|My WES Stats|
|Example Crystals for the Drake 2-NT|
|My WES Stats|
|Example Crystals for the Drake 2-NT|
Our Winter Field Day venue for 2021 was Three Rivers State Park, Florida on Lake Seminole. Four other hams from the Panama City area had campsites there as well. We chose to operate under our own calls. I decided to operate QRP using my Icom 705.
I considered about eight different antenna options and could not make up my mind. I consulted my antenna mentor, Myron WV0H in Colorado, and he suggested two more options; a loop and an inverted-L. I took his advice on the inverted-L. I implemented my inverted-L with a 100-foot radiator supported by three Jackite 31-foot poles. I had about 27 feet vertical and about 73 feet horizontal elevated at 31 feet. I used Myron's favorite wire which was 26 gauge. This thin wire presents almost no load on the poles and is practically invisible. The counterpose was 31 feet long elevated at about ten feet. That length was just what I had handy. My Icom AH-4 matches the inverted-L antenna on 80 through 6 meters.
I had WFD contacts on 80, 40, and 20 meters. I did not feel it was a struggle making contacts even on SSB at ten watts. I believe this setup will be my Field Day go-to from here on out. It took up about half of the horizontal distance of my previous go-to which was an 80 meter End Fed Half Wave. I also did not have to support the EFHW transformer with my camo pole tripod mast. Those camo poles are heavy and take up a lot of room in the truck.
Given all this, I made 54 contacts. I did not get into a good rhythm until Sunday. Of course, we had interested visitors, great social time, and I took Saturday night off. As you expect, we all dealt with interference among our stations. Score-wise my contacts would be the equivalent of 108 contacts at 100 watts. It was enough to get a taste of the action. The bands were quite busy. For me, it is the experience, not the score.
|My gear in the tent|
All the campers including Ryan K1OSE, George W4GHG, Daniel K1MDA, and Bob KK4DIV said they had fun and are looking forward to the ARRL Field Day in June. Chris VA3ECO did not come down to Florida this year. However, he braved the elements in Ontario and drove out on a lake ice road to make his WFD contacts. All of us are going to have our scores applied to the Panama City ARC aggregate score.
|Daniel K4MDA in his gazebo.|
Linda and I have our own travel trailer now and we can take Suzy, our basset She has a blast greeting the campers and claiming our bed. Linda and I continued to East Bank Campground, also on Lake Seminole, for a few extra days of camping. We liked that campground so much it may be my venue for ARRL Field Day in June. While at East Bank, I deployed the same inverted-L I used for WFD. I had some good QRP QSOs there. I am glad o many hams from our club enjoyed WFD from the field and some from home. We are looking forward to more camping and radio including the Florida QSO Party in April and the ARRL Field Day in June.
|Chris VA3ECO doing WFD in Ontario|
|The inverted-L antenna deployed at East Bank Campground.|
The weather forecast at this time is 63 degrees F and cloudy for the Saturday 1 pm start and falling to 51 degrees at midnight. Starting about 3 am, showers are expected for the rest of the event and warming back up to 70 degrees F. This is pretty mild weather so I should make it through in short pants.
It is hard to beat the view I had at Frank Jackson State Park near Opp, Alabama. Linda and I spent five nights in our camping trailer there. My shack was a table with a full view of the lake. I used the Icom IC-705 with the Elecraft KXPA100 Amplifier. I had room for the SOTABeams 40-30-20 Bandhopper link dipole. I also set up the N6BT Bravo 7K vertical right by the water.
|My shack on Lake Jackson|
Jim KC4HW also spent several nights at the same park. Jim and I went over to the SEARS Rocket launch on Saturday in nearby Samson. It was a banner day of launches with some high power two-stage rockets going up. I launched my Totally Tubular Crayon Rocket.
|Jim KC4HW and Suzy next to the Totally Tubular Rocket|
Radio-wise activating a park for Parks On The Air gave us lots of contacts. On Sunday, I had ninety-seven POTA contacts including a string on seventy on 20 SSB. Fortunately, Jim helped with the logging. Jim has some interest in POTA for his camping trips in the future.
|The Bravo 7K Vertical lakeside. It did well into Canada and the West Coast on 20 meters.|
There is an island within the Frank Jackson Lake. It is named Memorial Island and is AL021L in the US Islands Directory. On Tuesday, Suzy and I went across the boardwalk to the island. The spot we picked was already taken by an armadillo but he eventually moved on. I used the Icom IC-705 at ten watts. We gave out the POTA number and the US Island number. On 20 SSB, I had fifteen contacts including one with our buddy Chris VA3ECO who was operating his remote station from an island in Ontario. On 40 SSB we also had fifteen contacts including one with my buddy Bob KK4DIV who was camping at the Ocala State Forrest.
|Our setup on Memorial Island, USI AL021L|
We enjoyed the beautiful scenery and got a good dose of rockets and radio on this visit. Jim treated us to burgers on Sunday night and gave me some camping and radio tips. I was glad to get to know Jim better. He lives near Slocumb, Alabama not far from Dothan. So this was nice camping for December. I put in a reservation for May of next year. On that camping trip, I can return to Memorial Island for the US Islands One-Day-Getaway event on May 8th.
The RaDAR Challenge is very much about making choices. Key choices include the rig/antenna, the venue, and the means of transportation. My choices for the November 7th, 2020 Challenge were:
I chose the Icom IC-705 because it's my new rig, and I better try it out. It weighs a couple of pounds and runs 10 watts. A hundred-watt rig would have made contacts easier, but that is more bulk and weight to carry.
|The new Icom IC-705|
I chose the Alexloop magnetic loop for its small size, quick setup, and rapid band changes. It does not require a tuner. That's a good thing since the IC-705 does not have an internal tuner. Would a dipole have done better? Probably, but it takes more time to set up, and it is hard to have a dipole that is resonant for all bands between 40 and 10 meters. Also, the magnetic loop is vertically polarized on the horizon. That fits in with my choice of venue.
|My Alexloop is the ultimate in portability.|
I chose St. Andrews State Park as my venue in-part because it gives me access to the saltwater shore. The saltwater effect will boost your HF signals. That is a good choice if you run low power. This effect applies to vertical polarization, and I have that with the Alexloop.
|Saltwater is your friend for QRP.|
I chose to ride my bike. The required distance is two kilometers. My rides took about eleven minutes. I strapped the Alexloop case and my tripod for the loop to the luggage rack on the bike. I carried the rest in my backpack.
|The Alexloop in its bag and the tripod on my bike.|
The goal is to make five contacts and move. Making five contacts with ten watts and a mag loop can be tough when you need them in a hurry. So you have to leverage anything that will help. My leverages included:
I got a little help from my friends. My first contact was a local ham Bob WB4BLX. He found me on 20 CW. My second contact was Myron WV0H in Colorado on the same band. I also worked a couple of friends on two-meter FM Simplex, Frank W4IMH, and Bob N4RJJ. I got a 20 meter SSB call from Bob KK4DIV, who was doing RaDAR in a Conservation Park a few miles away. A RaDAR to RaDAR contact is awesome. I must also thank Dennis WA6QKN for help setting up and logging. It was a team effort.
I used CW for about half of my contacts. CW can help out when you are doing low power portable. It is definitely worth learning if you do QRP. It happened to be the Weekend Sprint for the Straight Key Century Club. They always want my SKCC number.
I took advantage of Parks On The Air or POTA since I was in a state park. I put in some spots on the POTA website. I got a few contacts that way, but not the usual pile-up. Note that it is work to get their grid square when they don't expect to give it out.
I also checked in with the 17 meters group on 18.157.5. I worked Bud W3FF tricycle mobile and VP2IMI in the Caribbean there.
In summary, I operated at four stops and took three bike rides in four hours. That was twenty contacts in total. The bands included 40 CW & SSB, 20 CW & SSB, 30 CW, 20 CW and SSB, 17 SSB and 15 CW. There was quite a lot of activity on 17 meters and some on 15 meters. So, solar cycle 25 is helping out as well.
So frankly, it takes a bag of tricks and good luck to make those RaDAR contacts when you need them. The Alexloop came through. Our reports were sometimes weak but copiable and sometimes S9 on the other end. It is a challenge to break pile-ups with a mag loop. I did not spend long trying. The Alexloop has a special place in my antenna repertoire since it is the most portable of the lot.
My advice is to do lots of portable work, try lots of gear, and see what you like. Eventually, your skills, your equipment, and knowledge of the HF bands will mesh. Then you will be in the flow zone for the four hours and have a satisfying experience doing Rapid Deployment Amateur Radio (RaDAR).
|Dennis WA6QKN at our favorite picnic table by the Grand Lagoon.|
Linda and I decided we would do camping in our retirement which started in March of this year. We now have a twenty-four-foot Coachman Spirit trailer to enjoy. Towing and setting up a trailer has been a big learning experience for me. Starting last Saturday, we camped four nights at Three Rivers State Park on the Florida side of Lake Seminole. Our first trip with the trailer was a success.
|Our trailer at campsite 13 at Three Rivers State Park|
Of course, any campsite is a portable operating opportunity. In particular, State or National Parks qualify for Parks On The Air, POTA program. Three Rivers State Park is POTA K-1922. I decided to try the new Icom 705 with the Elecraft KXPA100 Amplifier for this activation. The antenna was the SOTABeams 40-30-20 link dipole.
|I used the Icom IC 705 and the Elecraft 100 watt Amp|
It turns out POTA has a large pack of hungry hunters. I got several pile-ups going. In particular, the hour before sundown on 40 meters SSB pulled in sixty contacts in one hour. I had 172 contacts in all including nine park-to-park contacts.
|A view of Lake Seminole|
|Suzy has claimed the bed for her R&R.|
My four-hour window for the challenge will start between 1500 to 1600 UTC, 9 to 10 am CST. The venue will be at St. Andrews State Park near Panama City, FL. I plan to take advantage of the saltwater effect on the Grand Lagoon on the Northside. There are a picnic table and a pier right on the saltwater. It will be any which way I can to get five contacts to allow me to move to the next stop. Dennis WA6QKN will assist. I'll be riding my bike two kilometers between stops.