Unusually for a bank-holiday (National holiday / day off work) the weather was quite nice, I had already planned my trip to my nearest PoTA park, namely G-0362 Avon Heath, and headed out. I wanted to take a minimal setup to see how I would do !
QRP & Minimal Portable Setup
Alex Loop Hampack antenna
Trolly for bags
I didn’t bring an external battery or even a chair to sit on, opting to just use the bench/seat at the location I was familiar with at Avon Heath. I was interested to see if I could make any contacts and for how long on only 5W and the Internal IC-705 battery. This made getting setup and on-air really easy, using a bungee to attach the loop antenna to the seat.
I’m now starting to start-with telephony QSO’s over FT8 to get started, as such I started out on 20M as this band has plenty of activity and easy to slighty tune the Alexloop between FT8, SSTV and the Phone section of the band.
I was quickly rewarded with QSO’s into Italy and Spain, with my furthest QSO being with EA4GJP with an amazing 860 miles ! Using the MPW calculator I was getting 172 miles per watt for a 595 QSO !
Once re-spotted on the PoTA app I had a flurry of QSOs into Spain – I was rapidly getting used to telephony contacts and logging with pen and paper !
I turned my hand to FT8 but faced computer difficulties again and not having a table/chair didn’t fancy fiddling about with a cable/computer on a bench, reverted to Telephony on 20M again. I did go searching for other PoTA activations, but no chance of a park-to-park today.
With around 2 hours of operating on 5W the battery on the IC705 was almost entirely drained, but with a good set of contacts I felt happy to pack up and head home, whilst I didn’t get 10 this time out, i was glad to see just how good the IC705 and Alexloop antenna is, making it a viable QRP setup which can be easily setup and transported.
I did learn that having a battery will not only extend the life of my operation, as to be expected, but I can operate with only 5W on SSB outside the noise of QTH, which makes doing PoTA all the worth while. My next planned activation is in a very exciting/interesting place and am really looking forward to that !
Being up and about in the small hours in the UK I was tuned into 20M SSTV frequency of 14.230, thinking just to let it monitor and pull in the overnight SSTV pics only to find a clear as a bell TX start from W2PTH.
For those who are new to SSTV, W2PTH has been doing SSTV for quite some time, his QRZ Page states 1976 ! Those familiar with SSTV would be familiar with the call sign and the ‘Cherry hill’ location appearing in his pictures.
Having heard the call, I thought to give it a try – I’ve never had much luck in reaching the states being limited to 50W but the signals where coming in exceptionally clear tonight, so thought to give it a try!
As you can see the stream of pictures came in just wonderfully and I was really happy to have W2PTH in my log book with my first DX contact into the USA.
As can be seen from the picture received just minutes later, the conditions had changed. It was fantastic to have such a great SSTV QSO with a great operator!
Equipment Used :- IC7300 50W power, Multi-band End Fed Antenna, MMSSTV on Windows 10 with KE5RS FTP Widget for uploads
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.
So its been a busy couple of weeks with much non-radio stuff going on taking up a fair bit of my time. I did get to enjoy going along the south coast, but no time/equipment with me to do any radio this time out, but nether the less I had a great time.
Whilst radio activities have been minimal, mostly the weekly G4PRS net on 2M and FT8/WSPR on HF, I did give a presentation about “Parks on the Air” to the G4PRS club. This was also shared over Zoom for those unable to attend in person.
This went down pretty well by all accounts, I got plenty of positive feedback the next day which was good to see, but I could see that 2 years of lock down had effected my presentation skills for sure, nethertheless it was a good way to get people into PoTA.
With the longer days I’m sure to do more nearby activations soon, it makes a break from studying/reading. I did have some interesting FT8 contacts on 10M recently.
I hope I can get in some more PoTA before the end of April and am looking forward to the increased propagation conditions.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 !
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.
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.
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.
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.
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..
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 !
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.
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.,
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.
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.
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 )
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.
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.
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.