POTA – QRP – G-0183 – Chesil Car Park for Dorset and East Devon Coast World Heritage Site Provincial Park (Jurassic coastline)

After a while away from PoTA and a previous experimentation locally with the AlexLoop only bag, it was time for my next PoTA activation. Based on my QTH location (IO90BS) I used the POTA site to find near but inactivate sites. This is becoming harder as PoTA becomes more popular (a good thing) but its always great to go out and activate a site, as the ‘hunters’ will be on the look out for a new location.

I carefully planned my trip, starting with the day before. I relinquished my beloved IC-705 purpose built bag (LC-192) for going fully Alex-Loop ham pack native. The main drawback of this bag is the lack of padding and overall robustness compared to the alex-loop bag, but I was determined to minimise what I was taking.

everything for HF ops fitted nicely in the Alexloop bag

Not withstanding the mount itself (I used a bike repair stand) everything fitted nicely in the Alex Loop Hampack bag. This includes in the ‘accessories’ my LiFo battery to keep the IC-705 running for extended time over the internal battery, which as shown in my previous ‘test’ is only good for about 2-3 hours on 5W SSB. The observant will also notice I have my iPad in there, rather than my WinTel based laptop.

I had setup and tested SDR Control back at the QTH, so it should be no surprise that it works well out in the field. What I did notice is that (to its credit) it sets the ‘connectors’ all to WLAN in the app, thus when using the IC-705 microphone (which I currently still prefer), this needs to be set back, else no telephony contacts can be made without the iPad.

Whilst the WX (Weather) wasn’t the best to be operating outside, I got setup in the Bongo quite well, at least I was warm and dry, and the IC-705 was at no risk for rain damage (one of the main issues for SoTA, its just not that rugged compared to the KX series of radios). I set about going across the different FT8 frequency/bands. At least this would be a decent propagation test and also make some contacts. I was able to tune in 40M and get the SWR down to 2:1, which resulted in 2 FT8 contacts on 40M. For a magloop I am happy with those results and on a Data mode where the key-time is longer than that for a typical HF QSO. 17M gave excellent SWR readings and resulted in 3 DX contacts. I returned to 20M and worked a further 4 DX stations via FT8, all on 10W of power into a mag loop in pretty grim WX (rain, thunderstorms)

FT8 via pskreporter – into .JP and East Coast America on 10W

Whilst not the activation I was expecting due to the weather, being able to diversify and setup in the Bongo resulted in plenty of contacts and being able to (TBC) activate the park. I was really glad to start out on telephony contacts and people thanking me to activate the park, it really makes it worth the time and travel to enjoy PoTA.

Logged contacts

Yeovil Amateur Radio Club QRP convention

An ealy start from Bournemouth as we drove upto Sherbourne – I was rewarded with a space in the nearby car-park which was free due to broken machine !

It was a chance to test out the APRS on my Bongo and I took two fellow members from G4PRS along, it was great weather for a nice, albeit bumpy ride up ! The little whip antenna on the Bongo done a grand job of reaching multiple digipeaters to send the APRS packets onto.

It was a nice stroll from the car park to the hall, its a lovely little village and there was even nice sign-posts to the hall.

Once inside for such a small venue there was plenty to see and great people to talk to. It was great to meet so many other radio amateur enthusiasts and those around QRP as well. I registered on the SPRATS desk and got a nice copy of sprats for a 40M beacon which could be a project I build later in the year..

Whilst I didn’t go with the intention to buy anything, one stall caught my attention.. Whilst the Giant Morse Code Key and a working demo of it was great, I spotted a Fluke 8125A multimeter. This was all powered up and it had fantastic NIXIE tubes on it. Knowing the reputation of Fluke kit I knew it would be pretty good. I had a chat with the seller, to get some background, turns out he restored it from broken to operating, and what a fantastic job he done.

Now the reason for the slight delay in this video is that I haven’t yet (up to today, the 25th) actually powered on the meter at home, so today I powered it up and done some basic meter readings with it. As you can see, its a fantastic piece of test equipment and I am really looking forward to use it with my future kit builds.

Kenwood THD7 APRS & GPS (Bongo is back!)

Firstly the Mazda Bongo is back from Wales after the brakes have been repaired in Bangor ! Very grateful to Kevin at Bangor Kwik-Fit for sourcing all the parts required to get the Bongo back on the road.

Replacement caliper, disk and pads on the Mazda Bongo

When I returned home I found a package from America waiting for me, which turned out to be the connector cable between the Garmin eMAP and Kenwood TH-D7. The only place I was able to find this was an on-line shop in the USA.

Glisson Cable for THD7 and Garmin EMAP

When I contacted them they was unable to ship to the UK ! I contacted a friend in Portland who was kind enough to order it for me and send it on to me here in the UK, I was really grateful to get the ‘final’ piece of kit required to use APRS and GPS with my Kenwood TH-D7.

I setup the emap and TH-D7 to produce packets via the beacon method and setup my home computer and IC-9700 to relay APRS packets.

Whilst I have a dual-boot machine, for simple reception and digipeating I’m able to use Direwolf in Windows. I was able to ensure my APRS packets are being transmitted and received before going out and doing a field test.

Windows APRS Setup

I headed out with the Mazda Bongo on a trip to one of our local farm shops and then to Poole harbour which made a nice way to spend a trip out and combine with some real data creation.

Trip to Farm Shop and Poole Harbour

On return to home I was able to look at APRS.FI and see my route had been nicely recorded and received via various Digipeaters around the IO90BS area. I was quite suprised that the coverage was as good as it was giving the hilly nature of the route and small low-powered 2m/70cm antenna on the side of the Bongo.

GPS Data in APRS received by M0VPN-1

Clicking on anyone of the data points will show all the data received and relayed, and from where. In this case we can see I was doing 22MPH on a heading of 101, this was received by M0VPN-1 whereby it was then put into APRS.FI website.

Conclusion

Whilst it took some time to get all the components I needed to get GPS and APRS working with my older Kenwood TH-D7, it has been well worth the wait. I can now setup position reporting and include useful messages, this will be in particular use when en-route to amateur radio activities (weekly club, conventions, POTA activations) and to send messages to other APRS users.

I would recommend that if you are looking to get more from your 2m/70cm experience and have the budget invest in a radio that has GPS & APRS, it may not seem obvious as to why it could be useful to start with, but certainly could be something you may well find yourself using when you have it.

2E0FWE APRS & GPS

QRP – POTA – G-0211 – Upton Heath

With the weather being so lovely and time allowing day time operation, I headed out to Upton Heath – this is just opposite Upton Park but separated by the busy A35. Although once in either, you wouldn’t notice that it is there !

Upton Heath (G-0211) and Upton Country Park (G-0443)

I brought my wagon along to help transport the radio and accessories from the car to the heathland, with just a short walk to find a good bench to operate from it was no problem at all.

I was able to be on the air quickly with the excellent Alex Loop ham-pack antenna, I used a bungee to attach it to a direction post as my bike stand is still in the back of the bongo in North Wales, but the bungee was excellent to use and changing frequency across the 20M band was very easy to get low S.W.R. across the operating frequencies.

I wanted to get better at Telephony contacts so started with Phone on 14.241 and used the PoTA App to self-spot, within minutes I was trying to manage a pile up ! I was getting so many call signs at once, it was hard to distinguish them and get back, thankfully I got most, but some I couldn’t complete, but that’s what experience and patience will teach me ! I managed 6 Phone contacts, whilst I appreciate all of them, it was great to get a fantastic signal report from K1RO in New Hampshire ! I was so glad to have a break and a drink of water with me.

I then moved onto FT8 and completed enough QSO’s to active the park, with reports coming in from all over Europe.

FT8 – 20m

Whilst I had been operating for just over an hour, I wanted to give SSTV a try, my previous attempt was thwarted by a very busy 20m band, but today I was able to get thru a fantastic signal from HA1AD

With my water supply fast running out and time getting on, i packed up having had a fantastic time at Upton Heath. It is definitely a park I will come to again, its nearby, really accessible and lovely location to work from.

Youtube – QRP POTA Upton Heath

Bongo Broke and Sudden Local PoTA

So I planned my trip to Wales carefully, ensure that I had packed all that I needed for my weekend in Wales. I booked a campsite, only to find when I got there they don’t open the main gates until 8AM, so that would mean being late for lectures ! Instead I stayed at the lovely Bangor Business School Hotel – not as cheap as camping, but very much getting me there on time and a good nights sleep.

Sadly on the way up the Bongo’s breaks made the awful noise of metal on metal, so on Thursday I booked it in for a Saturday ‘break check’ – low and behold, new disc, pads and caliper required ! With that my planned PoTA activation for Snowden was off, and I headed back to Bournemouth via Train whilst my Bongo is repaired in Bangor.

I unloaded my radio, alexloop and computer along with my suitcase from the Bongo, a total of 4 bags. The train required no less than 3 changes and the underground – but in all this travelling the alexloop and Icom bags really proved how good they are. The Alex loop is incredibly light and was easy to carry, whilst the IC705 and the radials was slightly more weighty, choosing to carry that one on my back it was easy to carry around. My other bag continued 2*Battery so weighed a fair bit, but wasn’t to bad.

It took about 9 hours to get from Bangor back to the QTH in Bournemouth, but I had done it ! Only thing which I had ‘lost’ is the antenna of the THD7, on the scale of things, I wasnt going to complain ! (it must of slipped out the bag at some point)

With that doing PoTA from the Bongo is on hold until I get it back, hopefully this week if the caliper arrives in time ! (which means a return train trip to Bangor, luckly I love trains 🙂

POTA 22/3/22 – Upton Park

The weather in Bournemouth is being fantastic, not wanting to bury myself in over 40 research papers the whole day, decided to go out and do a local activation at Upton Park – I have been there to visit before, but not for PoTA. As it was so nice, I really wanted my XYL Monica to come along as well, as there is plenty of facilities there, i.e. tea/coffee/light snacks and decent clean toilets, all within a short walking distance from the car park.

xk8 – faster than the bongo, but not quite so good for radio within it !

With the Bongo still being in Bangor, the XK8 is getting plenty of action, whilst I cant easily operate, it got all that I needed and XYL to Upton Park without problem.

To activate a park, you only need to be within the boundary, and as the tea room is within the boundary of the park, was a perfect place to setup. There was some curiosity as to what I was doing, but no problems with putting my alex-loop in the table and then running my laptop into the IC705, we bought some nice tea and cake, plus a bottle of water as the temperature was really getting up at midday !

Even with the antenna in a compromised location, I was getting out just fine on both 17m and 20m.

PSK Reporter report from Upton Park

As soon as I self-spotted on the PoTA app, i was getting more calls, amazingly 2 from the USA ! Albeit FT8, it was really satisfying to get so many DX contacts on 10W.

For the first 30 minutes, the contacts came in very quickly, but after 12:30 there was a real slow down – i said to XYL Monica that if it was only 2-3 contacts made, I would of come back the next day (you can do activations over multiple days) but I was on 9 and need just one more ! I tuned to 20M and sure enough made my last contact there quite quickly once I had re-tuned the alex loop and found a clear part of the FT8 bandwidth to operate in.

With the 10 contacts made which are required for a park activation, I packed up and we headed out for a lovely drive around the Dorset countryside. At home I processed my manual log thru the excellent Excel spreadsheet to produce the ADIF file and sent that off to the regional POTA administrator, hopefully my results will be processed in the next day or two..

POTA G-0443 Activation contacts

QRP POTA – G-0258 Martin Down

Having originally planned to go out PoTA the week before and found that the IC-705 had developed a fault with its SQL/RF/AF Gain knob, that had to be repaired, was fixed and turned around very quickly by Icom UK !

After Sales Service is important

So I lost a weekend of PoTA activation, I did make good use of the time tidying my Mazda Bongo up and enjoying time out with it still around the gorgeous Dorset/Hampshire countryside.

Having got the IC-705 back in re-instated my visit to Martin Down. Having not been there I thoroughly enjoyed this excellent video on Martin Down and more, which gave me enough information about the location without having to visit there.

Lovely video about Martin

I put my planned action on the PoTA website and headed out on the 12th of March, it was a lovely drive up and the location was fantastic. I set about setting up my IC-705 and Alexloop Hampack antenna. When I went to transmit via WSJTX on FT8, the radio and transceiver kept disconnecting ! I went back and checked over the basics, but couldn’t find anything out in the field as to what the issue was. Having not packed an external table/chair and feeling a little despondent headed back home.,

Portable Problems !

After having a nice afternoon out with XYL Monica, I got the 705 and out the bag and started working through the problems I had encountered. In the video above you’ll see how i switch out the antenna, computer and cables finally identifying the issue with the Alex Loop antenna.

Alex loop antenna ‘fix’

Upon closer inspection I was able to find that there was a considerable ‘cut’ in the coax, wether this all three (outer, braid and feeder) hitting each other wasn’t clear, but restoring the shielding by way of some strong tape and its proximity to the inner loop resulted in the transmit issues being resolved

I re-registered my planned activation on the PoTA Website for the 13th and headed back out, full of determination not only to make FT8 contacts, but also SSTV and Telephony.

Come the 13th I headed out early to ensure I got a space suitable for my Bongo where I could park in a good position to the antenna, this was easily setup and getting on everything in position is becoming very routine now. Operating from the Bongo in cold/not warm conditions is really brilliant, and means I don’t need to carry tents,etc to do an activation and keep warm/risk my IC-705 getting damaged by rain/weather,etc.

Once setup the issue with the radio disconnecting happened again ! This time knowing where to look I reapplied the ‘fix’ in the field, and was back on the air in no time. I achieved the 10 QSO on FT8 to activate the park in just over 1 hour and 10 minutes, they ranged around to the world to right here in England. I was very satisfied with how the 705 and the magloop antenna was performing.

FT8 RX/TX Report via PSK Reporter

Using the PoTA app from my phone I could see numerous people re-spotting me which undoubtedly helped in the succession of FT8 qsos.

Having gotten the 10 QSO’s needed to activate the park, I then turned my attention to SSTV on 20m (14.230) – reception was amazing, I got the IC-705 and Magloop tuned in no problem, another technique I have ‘developed’ since going portable of tuning the antenna to the frequency to get the best S.W.R and signal output (where as at home I use multi band verticals and Endfeds). I tried for an hour to have a QSO, but sadly I couldn’t make a contact this time, but did receive some great pictures. For the full gallery of RX, see here

Upon arrival at home I did receive a very nice email that my SSTV picture had been picked up my a KiwiSDR in Germany ! ( Thank you Tommy/ LB6DI )

CQ POTA BW Mode on 10W

After an hour of SSTV I turned to Telephony – I’m not the most confident HF Telephony person, but doing PoTA gives me a real opportunity to improve my HF QSO style. I do find that that with PoTA people do tend to do the ‘rubber stamp’ contest style of QSO, but are nevertheless very enthusiastic to make the contact and really patient in getting call signs out to ‘activators’ (operators in the park).

In the end I managed 6 Telephony contacts all over the globe with a good mixture of reports, I was really really excited to do so well with such relative low power and portable.

2E0FWE – QRP – POTA Martin Down National Park

Once home I had the challenge of getting the log book fully into ADIF format. This is the one thing that some non-technical people may find a challenge, but I have been able to find this excellent page on how to create a mixed log using Excel (on Windows). I was able to complete the spreadsheet and run the macro to produce the ADIF file for submission to PoTA Administrators easily, so now I just need to wait for the file to be processed for my activation to be complete !

I can say that operating mobile and doing PoTA is by far the best part of amateur radio for me now, it is incredibly satisfying to go out with such lower power and in lovely locations to operate from.

POTA log book uploaded into QRZ

QRP POTA G-0157 Holt Heath

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.

Wind speed measured at QTH with Storm Eunice on the 18th

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.

FT8 transmitted by Alex Loop being well received on 30M

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…

QRP Bongo Pota G-0157

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!

CU3BL & CU3HJY ‘hunters’ from Azores !

PoTA Prep – Holt Heath G-0157

With the weather arriving as predicted, a productive day was had in the shack tidying away whilst the rain poured down on Bournemouth.

It has been a wet day as forecast

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).

G-0079 confirmed activated by 2E0FWE on 12/2/2022

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.

Bongo parking location

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.

QRP POTA Bongo G-0079 12th Feb 22

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.

Weather at QTH and around IO90

The park being activated today was G-0079 New Forest – Kingston Great Common National Nature Reserve. Another nice close park and after researching found a nice place to park up to operate from the Bongo.

Research position to operate from within the park boundary

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

SSTV on 2M received back home from G-0079

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…

POTA G-0079 12Feb22 QRP Bongo

PoTA – 1st Activation (G-0362) !

1st Activation !

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.

N3FJP ACLog for POTA Activators

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.