That time of year again.
VKFF Team Challenge!
Again I joined forces with Gerard (VK2IO). This year we entered as The QRParktivators.
As the name implies, we did QRP again. The advantage about that is that we can get away with being relatively close geographically without interfering too badly, as long as if we are on the same band we are on opposite ends.
This year we decided on the Munmorah State Conservation Area. I normally go to Tea Tree Picnic Area (see prior activations), but today we wanted to get close to Lake Munmorah on the Eastern side. Our aim was to arrive at about 11:30 and start at midday.
So, it wasn’t long trip for me, but I ended up leaving later than I intended (having left some stuff at home). I arrived around 11:40.
We both parked at the Elizabeth Bay Park car park, near the boat ramp, and walked down the track looking for places to set up. I should mention, at this point, that I had a bit of a panic as I thought I’d left my camera bag at home. The panic was because in that back I had my logging tablet. I resigned myself to having to download VK Logger on to my phone and use that. The tablet is a bit bigger than the phone and thus easier to use (first world problems, I know).
Walking down the track, it was a worry to see power lines running down most of it. Fortunately they veered off to the road after a few hundred metres. We came across a lovely big open area that my multi band dipole would fit in. We walked a little further towards the water from here but there was not a good spot for Gerard. He ended up going a little further down the track. I’ll point out where he was against the Google Earth image below.
Just before I started to set up, I realised that while I thought I’d put my FT-70D on my belt, that it was no longer there. I trekked back to the car to discover that I must have put it on the back seat while picking up something else. I also discovered that I’d put my camera bag in the back of the car, rather than the front seat where I normally pack it, so I did have my logging tablet which made me much happier.
The FT-70D was important to have with me. Gerard and I kept in touch with each other on 146.5 simplex. Useful things like “hey you might want to catch this guy up here”, or “I’m going to go here to try working”.
So we can see the general location of the park above (for some reason the boundaries are not shown in that image).
So, definitely inside the boundaries.
Gerard ended up near left side of the above image just a little above the corner.
While a little blurry, you can see that the area I was in was a nice big open area but with a lot of trees to the west shielding me from what ended up to be some pretty impressive winds across the lake. In hindsight I should have set up facing east. Those winds did pick up quite a bit of debris that ended up in my face, with only my glasses protecting my eyes.
I did remember to get the flag on the pole today. I put up the VKFF flag. I did have the WWFF one in my bag but didn’t take the time to add it as I wanted to get operational quickly. Gerard put up the WWFF one.
I took my 6m squid pole with me and found a nice little peg (below) that I could velcro it to, tieing off the active end of the dipole a few metres up in the air. I have a couple of more rigid 6m poles at home that I’m currently using on my G7FEK, but I want to replace them with some rigid 7m poles, which will free the others up to bring out for activations.
As there was not a lot of tension on the antenna, this little peg was sufficient to hold the pole.
Below is looking back towards my setup from the 6m pole end. There really was not a lot of tension on the dipole so it really was hanging a bit looser and lower than I would normally set up.
The other end was a bit more tricky as there really was not a lot that I could use to hang that end. I ended up tying my mallet to the rope and throwing it over the top of one of these small trees, hoping to get something that would hold it (it did).
Because the antenna was so loose, I was able to (below) get away with just tieing off to a small branch at the bottom.
I went for a stroll after a bit of operating to where Gerard was set up. He looks much more comfortable than I was (see picture of me that he took at the end),
and he had someone call him back while we were chatting.
The wind really did get up. The below photos so some fresh breakages. Gerard mentioned that he saw this first one happen and relocated after it.
Here’s the mess that was my set up.
At the top right is my Telstra 4G wifi router. I use this for driving my tablet for logging and the iPad. Having Telstra on that and Vodafone on my phone gives me coverage options for if the area I go to is not covered by one or the other.
I am missing the AF filter I generally use as when I put it in I was not putting both sides in to my headphones, so I plugged them directly in to the FT-818. As a side note, I had a look at the filter when I got home. One of the stereo leads on the socket had broken. I’ve fixed it by adding a couple of millimetres of wire between the lug and the broken wire.
On the mike side, I need to get (yet another) short Cat-5 cable as the clip has broken off one side and it won’t stay in the radio.
I also need to check the spring in that key as I was finding that if I had it set to the height I normally use, it was sticking in the on position. I ended up using about a 1mm gap.
I did have a series of pole collapses. It sliced the cable tie off the top of the flag (easily replaced as I carry a pile of them), but it also broke the clip that I use as a part of the link between the antenna and the pole. Broken quite cleanly! Fortunately, I was able to work around this. The downside is the I missed a few contacts as just before it collapsed I had a few folks trying to get back to me that were gone by the time I got it back in the air.
So much for a midday start. I had my first contact at 1:05pm (2:05UTC).
Things got going relatively quickly on 40m and then quieted down so I headed up to try 20m.
It was really frustrating to hear all that lovely DX on 20m with the CQ WW DX competition running and keeping myself limited to 5 watts so as to qualify for the QRP section; so I didn’t get any of it.
Note for next time; take the linear, get some of those contacts, but don’t include them in the contest submission. I did manage a handful of contacts on 20m. The only DX I got was ZL2X and ZL1TM. It’s always good to get Andrei in the log. I did hear him calling VK5FLEA CW on 40m, but didn’t manage to catch him myself down there.
80 metres was pretty much a write off for me. I had a really surprising amount of QRN with static crashes as well. I didn’t manage any contacts on 80m.
As we were running in a contest, the WARC bands didn’t count so I also stayed off 30m.
Note to self, do 30m in the future, just leave them out of the contest log.
We ended the day at 7:05pm (8:05 UTC). In the last 90 minutes I had one contact, but it was good to get John (VK5FLEA) in the log using CW.
After pack up, we retired to the Doylo for a relaxing dinner and drink.
Modes CW: 7 SSB: 28 Parks VKFF-0326: 2 VKFF-1059: 1 VKFF-0471: 1 VKFF-1709: 1 VKFF-1493: 2 VKFF-0932: 2 VKFF-0807: 1 VKFF-0779: 2 VKFF-0832: 2 VKFF-1159: 1 15 park contacts - 10 unique Bands 40M: 31 20M: 4 35 unique contacts (0 duplicates) 35 log entries
I didn’t need to qualify this park. I’ve qualified it many times over already.
Oh Gerard, did manage to snap one photo of me.