About one weekend every month, my house empties out for the weekend. My wife, who is an Assistant Scoutmaster, and our two kids go off on a camping adventure. I stay home to take care of the dogs. That is my story and I will stick to it ThankYouVeryMuch! In any case, I usually take advantage of this quiet time to grab a nap, mess around with my silly projects, and get outside to play some radio. That was The Big Plan for this given weekend and I thought that I’d get a good amount of time in on the air. Sometimes, things don’t quite work out that way.
First off, it was the ARRL CW Sweepstakes contest. For non-contesters like me, contest weekends are less fun. They seem to bring out the worst in what are normally very friendly ham bands. The contest in question didn’t start until the afternoon, so I figured I’d spring out of bed (yeah, right!) and get to the park early-ish. For the most part, that’s just what I did.
Maybe I’m in a park rut or maybe I just really enjoy the solitude that I get at West Branch State Park – K-1999. That picnic table on the point is in a very quiet place. With the shelters gone not a lot of traffic wanders by other than the disc golf crew and they’re Good People.
I had a new piece of gear to play with. The AM1 Antenna Mount from ProAudio Engineering. It’s a clamp with a 2” wide opening that acts as a mount for the AX1 from Elecraft. I’ve been enjoying that antenna quite a bit – much to my surprise. The only problem I have had has been with the tripod I use and the wind. It just isn’t as stable as I need it to be. Perhaps others are simply more careful or less “Oafy” to borrow an adjective from my wife, but I found the tripod either being blown or knocked over too often. I don’t want to think about the stability of my antenna that much when operating, so when I saw the ad for this clamp in QRP Quarterly, I took a look. I’m glad I did.
The clamp is solid and did exactly what it said it would. It definitely fits the standard issue picnic table that is found in almost every park in the U.S. The only thing I found didn’t work out so well was the little knob that is supposed to act as a point of contact for the counterpoise. I found that it didn’t work out that way. I need to experiment with it more, but when my SWR was way too high I played around with it for a minute before attaching the counterpoise to the ground on the IC-705 and calling it even. That ALWAYS works. The only addition I can see making is that of a 90 degree BNC adapter. It seems like that would make things work a little better.
Tweaks and Adjustments
Speaking of little adjustments, I picked up a trick somewhere online for keeping the mAT-705 out of the way. A velcro strap run around the Peovi cage will keep the tuner quite firmly attached both for transport and for operation. It really has cleaned up my deployment. With a very short run of cable to the tuner and then out to the AX1 everything suddenly feels much more compact.
While we’re on about all of these small changes to the setup, the biggest “Well Duh” moment goes to bringing along the heavy metal base for my paddles. I’ve been doing some kind of awkward thing where I work the paddles with my middle finger and thumb so I can hold my pencil while I hold the key with my left hand and…what am I doing? I have this heavy base that the paddles attach to quite nicely. Why not just toss that in the bag? I’m not climbing a mountain in Ohio. I’m getting from the Jeep to the spot where I’ll operate. Or even riding a big. I won’t notice the weight and it adds to “Quality Of Life” during the operation. This decision led to a significant improvement.
I got started on 20m because that is where I’ve been having the most success. I was rewarded. I started to pull in contacts fairly steadily, but things were fading in and out with increased regularity. More and more I see park activations as being like fishing. Do I stick with this lure or change it up? Was that a fish surfacing over there or just something falling in the water? Should I have grabbed that other rod instead? What’s it like on the other side of the lake? And much like fishing, patience is rewarded. Sticking with what you’re doing for long enough to see if you’re REALLY on the wrong frequency or mode or if you’re just being impatient. It’s the beauty of POTA. Even when I’m sitting there calling CQ with no one coming back for 5 minutes or more, I’m still outside engaging in a wonderful and energizing hobby. It beats the heck out of sitting around at home!
By the end of it, I’d snagged 3 Park to Park contacts: one with N0ZT in MO and a two-fer with N1BS in RI. But the highlight was grabbing a contact with my buddy from the Mastodon world N0MQL. I’m glad you stuck with me, Operator! All in all, it was 15 contacts for the day and some nice, quiet time at the park in a pre-snow November. Not bad at all!
Here’s what the QSO Map looks like:
Fun With Data
Because the POTA site is full of tabular data, it lends itself to looking for patterns and other nonsense. After all, these are imaginary points in a game we play with and against ourselves. That said, the mind does what it does. I noted that all of my contacts in October were CW. That’s 100% of my activations for that month. It feels like quite a milestone! It was a total of 100 contacts even. That’s 10% of the way to a kilo for West Branch all in CW. Kinda neat! I can’t wait to see what November has in store.