One of the challenges I was having while operating portable was making sure that my power polarity was correct. Fiddling around on a mountain peak with red and black connectors on a 7a/h gel cell is fraught with danger. And when I have two or more components to connect, well …
I placed an order for their PowerPole PP-4 Way power distribution board.
A week or so later, a padded envelope arrived in my mail box.
The contents of the envelope.
Construction was easy as the kit is very simple. All that was needed was a soldering iron and some solder.
The power poles ready for soldering.
I ordered the kit only (without the enclosure), so I headed to the local supermarket and bought a cheap plastic sealable container that would do just fine. All I had to do was to cut out a piece wide enough from the lid for the connectors to stick through.
The PCB sits under the lid with the connectors sticking through. I secured it into place with four nuts and bolts.
The power supply connects to one set of power poles and the radio, atu and other items connect to the others. Simple.
Works like a charm. Will make a difference in a park or on a summit.
I decided to activate Fort Lytton National Park on Sunday 23 April 2017 for two reasons: firstly it has never been activated before and secondly, it’s considered to be the birth place of Queensland’s military history.
The above picture is of the Fort’s parade ground.
This coastal fortress served as Brisbane’s primary defences from 1881 until 1965. It was even used during WW11, when some 89 US submarines were docked here for repairs during the war.
There is an interesting museum there now, including a good display of military radio’s, which I particularly liked.
I was fortunate in finding an excellent operating position, right alongside the river under a gazebo. The picnic bench was just perfect and it was unoccupied.
Being a first activation meant that I was able to make a quick ten contacts, on both SSB as well as CW. The rig I used was my FT-817 that tuned an end-fed long wire by means of an LDG auto tuner. My key was my new pico paddle, which worked beautifully.
The weather was perfect, the exhibits were wonderful and the activation was a success. Will need to revisit this site again sometime.
Easter Saturday was the day I decided to activate Samford Conservation Park, VKFF-1639, which is situated around 40km from my QTH. This time I had insect repellent in my go-bag and I’m glad I did.
I set up my equipment on a park bench that was at the far end of Iron Bark Gully, a picnic area in the park. As usual, I had my FT-817, LDG Z100 Pro ATU and endfed antenna held up at the far end by a 7m squid pole.
All set up and ready for calls.
I could hear lots of SOTA action but even though I had self-spotted, I was getting nothing. So I decided to pounce on a SOTA QSO. The first one I came across was VK2HRX operating fromVK2/NW-019, which also happened to be a National Park, VKFF-0111, so when he completed working a chaser, I pounced. He replied and I was up and running. And with a park-to-park QSO at that. Then I heard my old mate John, VK4TJ working him so I tail-gated that QSO and worked him too. Two in the bag, but that’s as far as I got.
I think my position in the gully was not the best, so I decided to pack it in and head off for a restaurant for lunch. Also, using only 5W could have been the problem. Mean time, Scott VK4CZ posted on Facebook that he would like to visit my operating position as he lived nearby. But I had already hit the road. Along the way I stopped to admire the view from McAvee’s Lookout in Mount Nebo, which is situated in the D’Aguilar National Park VKFF-0129. As luck would have it, he called me on 146.500 FM (simplex calling frequency) so I was able to add that to my log, and from a different park.
So I was happy with the way the day turned out. But there is unfinished business. I will return.
Saturday 8 April was the day chosen to head out to Ipswich and activate Denmark Hill Conservation Reserve VKFF-1529. I chose this park as it happens to be around 30km from my QTH as well as the fact that it hadn’t been activated before. This would be sure to arouse the interest of hunters.
On arrival, I was amazed to discover that the club house of the Ipswich and District Radio Club borders the Reserve. They were holding a meeting when I walked past in headed into the think bush.
It wasn’t long before I came across a picnic bench which would make an ideal operating position. So I assembled my gear and prepared to put out my first CQ. That’s when the giant mozzies began their attack. I knew then that I should have packed in some insect repellent. I added it to my check list for next time.
The rig I was using was my trusty FT-817 with an LDG auto tuner and end fed long wire antenna that was supported by a squid pole. I mounted the pole to the support for a dust bin that was conveniently situated nearby.
I usually operate CW but decided to stick to 40m and 20m SSB this time: what a difference it made. In the short space of half an hour I had made 11 good contacts. With CW I’d be pleased to have made 4 in that time.
Delighted with my results, and reeling under the concerted efforts of the mosquitoes, I packed up and headed for the car. Along the way I came across the site of some dinosaur footprints. There was a well presented display that explained the history of the site and its rich fossil field.
This was a most enjoyable activation, especially as the weather was good; we have had plenty of flooding and chaos thanks to Cyclone Debbie.
Having worked my fist ‘bird’ with a hand-held, it was time to take the next step and try using a better antenna. The ubiquitous ‘rubber duckie’ has been said by many to be nothing more than an eloborate ground; it’s certainly a compromise antenna designed for simplicity and basic functionality at best.
Wallace, VK4CBW, suggested I try working SO-50 with a gain antenna as it would improve transmission and reception markedly. He offered to lend me his Elk hand-held antenna.
This antenna is a log periodic cut for the 2m/70cm bands and is only two foot long – perfect for satellite work.
I assembled the antenna (it comes with the elements all colour-coded for easy assembly) and put out a call the next time the satellite was within range. Bob, VK3MQ, replied and we had a superb, short, QSO. I was delighted as the distance between us was 1,346 km (836 miles). Not bad for an FM contact on simplex.
Next I worked Cam, VK4FAAJ, who was using a hand-held coupled to a home-brew yagi he made from a tape measure! Nice copy too, even though he was in my neck of the woods.
I always wanted to work the satellites as there seems to be something mystical about them. They aren’t called ‘the final frontier’ for nothing.
After talking to Wallace, VK4CBW, it became apparent that this would be quite feasible with a dual-band hand held transceiver and some satellite-tracking software on my computer.
My Boafeng GT-3TP would do fine so I downloaded and installed gpredict into my Surface Pro 4.
I proceeded to monitor my satellite of choice, SO-50, which I chose because it is an FM satellite. Wallace helped program in the receive and send frequencies into my hand-held; receive frequencies starting at 436.805 and progressing down at 5khz intervals to 436.780 would be needed to take the Doppler effect into account. Transmit frequency remains at 145.850.
As the satellite came within range I headed outside and turned on my hand-held, with the squelch turned right down. Pointing the rubber-duckie antenna towards the ground, I put out a call .. and listened. Turning this way and that, I repeated the call until I heard Wallace reply.
I had made my first contact. The interesting thing about this was that his shack is only some 300m down the road from my shack, but we were communicating via a satellite in space. The pass only lasted around eight minutes or so; brevity is the name of the game here.
My next attempt would be with an Elk antenna, a specially-designed four-element log periodic antenna that Wallace will lend me.