Japan/North America S2S event at Mt Elliot 23-Apr-17

As a followup to the VK/NA S2S event on 13th January UTC, Kevin AC2KL proposed a simultaneous activation event for Japan and North American SOTA stations. The timing was set for Sunday morning 23rd April in Japan and Saturday night in NA. With almost two months notice operators had plenty of time to plan their activations.

Australia is in a very similar time zone to Japan so the prospect of joining in with the event and making some summit-to-summit contacts was more than enticing. It would mean an early start so I organised a stay nearby to an easy drive-up summit allowing maximum operating time.

Mt Elliot

Mt Elliot, VK2/HU-093 is the summit I activate every year for New Year and the most convenient for the event. Arriving at the summit just after dawn it was a cool, clear and sunny day. Rather than operating at the usual spot I scouted around for a better location further away from the roadside power lines. RF noise on the summit is generally pretty low, but it would be critical to minimise QRM in order to work the weaker DX stations. The actual activation zone is huge. Upon checking out the lookout platform there did not seem enough room to string the antenna, a 28m long ZS6BKW horizontal inverted-Vee. Another location was found further back where there was a table and a fence post for attaching the squid pole. This was about 20m further away from the power lines than the usual table.

Antennas

As well as the ZS6BKW I wanted to use my 20m quarter wave ground plane because of its lower angle of radiation. Using a single 9m squid pole allows both antennas to be supported. An egg insulator near the top of the squid pole with a rope through it is used to raise and lower the ground plane. The squid pole was lashed to a fence post about 4m from the table. The ground plane was set up with four elevated radials but was not exactly vertical as I only had a 2m run of coax to go from the base to the table. The ZS6BKW was set up to be broadside to NA.

170423MtElliotShack

Operating position at Mt Elliot VK2/HU-093

The station consisted of a KX3 transceiver, KL-405 linear amplifier and a two-way antennas switch. The KX3 has an in-built antenna matcher so can be used on any band. The linear would only be useable on 40m, 20m and 17m where there is a good impedance match with the antennas. Only 1-2 Watts input is needed to drive the linear to full output of 50-60 Watts. It also has a receive pre-amp that can be useful for very weak signals.

Logging

To make this activation more interesting, I decided to do my logging electronically rather than on a paper log. This would be done using VK Port-a-log on the mobile phone, an application that I use religiously for spotting but have thus far ignored the logging side. This would be the trial run for the rest of my week long activating trip.

Activating

Once the station was set up the spots on SOTAwatch were checked through looking especially for NA SOTA stations. There were no audible ones so the JA stations were investigated. First summit-to-summit contact was with Hayashi JA4RQO on 15m and reports of 519 sent and 319 received. With the antenna favouring NA there was no expectation of big signals from Japan. Next S2S was on 17m with Takeshi JS1UEH and reports of 419 sent and 339 received.

Moved up the 17m band and put out a spot and started calling CQ. Rather elated when I heard Peter WA7JTM call back from Summit Mountain W7A/CS-026 in Arizona with a 449 report and I gave him 319. The power output was only 12 Watts at this stage. That surprise call was followed up with two more NA calls – both home stations: Tom NQ7R in Arizona and Larry K0RS in Colorado. These stations were also S1 so I was amazed they could hear me.

At that point the calls dried up so I started scooting around the bands checking for other SOTA activators. I worked Toru JH0CJH on 15m with 319 sent and then Jun JI1IHV on 17m with 419 sent. Signals were certainly pretty consistent. Received reports were between S1 and S3. Then I put out a spot on 20m and started calling but there were no responses at all. I noticed that the noise level was slightly elevated on 20m compared to the higher bands so there was a chance someone heard me and called but was lost in the noise.

170423MtElliotSite

Antennas and shack at Mt Elliot VK2/HU-093

It was time to give 15m a try so I spotted there and started calling. First in the log (again) was Peter WA7JTM for another S2S on a different band. Thanks Peter! Signal reports on both bands were pretty similar. That was followed by two more S2S calls from Japan: Minoru JL1NIE and Gen JS1IFK. When the calls dried up again I started chasing.

John ZL1BYZ was easy to work for the first ZL S2S on 17m and then Katsu JP3DGT and JG1GPY. Then the first of the VK activators came on. It was Andrew VK1AD at Bobbara Mtn VK2/ST-044 about 300km away and I worked him on 40m SSB. He had actually been on the higher bands for nearly an hour but I only had a very, very weak copy on him on 17m SSB so it was not QSO quality.

It was 2330z or 9:30am local and I had 11 S2S in the log so put up a posting on the facebook SOTA group in the hope of attracting some more chasers. Before UTC rollover I chased Peter VK3PF on 40m at VK4/SE-045. At that point I remembered I had brought the linear so plugged it in to work Charlie NJ7V at Humboldt Mountain W7A/AW-040 for another Arizona S2S on 17m. Signals were hanging in there at S1. In the final minute of UTC Saturday worked Wade VK1FWBD at Mt Gibraltar VK2/IL-001 on 40m SSB.

UTC Rollover

Just after UTC rollover I worked Andrew VK1AD, Wade VK1FWBD and Peter VK3PF for second S2S contacts plus some chasers on 40m SSB. Then spotted back on 17m and worked some chasers as well as Yukio JF1NDT, then chased Steve JS6TMW on 15m for his first JA-VK S2S. Some more VK activators were on air so worked Tony VK3CAT an Allen VK3ARH at Big Hill VK3/VE-059. They were on a two day hiking tour through a few summits.

Spotted again on 15m and yielded two chasers: VK6NU and JA1VRY. The DX had dried up so it was time to get to 40m and work the locals. Spotting for CW yielded 5 chasers and a S2S from Ian VK5CZ at Tothill Range VK5/SE-010. Strangely there was an SSB station calling me on the CW frequency which turned out to be an S2S from Nick VK3ANL on Mt Torbreck VK3/VN-001. Sometimes we call using CW within the SSB passband so this was quite unusual.

CW contacts had dried up so I spotted on 40m SSB and worked 12 chasers. It was packup time and just as I started there was a spot from Warren ZL2AJ at Hikurangi ZL1/MW-105 on 20m SSB. His signal was weak so I used the linear and he was the last contact and S2S for the day.

QRT

It was certainly a very successful activation with more DX S2S than I could have dreamed of. There were 25 S2S contacts including 3 NA, 9 JA, 2 ZL and 11 VK. The best band for DX was 17m with 15m coming second. 20m was pretty useless. I did compare the 20m ground plane with the ZS6BKW and found that in some cases the ground plane yielded stronger received signals. A more useful test would have been if I had one for the 17m band so it could be worth adding links into the ground plane to make it multi-band. The logging went pretty smoothly once I became familiar with a few idiocyncracies. I found I could click on a spot and have the information appear in the logging window which saved having to type in callsigns and summit references. All 55 contacts were successfully recorded and only minor editing was needed after the event. This would bode well for the rest of the trip. Time on summit was just under 5 hours.

Thank you to all the other activators, the chasers and Kevin AC2KL for initiating the event. I hope to participate in another one just like it!

Log

Time Call Frequency Mode Summit
2124 JA4RQO/4 21.063MHz CW JA/SN-077
2129 JS1UEH/1 18.091MHz CW JA/TG-107
2139 WA7JTM 18.093MHz CW W7A/CS-026
2141 NQ7R 18.093MHz CW
2142 K0RS 18.093MHz CW
2151 JH0CJH/2 21.065MHz CW JA/SO-061
2202 JI1IHV/1 18.075MHz CW JA/KN-006
2220 WA7JTM 21.061MHz CW W7A/CS-026
2225 JL1NIE/1 21.061MHz CW JA/YN-032
2230 JS1IFK 21.061MHz CW
2240 ZL1BYZ 18.0925MHz CW ZL1/WK-086
2242 JP3DGT/3 18.080MHz CW JA/HG-068
2258 JG1GPY/1 18.0817MHz CW JA/YN-043
2304 VK1AD/2 7.085MHz SSB VK2/ST-044
2308 VK2YW 7.085MHz SSB
2317 JF1IRW 18.094MHz CW
2318 KG6DX 18.094MHz CW
2320 JA1VRY 18.094MHz CW
2340 VK3PF/4 7.085MHz SSB VK4/SE-045
2358 NJ7V 18.0875MHz CW W7A/AW-040
2359 VK1FWBD/P 7.090MHz SSB VK2/IL-001
0003 VK1AD/2 7.080MHz SSB VK2/ST-044
0005 VK1FWBD/P 7.090MHz SSB VK2/IL-001
0011 VK3PF/4 7.085MHz SSB VK4/SE-045
0013 VK2YW 7.100MHz SSB
0013 VK3SQ 7.100MHz SSB
0013 VK3MCD 7.100MHz SSB
0017 VK2JDR 18.093MHz CW
0024 JA1VVH 18.093MHz CW
0029 JF1NDT/1 18.093MHz CW JA/YN-032
0034 JS6TMW/6 21.062MHz CW JA6/ON-041
0046 VK3CAT/P 7.032MHz CW VK3/VE-059
0048 VK3ARH/P 7.032MHz CW VK3/VE-059
0053 JA1VRY 21.061MHz CW
0103 VK6NU 21.061MHz CW
0108 VK7CW 7.032MHz CW
0109 VK4RF 7.032MHz CW
0112 VK4TJ 7.032MHz CW
0114 VK2MWP 7.032MHz CW
0115 VK2NP 7.032MHz CW
0117 VK5CZ 7.032MHz CW VK5/SE-010
0121 VK3ANL/P 7.032MHz SSB VK3/VN-001
0124 VK1MA 7.095MHz SSB
0125 VK4RF 7.095MHz SSB
0125 VK4HA 7.095MHz SSB
0127 VK1FWBD/P 7.095MHz SSB VK2/IL-005
0128 VK5BJE/3 7.095MHz SSB
0129 VK2NP 7.095MHz SSB
0130 VK1AT/3 7.095MHz SSB
0134 VK3ZPF 7.095MHz SSB
0136 VK3TUN/P 7.095MHz SSB
0136 VK1DW 7.095MHz SSB
0137 VK2LX 7.095MHz SSB
0138 VK7VZ 7.095MHz SSB
0143 ZL2AJ 14.295MHz SSB ZL1/MW-105
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Mt Royal NP for Field Day and SOTA 19-20 Mar 2016

A triple-header for the weekend with the John Moyle Memorial Field Day contest, WWFF at Mt Royal National Park VKFF-0362 and SOTA from two summits within the park.

VK2/HU-024 810m 4pts QF57PS in Mt Royal NP VKFF-0362

Headed first to the VK2/HU-024 summit which is just outside the southern edge of the park by a matter of metres. The activation zone to the NE is well within the park and happens to lie along Mt Royal Rd and conveniently there is a cleared space to the side of the road suitable for camping and operating from. Note that not all maps show the correct location of the park boundary or of Mt Royal Rd near the summit. SIX maps and the OzTopo GPS map V7 are OK. I activated from (-32.24473,151.28366) marked on the map with a red “X”. The park boundary and the location of the summit are also shown. There would be an elevation difference of a few metres at most between the summit and the activated location.160319VK2HU-024map

The John Moyle is a 24 hour contest starting at 0100z (noon). I arrived at about 12:45pm and walked around the area with my GPS to find the summit and check for the exact park boundary. Once confirmed I started setting up. Weather was warm with clear blue skies and no wind so a perfect day to be out and activating. A 3m metal pole at the side of the road provided a perfect mount for lashing my squid pole. I was able to raise up the base of my squid pole by 1.5m to increase the effective height of the antenna. First contact in the log was at 1:12pm, a S2S with Tony VK1VIC at Mt Ginini. Normally I use a paper log but for contests I just about always use a computer, and so it was for this contest. Well over an hour was spent working through the stations on 40m SSB and then there was a spell on CW. 40 minutes there netted 9 contacts so the pace was leisurely. I used my KX3 and had it wound up to the full 15W output. Antenna was the usual ZS6BKW inverted-Vee with the apex at nearly 10m off the ground and oriented NW-SE. To obtain this orientation, the antenna crossed the road, but with the lowest point being at about 8m it wasn’t going to be a traffic hazard!

A new three hour block had started so I could rework stations again so back to 40m SSB starting out with 3 S2S contacts. Then hunting and pecking through all the stations calling CQ for half an hour then started calling on my own frequency. The band was pretty crowded but there were still slots available. This kept me busy for another half an hour before it was time to give 20m a go. It was pretty quiet on there with only 2 stations calling from VK6. Maybe I had missed all the action. So back to 40m with the odd listen on 80m. A car full of locals stopped for a chat and find out what I was up to. The road does not go through anywhere so there was less than one car per hour going past. I mentioned my intention to scale Mt Royal and was warned about the presence of tiger snakes.

Nearing 7pm I decided to have a break from contesting and set up the tent. This was pitched next to the metal pole as the amount of free antenna feedline was limited. My operating chair was moved inside the tent and used as an operating table. After a 40 minute break I was making contacts again – still on 40m SSB. After less than 15 minutes I switched to 80m SSB where there was a lot more action. I was able to work stations in VK1, VK2, VK3 and VK4 mainly by calling CQ.

160319VK2HU-024ant

Antenna at VK2/HU-024

Operating from inside the tent was very nice as it kept off the cool breeze, and it really did cool down quite a lot after sunset. The evening was spent operating on 80m and 40m. There was a dearth of stations on CW, just weak rapid fire stations operating in another contest. I was surprised at the lack of activity. I was keen to make a 6m contact as there had been no response to earlier calls. I made a contact with the Blue Mountains radio club station VK2HZ on 80m and asked them to try 6m. They said their 6m operators were in bed – it was only 10:15pm. Still, they were happy to try for a contact on their wire antenna. Unfortunately it was a no-go as they were only just audible to me and I had a fraction of their transmitter power. it would have to be left until morning.

160319VK2HU-024night

Night time shack at VK2/HU-024

There were still plenty of stations about on 80m and a few on 40m so I kept going. Conscious of my plans for Sunday I decided to turn in at 12:45am when things became a bit quiet on the bands. It was now just CQ callers that I had worked before so a good time to cut it short. I would need all my strength and alertness for Mt Royal!

In the morning I awoke to find it already quite light. My beanie had slipped over my eyes and kept things dark and the lack of light had allowed me to sleep more than expected. It was after 7am and weather was still nice, though overcast and a little crisp. I was back on the radio at 7:45am for a short stint until 8:30am. I was able to find VK2HZ again on 80m and arrange for a 6m contact with their VHF team. This time it was successful over a distance of 183km as they were using a beam rather than a wire antenna. I also was able to just hear a station in Bathurst, but they weren’t able to hear me. The other contacts I made in the morning were on 40m and I found 80m full of ragchewers and nets.

Mt Royal VK2/HU-007 1174m 6pts QF57PT in Mt Royal NP VKFF-0362

Packing up the camp site, shack and antenna occupied an hour and then it was off to the next summit. Driving up Mt Royal road one passes through the Youngville campground area after 5km at (-32.1995,151.3094). It would make a good base if one wanted to stay a few days and operate from the park. Continuing on 3km one reaches a Y intersection with a picnic area directly ahead at (-32.1823,151.3156). At 850m elevation this is the starting point for the walk to Mt Royal VK2/HU-007. A single sheltered picnic table and a park sign marks this location.

The walk starts immediately behind the picnic table and follows the ridge line all the way to the top. There is not just one clearly defined track but a series of parallel tracks that weave in and out from each other. The gradient is steep most of the way, around 2 in 5 so it is not for the faint hearted or infirm. The elevation is 320m over 2km so its a good idea to take breaks along the way. I did not need to climb very far before entering low cloud though the visibility was still fine for following the trail. There are various rock piles along the way providing reassurance that you’re on the right track. Just after half way up there is a rocky outcrop and while it would appear attractive to skirt around it, the best way is to scramble up over it. Further up after an open area one comes to a wall of foliage with seemingly no way to get through. There is a track on the right side to duck and weave around the trees which seemed to be the best approach. I only discovered this on the way back!

The rest of the way up has quite a dense wooden canopy with some sections having very little headroom. Near the top there is a faux summit that one can skirt around to the left. One must keep going past here another few hundred metres to reach the destination. The summit holds a trig station with Royal stamped in the vane and is covered with tall spindly trees. The tracks around the trig point are quite well trodden probably due to the presence of a geocache nearby. On the trig point cairn there is a log book with a large rock sitting on it providing little in the way of disguise.

160320VK2HU-007station

Station at Mt Royal VK2/HU-007

The tree cover near the trig point is quite low so rather than set up on the trig point itself, I set up my squid pole attached to a tree nearby. The antenna wire was woven around some trees and branches and with the dropoff the ends of the antenna were only about 2m off the ground. The usual ZS6BKW was used on the 8m squid pole with the antenna apex at about 7m off the deck. It had taken 1.5 hours to reach the summit and set up so there was still half an hour left until the close of the John Moyle contest at 12 noon. Again I concentrated on 40m SSB and in the time available I was able to snag 8 more contacts. At that point the computer log was closed off and I reverted to the paper log.

At contest end I was able to start spotting on SOTAwatch and the first was for 40m CW. Conditions were certainly poor as there were only 2 contacts. After 3 summit-to-summits on SSB I went to 30m CW and made 2 more contacts, one of those being a S2S with Ron VK3AFW. Then I went through 20m CW with no contacts then chased JL1NIE unsuccessfully on 15m CW. On 20m SSB I did make four contacts. There was a successful S2S with JF1NDT/1 on 12m CW then on 15m SSB one contact with a JA and nothing on 30m SSB. Finally I ended up on 40m SSB for a bunch of contacts including two CW contacts on 7090, one a S2S with Tony VK3CAT.

160320VK2HU-007shack

Shack at Mt Royal with PC for contest logging

Once the callers ran out I stayed around for a bit on the summit before packing up and departing about 3pm. Mobile coverage on the summit was pretty good on the Telstra network though there were dropouts. For example, I missed a spot from VK2QR by 15 mins and so did not get the S2S. The signal was up to 3 bars on the phone if positioned in a certain spot, but at other times there was no data. Sitting it just off the ground the signal was coming and going.

160320VK2HU-007viewW

View looking west just down from the Mt Royal summit

The return journey was a lot quicker than the climb as the better tracks to take were more obvious and there was a lot less huffing and puffing. I did not need to descend very far before the cloud cleared allowing some visibility of the valleys below. It would certainly be a spectacular spot on a clear day.

Highlights

  • 2 SOTA summits and 1 park qualified
  • 242 contacts including 20 CW contacts
  • 21 park-to-park contacts
  • 15 summit-to-summit contacts
  • no tiger snakes!

 

My first SOTA activation in Japan – Shiroyama 13 Feb 2016

The first SOTA summit I climbed during my visit to Japan was Shiroyama JA/KN-022. This summit is on the western outskirts of Tokyo and just over the border into Kanagawa prefecture. And climb it was as the bus drops you off a little above sea level. The summit is at 375m elevation rising up steeply from the flatlands of Tokyo.

Public transport to the summit is very convenient. Take one train from the major station Shinjuku in Tokyo until the end of the Keio Sagamihara line at Hashimoto (station KO45). Then take the Hashimoto 01 bus for Mikage to stop 14 at the base of the mountain called Tsukuiko Kanko Center mae (35.58643N, 139.280824E). Timetable and route is here. Once starting the climb, there are maps available en-route.

Near the top there is a faux-peak with a small shrine. One then walks down a little and up again to the real peak which has a cleared area at the top (35.5831N, 139.2787E). I set up just to the side of this clearing.

160213ShiroyamaShack

My station consisted of a linked ground plane antenna that I had made that day after scouring Akihabara for parts. It had links for 40m, 20m, 15m and 10m. The radials were designed for 20m. A tree provided the top support for the vertical section of the ground plane.

The radio used was the KX3 on internal AA alkaline batteries.With such a small power source the radio could only be used QRPp and I started out at 3 Watts. With the 6m/10m SOTA challenge in its last day, I set up on 10m at first.On SSB I was rewarded with 5 contacts: JJ1SWI/1, VK4RF, VK4HA, JA1JCF and 7K1WRK/1. I tried CW too but made no contacts in that mode. Callsign used was JR2YFM/1. QTH locator: PM95pn.

Lowering the vertical, I joined up the first pair of wires and was then on 15m. On that band I made one contact with JJ1SWI/1 again. The radio was starting to shut down during transmit occasionally so I had dropped the power to 2 Watts. Seemed unusual to only have one call on 15m, however, there may have been no propagation. JJ1SWI is local to Tokyo so it was a ground wave contact.

Next was 40m and two more links were joined in the antenna. On this band there was another call from JJ1SWI/1 at about the same strength as on the other two bands. I had reduced my power down to 1 Watt at this stage.

For the final change it was to 20m CW and after dropping the antenna and removing a link I was rewarded with a call from Rick VK4RF and his alter-ego VK4HA. Sigs received on this band were 58 from Rick so quite a bit stronger than on 10m. The difference was that I worked Rick using 3W on 10m but only 1W on 20m.

With little battery left and the light fading fast I had to pack up quickly and drop down the mountain. It took about 30 mins to climb to the top and about 20 mins to descend. With a 3 minute wait for the bus I was on my way back to Tokyo. Allow 90 mins to get to Shinjuku station.

So, a very successful activation. Although I made 4 contacts on CW, there were only 3 unique stations so I am yet to qualify on CW. I well and truly qualified on SSB. This is a very easy one to activate if you are in Tokyo as the public transport is so convenient. The only difficult thing is the climb. Remarkably, there is no QRM at the top of the mountain. Nice views of the dam and countryside below too.

Cattai NP for VKFF Activation Weekend 29-Nov-2015

The second day of the VKFF Activation Weekend I headed to Cattai National Park VKFF-0092 on the northern outskirts of the Sydney metropolitan area. The park lies on the southern bank of the Hawkesbury River in the suburb of Cattai. The park includes a popular camping area as well as outdoor facilities and a historic homestead (-33.558878, 150.892197).

151129CattaiMapMy plan was to operate in the park all day with a late morning start after a late night the evening before. This went totally to plan. I arrived at the park (-33.547513, 150.899308) off Caddie Rd via Wisemans Ferry Rd at around 10:15am, purchased an entry ticket from the machine and continued deeper into the park. After passing some shelters I entered the camping zone (-33.553787, 150.892245) for a sticky beak. There were quite a lot of campers set up there and I decided the best place for me was away from there back at the shelters several hundred metres away. None of the covered shelters were being used so I set up at the very first one (-33.558514, 150.890148) locator QF56KK nearest to the wharf. This was ideal for setting up an antenna as there are large trees on opposite sides spaced about 20m on either side. The squid pole itself was mounted against a large wooden support used for the shelter, the width of a medium size tree. The ZS6BKW antenna was used for this activation.

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The KX3 was set up on a table under the shelter and I also had the FT100D as a backup but it wasn’t needed. First contact in the log was at 10:45am with Tony VK1VIC at Farrer Ridge Nature Reserve in the ACT. It seemed as though propagation on 40m would be reasonable. After this quick contact I took some time to set up the station and antenna properly for the day. Then I settled in for a session on 40m, hunting down any other park activators that came up which occupied the next half an hour. A further eight parks were worked and I was then operating on my own 40m frequency. There were plenty of chasers as far afield as VK5 and short skip was working too.

Adam VK2YK was activating Castle Hill lookout in Townsville and I was able to work him on 15m for my first SOTA contact of the day. Back to 40m and a stint on CW yielded four contacts. After that it was back to hunting for a bit and then I spotted on 15m SSB. After 15 mins making no contacts I moved on to 20m SSB for 15 mins then 20m CW for 15 mins but there were no contacts to be had. I had a break of 10 minutes for lunch until more activators started up. After an hour without a contact I stayed on 40m for an hour and there were seven more parks worked as well as two SOTA stations. The drought had broken. I self spotted on 40m SSB again and made some more contacts from that.

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When things became quiet on 40m I went up to 10m and found some contest stations to work on CW. They were mostly sending lightning fast and with my 10W I was able to work Japan, Vietnam and Hong Kong. All I had to do was send my normal signal report and my CQ zone of 30. Switching to 15m I found stations operating in the same CQ World-Wide DX CW contest and was able to crack Russia, Tuvalu and Brazil as well as Japan. It was one way of racking up contacts towards my goal of 44 uniques.

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After an hour in the contest there were more parks to work so it was back to 40m. Then I took a break to take photos for half an hour, visited the wharf. Upon return I self spotted on 7.144 announcing last calls and that seemed to trigger a run of hunters which kept me busy for twenty minutes. When the callers ran out I chased John VK6NU on 20m in Wandoo NP and rounded things out with a couple more parks in VK5. By then it was 5:45pm and I was mindful of the sign announcing gate closure at 6pm so it was a hurried closedown. I drove out of through the gate, parked and then walked back in. Kangaroos were clustered on the grassy areas and I also wanted to check the signage on the office building. It was unattended and indicated the park ranger is stationed at another site, probably the much larger Scheyville National Park.

Statistics

  • 63 contacts (12 CW)
  • 31 park-to-park contacts
  • 3 SOTA contacts
  • 8 DX/contest contacts
  • Bands: 40m, 20m, 15m, 10m
  • 7 hours operating time

What a great weekend the inaugural VKFF Activation Weekend turned out to be. I’m looking forward to next year. Thanks for all the contacts:
VK1VIC/P,VK1DI/P,VK5FANA/P,VK2NP/M,VK4AAC/5,VK5PAS/P,VK8AR/P,VK3VTH/P,VK1AT/3,VK3PMG/P,VK2VW,VK3OF,VK2GAZ,VK4RF,VK4HA,VK5UK/3,VK5KPR/P,VK5ZGY/P,VK2YK/4,VK5HCF/P,VK3HRA,VK4RF,VK4HA,VK2YW,VK1VIC/P,VK3HN/P,VK1MA,VK1DI/P,VK5HCF/P,VK5EE/P,VK5HSX/2,VK1DA/2,VK1VIC/P,VK3TKK/P,VK3PF/P,VK3YAR,VK3DPG,VK2QR,VK5PAS/P,JA3YBK,XV9NPS,VR2XAN,VK3VTH/P,RT0C,7J1YAJ,T2XX,PT2CM,JR1MEG/1,VK3TST/P,VK3PF/P,VK3KAI/P,VK2HHA,VK3UH,VK7CW,VK3DBP,VK5BJE,VK5AV,VK5FGRY,VK5PL/P,VK5NFT,VK6NU/P,VK5LOL/P,VK5PET/P.

Sydney Harbour NP for VKFF activation weekend 28 Nov 2015

Sydney Harbour National Park VKFF-0473 was the first park I activated for the VKFF activation weekend. Pockets of it cover the north and south side of the harbour. A few weeks before I had spent a couple of hours walking around the park on the southern side of the harbour in search of a location for an activation. I found an elevated spot away from pedestrian traffic and buildings in an area called Nielsen Park in the suburb of Vaucluse.

151128SydneyHarbourMapIt was Saturday morning and I had to drive through Sydney to reach the park. Surprisingly, as I was driving through the middle of the city next to Hyde Park and many high-rise buildings, I was able to work Rob VK4FFAB on 40m in Hampton NP, my first contact for the weekend. This was just before UTC rollover and I hoped to work him again once set up in the park.

151128SydneyHarbourView

View of Sydney Harbour from the operating point

Arriving in Vaucluse Rd Vaucluse, park opposite number 63 (-33.85463, 151.268482) and take Steele Point Rd into the park. Walk 80m down the road to (-33.854457, 151.267577) where you see rocks up to the right then head off and up through the bush to the top then 100m further to (-33.85364, 151.267464). There are no signposts for this one. It is only 5 minutes walk all up and park entry is free. If you have a GPS navigator, just head for the top of the hill which has an elevation of about 40m. There is a large open flat rocky area and a convenient place to attach a squid pole. To the north is Shark Bay, to the east is Vaucluse Bay and to the west is Shark Island though not all of these landmarks can be seen from the top due to overgrowth.

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Stringing up the large ZS6BKW antenna was no problem as there were no overhanging trees to get caught in, and enough trees around to anchor the ends of the doublet. I was on air by late morning and the first order of the day was to chase all of the other parks and summits already on air. There were quite a few of them and this filled the log for the first 10 contacts, all on 40m. 50 minutes in I did get to spot on my own 40m SSB frequency and start calling. Now I had hunters and parks calling me and it seemed as though band conditions were pretty good. As insurance I had brought along the 100W rig but it never left its bag – the KX3 was performing just fine with only 12W.

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Ninety minutes in I went to 20m, but after repeated calls the only reply I had was from Rick VK4RF. I also tried 15m with no result. Seemed as though all the action was on 40m. i did a stint on 40m CW and there were a few hunters, probably not as many as if I’d started out on CW. later on I did another stint on 40m SSB and there were even more hunters coming out of the woodwork. At 3pm (just a little later than planned) the necessary 44 unique contacts had been made and it was time to move on to the next park: Kamay Botany Bay NP.

Statistics

  • 57 contacts
  • 17 park-to-park contacts
  • 7 SOTA contacts
  • 3h15m operating time

Contacts

Thanks for all the contacts:
VK1AI/P,VK2HBG/P,VK5PAS/P,VK4AAC/5,VK3VTH/P,
VK3PMG/P,VK3ANL/P,VK4FFAB/P,VK2HRX/P,VK2NP/P,
VK3PF/P,VK3YSP/P,VK3FOWL/P,VK1DI/P,VK2FABE,
VK2VW,VK3OF,VK5FANA/P,VK2MOR,VK3DAC,
VK5GJ/P,VK5NIG/P,VK3TKK,VK1MTS,VK5STU/P,
VK1MA,VK2XXM,VK1AT/3,VK2ATZ,VK2SR/M,
VK2BFC,VK2FDAV,VK2UH,VK4RF,VK4HA,
VK2IB/P,VK5PAS/P,VK7TW/P,VK7FREU/P,VK4RF,
VK4HA,VK2JDR,VK2HRX/P,VK1DI/P,VK3VTH/P,
VK2UHQ,VK3FQSO/P,VK4FFAB/P,VK7CW,VK2JDR/P,
VK3HRA/P,VK2VKB,VK4RF,VK4HA,VK1NS,
VK3ZPF,VK2NTH.

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Oceania DX CW Contest – Brisbane Water NP 10-11 Oct 2015

BrisbaneWaterNPmapThe second weekend in a row of contesting, this time the CW section of the Oceania DX contest and a chance to activate another National Park. I headed for the Central Coast again to Brisbane Water NP VKFF-0056 just west of Woy Woy, about 60km north of Sydney. Driving south from Kariong I ended up driving through the park. Pulling off into a clearing the first potential location was checked out. It was at the top of a hill 500m off the road. After a climb and some bush bashing decided that the route was not practical. Drove back 1km along the road to a track shown on the GPS leading to the summit, but the track was fictional so this location was abandoned.

151011BrisbaneWaterLocalMap

Area map around Staples Lookout showing shack and antenna positions

Staples Lookout

Continued further south 2km along the road to Staples Lookout. Just opposite the lookout is a gated fire trail and aerial views on internet mapping sites showed a big clearing 300m down the track. After a quick visit to the lookout, I headed down the track and discovered a very nice site for my activation. Picked a spot and then returned to the car to collect the camping and radio equipment.

151011BrisbaneWaterNPTrailAccess

Carpark and fire trail access opposite Staples Lookout

Set up the double-sized ZS6BKW antenna first (the blue line in the picture above) and then the regular sized one (red line). This went pretty smoothly as there were few trees to clear with the antenna wires. The antennas were set up more or less perpendicular to one another similar to the previous week at Wyrrabalong National Park. For the station I opted just to sit outside on a chair in the evening so setting up the tent was deferred until a quiet time.

151011BrisbaneWaterNPOutdoorShack

Outdoor shack used for the evening

Contesting

Contesting started 15 minutes after the scheduled time of 0800z (7pm) so not much time lost and a lot earlier than the previous week. Most contacts in the first two hours were made on 40m and then 80m came into its own. Contest style was hunt and peck as I was a QRP entrant with only 5 Watts. After an hour on 80m it was back to 40m again for another hour. It wasn’t until the fifth hour before contacts were made on 160m, and these were the only three for the contest. At the end of that hour it was time to set up camp. The four-person tent was quickly erected and equipment transferred inside. There was a lot more room than the small tent used the previous week. Contesting could continue, but most of an hour was lost.

151011BrisbaneWaterNPCamp

Camp site with two antenna masts

Contacts became hard to find. The local stations were all tucked up for the night. After a further hour without a contact, I did the same – after a run to the car to charge a battery. Turning in at 2am was a little later than planned and needless to say I was ready for it.

151011BrisbaneWaterNPSunset

Sunset at the operating site

Morning

Arose around dawn, probably a little earlier than planned. Retrieved the freshly charged battery from the car and visited Staples Lookout for a better look. Captured some pictures of the sun rising and the low clouds and fog sitting over the suburbs around Woy Woy. It was quite a magic sight. See below.

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Returned to the station and started contesting again. It was slow going, maybe because I was trying to have breakfast at the same time. After a few band changes ended up on 15m which proved fruitful for a couple of hours and there were useful contacts on 10m as well. Being a Sunday morning there were people shooting past on mountain bikes and the occasional bushwalkers too. At around 1pm it was clear that a storm was coming. The colour of the sky and the view on the BoM radar indicated that it was about an hour away. I started to pull down the station beginning with the 160m antenna and all the non-radio stuff inside the tent. Kept calling using the keyer in the KX3 but there were few responses other than the growing static crashes.

151011BrisbaneWaterNPShack

Operating at the indoor shack

The last contact was made at 1:50pm and then the whole lot was quickly packed up before any lightning came into view. Three trips up the track to the car and it was all over for the contest. This is quite an early close considering the contest goes until 7pm. However, I was very glad not having to pack up in the rain.

Bulgandry Aboriginal Carvings

Drove a couple of km north towards Kariong and found the Bulgandry aboriginal carvings area. This is also inside the National Park and my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to visit. With the occasional crash of thunder high overhead I proceeded along the track to the carvings. It seemed unexpectedly far from the carpark, but I was rushing in anticipation of rain. Luckily it stayed dry and I was able to admire the carvings at leisure.

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Returning to the car I considered whether it would be possible to continue contesting in spite of the storm. The lack of sleep and the difficulty of re-establishing a radio site swayed me against the idea. The storm was bearing down with increasing force and within the hour heavy rain was falling. I was glad to seek shelter with a relative and sit it out.

Statistics

  • Contest contacts: 81
  • Non-contest contacts: 3 (SSB SOTA)
  • Hours contesting: 11.5
  • Hours in park: 23.5
  • Bands used: 160, 80, 40, 20, 15, 10m
  • Locator: QF56PM
  • Claimed score: 26727

Compared to the SSB contest, contacts were much harder to find and there were many stretches without a contact. I made half the contacts but operated for much less time owing to the early closedown due to the storm. It will be interesting to see the outcome of the contest.

OCDXCW2015stats-VK2IO

Contest contact and multiplier accumulation over time

Band   QSOs Mult  Pts  Inv 
160 m    3    3    60   0 
 80 m   18    9   180   0 
 40 m   31   23   155   0 
 20 m    5    5     5   0 
 15 m   19   16    38   0 
 10 m    5    3    15   0 
  QSOs/Multiplier:   1.4

Equipment

  • Elecraft KX3 transceiver
  • Computer headset/microphone
  • Two LiFePO4 4200 mAh batteries
  • 7200 mAh SLA battery
  • Hi-Mound MK-706 CW paddle
  • Lenovo S10-3 netbook computer
  • VK Contest Log (VKCL) v3.12b software
  • ZS6BKW inverted-Vee doublet (28m long) on 9m mast
  • Double size ZS6BKW inverted-Vee doublet (56m long) on 9m travel mast
  • Headlamp
  • Turnigy Accucell 6 charger

Thanks to all who made contact!

151011BrisbaneWaterContactMap

Map of contacts from Brisbane Water NP VKFF-0056

Oceania DX Phone Contest – Wyrrabalong NP 3-4 Oct 2015

The Oceania DX Contest is an amateur radio event held annually on consecutive weekends in October. The first weekend is phone (SSB) and the second is CW (morse code). The first (and last) time I participated was in 2010 as a portable station using a kite antenna. It was a lot of fun and the video has been quite popular. This year I wanted to operate for the full length of the contest, not just for a few hours. I also wanted to operate as a portable station and this meant using low power (QRP). Luckily the contest has a QRP category so I would not need to compete with much bigger stations using beams and high power. Going portable has three advantages: (1) away from city noise; (2) have space for 160m antenna; (3) can qualify a national park for WWFF.

Wyrrabalong National Park map

Wyrrabalong National Park map showing north and south sections

Location

The criteria for the location was based on: (1) must be in a national park; (2) have reasonable car access; (3) near a body of water; (4) room for antennas; (5) clear RF takeoff in all directions; (6) away from RF noise sources; (7) 24hr availability. Most of the criteria for a location can be assessed beforehand by studying internet sites. For this exercise I looked at national parks on the Central Coast of NSW and drew up a short list of possibilities within the Wyrrabalong National Park VKFF-0550. The park is coastal and divided into a large northern section and a smaller southern section. The northern section is virtually at sea level with the ocean to the east and a lake to the west. It is bisected by the Central Coast Highway running north-south. A road off the highway provides access to the park and the beach. Unfortunately the road is gated and closed at night, but I added it to my short list anyway. There did not appear to be any other accessible locations in the northern section of the park.

The southern section of the park was much more familiar as I had done the coastal walk many times. This section has ocean to the east and housing to the west and consists of a long narrow strip. The prominent features are the Crackneck Lookout providing stunning ocean views and a favourite for hang-gliders, and the Wyrrabalong TV translator tower on the southern end of the coastal walk. Of these only the Lookout is suitable. Another location was also found half way along the coastal walk next to some water tanks with access from a nearby suburban street.

Southern section of Wyrrabalong NP showing operating point

Southern section of Wyrrabalong NP

Scoping It Out

On the Saturday of the contest I packed the car and set off for the northern section of the Wyrrabalong National Park at about 3pm. The goal was to reach the location by 5pm and set up in time to start contesting at 6pm. Most of the drive was along the Sydney-Newcastle freeway then head head east through Budgewoi then south through Norah Head to the park. Upon turning off the Central Coast Highway there was a large gate into the park and a sign showing the opening hours. I checked out the carpark at the end of the road and decided that it was not that suitable. Probably the best spot would be on the beach.

Left the northern section and drove through The Entrance township to Crackneck Lookout in the southern section of the park. On the approach road there was a wedding entourage and photographer actually on the road. Proceeding on and just before the lookout there was a gate – one that I had not seen before. Seems the lookout carpark now has restricted hours which seemed odd. The views from there at night are pretty nice. As a consolation, two car spaces have been provided just before the gate about 100m down the road. After a quick scout around and a gawk at the stretch limousine I decided the spot wasn’t as suitable as I was expecting.

Now down to the third option I drove back through the gate and around to the closest road to the water tanks. The road to actually get near the water tanks is gated too but intended to be used by pedestrians to access the coastal walk. The walking distance to the park is about 200m. The area around the tanks has been cleared and was within the national park according to the GPS.  I decided this would be a good spot to operate from though I was unsure how much electrical noise would emanate from near the tanks and the nearby houses. The nearest power lines were 50m away. Maidenhead locator: QF56RO.

Shack at Wyrrabalong National Park

Operating chair and tent at Wyrrabalong National Park

Setup

Getting the gear to the site took three trips and then I set up the ZS6BKW antenna on the 9m squid pole with the wire oriented north-south. Next was the double-sized ZS6BKW which was awkward to set up due to the available cleared space. There was little undergrowth as the park had been burnt out recently, but there were still quite tall trees. It took some time to weave the antenna wire through and over these. I used my 10m travel mast leaving the top sections unused, and there was a pronounced bend in the mast due to the load. One antenna crossed the other one but only at about 30 degrees. They were almost parallel. A ground sheet was put down and then an operating chair which would serve as the shack for the evening. Then the KX3 and computer were installed. The chair has a small side table useful for putting things down when not seated in the chair.

Operating chair and tent at Wyrrabalong NP

Operating tent at Wyrrabalong NP

Contesting

By 6:20pm I was on the air but it was getting dark so I used a headlamp to see what I was doing, especially with the computer. The bands were all very much alive. I started on 40m by hunting and pecking my way up and down the band. After half an hour there were a bunch of VKs and a couple of ZLs in the log. Then to 15m for a couple of JAs then 20m for more JAs and a US station. My 5 Watts was cutting through though not to every caller – some of them completely ignored me. Then to 160m and even though it was still early, 2 contacts were made and then to the 80m DX window for 2 more including a ZL. Back to 40m and it was definitely the busiest band and some new stations were calling. Continued to cycle through the bands calling all I could hear that i hadn’t already worked. Occasionally I would put out some CQ calls and was sometimes rewarded with a call.

After a few hours it started to cool down quite a bit and the wind was a little cool. It was time for more shelter so I started to set up the tent. I had a new “mosquito” tent so had not put it together before. The instructions consisted of a series of numbered pictures printed on a tag attached to the tent bag. By a process of trial and error the tent was set up in about 15 minutes then the radio gear was moved inside. I could continue contesting in more comfort though I was squatting instead of sitting. I managed to work Indonesia, PNG and more US stations. VK2IM who lives nearby was worked too. His signal was so strong on 20m that the KX3 automatically switched off its preamp as a protective measure. Later it was found that he was line of sight and only 6.5km away running a linear amp and a beam. It normally takes a very strong local signal for the radio to react in this way – impressive!

Two antennas at sunrise in Wyrrabalong NP

Two antennas at sunrise in Wyrrabalong NP

Some more hours of contesting and contacts had slowed down to a snail’s pace. After an hour making no contacts I decided at 1am to close down for the night. A trip to the car was made to recharge one of the 4200 mAh LiFe batteries that had been powering the computer after its own internal battery went flat after 4 or 5 hours. The radio was still running fine on its battery of the same capacity and did not need charging. Only one battery can be charged at a time. Returned to the tent for some much needed sleep.

Morning

Arose just before dawn, took some photos and retrieved the battery from the car. By 6am I was back on the radio though with the changeover to daylight savings time, this was now known as 7am. 40m was running well and I made many contacts. After 2 hours I tried 10m and 15m and made a few DX contacts with Japan, Indonesia and Russia. This was great because contacts had now been made on all the bands available in the contest. From 10:30am to 11:30am there was a spate of SOTA activations, all on 40m. Some were CW so were not logged as contest contacts and instead recorded in the regular portable logbook. At midday the KX3 was shutting down when PTT was pressed. It was time for a run to the car to charge the battery powering the radio which had dropped to 8 volts. It looked to be bulging a bit too – oops. The charger accepted the battery and started to charge it without complaining about the voltage.

Shack inside the operating tent in Wyrrabalong NP

Shack inside the operating tent in Wyrrabalong NP

Afternoon

The break gave me an excuse to have something to eat as breakfast had pretty much been skipped. Returned to the airways at 12:45pm and set up the voice keyer on the radio to put out calls while munching away. I started to call on 7.144 which is a popular frequency for World Wide Flora and Fauna activations. There were some responses but not from the usual VKFF hunters and I could not self-spot under the contest rules. 40m and to a lesser extent 20m were the bands I was able to make contacts during the afternoon. Occasionally another SOTA station would come up and I would chase them. The most notable was Takeshi JS1UEH on 15m CW.

The weather got quite hot in the afternoon and peaked at 34 degrees in the shade. I was glad to have the tent for protection from the sun. The wind kicked up too and was nearly at the point of blowing things away like the chair sitting outside the tent. During the afternoon I noticed that the UTC time and time to contest end was advanced by one hour. The clock on the computer was showing the correct daylight savings time. I decided to continue on and fix it up later. At about 5pm the long path to EU opened on 20m and many contacts were made. This dried up by 6pm and it was back to 40m. At 6pm the logger reported end of contest, but there was still an hour to go. I set the clock on the computer back by an hour and this fixed the problem. With only one hour left and darkness approaching I started to pack up and just left the voice keyer calling on 40m. The 160m antenna was pulled down first as it would not been needed at all and would take some time to roll up. Responses to calls were very infrequent by 6:30pm so the main activity was packing up the tent. QRT happened at 6:45pm, 15 minutes before the contest end and it took another 20 minutes to collect everything and transport it to the car over multiple trips. The timing worked out well with sunset at 7pm, the same as the contest end time and no need to use lights.

Path to local station VK2IM

Path to local station VK2IM

Log Processing

After the contest the log needed to be massaged and submitted. Entries in the log after the changeover to daylight savings had to be manually edited to take off an hour except for the last few contacts after 6pm (0700z). There was no easy way to do this other than manually. The author was contacted and could not shed any light on why the UTC time was incorrect after the switch to AEDST. Cabrillo format can be generated by the software and directly emailed to the contest manager. ADI format can be generated as well and after some editing to include National Park information, callsigns, locator, etc, the log can be imported into my station log running in Log4OM. When logging I always put in the exact frequency in the comment field. This must be extracted and put into the frequency field, and any SOTA or WWFF reference must be extracted from the comment field and new fields created for those. After importing the contest log, the non-contest QSOs can be added manually in Log4OM. Then the log is exported in ADI format for submission to WWFF to claim the national park activation. SOTA chaser contacts are also exported in CSV format and submitted to the SOTA database. There is also upload to eQSL as well, and it is all handled through Log4OM.

Contest contact and multiplier accumulation over time

Contest contact and multiplier accumulation over time

Statistics

The chart on the right shows for each hour the number of contacts made in red and the number of multipliers made in green. Contest contacts made per band are summarised below:

Band   QSOs Mult  Pts  Inv 
160 m    6    3   120   0 
 80 m   12    7   120   0 
 40 m   92   15   460   0 
 20 m   36   31    35   1 
 15 m   13   12    26   0 
 10 m    6    4    18   0 
 
 QSOs/Multiplier:   2.3

Highlights

At the end of the contest I had logged 165 stations plus another 15 non-contest stations (5 CW). I had worked 3 other national parks and 23 SOTA stations. All this using 5W except for the JS1UEH on 15m using 10W. Contacts were made on all 6 bands from 160m to 10m. Local station VK2IM was worked on 5 bands – all but 160m.

As a QRP station I found making contacts to be a very active process of chasing up and down the bands looking for callers and also switching bands regularly. Its not enough to just call away on one frequency and continuously log contacts like the high power stations do. I found myself calling CQ only a small percentage of the time. Often a higher powered deaf station would take over the frequency so one would be forced to QSY. However, this can happen regardless of output power.

It’ll be interesting to see how my contest score compares to other QRP stations.

Thanks to all contest stations and hunters. Great to get you in the log!

151004WyrrabalongContactMap

Map of contacts made from Wyrrabalong NP VKFF-0550

Equipment

  • Elecraft KX3 transceiver
  • Computer headset/microphone
  • Two LiFePO4 4200 mAh batteries
  • 7200 mAh SLA battery
  • Hi-Mound MK-706 CW paddle
  • Lenovo S10-3 netbook computer
  • VK Contest Log (VKCL) v3.12a software
  • ZS6BKW inverted-Vee doublet (28m long) on 9m mast
  • Double size ZS6BKW inverted-Vee doublet (56m long) on 9m travel mast
  • Headlamp
  • Turnigy Accucell 6 charger