A Good Friday activation
On Friday afternoon, Good Friday, VK5PAS, and I, visited Scott Creek Conservation Park for a joint activation. In addition to the usual HF station we wished to add to the number of bands used by adding some VHF and UHF capability. But more on that later.
I have activated this park many times and have qualified the park for the WWFF program. Here is a link to my last activation:
Our objectives were:
First, to field test a Spiderbeam asymmetrical dipole designed to work on five HF bands. This antenna is quite impressive and well-made, but like most, if not all, Off Centre Fed (OCF) antennas, presents a higher than desirable VSWR on some of the bands. Paul, who is the reviewer, will say more about this. If you use 100 watts and want an excellent antenna for camping, are prepared to use a coupler (antenna tuner) on occasions, this antenna is worthy of consideration.
Second, to conduct an HF activation. This task mainly fell to Paul (VK5PAS), who operated on the 40, 20 and 15 metre bands.
Finally, to try and sample antennas for six metres (a dipole), two metres, a Cushcraft three element beam and a six element log periodic style antenna (made by ATN antennas) for 70 centimetres. I did not bring any 23 cm gear and nor did I operate on six metres and 70 centimetres. I will in the future. The beam antennas are supported by a three piece aluminium mast which is guyed. This mast can be erected by one person but it easier with two! Thanks to Paul for driving the tent pegs into the ground while I held the mast. I use good quality semi-rigid coax fitted with N connectors for VHF and UHF. The antenna is rotated by the armstong method and an orienteering compass provides the bearings. My radio for this activation was a Yaesu 897 operating at 20 watts. Two LiFePO4 batteries were used: of 4.200 and 8.400 amp hours capacity.
This photo, courtesy of Paul, VK5PAS, shows my operating position, about 20 metres from where Paul’s station was located.
The weather was good, warm with the temperature in the low twenties, sunny and with just a gentle breeze.
This photo, also from Paul, VK5PAS, shows my two metre antenna, a simple three element beam fed with quality semi-rigid coaxial cable (unfortunately the identification markings have rubbed off with lots of use).
The final picture, also courtesy of Paul, is a close up of the beam showing the gamma match.
After field testing the OCF dipole I set up my two-metre station at 05:25z. I checked the Mount Gambier beacon, VK5RSE, on 144.550, at Mount Graham. This beacon is listed in the Wireless Institute of Australia call-book as having 25 watts transmit output. The beacon was showing 5 and 2 on my FT897 and climbed to 5 and 5 on the peak of the QSB cycle. The QSB cycles were even and thus predictable. At this point my confidence soared. The Mount Lofty beacon, VK5VF, 144.450, about ten kilometres from our operating location (as the wedge-tailed eagle flies) was really loud! I placed a post on Parksnpeaks and hoped for the best. I called on 144.110 for a few times without success, so I soon moved to the calling frequency of 144.100.
05:42 VK5KC, David, 5 and 9, both ways
05:44 VK5AKK, Phil, 5 and 9, both ways
05:54 VK5MC, Chris at Millicent in South Eastern South Australia 5 and 4 and 5 and 5
05:57 VK5GY, Gordon, operating at Bullock Hill Conservation Park, 5 and 5 both ways. Gordon was holding his beam in one hand! Gordon told me he is celebrating 40 years of being an amateur (in the UK and Australia) so I shared my 40 year story with Gordon and gave him a second call (06:01) as VK5PF, 5 and 5 both ways.
Paul told me there were operators on 40 metres who wished to contact me – so we swapped stations.
So on 7.150 I had the following contacts:
06:06 VK5FMID, Brian, 5 and 9 both ways
06:08 VK2IO, Gerard 5 and 7, 5 and 4
06:08 VK4AAC/P3, Rob 5 and 9 and 4 and 7. Rob was in a noisy caravan park.
06:11 VK5KHZ, Hans, 5 and 9 both ways
06:13 VK3ZMD, Mike 5 and 8, 5 and 7
06:17 VK5FANA, Adrian 5 and 9 both ways
06:18 VK4FW, Bill near Kingaroy, 5 and 9, 5 and 4
06:19 VK3CDR, Chris 5 and 9 both ways
06:22 VK4GSF, George, Toowoomba, 5 and 9 both ways
06:23 VK3GWS/P, Grant at Beechworth 5 and 9 both ways
While I was working away on 40 metres I could hear Paul on two metres. We decided to swap radios when it went a bit quiet on 40 metres. I called CQ on 144.100.
06:36 VK5DK, 144.100, Col at Mount Gambier, 5 and 9, 5 and 8. I was delighted: a good haul on two metres with a modest station – 20 watts and a three element beam! Col, of course, has a great set up on two metres and most other higher bands.
06:40 VK5NC, Trevor at Mount Gambier, 5 and 3, 5 and 4
06:46 VK3LY, Bill from Nhill, 5 and 3, 5 and 1
I called a few more times and then decided I should set up on 146.500 FM. VK5FANA, Adrian, advised he would travel to the top of a nearby hill and give me a call. Unfortunately we did not make a contact. I suspect we could have made it but our efforts did not correspond in time.
Later using Paul’s hand-held radio I had contacts with:
07:20 VK5PET, Peter, Mark Oliphant Conservation Park, 5 and 9 both ways
07:21 Rick, VK5FGFK (and a second contact from me, VK5PF), Mark Oliphant Conservation Park, 5 and 9 both ways
and later, 07:40, with David, VK5KC on 52.200 ssb, 5 and 3 both ways. Twenty two contacts on three bands: 10 on 40m; 11 on two metres and one on six metres was my total for the day and 11 contacts on two metres were very satisfying.
Here is a link to Paul’s, VK5PAS, YouTube channel which captures some of the fun and excitement of this style of portable activation. Thanks to all of the operators who gave us a call.
Hi John, well done with the 2m contacts. I was listening and calling on 144.100, but no joy. The Mt Lofty beacon wasn’t there during the day, although it was earlier in the morning. I also checked the Hepburn chart and some tropo inside vk5, but not past the vk3 border. I let some other keen 2m operators know as well over here, but they couldn’t hear you either.
Anyway, well done again, and hopefully next time I may get a 2m contact with you.
Hi Mick, thank you for calling on 144.100. I really appreciate it, but I did not know that you did until I saw Paul’s video and his contact with you on 40m. I reckon we will make it on 2m one day. I must say I was delighted to get Bill from Nhill and the two contacts into Mount Gambier and also one to Millicent. Scott Creek, at the location where Paul and I were set up, has quite good elevation and good take off to the South East and South.
John Dawes VK5BJE/VK5PF
A great write up of our afternoon out. This was a really fun activation John. We’ll have to try for some more 2m action earlier in the day.
I thoroughly enjoyed myself and it was a great day. The contacts on two metres were the multi-layered icing on the cake or should I say, Sticky Date Pudding? I reckon we could try a couple of other locations: and earlier in the day might help a bit. It is amazing that Bill (VK3LY) heard me but the signal report from Bill was 5 and 1, suggesting there was not enough in the Bank to help Mick (VK3PMG).
Easter has been pretty good. I saw a few birds an occasional kangaroo even a wedge-tailed eagle but no Easter Bunnies!
Will keep in touch of course and I’d certainly be up for some more 2m activations.
Hi John, great write up and good to read about Park activations on 2m and 6m! Wow 6m park activations well done. Just a comment on the 2m Yagi, you may find the antenna is easier to mount and rotate if the support mast is close to the boom mid point. Of course the support mast should be clear of the feed point. You could experiment with a short length of plastic pipe at the top of the support mast? Anyway it’s terrific to read about park activators experimenting with antennas and working bands other than the same old but often reliable 40m.
I was hoping to stir up a bit of interest in 2m ssb and I reckon we might have another park/sota day later in the year. I have been doing a bit of work looking for high points in the Adelaide Hills (in Parks). We have only two summits Mt Lofty and Mt Crawford close to Adelaide and we could get people on those at the same time leading to a great day. There are probably half a dozen high points in local parks.
Thanks for your comments.