POTA – FT8, FT4, SSTV, SSB – UPDATE – 18/3/24 –

After a very busy week, I had Sunday and getting out with my radio to look forward to. Thankfully the weather was being kind to me, whilst not warm, it wasnt raining as we had plenty of that over night !

Plenty of overnight rain at the QTH

I headed out to Boulderwood with the magloop and 705 and was on the air very quickly. Setup is quick and easy with the magloop and I actually learned a good wait to tune the antenna and get the SWR down quicker.

place hand UNDER feedline when tuning = better and quicker matching

I did run into issues starting out with WSJTX and FT8, the time on my computer was just ever so slightly out, but enough for a time sensitive decode of FT8 not to work correctly. I tried updating the time using the windows time server, to no avail ! I had to manually set the NTP server to rolex.ripe.net, sync the time and I was back in action !

I had 10 QSO’s in digital modes done in under 40 minutes, shifting between FT8 and FT4 on 20m, with POTA hunters chasing me thanks to the POTA app and RBN.

pskreport – 10W, FT8, 20M
PSK Report – 10W, FT4, 20m

Having completed enough contacts to activate the park, I was straight into Telephony and SSB. I went onto 17m, not that was any contests on, but I found it a good band for QRP operation, and sure enough I made two contacts, with EA1EC being a POTA Hunter, proving how using PoTA makes getting contacts that bit easier – when running QRP it all helps !

I jumped onto 20M, which was quite calm for a Sunday, and was able to tune around the band, making a contact with IK0VSY, with a good signal report. 20 meters really was the place to be today, so jumped onto SSTV and the pictures started rolling in from other SSTV users.

I waited my time and started to transmit and I made my first SSTV PoTA contact for 2024 ! I was really chuffed and excited, so big thanks to IK2QIN for the excellent QSO.

SSTV QSO received and uploaded to MAX SSTV by other SSTV receivers (Thanks MAX SSTV website!)

I then span the dial on 20m once more, and made 3 more SSB contacts, it was really great to make the contacts, with IU3EDQ being Portable !, but thanks again to EA2DT and EA4TL for hunting me and making the contact with excellent signal reports, with a 59 from me and a 5-5 for my reception report.

The IC-705 really done me a great service today, and being able to use the the voice repeat mode in conjunction with the ‘massive’ battery power of the ‘ultra max’ battery ensured I wasnt going to run out of power for the radio.

Sadly some massive QRM came in on frequency, but I was able to shift up and continue making contacts, that is the advantage of 20m over 17m, that it has more space in the band, so shifting isnt a problem. I quickly posted my frequency change on the POTA app and was able to continue making contacts !

QRM on frequency, maybe a new mode I’m not aware of !
the sun did try to come out

As the time approached for me to head to the supermarket to get my essential shopping, i packed up in no time, leaving the bunch and the park as I found it. Bolderwood is such a lovely place to come, its relaxing and gets me ready for the busy week ahead. I had a fantastic time getting out on the radio today.

Big thanks to all the people that made a contact with me today, it really is much appreciated and I really enjoy the amazing hobby that is amateur radio !

thanks for all the contacts !!!

*update 18/3/24*

Would like to say BIG thanks to Alessandro who contacted me with his QSL card, little did I know at the time that IU3EDK/P was up a mountain ! I received a lovely QSL card via email and a link to the activation – how amazing that it was a park-to-mountain activation all on 10W of power !!

Thank you Alessandro ! Please check out the activation from Alessandro here

QSL Card from IE3EDK up a mountain in Italy !

G-0112 4th Feb 2024 + Webtechnology site updates !

had spring come early ? The sun was out today!

Some lovely sun kept the chills off today with flowers blooming and when it reach mid afternoon looked like turning into a great afternoon evening, I thought it would be great to make an impromptu visit to Bolderwood to try a PoTA activation.

compare to Janurary temptures, I was basking in the winter sunshin at a 12 celsisus !

I had everything packed away, i did one quick check for the power beiing packed, which it was, but had no idea on the battery level of the laptop, I knew I had used it recently so it shouldnt be too low. I headed off and it was great to to Bolderwood which whilst still pleasently busy, didnt feel over crowded. I’m sure this will change even by the end of the month !

I was on the air in no time, with the Alexloop attached to the bench with a bungie and hooked into the IC705, it was easy to tune into 30m to start with for FT8. I chose 30m as I had alot of contacts at home and its not a band I used /P for POTA before, I made 4 contacts within 10 minutes, so wasnt disappointed. I then moved to FT4 on 20M – it was *busy* even finding a gap in FT4 was getting tricky, but I was glad to find a gap and get out. The laptop was down to 40% power by now, so I stuck it in energy efficent mode, which kept the battery going without issue and no adverse effect on the radio/USB connection.

using the laptop energy efficeint mode to extend the life the laptop

I was pleased with a series of rapid FT4 QSOs on 20m, i later learned these where all PoTA Hunters – whilst I’m amazed by them all in the distance, ranging from Austria and Spain in Europe, it was the DX contact with KC1MMC that blew me away – 3217 miles on 10W of power on a mag loop, I was really happy to say the least.

Sun went down and 20M opened up more

As the sun went down the volume of QSO’s on 20M just kept rolling in, from 17:17 to 17:25 I was having a QSO on FT8 every 2 minutes ! I had to call it a day as it was getting dark and wanted to get my equipment put away safely, but I think I enjoy coming out at dusk – maybe a small lamp or pen-light will be worth bringing next time.

14 contacts, 5 POTA hunters made happy !

This was a really enjoyable PoTA outing with minimal planning, I was really impressed how well the antenna done and the PSK Reporter picture shows, it can really reach the entire planet !

Digital modes doing really on 10W of power

I have seen videos of great QRP Contacts and am wondering how well I would do, I really think I should give it a try the next time I am out as the setup really impresses me and think it should be good to make some telephony contacts.

Making contact with KC1MMC on 20m FT8

Webtechnologies website update – WSPR Bands added !

I’ve been making monthly updates to my webtechnologies site, which last month I got back up and running so the code would scrape the data from the ‘updated’ WSPR old-db. I’ve now added sections that allow filtering by band. This is all transmitted via the 6BTV which is doing an excellent job of getting out on all 6 bands it is setup for.

Webtechnologies site – now with spots per band functionality.

I’m aiming to keep building more features for the website each month, just small incremental changes, but I’m sure will keep adding making for a feature-rich site. There is so much that can be done with WSPR data, I really enjoy using this mode and its great ot use my programming skills for amateur radio also. Check it out at the webtechnologies site.

Jan 2024 – Antenna update at the QTH

With some rather nice weather and available time, I was able to get to work on putting up the SOTABeams Travel Mast as a repacement of the DX Commander classic mast which has done me so well for serveral years, and one of the guying rings finally sucumbbing to the storms we had at the start of the month.

Use of electrical tape and jubilee clip to secure mast sections vertically

I put electrical tape and a jubiliee clip on each section to secure and make vertical slipping less of a possiblity. The same method worked very well for the DX Commander in keeping the sections up and those had to take a considerable strain when used in the way to use the split-dipole that the DX Commander is.

Wire up about 2/3s of the full mast height

I attached the wire to the mast via a piece of guying rope about 2/3’s up the mast. I may make this higher the next time I move the antenna, but as is, it clears the house nicely and is a good distance from the ground, I think more height will allow a full half-wave on 20m so something I want to do very much, given I enjoy SSTV on the 20M band alot.

guying and little strain

There is very little strain on the mast and a good level of taughtness to keep the wire from drooping and touching the house, the one set of guying wires are holding the mast very well, combined with some decent ground stakes.

I went into test the mast, 20M SSTV was simply flooded with QSOs – unable to get a QSO in as the band was so buys, but I guess thats a good thing showing that the reception was doing well. I jumped on FT4 on 10M as the band was well open.

FT4 on 10M doing very well on the EFHW antenna

I was very please to test the antenna and have a FT4 contact with JS9DS in St Lucia over 4000 miles away !

I’m very pleased with the mast and will improve upon it as the weather and mast moves to allow us to use the front garden more. Looking forward to catching you on the airwaves !

mast update at the QTH

G-0112 – Bolderwood New Forest, Alex Loop to the rescue

With another bright but cold day, it was a good time to get out and get on the air. This time I was packing my trust Alexloop Ham pack antenna along with the IC705, determined to make an activation on my 3rd attempt from Bolderwood.

WX – I caught the ‘warmer’ part of the day at round 9 to 7 celsius

I was no sooner out the car and onto one of the many available benches and quickly setup. The alex loop was out the bag and with a bungee hook strapped pretty tightly to the bench. I tuned for 20m and got a great SWR of between 1.3 and 1.4 but no more than 1.5 and 10W of power. The FT8 contacts came rolling in, and with a busy 20m FT8 was then onto FT4, for even quicker overs.

It was great to get a mobile phone signal as I tethered my laptop to the phone wifi and could upload my contacts directly to QRZ via the excellent grid tracker application, I still kept a manual log so it would be easy to confirm the order and QSO’s I had today. The Reverse Beacon Network and POTA app was doing me a great service, as quite a few of my contact were POTA hunters. Getting 10 contacts in under an hour was great given just how cold it was, it was nice to see 5 of the contacts are POTA hunters.

I gave SSTV a go, but the signal where coming in thick and fast, I started to see a response to my transmission, but another station came in over the top. I try to use Robot72 and BW12 to keep my over time on 14.2300 short, but most people dont QSY on SSTV, and even then we tend to get other people talking over the SSTV CoA on 20m as well..

Still, having uploaded my ADIF file from WSJTX to POTA I was soon awarded my 2024 activation. Just in the nick of time ! A good start to POTA in 2024 !

POTA 2024 Award – a good start to the year

I am really excited about getting out and do more POTA – its a great start to the year !

73, Alan 2E0FWE

POTA from G-0112, cold but worth the effor

New Forest POTA G-0112

With a second bank holiday in quick succession and the WX predictions for the bank holiday being ‘traditional’ I made a impromptu POTA activation in the New Forest. Whilst its not my nearest POTA, there are plenty of nice quite places to go, so I headed off for a evening of radio fun !

As is norm for me, I started out with FT8 – or should I say after some reacquainted got started with FT8 ! As I wanted to do SSTV I used my old laptop and USB cable. This has been running at home nicely for months for WSPR via the IC705/Laptop combo, sure enough, go out in the field and it starts playing up ! Firstly experienced disconnects on WSJTX on anything above 5W, and remembered that I had setup the 705 to be a 7300 to allow MMSSTV to use the same ‘hex codes’ – once I got the power and connection sorted, was soon on the air and the QSO’s started coming in. 17M was very busy but propagation good, the magloop and 5W was getting me all over the world, was very glad to see several contacts into the states from POTA hunters.

5W into magloop on 18 and 20m (FT8 / FT4)

I was soon getting drowned out on FT8 on 17m, so switched to 20M and FT4, whereby i was able to get the 10 QSO’s needed to activate the park. I then switched to SSTV. Receiving was fine, and the absence ‘noise’ produced fantastic RX. I thought I would give it a go, even tho I was ‘limited’ to 10W.

A very good signal came in from OK1DNT and was reward with a 595 signal report on 10W ! I was overjoyed that the magloop, low power and noise floor worked so effectively. It really was a highlight for me and I think I shall work out how to the webcam on the laptop to capture some ‘live’ PoTA pictures, each time I’ve tried SSTV on PoTA, I’ve made a QSO, so it is most defineatly a viable mode with QRP power. Thanks to OK1DNT for the QSO as well !

I headed home with the Retevis RT73 working nicely doing its APRS positioning beaconing. Whilst the RT73 doesn’t have the TNC/Packet capabiilities of the THD7, it nethertheless does a great job of position reporting. I did struggle with updating the message, but I got it to read ‘POTA G’ I struggled to get numbers and symbols, so will investigate that next time. The RT73 is a ‘neater’ solution for 2m/70cm operation, tho admittedly I’ve not a QSO on it yet !

APRS via Retevis RT73 working well

En route i encountered the lovely horses/ponies of the new forest. I do love the nature and animals in the beautiful scenery.

Once home and unloaded from the Bongo I set about logging. I always use a manual log, even for digitial modes, incase something should happen to the computer/device I used. I was pleased to see some very cool new features on the POTA website, in that its possible to create a manual log via the PoTA page for submission.

I watched a video on how to do the manual log, shown below and it was easy to follow and create my own log submission.

POTA Manual Log Entry

Sure enough my log submission was done, it was so easy ! Also I could export the ADIF file and upload to QRZ

POTA ADIF to QRZ

Whilst the frequency and signal reports were not the ones from the event, it did at least have the time, band mode and contact, not bad at all and acertainly allot easier than when I first started POTA last year.

Overall, despite the early technical frustrations I really enjoyed this activation, it has made me think about a PoTA strategy for digital modes, i.e. use the mac ipad for FT8/FT4 and laptop for SSTV, if the ipad app had SSTV capabilitiy, that would be amazing, but its a great app as is being totally ‘wireless’. Still, I look forward to more PoTA as the year go on !

Thanks for reading and 73

G-0112 New Forest – First POTA of 2023

Happy New year to you all who follow the blog ! Apologies for the absence of postings, hopefully I’ll keep them a little more regular, at least with doing a PoTA once a month.

Having watched several of my youtube hamradio favourites I was really inspired to get out with my radio and enjoy it. With amazingly good weather, I headed out to the New Forest, specifically to Bratley View.

Bongo at Bratley View, New Forest

I was quick to get the Alexloop Hampack antenna setup quickly and the IC705 tuned into 17m quickly. Using the excellent SDR Control on the IPad it wasn’t long before the contacts on FT8 started coming in.

In under 30 minutes I had made 13 FT8 QSO’s on 17M. I then tried FT4 on 20M, I could pick up the signals ok, but wasn’t haven’t much luck in making contacts.

20M FT4

I headed down the band to FT8 which was busy as ever ! I had no problem getting out and making contacts there.

20M FT8

With well in excess of my required 10 contacts for me to activate the park and with my lunch finished, I headed back to home to enjoy the rest of the day with XYL.

Lunch was boiled egg and sausages – but I had forgotten my pen !

I wasn’t able to locate my pen, so couldn’t log manually, which I usually do just incase something happens to the IPad.

As I was totally dependent on the IPad for logging, I exported and ADIF file. Since I last done POTA there is now an option to upload your own log files, so I set about checking out how to do that. A great video really helped me along.

Tutorial on how to use the POTA upload

The log export from SDR Control is great, but requires a bit of ‘munging’ to get into PoTA format. I found a script ruby-pota-csv-to-adif available here which made getting the file uploaded right first time.

With the upload complete, the following morning most of the processing was complete, I was pleased to see other PoTA Hunters in the log.

EC7AKV & SP8QC contacts amongst many others!

It was great to get back out on the radio and enjoy the simplicity of FT8 – I’m hoping to get some practice and try out using Telephony QSO’s via SDR Control, or just using the microphone, it felt great to be back out with the radio and enjoying it again!

Hopefully I’l have more progress on other radio fronts as well, but until next time, 73!

G-0407 Lodmoor Country Park POTA

After a few weeks break of regular PoTA Activations, I was very excited to go out for my planned activation at Lodmoor Country Park near Weymouth.

I had completed my prep the evening before, checking that my batteries and accessories were all packed into the Alex loopham pack bag. In the morning I found that XYL Monica had even made me a pack lunch for my day out, which was much needed later in the day. An early start got me out with walking my dog Sweety at 5AM just as the sun came up, I then headed off to Weymouth, APRS beacon sending out packets as I did so, my full route wasnt covered today which seemed unusual, I did hear APRS packets on arrival in Weymouth.

APRS Recetion dropped off around Bere Regus

I chose to go to Beach Car Park, as this was situated conveniently near to the park facilities, its always useful to have a WC available, also the park itself look great and venturing beyond the comfort of the Bongo to get into the park would be nice.

The Beach Car Park is open 24/7, and even free between 18:00 and 08:00, although the signage says ‘no overnight sleeping’. Interestingly I noticed that Motorhomes are banned outright (probably for this reason), and where as my Mazda Bongo is classified as a Campervan would still be limited to a ‘4 hour’ max visit – noticed this of course after I had paid £10 for the full day, and whilst I think during the less busy seasons its unlikely to be enforced, I can imagine during peak times its something to be of mindful of.

Before settling into the Bongo and setting up, I popped to the WC, even at this early hour the facilities are open and clean and tidy, nice to see. The park had great maps to help navigate around. There is alot to do here for a family, such as Sealife centre, gokarts, mini-golf, pitch and putt and Sandwolrd – maybe its the kind of place where the youngsters could be enjoy the activities whilst allowing others to be operating the radio, win all round !

Once back in the Bongo I was quickly on the air thanks to the fantastic Alex Loop Antenna – whilst I have other antennas, the ease and speed in which I can get this setup really makes it hard to use the alternatives. Using the bikestand as a support which I can drive the bongo onto ensures that the wind doesnt get the better of it as well !

With the magloop just out the door and feedline thru the front window, I could get the SWR pretty much always under 1.5 to 1:1 – 20m was alive with contesters – even FT8 was super busy – the excellent SDR Control really helped – I cant say how good this application is, I am getting more out of it every single time I use it, the ease of logging and connection to the IC705 via Wifi is excellent. FT8 got very busy, so remembering I had FT4 available also, headed up the band slightly and enjoyed a rapid sucsession of QSO’s. Within one hour I was very close to having enough QSOs to activate the park.

Digital Mode QSOs logged manually

I also log manually just to ensure I have a backup, I found today that jumping between bands was getting easier – I tuned 1:1 on 17m in just one go, and by now with a great collection of data mode QSO’s under my belt, felt it was time for some telephony/SSB action.

I piggy backed on the back of the contest, it was great running QRP portable and even the contesters were happy to receive a mobile station, some even going beyond the usual contest rubber stamp asking my about my setup ! I really enjoyed that and a method I will use in the future (I actually was inspired to do this by VK3YE talk on how to get more HF contacts!)

excellent video by VK3YE on getting contacts on HF

After a great lunch in the Bongo, I decided to head out to the park for /P action !

I really enjoyed the walk around the park, I wore the Alexloop hampack bag without any problem. It was quite weighty and at first a little nervous of the straps – thinking about how much equipment and how much it costs tends to make one a little trepidatious in trusting it all to a couple of straps!

Whilst having a table/chair is my preferred ‘comfort’ of operation – and I even passed one picnic table, I liked this location, it was in the shade and the bench long enough to get everything on it without worrying about it falling off. A good bungee allowed me to strap the alexloop onto the bench, only once wobbling over when a big gust of wind came in.

It was nice that there was people interested in what I was doing, even a few comments by the passing runners on what a nice setup, as ever people where amazed with being able to make contacts around Europe – I think peoples perception of Amateur radio is that of huge Yagis and long wires, when they see the little loop and the SDR display with foreign voices booming from the IC705 they are interested to see it in action, I’m always happy to show the log book and talk about it.

I was able to make one more QSO from the bench and really enjoyed that, even on 5W of power the noise floor in the park was so good that I didnt need lots of power or a huge antenna to have a SSB contact. The fact that I had spotted on PoTA app meant other amateurs were looking for me helped for sure.

It was as easy to pack away as it was to setup from the bench, proving how versatile a well organised radio can be.

Heading back to the bongo I enjoyed seeing blackberrys growing and a giganttic overlflow carpark – it looked closed and judging by the meters had been for quite some time. I dare say this could be an excellent place to put a bigger mast and wire-type antenna up. I admired the view from the carpark once more before heading back to the QTH having had a really excellent time out with the radio. I will be back for sure and would like to investigate the bird reserve next time, it really is a big PoTA area to cover !

20 Unique calls today !

3 PoTA hunters
activation video

G-0202 Garston Wood RSPB Reserve – POTA – QRP – Take 2 !

Following last weeks attempt, I headed back to Garston Park to attempt activating the park again. Armed with two lots of battery packs, mains charger and the iPad with SDR-Control loaded onto it I was determined to activate the park.

Having quickly setup, I was approached by two friendly chaps asking what I was doing with the equipment I had setup. Their initial assumption was bat watching ! (Makes senses with an antenna I guess !) We had a great conversation about parks on the air and also bat watching. Its something I’ve never heard of and with this park being quite near without a lock on it, something I wouldn’t mind trying – an overnight PoTA and bat watching. I’ve looked up some equipment and the bat watching website, so I’ll be looking into that later on in the year, probably when dusk/evening comes in a bit sooner.

Bat detectors – yes they exist !

With that I setup the IC705 to the IPad and SDR-Control – have to say that this application is fantastic – other than having to adjust the connectors in the IC-705 if I want to use the radio independent of the app, its as close to getting to 0 touch to getting on the air in FT4/FT8 modes.

Having experimented with FT4 at home and also updated my version of WSJT-X on the QTH windows machine, I was amazed at the rate QSO’s are completed. For me with a QRP radio and wanting to try battery usage where possible (I don’t always operate from the Bongo) this was great. At the QTH FT4 contacts where made in rapid succession, likewise in the field, when an opening came, the FT4 contacts came flying in ! within several minutes had equalled my previous weeks telephony contact ! I then went over to FT8 to try my luck there, sure enough, the QSO started to come in. The one problem with Garston Wood is the really weak mobile phone signal – for PoTA you really want to self-spot to get that first log on the page, then more will follow, sure enough I was determined to ‘self-spot’ and was rewarded with more FT8 QSO’s.

The SDR Control app made logging and contacting as easy as it could be, I was amazed at how well thought out this application is. It can be configured to automatically log, which I tested for the first time today and confirm works wonderfully. Essentially this means you could run FT8 & FT4 completely hands free.

I exported the log from my ipad to my icloud storage, with a bit of simple ‘grep’ and redirection I had the file in the format ready to submission to the POTA Administrator.

cat alanpota.adi | grep 20220529 > 2E0FWE@G-0202-20220529.adi

I tried SSTV with the black cat app, but it wouldn’t integrate with SDR Control, so I tried the old fashioned method of picking up a microphone, but whilst I could pick up SSTV from the IC705 with my own ears, the ipad app was pretty much deaf out in the field. As I am great fan of SSTV this is the one thing the SDR Control App is missing – if a way could be found to integrate either the black-cat app into SDR Control so they can run both the same time, or SDR Control had its own native SSTV app, that would be amazing !

I tried a few more SSB contacts on 20m, but to no avail. With the weak phone coverage self-spotting was tricky and when I could self-spot it would take another ‘strong’ station to come in over the the top of me to make that frequency out of use to me. I tried 2M and although hearing some activity (always glad just to hear something!) couldn’t complete a QSO.

So today turned into all about Data, and how important to activate a park SDR Control is, being my 2nd visit, I was determined to get the 10 contacts to activate, and I wasn’t let down by the application. Being restricted in self-spotting also meant that when I could get onto the POTA website, I was consistent, and I was rewarded with a FT8 contact from K3VAT in the US.

I’ve had a fantastic time of late travelling around to various PoTA locations and this was by far the most challenging one so far, with limited mobile coverage, varying conditions and generally being a bit busy, it was great to get the 10 QSO’s needed to activate the park.

My next ‘planned’ PoTA is quite a few weeks off, and its getting further afield to find ‘unactivaetd’ parks, but I’m really excited about it, until then I’m going to be utilizing my season ticket for Upton Country Park, with lovely weather and long evenings, I can head over after work and set up for a fun evening of ‘parks on the air’ close to home.

Until then 73 and hope to catch you in the log book !

Fulll QRZ log