Despite the beautiful sunny start to the day and strong winds yesterday with more to come today, I was still determined to get out with the IC-705 and Alex Loop Ham Pack for some Parks on the Air.
For this activation I only took my Alex Loop Ham Pack bag, with the IC705 in it and accessories. Every thing fitted really well, whilst not as good as the Icom bag, it was good enough for transportation in the Bongo.
I had already visited G-0157 Holt Heath with XYL the previous week to find a nice location to operate from and was easily able to setup the Alex Loop on the bike-stand without any issue. I was soon on 30M FT8 Frequency and making good contacts well into Europe with 10W of power.
The QSO’s came in with rapid succession, I dare say that the POTA self spot was really helping this time out as some calls were directly at me.
I take pictures of the 73 Acknowledgement as well to ensure i have logs in triplicate, writing down the logs manually also ensures that I don’t double-up a contact, and makes hunting FT8 calls easier. I found a good mix today of calling CQ and responding to other people calling CQ. Going for stronger signals tended to result in the typical signal report/received/73 QSO. In all it took about 90 minutes to get 10 FT8 qsos on 30m – that is with breaks for fresh air and making coffee, so not bad at all.
I then went on to try SSTV around midday, by this time the wind and rain was really howling around the heathland, it was beautiful and spectacular to be operating in such conditions, and the Alex Loop was doing a fantastic job. Sadly my USB cable developed a fault and with the weather getting no better, decided to leave it for another day (i..e I didn’t want a tree to fall down en-route and get stuck !)
I had a brilliant time at Holt Heath and a place I will very much like to return to when the weather improves to setup a mast and an end-fed antenna.
I am already looking forward to my next Parks on the Air outing, but they are getting more further afield now as the nearby ones are slowly getting done…
FT8 QSO Summary (as uploaded to QRZ and PoTA)
Edit – 20/2/22
Many thanks to CU3BL & CU3HY for ‘hunting’ me ! Was glad to see in the park activation that my self-spot had helped!
With the weather arriving as predicted, a productive day was had in the shack tidying away whilst the rain poured down on Bournemouth.
With another park activation completed for G-0079 with my 10 FT8 QSO’s recorded, I set about looking for the next park to attempt another activation. It was also good to be spotted by a fellow PoTA operating from Germany (DK8MT).
Even with the bad weather and apart from the early morning walk with Sweety being the only time I had been out, a nice drive survey Holt Heath looked a good way to enjoy a local ride out.
With some online investigation, I was able to determine a position still within the park boundary and a good place to park the bongo.
With the location found, Station Manager and I headed out to investigate first hand. Despite the rain, we enjoyed the lovely ride out and finding a new area we hadn’t previously explored. This is a great benefit of PoTA in exploring and finding these new places, and something we can enjoy doing together irrespective of the weather conditions thanks to the trusty Bongo.
With the rain coming down I didn’t want to venture too far from the Bongo, it was enough to see the heath land with the gauzy bushes which would be a challenge to operate in, but also the decent paths that could provide a good place to setup if the conditions are good enough. There is plenty of space to setup the End-fed antenna as an inverted V or a sloper configuration for sure. Whilst visibly there was no ‘height’ to give any take-off there was also no obstructions nearby, in the distance some pylons could be seen around a mile away.
The drive was short, and interesting, the location viable for both mag-loop from the bongo and also the end-fed antenna depending on the conditions come the day. I am looking forward to see how well the IC705 and either antenna will do in this beautiful location.
Having originally intending to go out on the 13th, the adverse weather and changes on planning on the home front made the 12th a better day to go. Whilst cold it was a great day to go out and try another park activation.
For this activation attempt I wanted to use the Alex Loop Ham Pack antenna, as I had already used Toy Box antenna the previous week, and with the cold operating from the Bongo would be a good way to get on the air.
The Alexloop and Bike stand was really easy to setup, maybe even easier than the whip and radials, but it was quick to get on air. The bike stand held the alexloop no problem at all.
To start with I used the MAT-Tuner on 20M as I planned to do FT8 then SSTV, so I wanted to see if I can move about the band without re-dialling the magloop, in the end, I removed the MAT tuner and went to 30m. My SWR went up to 1.5 but was making more and more contacts.
By lunch time the QSO’s on 30m where coming in rapid succession, not quite a pile up, but enough to get the park activated. I also enjoyed a ‘rag-chew’ on 70cm via GB3IW, not for PoTA, but it was good to make a /M to /M contact whilst doing FT8 on HF. I also done a SSTV test from the my mobile location to back to the QTH, that came out quite well for 5W
With it just being over midday and enough FT8 qso to activate the park, I tided up and headed back for a fantastic afternoon out with the station manager. We really enjoyed the afternoon out and the lovely views across to the IoW
In conclusion i can say that the Alexloop Ham pack antenna is amazing, its incredibly light and very easy to setup. The sensitivity of the dial is incredible, getting the SWR down low to 1.5 on 20M and 17M was no problem. I don’t think I will need an ATU with it, its better to dial it in and get the power into the antenna and a very small increase in reflected power back.
I really enjoyed doing PoTA, just getting out with the transceivers and making contacts is great fun, be it FT8, SSTV or Telephony, every time I go out, I am getting more experience and enjoy operating away from home more and more.
I am looking forward to my next PoTA activation and trying another antenna, hopefully the 40M end fed which I think will return the best results yet in terms of RF performance, but lets see…
It is done ! I have become part of PoTA History by activating Avon Heath Country Park (G-0362). There are plenty of other parks in the area and I’m really excited to continue my PoTA activities.
I have since reverted my Laptops OS back to Windows 10 – I found the USB Driver for Linux wasn’t working correctly with the IC705. Going to Windows and running the default Icom driver I found no issues at all ! This also means I am using recommended logging software for PoTA as seen in the video below.
This will make logging much easier going forward.
I am planning to go out again 13th Feb 22 @ G-0079, which is quite near me and a familiar location to me.
When the SSTV band is quite and no one returning CQ calls, I will put out calls and test different modes and powers.
This morning I searched the KiwiSDR Signal-To-Noise list and found SWLJO43/3, City Windom, near Hamburg, Germany with a SNR of 43db. I tuned in to the SSTV frequency of 3730 and started my CQ transmissions, first with 50w and Scottie, then the fastest mode BW8, and 1W of power.
I was really amazed that even on 1W and the BW8 mode I was able to discern a picture from a very low power transmission.
I think the KiwiSDR and more importantly the SNR list at http://rx.linkfanel.net/snr.html are an overlooked treasure for both the Short Wave Listener and the ham radio operator looking to check/hear their transmissions.
The KiwiSDR has many advantages over other SDRs in that it has native plugin which are rendered in the browser, requiring no software on the part of the user, just select the relevant module, and tune to the frequency !
I do own a KiwiSDR and connected to a Wellbrook ALA provides excellent receive for others that want to use a SDR based in South West England.
So after a week away I decided to try my luck at Avon Heath Park (G-0362) again. This time I was determined to activate the park in any way I can with the IC705. I really wanted to prove the HFJ-350M toybox antenna was a viable portable antenna. With the Comet CGW-560 radials connected I have tuned it before at the QTH, but never out in the field, where anything and everything that can go wrong, will go wrong.
I had purchased a pop-up privacy tent, i had tested and set it up at home, it was really easy (of course). At Avon Heath I encountered two problems. High winds and very stoney ground. The pegs I had would of been fine on firm soil and no wind, but the winds kept the tent blowing away. With one huge gust my tent was gone but i captured it, only for one pole to snap ! I am hoping it can be repaired and used on other less windy trips. I will have to find some of the good ‘corkscrew’ pegs I have used camping before, but have mostly used up/used at home.
The ground at Avon Heath is very sandy, I’m not sure if its a good conductor or not, but I lay the radials over it as I had little alternative. I also found I had left a connector to allow using my rigexpert directly to the antenna at home. This was very frustrating as I was sure I had packed it ! I was able to tune the antenna using the IC705 in built SWR graph, and on 40M FT8 frequency got the SWR down to 2.0 – 2.5, whilst not ideal, it was at least workable.
I was able to check on-site using PSK Reporter that my signal was getting out good enough to be received – the above screen shot is from when I returned home. I did find the mobile app took some getting used to, but still workable (with gloves on !)
I spotted myself on the POTA app page and for 40M FT8, and sure enough I was getting quite a few contacts quite rapidly – not sure if it was because of POTA or just people making FT8 connections, I was just grateful to be making QSO’s on a very compromise antenna and relatively low power.
I had one major annoyance in that when my laptop booted up, the date on it was incorrect, thankfully I could quickly use the wi-fi on my iphone and sync my clock against rolex.ripe.net to get my time correct, however this would mean my 1st contact via WSJTX would need its log entry corrected.
I continued to stick with FT8, determined to activate, i had a great flurry of activity, then the longest time calling CQ, I think this must of been band conditions. When i was making QSO’s I would get to received signal report, but not the import RR or 73 to log it. This was really frustrating as both my computer and mobile phone battery where becoming depleted much quicker than anticipated. I only needed one more QSO to get the 10 needed to activate the park.
I turned on the THD7 and called CQ on 2M for POTA, thankfully and with much joy on my part I contact M7PBT and we quickly moved to 145.575 on 2M. I got a great 59+20 reception report from the higher location, and the final contact needed to activate the park !
I re-spotted myself to say I was going QRT as the weather was going decidedly southwards, so I packed up as quickly as I could, but ensuring there was nothing left behind and keeping the park tidy.
I know FT8 isn’t every ones ‘flavour’ but for me today, it done what I set out to do, activate the park. I also proved that the toy-box antenna is at least viable in data modes on 40m and was very easy to setup, just a case of laying out the radials.
I again with hindsight realised that I took way too much and my initial plan of just my backpack with the IC705 and my laptop would of been more than sufficient for todays digital operating. The backpack really proved its price tag in being strong, comfortable and able to take all my equipment and has space for the THD7 to clip on.
In the cold weather having a cup of coffee and boiled egg really kept me going and energized. I was annoyed at being out in the open with the IC705, I didn’t want to get it wet, but with light rain it was perfectly ok. I think a big poncho will be my best bet.
I did find my laptop was really lacking, the battery almost running out only after a few hours operation and the poor mouse control really shows how I’ve become a ‘touch here on the screen’ person now if I don’t have access to a mouse (laptop only has 1 USB port for IC705 connection). I think a Windows Tablet will help me allot with digital modes and logging software.
My other main learning was that the logging software I had come to depend on wasn’t very good, in its 2nd outing it messed up the log files, resulting in me having to manually craft them. PoTA only except ADIF format, whilst text readable and not binary, can be edited. In my case I had to add my 2M QSO to the WSJT-X export.
I’m awaiting confirmation of my activation but again have learned a huge amount and had a fantastic time out. I want to do at least one activation a month, so am looking for another nearby park which has yet to been activated. PoTA is addictive !