What comes up must come down

by vk3arr

After last weekend’s efforts, this weekend was bound to be a disappointment.  In more ways than one.  The end of the tennis season frees up Saturdays for SOTA chasing, but this time work intervened, hosting a Saturday meeting that threw everything out.  Being last to present at this meeting, I had no concept of when I had to join, so the family got out early to complete some chores, meaning I missed the UTC rollover.  I could only look on in horror at SotaWatch to see all the points go begging. 

I got the text message to join my meeting right about the time the next cycle of activations opened up. In the end, I managed only one chase for all of Saturday, VK3XPT on Mount Donna Buang. I had been fiddling with my SWR meter to construct a 2m Slim Jim, and in my haste to chase, put everything back together wrong. By the time I’d worked out what I’d done wrong, I’d earnt a 42 signal report. Putting the cables round the right way made other signals come in nice and strong, but by then, the SOTA crowd had dispersed.

Sunday too was almost a bust. I have a semi-regular gig playing piano at my church, and that pushed me to miss the morning rush. I heard VK1FB activating Mt Ginini, but had no chance to bust the pileup before I had to go. Of course, given the choice, and given some of the personalities involved, I might have preferred to stay at home. What Would Jesus Do? He’d play SOTA, dammit! (The sermon on the mount was clearly the first activation of a summit recorded, although Moses had tried earlier, but only managed one QSO, and even Mohammed, a few years later, went to the mountain)

I managed to work Tony VK3CAT on VK3/VN-003 with 5W, with a signal report of 44. He was a strong 57 signal, but I’m not entirely sure we completed the QSO to SOTA standards. His response to my signal report was wiped out by local QRM (again), and he was working others by the time it cleared. I’ll claim it, but delete it if I don’t see myself in Tony’s logs.

The lessons out of this weekend’s chasing were all equipment based:

  • Set things up properly and don’t rush. The QSO was completed, but once I saw what I’d done, I felt a complete knob. It’s lucky I’m a beginner and can use beginner’s mistake as an excuse.
  • Clearly something is not entirely right with my antenna set up, so if anyone has an analyser they’d like to lend me for a bit, it’d be much appreciated! 🙂 I suspect I just have to trim a bit here and there to get the SWR down to a nice level. I do have plans to put up a hexbeam, in which case I’ll rip out the OCF and put a proper half-wave dipole for 40m from that mast.
  • Switch-mode power supplies are the Devil’s own QRM source. Some holy water, an exorcism and perhaps a battery or a linear PS setup are probably in order. There is the possibility it’s outside my shack, but let’s blame myself first before seeking to blame others.

Of course, there are a number of big-point summits being activated this week. Normally, I’m all up for a weekday chase, but I’ll be in America for work, back Saturday morning. I will listen out for contacts on Saturday afternoon and Sunday to keep building the score. The sudden rush of Shack Sloths in VK3 is inspiring. Congratulations Marshall (VK3MRG), Rhett (VK3GHZ) and Peter (VK3FPSR).

I have also been playing a bit with Google Translate, and “Loquor populus montuosis” (I speak to people on the mountains) seems to be the best Latin motto I can find. I’m not going to change my blog title though – I like the “people of the mountains” vibe in the other one. Like Activators are one with the mountain or something.