Lane Cove NP – 12 Apr 2016

160413LaneCoveNPsignA rainy sort of day and I was in the area so decided to activate the Lane Cove National Park VKFF-0281. The park is 15km north of Sydney city and runs along the Lane Cove River through around 10 suburbs. It is usually only heard about when it catches fire and with houses backing right up to the park that does initiate a big response. The park is also along the route of the Great North Walk.

160413LaneCoveNPmapI had visited this park several times before but still had not completely explored it. This time I had to approach it in a different way being the location for a WWFF activation. From aerial maps I had identified a couple of spots around the perimeter of the park and a spot near one of the the entrances. As it turned out, one perimeter spot on Fiddens Wharf Rd could not be accessed by car as it was gated and the other one at the end of Bradfield Rd was open but restricted to service vehicles. See map here. So I ended up driving right around and going through the DeBurghs Bridge entrance to the spot near there on Riverside Drive. The road had been narrowed down to an access track and the available parking spot was not sufficiently roomy for an activation. So, I proceeded along the road and checked out an area previously unvisited called Tunks Hill picnic area. Here I found a huge and almost empty carpark with lots of green space around. This seemed ideal so I parked at (-33.780747,151.135404), locator QF56NF.

160413LaneCoveNPsiteIt had been moderately dry, but of course as I set up my antenna the heavens opened. The squid pole was lashed to the back antenna on the car and the far ends of the ZS6BKW attached to a tree and a picnic shelter. The LDG antenna tuner was set up under the car to keep it dry. One thought was that I could transfer operation to a picnic shelter without shifting the antenna, but it turned out to be too rainy and I settled in to make some contacts from the shelter of the car.

160413LaneCoveNPantIt was just after 2pm and first contact was with Warren ZL2AJ on SOTA ZL1/BP-201 on 20m. I moved to 40m and started calling and the first contact there was a park-to-park with Shane VK2TJF in the Barrington Tops at VKFF-0017. Four contacts later another P2P with David VK5KC/3 in Murray-sunset NP VKFF-0373. Propagation was pretty good and I was able to sustain contacts on 40m including with VK5. Thankfully noise was low even though I was 50m from a business premises and 200m from a main road. I was also 200m from EHT powerlines – you can see them in the aerial view.

160413LaneCoveNPtunerMy only CW contact was on 20m with Ian VK5CZ at Maurice Hill VK5/NE-049. Occupied 40m until 4:40pm during which a surprise P2P contact with Clive ZL4CJR in Fiordland NP ZLFF-0004 was made and then I switched to 20m. There were only four contacts on 20m as there was no DX opening. On 40m a further P2P, this time with Rob VK4AAC/3 in Mt Granya State Park VKFF-0767. Being close to 5pm and with the prospect of battling the Sydney traffic, I packed up in order to escape the park well ahead of the 6pm closing time. As I drove out, it was still raining lightly and I was happy to have 51 contacts in the log, especially for a Tuesday.

Equipment

  • Yaesu FT100D transceiver @ 80W
  • LDG Z100 tuner
  • ZS6BKW antenna on 9m squid pole oriented WNW-ESE

Log

ZL2AJ, VK2TJF/P, VK3MRH, VK4RF, VK4HA, VK5KC/3, VK2GAZ, VK2XXM, VK5PAS, VK3PF, VK3MEG, VK5FANA, VK3NBL, VK5FMID, VK3GGG, VK3UH, VK4DD, VK5LG, VK4ARW, VK2NP, VK2FSAV, VK2HBG, VK2AIF, VK2SK, VK2IZZ, VK2MKE, VK2FGAS, VK5KDK, VK2UBQ/M, VK2FABJ, VK2HHA, VK3MCK, VK3ZMD, VK3FD/M, VK2JAZ, VK5JK, VK5CZ, VK4WJW, ZL4CJR/P, VK2QA, VK3HSB, VK2NWB, VK3TJK, VK5GJ, VK6WE/2, VK3OY, VK4RF, VK4HA, VK6MB, VK4AAC/3, VK5PCM.

Thanks to all those who made contact!

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Kamay Botany Bay NP for VKFF Activation Weekend 28 Nov 2015

The second activation of the day after Sydney Harbour NP with 45 mins drive between the two was at Kamay Botany Bay National Park VKFF-0048. The park is split into two sections on either side of the inlet to Botany Bay. The southern side at Kurnell incorporates the landing site for Captain Cook and has a very well developed and popular park. I headed for Cape Banks on the northern side in the suburb of La Perouse. This side also has the very popular tourist spot Bare Island.

151128KamayBotanyMapThe site is accessed by travelling to the end of Cape Banks Rd where there is a large carpark (-33.993246, 151.24961) and the base for the surf rescue helicopter. A southerly walk of 500m brought me to a spot for activating (-33.997961, 151.249171) just off the track to Cape Banks 300m further south. There is the New South Wales Golf Club and Cruwee Cove to the west.

151128KamayBotanySignSetting up was very easy as a stake in the ground was already present to support the squid pole. There are no large trees around as the area is rocky and sandy. The ZS6BKW doublet was set up oriented NW-SE. First contact was at 4:30pm (0530z) and was a park-to-park contact on 15m with Bob VK5FO in Ramco Pt Conservation Park VKFF-0930. Second contact was on 40m with Giles VK5GK at Mt George Conservation Park VKFF-0784. After that I self spotted on 40m and worked a further 22 stations in VK1,2,3,4 and 5 in under half an hour.

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A bunch of new park activators had come on the air so for the next half an hour I was hunting them for the all important park-to-park contacts and ended up with seven more. All were on 40m except for the 20m contact with Greg VK8GM operating as VK8AR in West Macdonnell NP VKFF-0532. About this time a chap wandered over from the golf course to find out what I was doing

Andrew VK1DA spotted me on 40m and another five contacts were made. With only an hour left I spotted on 20m SSB and made just 2 contacts there. Tuning around 20m I heard Peter VK3YE trying his kite-lifted antenna of 30m of wire. It made for an interesting contact having had some fun with kites and antennas myself. See the video.

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There were slim pickings on 20m with no further contacts even after spotting for a second time. I had made 39 contacts including 2 duplicates so still several short of the magic 44. Then I set up my FT100D allowing me to use more power. I went back to 40m, spotted there and started calling, but I had run out of hunters. I did make a SOTA contact with Nick VK2AOH on VK2/CT-006, my only CW contact. The last contact was on 20m answering a call by P29LL.

My appointment for the evening was looming so it was a quick shutdown and return to the car. I had made contacts with 37 unique stations so I have a good excuse to revisit the park for another activation. I do want to explore the track between Cape Banks and Bare Island including Henry Head.

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As a postscript to this outing, two and a half weeks later on Wed 16 Dec a tornado went through Kurnell with winds of 213km/h setting a new record for NSW. Much property was destroyed in its wake. It came from the south side to the north and would have passed close to the area that I was activating.

Statistics

  • 41 contacts
  • 10 park-to-park contacts
  • 1 SOTA contact
  • 2h20m operating time

Contacts

Thanks for all the contacts:

VK5FO/P VK5GK/P VK3DAC VK3PF VK1MA VK4RF VK4HA VK3DBP VK2VW VK3PMG/M VK1AT/3 VK3OF VK3AV VK2ZMT VK2PKT VK3MTB/P VK2ODD VK3WE VK5AV VK2NZL VK2YW VK2JDR VK3HRA/P VK1MTS VK5CZ VK5PAS/P VK5GJ/P VK2UH VK3ZPF/P VK3TST/P VK8AR/P VK7CW VK2GJC VK3LED VK3ANL VK5EE VK4RF VK4HA VK3YE/P VK2AOH P29LL

Mt Marulan and Towrang Range 9 Aug 2015

The last Sunday before the end of the first 10m/6m challenge period provided a good opportunity to head for the hills and activate, especially as VK1 operators would be out in force. The summits chosen near Goulburn are around 100km from Canberra so well within RF range. It was an early start to get to the first one well before UTC rollover.

Mt Marulan VK2/ST-039 868m 4pts QF45XF

Mt Marulan VK2/ST-039 trig point and operating position

Mt Marulan VK2/ST-039 trig point and operating position

Mt Marulan is not too far off the main highway between Sydney and Melbourne with the turnoff in the town of Marulan. It had been activated once before so there were no access problems foreseen. The summit is in a reserve on public land and can be accessed via a track that goes right to the top. The cairn marking the summit is literally right next to the track, however the track itself is overgrown and 4WD is recommended. There are a lot of small trees growing in the middle of the track which one must drive over with the risk of possible vehicle damage. If this is not to your liking, best way is to park at the end of Tickner Valley Rd and leg it the rest of the way. See the trip map below for the route.

Route to Mt Marulan and Towrang Range

Route to Mt Marulan and Towrang Range

Summit

Arriving at the summit I found an elevated cairn with a trig point on top. The pole forming the trig point was leaning over, but very firm and strong. It made a great support for my antenna mast, and being elevated provided an extra couple of metres over my normal antenna height. The area around is mostly clear of high trees as well so a great spot for setting up an antenna. Expecting to try for VK1 to the south, I set up my ZS6BKW antenna east-west and happily was right on schedule.

Map from SIX to help find Mt Marulan

Map from SIX to help find the way to Mt Marulan

Japan S2S

Checking SOTAwatch I noticed a spot for Takeshi JS1UEH on 15m CW so jumped to the nominated frequency. Nothing was heard for a while so I put out a call but there was no response. Another update from SOTAwatch and that showed Takeshi on 10m CW. I changed to that band and heard Takeshi putting out a call, not a strong signal but with no background noise, perfectly workable. I gave Takeshi a call and he responded giving his summit as JA/IB-003. I was very glad to make my second summit-to-summit with Takeshi and Japan. Great to have the contact on 10m too!

Shack on Mt Marulan VK2/ST-039 with two rigs

Shack on Mt Marulan VK2/ST-039 with two rigs

VK1 S2S

Shifting down 10 kHz I then worked Grant VK4JAZ who was activating Mt McDonald VK1/AC-048 with Andrew VK1NAM. Then Andrew was worked on 6m as well as Matt VK1MA, but sigs on 6m were not strong. I then spotted on 10m and started calling with 10 minutes to go before rollover. Andrew VK1NAM and Matt VK1MA came up on 10m with much stronger signals than before. In fact Andrew gave me a 5×9 and he was 100km away – I was only using 10 Watts. Then Andrew VK1DA came up on One Tree Hill VK1/AC-035 for my third S2S.

Rollover

After UTC rollover, worked VK1NAM, VK1MA and VK1DA again on 10m and a new call VK1DI with good sigs too. Another VK1 did come up but I wasn’t able to work him. I shifted to 40m CW and worked 7 stations including Warren VK3BYD for a S2S that I had missed earlier with all the 10m activity.

Returned to 10m and helped Andrew VK1DA with some antenna and ATU tests. Seemed that Andrew’s ATU was dropping signal strength by 3 S points. Then it was time for breakfast – better late than never. it was also a chance to set up my other rig. I kept going with the KX3, spotting on 10m CW but got no response to a lot of calls. it was time to deploy the other rig.

Antenna on Mt Marulan VK2/ST-039

Antenna on Mt Marulan VK2/ST-039

QRO

The FT100D and ATU was plugged into the antenna and tuned up fine on 10m. I spotted on 10m SSB and started calling. I had a reply and a nice chat with Hiroshi JJ6VAR who seemed to be receiving me just fine. The radio was set to 100W so that certainly helped. Nick VK2AOH then came up for a S2S from Mt Banks VK2/CT-032 in the Blue Mountains. After another JA contact, I swung the antenna around to favour NA and the WA6APQ California beacon on 28.244 increased in strength. After more calling with no response Andrew VK1NAM appeared on a new summit, Mt Taylor VK1/AC-037. Grant also popped up for a CW contact from the same summit and then it was time to close down. I had overstayed by more than an hour hoping to catch these S2Ss. Bundled everything away and hit the road.

Postscript: Details on how to reach Mt Marulan summit

Since activating Mt Marulan I have had enquiries on how to get there. Its best to walk up rather than drive up the overgrown track – Phil VK2JDL reports that in Dec 2015 there are fallen trees. The track is not too steep or too far. More details:

  • Drive to the end of Tickner Valley Rd, Marulan and park
  • Go through the rusty gate at (-34.773778,149.925574) giving access to Lot 28 (525 Tickner Valley Rd)
  • Continue (west) 50m to a Y junction
  • Take the right fork and then follow the track 300m up the hill parallel to the fence (the left fork goes to a building 60m away on Lot 28)
  • At the top curve left and keep following the track 1.4km until you find the Mt Marulan cairn in a clearing

Boxers Creek

Continued along the track and found it to be longer and steeper than the incoming track though this time it was down hill. Eventually ended up in the town of Boxers Creek. Identifying the best way to the next summit was not easy. All routes seemed to discourage visitors. I’d seen a spot come up from Andrew VK1DA so drove to the highest point on the road to try and work him on 10m but no luck.

Sign to Mt Marulan on Tiyces Lane

Sign to Mt Marulan on Tiyces Lane


Towrang Range VK2/ST-052 873m 4pts QF45VF (1st activation)

Turned off the main road and followed one track which led to a dead end. Retraced my steps and tried a different track eventually ending up at a farm but couldn’t find anyone in the workshop so proceeded on. Eventually met the owner and after explaining my intention he agreed to guide me to the mountain. A tree had fallen across the track so we had to go around through the bush. Some tense moments when my car ended up right against a tree while negotiating a narrow passage. The track eventually came to an end in a clearing with plenty of space for parking. The owner departed to clear the fallen tree and I headed on foot towards the summit which was up the hill, through a gate and about 500m further on. The track is well marked.

Map from SIX to help find the way to Towrang Range

Map from SIX to help find the way to Towrang Range

Summit

The summit has a flat area covered with tall trees and there was no trig point. I found the base of a cut tree to hold up the squid pole. It was 3:45pm so I was well behind my alerted schedule which meant I only had a bit over an hour to activate. Putting up a spot for 10m SSB on SOTAwatch I started calling hoping to work Andrew VK1NAM. There was no response however a check of SOTAwatch showed Grant VK4JAZ on Isaacs Ridge VK1/AC-041 requesting a contact. I switched to 40m and made the S2S. Later on I found out that Andrew had already packed up so that reduced my chances of making a 10m contact.

Antenna and operating point on Towrang Range VK2/ST-052

Antenna and operating point on Towrang Range VK2/ST-052

I moved on to 40m and qualified the summit just on CW contacts then back to 10m for more CQ calls. Eventually I received a call from Matt VK1MA. Hallelujah! I received a similar report as on Mt Marulan and was very happy to make the contact. After that I moved on to 20m CW to make some EU contacts over the long path. My antenna had been set up for VK1 contacts so I did not expect a lot, but still managed a handful before they dried up.

Finally I moved on to 40m SSB, worked a national park, a bunch of chasers and in the last moments, a summit. It was Andrew VK3ARR doing a short activation of Mt Alexander VK3/VN-016. It was getting dark so after one more contact I quickly closed down and headed back along the trail. There was still enough light when I got back to the car to find my way back along the track without too much guesswork. I met up with the owner on the way out, let him know about the successful activation and thanked him again. A couple of km along the track I emerged onto the bitumen road.

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Highlights

  • First activation of Towrang Range VK2/ST-052
  • S2S with Takeshi JS1UEH on 10m
  • First time use of FT100D on a summit allowing 100W
  • SSB contacts on 10m with Japan
  • California 10m beacon heard on 28.244

Equipment

  • Elecraft KX3 powered by 4200 mAh LiFePO4 battery
  • ZS6BKW antenna on 9m mast
  • Yaesu FT100D powered by 4200 mAh battery
  • LDG Z11-Pro matcher

Thanks to the many chasers and activators and of course the land owner for making this activation a success!

Winter SOTA Party on Mt Bindo 2 Aug 2015

Jenolan State Forest VK2/CT-005 1310m 8pts QF56AG

For the VK1 Winter SOTA Party I headed up to the NSW Central Tablelands on the Saturday afternoon so as to be ready for an early start on Sunday 2/8/15. En route I stopped off in the Jenolan State Forest for an activation of SOTA summit VK2/CT-005. Having already activated there in March it was just for the 3 winter bonus points and any contacts for the 10m/6m challenge. The summit is 90 km due west of home and takes just under 2.5 hours to get to by road. Upon arrival I put up a spot on SOTAwatch for 10m CW and quickly set up just down the hill from the tall pine trees to the east so as to have a better takeoff to Europe via the long path.

Jenolan State Forest activation site

Jenolan State Forest activation site VK2/CT-005

Luckily Nick VK2AOH was already waiting for me when I jumped on the key. On 10m SSB I had one call from VK2PM in Sydney who is not a regular SOTA chaser. Box ticked for the 10m/6m challenge! Next I went to 20m CW and worked a bunch of EU stations with received signal reports around the 4 or 5 mark so it seemed my signal was climbing over that pine forest. Then to 40m CW to keep the locals happy and 8 more contacts. One hour before sunset I had to close to make it to my destination so there wasn’t an opportunity for 40m SSB – sorry chasers. There were 3 summit-to-summit contacts on 40m with Justin VK7TW & Hugh VK5NHG on SSB and Ian VK5CZ on CW and a total of 21 contacts. A quick close down and then the short 25 min drive to the next summit, retracing my steps most of the way.

Shack in Jenolan State Forest VK2/CT-005

Shack in Jenolan State Forest VK2/CT-005

Mt Bindo VK2/CT-003 1363m 8pts QF56AH

Arrived at Mt Bindo 15 mins before sunset and started setting up the antenna. I was torn between jumping on 20m to catch the last of the EU long path propagation and setting up the camp site. There was quite a wind on the summit and it seemed best to create some shelter before starting to operate so the tent went up right next to the trig point. 45 mins after sunset I spotted on 20m CW and was able to work only one EU and one Qld station so the propagation had flown. I tried 20m SSB and made no contacts.

Camping at the Mt Bindo trig point VK2/CT-003

Camping at the Mt Bindo trig point VK2/CT-003

First Japan-Australia summit-to-summit

About to swap bands when a SOTA spot came in from an activator in Japan. It was Takeshi JS1UEH on 17m and he was activating Ashiosan JA/IB-006 in Ibaraki prefecture just NE of Tokyo. Switching bands I heard Nick VK2AOH making a contact so I thought there was a chance for me too. Takeshi’s signal was not strong, but it was the first SOTA station I’d heard from Japan so I was very excited. My antenna was set up north-south for Europe/NA not east-west for Japan so the weak signals were no surprise. The contact was made and a 429 report sent. This is the first summit-to-summit SOTA contact between VK and JA. Japan has only recently become part of SOTA on 1st July. Soon afterwards Takeshi spotted on 15m and his signal was a similar strength as on 17m. He apparently did 20m earlier too but I was unaware of that. Great to make the contact with Takeshi-san!

SOTA database record of first JA-VK S2S

SOTA database record of first JA-VK S2S

Hunting

After the JA S2S excitement I progressed through 40m CW, 40m SSB and 80m CW. Unusually, there were no callers on 40m SSB, but it was 7pm by then so the band was in DX mode. I heard gunshots in the distance, several volleys worth. This was obviously hunters in the state forest. On a previous visit I met a professional hunter contracted to eradicate wild dogs. On the drive in I had passed some people who were probably preparing for this activity once the sun had gone down.

Sunset at Mt Bindo VK2/CT-003

Sunset at Mt Bindo VK2/CT-003

Overnight

With HF contacts exhausted, I started to prepare for the following day. Checked out 2m on a hand-held and found I could reach a lot of repeaters including the Mt Ginini repeater west of Canberra, a distance of over 200km. This should be a good way to contact activators – or so I thought. Had some dinner, listened on 80m for a while and then turned in early. Just before drifting off to sleep I heard the sound of my squid pole collapsing. I decided to leave fixing it until the morning. There was a slight possibility that I would wake up for the EU short path opening but I’d made an executive decision not to bother. The wind was strong and blew all night. I was woken up a few times by strong gusts deforming the tent – see the picture! In the end I decamped to the quietness and safety of the car which was not quite as comfortable but better for shut-eye.

Sunrise at Mt Bindo VK2/CT-003

Sunrise at Mt Bindo VK2/CT-003

Cancellation

Overnight there had been no rain, but the wind was getting stronger. The dawn was lovely but it wasn’t long before showers arrived, just short ones with long gaps in between. I reset my antenna on the squid pole and changed its orientation 90 degrees to favour the ACT. Checking the email over breakfast there were many messages on the adverse weather in Canberra. Heavy rain had fallen there overnight and discussion raged over whether to postpone or cancel the SOTA Party. There was a decision to delay the start and make a further assessment of the weather. After 2 hours with further rain arriving, the event was cancelled. I was already set up and ready to go so that wasn’t an option for me 🙂

Luckily, the Canberra weather did clear up a bit and some hardy operators ventured out in the rain and activated some summits. First morning contact was with Roald VK1MTS at One Tree Hill VK1/AC-035 on 40m. I had spotted and called on 6m SSB and 10m SSB with no result up until then. There was a spot from VK3TST/1 on 52.525MHz FM but the WIA broadcast from Dural was blasting out on that frequency. Note to VK1 ops – avoid 52.525 from 10 to 11:30am Sundays.

Strong northerly wind gust = major tent deformation!

Strong northerly wind gust = major tent deformation!

Rollover

Just after UTC rollover at 10am a sequence of spots arrived – luckily not the wet kind. Leading the charge were VK3s HRA and CAT on 40m CW and signals were good. Roald then popped up on 10m and I was able to make a S2S contact into VK1 with his 40W registering an S4 on my meter over a 183km path. My 10W gave him a 5×1 signal and it was an easy contact. If only there were more activators! I stuck around listening for all Roald’s callers from VK1. The only one heard faintly was Ian VK1DI. Clearly it helps to be on a summit! A spot did come up for Andrew VK1DA on 10m but all I heard was Roald and nothing on 6m. See the elevation profile from Roald to me in the following picture. The purple oval shows the first Fresnel zone on 28.5 MHz.

One Tree Hill VK1/AC-035 to Mt Bindo VK2/CT-003 elevation profile with first Fresnel zone for 10m

One Tree Hill VK1/AC-035 to Mt Bindo VK2/CT-003 elevation profile with first Fresnel zone for 10m

Shocking!

I stuck around for another hour logging four more S2S contacts. At one point I started to hear a succession of pulses through the radio and wondered whether this was the approach of lightning. I disconnected the antenna and got a big jolt from static electricity when touching the BNC connector. It must have built up on the antenna due to the wind. My radio was sitting off the ground, the feedline was off the ground and there was no earthing so no discharge path. Kite-lifted antennas are recommended to be kept grounded and I wonder if other portable operators ever earth their stations? The KX3 has zero DC resistance between the two legs of the antenna so any static buildup would be summed, yet I’ve never been bitten before. Food for thought for my next activation.

Darker clouds were building and it seemed as though the rain would arrive soon. The tent had been blown dry and I did not want to put it away wet so down it came. Folding up the tent in a gale was interesting, and not successful at all. It wasn’t neat but it was dry. The station came down shortly afterwards and it was spitting with rain when the squid pole was collapsed. Timed that pretty well I thought. A total of 17 contacts including 9 S2S had made for a great activation at Bindo.

Hartley

When planning the weekend I pencilled in some other summits for activating in the afternoon. These would require a 1 hour walk each way. There was plenty of time to do them but the prospect of bad weather made the idea unattractive so instead of driving there, I drove to the historic town of Hartley and checked that out instead. While there I was able to make 5 chaser contacts, check out the gallery, old pub and courthouse. I was hoping that Nick VK2AOH on the Newnes Plateau nearby would activate on 10m but it did not eventuate so I headed back towards Sydney.

Wollemi National Park VKFF-544

At Kurrajong I stopped at the Bellbird lookout after a 90 minute drive. Weather was fine, warm and clear with great views. The wind had dropped too. Consulting the book of maps I realised I was overlooking the nearby Wollemi National Park. The idea surfaced that it wasn’t too late to do a WWFF activation of the park.

Kurrajong Lookout panorama over Wollemi NP

Kurrajong Lookout panorama over Wollemi NP

The GPS unit with topographic maps was consulted to find the exact location of the park and the coordinates set for navigation. I ended up on a track that weaves into the park and found the fence line that marks the boundary. Luckily this agreed with the GPS. The squid pole was attached to the back of the car and the antenna raised. I set up the LDG antenna matcher inline as well.

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First problem was that there was very sketchy mobile coverage. Try as I might using the parksnpeaks app there was no way of getting a spot up for my planned activation of 20m. The EU long path was open and I called but had no response. With no spotting ability I jumped onto 7090 and started calling there and got a response straight away from Paul VK5PAS en route to activating a park himself. 23 VK callers followed and one ZL and some of them surprised at the signal strength asked what I was running. Paul came back on after 10 minutes and gave me first contact into the new park he was activating – thanks, Paul! The sketchy track into my location meant I had to close down before dark to allow easy exit. There was no way I was getting on 20m at all, but there were enough contacts in the log already to call it a success. There will be other opportunities to reactivate this park and make 44 contacts.

Thanks for all chaser/hunter contacts and summit-to-summits.
Big thanks to Andrew VK1NAM who organised the event – and was then not able to participate. Mother Nature truly has the final word. Now looking forward to the rescheduled “Mark 2” event on 30th August.


Highlights

  • First JA S2S contact – with Takeshi JS1UEH
  • 10m S2S contact into VK1 with Roald VK1MTS
  • Surprise 10m contacts from VK2/CT-005
  • Unexpected park activation at Wollemi
  • 12 S2S contacts, 1 park-to-park contact
  • Tent survived the gales without maintenance
  • Winter SOTA Party was a success despite cancellation!

Map of the trip

Winter SOTA Party 2015 trip map

Winter SOTA Party 2015 trip map

Equipment – SOTA

  • Elecraft KX3 @ 10W
  • ZS6BKW inverted Vee doublet on a 9m squid pole
  • 4200 mAh LiFePO4 battery
  • PC headset
  • Quickdome 4-person tent

Equipment – WWFF

  • Yaesu FT-100D @ 100W
  • ZS6BKW inverted Vee doublet on a 9m squid pole
  • LDG Z-11Pro matcher

Scheyville NP for the Trans Tasman Low Bands Challenge July 2015

Scheyville National Park VKFF-444 in NW Sydney is one of the closest parks to home. I’d been looking for a good excuse to activate this park when the Trans Tasman contest came around. This contest runs at night from 6 to midnight local time. The first challenge was identifying a suitable operating location within the park. A lot of parks are secreted behind locked gates or are not accessible once the sun goes down and so it was that part of this park is too. In order to increase the chances of success I found a number of candidate locations beforehand and printed out the map to take along.

Antenna and operating point in Scheyville NP

Antenna and operating point in Scheyville National Park

Hunting
The map below shows the path while hunting down a suitable spot. The first location on Whitmore Rd came up with an open gate on google street view, but upon arrival the gate was locked. It provides access to an education centre and the Longneck Lagoon that I was keen to be located near. There goes that plan.
Around the other side of the lagoon off Cattai Rd (route 15) was the next option. There was a problem to actually get into the park as there was another gate, and another one further west along the road at option 3. There were also powerlines nearby too making it unattractive.
With those possibilities exhausted I cruised along the roads around and through the park looking for a suitable spot. Eventually I found an entrance to the park that wasn’t locked on Scheyville Rd. It led to a very muddy open area, and crossing this I almost got bogged. It was touch and go for a bit there whether I’d be able to drive out of it. Skirting around the edge of the area I found a track up to another open area a bit higher up. This was nowhere near as muddy and nice and flat. After a brief survey on foot, I decided this was a good place to set up.

Map of the hunt for a suitable operating location

Map of the hunt for a suitable operating location

New Antenna

For this event I built a new antenna a few days beforehand. It consists of a ZS6BKW design made with dimensions double the normal size. The resulting antenna is 56.5m long and has a 21.5m feedline of 300Ω ribbon. the theory is that doubling all the dimensions will halve the frequencies at which the antenna matches. The low bands challenge now covers 3 bands 160m, 80m and 40m with 40m only being introduced this year. This is the reason for building a new antenna. Last year I used a dual dipole (160m/80m), but being full sized it is a very long antenna and quite heavy. It was not considered prudent to add a third dipole on account of the extra weight and difficulty in setting it up.

I had time a couple of days before the contest to erect the new antenna in a local park and measure the SWR across various bands. The best matching frequencies were close to expected at 1830, 3460, and 7170 kHz. The SWR was as expected on 160m (3.6) and 40m (1.3) but on 80m was slightly higher than expected at 2.5. In any case, an antenna matcher is needed on all 3 bands so this was not going to be an issue. The arrival of a bunch of young netball players at the local park prevented any fine tuning so that will have to be held over for another day.

On site

The antenna was set up on site using a 10m fibreglass squid pole extended by a couple of 2m Aluminium mast sections strapped together. The resulting height was about 13m. There were concrete fence posts in the field so one of those was used to support the mast. The ends of the antenna were strung out in roughly a north-south direction and tied off 2m off the ground so the ends of the antenna were about 3m off the ground. The balanced feedline is best kept away from the ground so this was done by moving the car the right distance away and stretching out the feedline in the air and lashing it to a wooden fence post. An LDG matcher was placed on the back of the car and the antenna plugged in to it directly. The matcher was set up in automatic mode so that it tunes whenever there is a transmission. This is to allow for the many band changes and frequencies that would be used in each band. A small 3S 500 mAh LiPo battery provided power for the matcher. Just before the contest I spent time going to each band and tuning at various spots so that the tuner would not need to hunt when I started at a new frequency. For the most part, this worked pretty well, though at some frequencies the SWR was high enough that the tuner wanted to do a retune which takes about 3 seconds.

Feedline and antenna matcher on the read bumper

Feedline and antenna matcher on the rear bumper

Contesting

At the start of the contest I started out on 40m SSB and made several contacts, then it went quiet so I went to 80m SSB. There was a lot of action on that band and signals were coming from everywhere including many ZLs. I also started receiving unsolicited reports about how loud my signal was. Clearly the antenna was working!

After a short stint on 160m SSB with only 2 contacts made I went back to 80m SSB again. The onto 40m SSB before I went to CW on 80m – and there was lots of activity there too! After 20 mins there there was still 20 mins before the end of the first 2 hour block so I went to 160m for CW and SSB contacts. Activity had picked up on 160m.

Shortly into the contest I started to use VOX on the Yaesu FT100D radio even though I was using the standard hand microphone. The button on the mic gets a real workout in a contest and I did not want to wear it out and further. The VOX was reasonably successful, though occasionally it would stick on due to RF feedback. Knocking back the VOX gain seemed to cure this problem. The long cable from the mic to the radio don’t help here. With the KX3 radio I use a PC headset and it would be good to adapt the headset for use with the Yaesu rig too.

For the remaining 4 hours of the contest, I continued in the same fashion, jumping between 160m and 80m on SSB and CW. I found that 40m was full of DX stations mainly from Japan so it was difficult to get a SSB frequency. Even on CW there seemed to be lots of stations. The “problem” was that I was out of the city in a quiet environment with a massive antenna and hearing everything. There was hardly a contester using 40m so I think everyone must have thought the same thing and given it up as a bad job. I had wondered why 40m was added to the contest. It certainly helps the VK6s get involved in the early part of the event before the lower bands open up.

Results

During the contest 178 contacts were made which was very pleasing. On 160m, 18 CW and 18 SSB. On 80m, 43 CW and 87 SSB. On 40m only 1 CW and 11 SSB. Clearly 80m was the “money” band. There didn’t seem to be any WWFF chasers amongst the contacts even though an alert had been put up for the activation on ParksnPeaks the day before. The log has been posted to the WWFF database so that the 75 different callsigns worked receive credit for working the Scheyville National Park.

The double-sized ZS6BKW is definitely a keeper. Some small variations to the length need to be tried to see if the SWR on 80m can be reduced. This may require a change to the feedline length too. The centre frequencies are all optimum for this particular feedline so whatever changes are made to the design, it will have to be scaled to ensure the centre frequency is unchanged. If you’re looking for a single antenna that will cover 160m, 80m, 40m and 20m then I’d certainly recommend this one.

The access to the operating location was very muddy. My car was covered with mud top and bottom after this activation and required thorough cleaning to remove it. The site is only for the bold 4WD owner.

The contest was a lot of fun and the time passed very quickly.
Thanks for all the calls!

Equipment

  • Double-sized ZS6BKW inverted-Vee doublet on 13m mast
  • LDG Z-11 Pro antenna matcher, 3S 500 mAh LiPo battery
  • Yaesu FT100D transceiver, MH-42B microphone
  • Sennheiser HD201 headphones
  • Lenovo S10-3 notebook PC for logging
  • LED headlamp for operating at night

QRP Hours Contest 4/4/2015

With no 80m antenna at home I went portable for the QRP Hours Contest. A large body of water provides a good reflector for the antenna and the nearest for me is the Hawkesbury River. I drove 30 mins to Cattai National Park but being after 8pm, the gates were already locked. Driving back towards Windsor through Pitt Town there were 3 other potential sites checked out but I found none were suitable. Finally I ended up in Macquarie Park on the opposite side of the river from the Windsor Town Centre, a location used in a previous contest. At the far end of the carpark there are no power lines or street lights, it is flat and metres from the river, but unsealed. The kind of place that should be compatible with 80m and QRP.

Antenna

In-car shack for the QRP Hours contest

In-car shack for the QRP Hours contest

The day had been very rainy so the carpark was very muddy. Having spent an hour looking for a site, there was less than 25 mins to set up before the contest started at 9pm (1000z). Luckily, it had stopped raining. Even more luckily, there was a sturdy signpost next to the carpark, perfect for attaching the antenna mast. The 10m squid pole was launched and in order to gain a bit more height, an extra 2m Aluminium mast was installed and strapped to the bottom of the squid pole. The antenna, a full size 80m dipole, was up at 11m in the centre and tapered down to 3m at the ends. It was oriented NW-SE with the SE end less than 10m from the river. There was no time to add more than 2m to the mast with the start looming.

Radio roulette

The KX3 was set up as the contest radio, but unfortunately the power cable was missing. The radio did not want to transmit for more than a second from the internal batteries without shutting down. I would have to use the mobile rig instead, a Yaesu FT100D. The mobile whip was disconnected, a UHF joiner put in and the 80m dipole connected. No tuner is needed with the dipole as the VSWR is flat at 3.560 MHz. Changing rigs meant I had to use the straight key from the car rather than the paddle used with the KX3. Also, the radio has no memory keyer so all CW would have to be sent by hand.

Being a QRP contest, I jumped into the menus of the FT100D, found HF power and dropped it from 100 to 5 in the hope this would be under 5 Watts. These adjustments are not usually linear, but the power meter still kicked from zero into the first bar so I knew something was being radiated – and that was enough. Must admit, it felt a little strange winding the wick back that far – in the mobile you want as much grunt as you can get.

Logging

Computer log and radio for the contest

Computer log and radio for the contest

The contest has 2 parts, the first hour being for CW/RTTY/PSK31 and the second hour being for SSB. For logging I used my trusty 10″ Netbook computer running VK Contest Log v3.11. This software has a lot of customisations to suit many contests. In the case of QRP Hours, there is no customisation. To get around this I chose the QRP Day contest which is a 4 hour contest that runs in August/September. Or at least it used to. Perhaps 2011 was the last year and QRP Hours replaced it – there are a lot of other local contests in August including the Remembrance Day and ALARA.

CW

A few minutes after the 9pm hooter sounded I got started on CW. There were some stations calling CQ TEST but I decided to find my own clear frequency and send some CQ calls rather than hunt and peck. This proved to be quite fruitful as once I got my first reply, the callers kept on coming with not too much down time. After half an hour things slowed up markedly and I started to hunt around the band, but all the callers had already been worked. I kept calling on my original frequency. At the end of the first hour I’d made 14 CW contacts.

SSB

Extended antenna mast on handy signpost

Extended antenna mast on handy signpost

The second hour and time to switch to SSB. 3555 kHz was clear so I started calling there and soon found some other contesters. In VKCL I just had to click SSB to change modes. First up i worked Paul VK1ATP and we discussed resetting the serial number. He reassured me that the rules just say keep incrementing the number so I presumed there was no need to restart. It would have meant starting a new log which would have cost time. I pressed on and there was a steady stream of calls. After 20 minutes, another station came up close in frequency so I shifted a little higher, made some more contacts there and then things got quiet so I decided to hunt for callers I hadn’t worked. After working a few I found my previous calling frequency in use so had to find a clear one. The new frequency was 3590 and with 15 minutes to go I kept calling there until the end of the contest. The last minute was a big rush with 2 callers and no time to give out a signal report, just serial numbers. At the end of the hour I’d made 30 contacts on SSB.

Post contest

After the contest I hunted around and found Andrew VK1DA chatting to Ian VK5CZ so joined in for a bit of a discussion on the contest. Neither Andrew nor myself had heard a VK6, but Ian had worked one. Andrew is the acting contest manager. We all agreed that there had been a lot of interest from SOTA people and that it had been a lot of fun.

The following day the power output of the FT100D was checked into a dummy load and found to be 4.2W, well within the limits for QRP operation. The good ground plane on the flood plain had done the job. I was very pleased to make it into VK1,2,3,4,5,7 and ZL1 with such low power.

Thanks contesters for all the calls.

Log

Call Date Time Freq (kHz) Mode RST Sent RST Rcvd STX SRX
VK2AOH 20150404 100806 3520 CW 599 599 1 1
VK2AFA 20150404 101055 3520 CW 599 599 2 2
VK2YW 20150404 101310 3520 CW 599 599 3 3
VK3WE 20150404 101612 3520 CW 599 559 4 2
VK4AXM 20150404 101736 3520 CW 599 599 5 1
VK3HRA 20150404 102205 3520 CW 599 599 6 4
VK3BYD 20150404 102453 3520 CW 599 599 7 3
VK7EE 20150404 102647 3520 CW 599 579 8 4
VK5CZ 20150404 102931 3520 CW 599 9 7
VK3GK 20150404 103257 3520 CW 599 599 10 1
VK5LJ 20150404 103837 3520 CW 599 599 11 10
VK2UH 20150404 104432 3520 CW 599 599 12 14
VK3YE 20150404 104854 3520 CW 599 559 13 10
VK2JDR 20150404 105728 3528 CW 599 599 14 7
VK1ATP 20150404 110129 3555 SSB 59 59 15 5
VK3DAC 20150404 110210 3555 SSB 59 59 16 1
VK2AOH 20150404 110302 3555 SSB 59 59 17 1
VK2AFA 20150404 110343 3555 SSB 59 59 18 12
VK2YW/P 20150404 110418 3555 SSB 59 59 19 9
VK1MDP 20150404 110457 3555 SSB 59 59 20 1
VK2HRX 20150404 110525 3555 SSB 59 59 21 1
VK3MIX 20150404 110631 3555 SSB 59 59 22 5
VK3YE 20150404 110737 3555 SSB 59 55 23 4
VK2UH 20150404 110834 3555 SSB 59 59 24 4
VK5ARG 20150404 110853 3555 SSB 59 59 25 6
VK7JGD 20150404 110927 3555 SSB 59 59 26 2
VK5LJ 20150404 110956 3555 SSB 59 59 27 16
VK5WG 20150404 111101 3555 SSB 59 59 28 2
VK3HRA 20150404 111133 3555 SSB 59 59 29 8
VK2ACD 20150404 111202 3555 SSB 59 59 30 8
VK2YK 20150404 111239 3555 SSB 59 59 31 1
VK5FANA 20150404 111540 3555 SSB 59 59 32 7
VK2BEN 20150404 111749 3555 SSB 59 59 33 1
VK5CZ 20150404 112302 3556 SSB 59 59 34 25
VK5ATQ 20150404 112549 3556 SSB 59 59 35 7
VK3GK 20150404 113659 3556 SSB 59 59 36 26
VK5EE 20150404 114104 3557.5 SSB 59 59 37 20
VK2JDR 20150404 114223 3560 SSB 59 57 38 11
VK5FO 20150404 114302 3563 SSB 59 59 39 22
VK7HKN 20150404 114948 3590 SSB 59 54 40 12
ZL1NAY 20150404 115028 3590 SSB 59 59 41 1
VK3OF 20150404 115408 3590 SSB 59 42 14
VK3MTB 20150404 115925 3590 SSB 43 8
VK5BB 20150404 115959 3590 SSB 44 8