been OK, the signals today were really good!  Yes, It might have been conditions, but I think that the much lower radiation angle might have played an important part of the success.

It was hardly any more trouble to get on the air than a single dipole,  it was all up in under 10 minutes.

Back to the Activation!  From 06:41UTC until 07:28UTC I logged 35 contacts on 20M with only 2 of them from VK!  They were mostly EU and just 1 from the US.  According to my logs, Today was a brilliant success as I added 5 new Countries to my logs for portable operations as well – so pretty pleased.

As we needed to exit Brookfield CP by sun-down, and 20M was slowing down, I quickly rolled out the EFHW for 40M and threw it up about 3M high between a couple of trees and posted a spot, and in the next 20 minutes or so worked the 9 required stations to log 44 contacts.  Knowing that a lot of regular hunters are in Canberra for the WIA Event this weekend, I was glad to be able to rustle up the last few needed contacts!

All things considered, with short notice, using a brand new antenna set-up, being about 90 minutes late, this was a great activation and I was really happy with how this antenna array performed.  Now, I just need to do it all again to prove it was not just good conditions today!

Brookfiled CP Sign 20150509

It was nearly dark when leaving the park and I grabbed a quick photo of the Sign (that is in need of repair) as we left the park.

2015 QRP hours contest

Last month, on Easter Saturday I participated in the QRP HOURS Contest for 2015.  This year, the contest got a bit of a boost with promotion among the many portable activators including SOTA, VKFF and SANCPA Yahoo Groups.

The concept is simple, it is 2 hours long, split into 2×1 hour categories.  The first hour is CW and Digital including PSK31 and RTTY, the 2nd hour is Phone (SSB) and is on 80M.  Rules are simple, QRP stations (5W CW/Digital or 10W SSB) get 1 point for every station worked and no repeats.

Given the very nature and the fact that the noise floor at home is only s9 when it is quiet, I headed up to my favorite SOTA summit, Mt Gawler, VK5/SE-013  for the contest.  I decided on this for 2 reasons – the obvious being that the noise floor should be a bit lower than home, and the fact that nobody had done an 80M activation of this summit.

Arriving only 15 minutes before the start (nothing like being prepared) it was a bit of a mad scramble to get everything set up, got the table out, set up the laptop with the KX3, then rolled out the 80M dipole and hung it up a 9M squid pole at around 8M.  I should have planned better and borrowed a 12m pole to get the antenna a bit higher, but hey you do what you can.

Saturday night was pretty chilly up on the hill and it was down around 10deg and a decent wind made it feel more like zero!

Only 2 minutes late starting, I finally got on air running PSK with only 3W to find a reasonable number of signals.  Now, I was going ultra-low-tech here and was only using the KX3 Utility program and relying on the built-in features of the KX3 to decode signals.  Yes, no waterfall display, just tuning the approx 3khz and trying to land someone calling cq.

The difficulty here was that I had never actually had a PSK31 contact using the KX3 beforehand so other than reading the manual and watching a few YouTube video’s on how to set it up earlier in the day I was totally unprepared for the first hour.  As a result, I probably did miss out on at least 5 or 6 more contacts that went begging during this hour.

It was pretty tough operating like this, and there were quite a few incompletes that I did not log.  Yes, there was a bit of noise about on 80M, but still nowhere near as bad as at the home QTH.

It was only moderately successful as far as the contest was concerned but did manage to complete 4 contacts, VK1, VK3, VK5 and VK6.  from a SOTA perspective, this was great, I qualified the summit on 80M DATA – 2 firsts for this often activated summit.

Qrp Hours 2015 Mt gawler
Headset – check, Foot switch – check, Torch – check. Everything in order contesting /p


SSB –  the 2nd hour

At the start of the 2nd hour, I unplugged the computer, cranked the power up to a massive 5W and went about doing the “hunt and peck” and worked the 5 or 6 stations whom I could hear across the voice segment.  As soon as I had worked as many as I could, I found a clear frequency and started calling CQ.  It was a case of calling and waiting for them to come to me.  There were bursts of activity and long periods of no replies and the unfortunate fact that with storms between VK5 to the East it made some contacts quite difficult!  There were probably a lot that I missed out on no doubt.

At the end of the night I had 23 contacts in my log, only to find that on checking later there was 1 dupe, so it will not count towards my score, with contacts to VK1, VK2, VK3 and VK5.

I already know that there were several other stations who managed bigger scores than myself – as 1 serial number I was exchanged was 39 – and that was about the 42 minute mark!

This sort of contesting taught me quite a few things and things I could have done better

  • Get set up early!
  • Make sure beforehand how to operate a particular mode
  • Antenna, Antenna, Antenna
  • Trial the location beforehand

All in all it was a somewhat cold, but interesting evening of Radio Sports and yeah, Like Arnie say’s “I’ll be back”