VK3ARR's SOTA Blog

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SOTA Dinner and the start of busy weekends

On Tuesday I made the trek down to Oakleigh for the VK3 SOTA dinner. I had a great time putting faces to names (and callsigns). It was great to meet Andrew VK1NAM too, who was in Victoria courtesy of a family occasion. I also had a good long chat with Allen VK3HRA, who, thanks to the incestuous nature of the IT industry, knew a lot of people I knew: we were already second-order friends.

Andrew worked a number of summits during the week, but I had a bit of a complaint in that he always activated a bit late. I was never able to work my schedule in the early part of the week to catch him. He took the complaint in the good-natured fashion it was intended (I hope 🙂 ). This past week has been a very windy one and frankly, I don’t blame him for starting a bit later. In addition, some of the summits were harder to get to with trees down and roads in less-than-normal condition.

On Friday, I was repairing a bit of storm damage myself before heading into work when by chance I heard Andrew’s voice coming out of my 2m handheld calling CQ from Mt Disappointment (named by Hume and Hovell for their wives, I believe). He was just jumping above the squelch with the 1/8 wave default antenna, but I was still surprised at how clear he was coming. I rushed around to grab my 2m slim jim antenna, and threw it up the apple tree in the backyard. I put a call out to him and he answered; I was third in the log. My report was low, a 51, probably as much due to the ‘poor man’s’ 5W output on the Baofeng UV-5R (closer to 3W apparently), but Andrew’s voice was booming in. I looked at the S-meter, and called the 59, much to Andrew’s surprise. It was later I realised the S-meter is boolean, so it was probably a little lower than that in practice, but, technically, according the meter, it was full-strength S9.

I am now about to head into the busy part of the year, with the tennis season starting up again taking most of Saturday afternoons, and a bit of travel for work too, so my chasing will slow down. I had hoped to get a good score out of the weekend to set me up, but I really didn’t have much of a chance, compared to what was on offer.

My first attempt at a contact was with Ray, VK3YAR on VN-016. We exchanged signal reports, Ray was a 41, I was 51, but he couldn’t make out my reply, so I never received a QSL for it. I notice Ray has it in his log on SotaWatch, but I don’t feel comfortable claiming it myself as a chaser. It wasn’t necessary for him to qualify the summit, so I don’t feel obliged to claim it either.

I heard Perrin VK3XPT at 4 and 1, but couldn’t work him in the short time available, and VK2BQ never came out of the noise enough to be able to be worked. 0 from 3 for Saturday. An illustrious start.

Sunday was the VK5 SOTA anniversary, so I was much more confident of finding people about. I had a commitment from 9:30 local through to about midday though, which might have got in the way, and the wife had plans to head down to Barwon Heads to keep the kids amused on the last day of the holidays. I worked Ian VK5CZ on VK5/SE-012. Ian was very clear, I heard him at 5 and 7, and my signal made it through at 5 and 2. I also worked Andrew again on Mt Strathbogie (VK3/VE-132) before my first commitment, but missed Al VK1RX due to running out of time.

Around lunch, I contacted the Trev-n-Kev expedition (VK3ATB and VK3KAB) on VE-067. Good signals all around, 57 from me and 58 from them, although I did put my foot in it a little by remembering that Kevin was at the SOTA dinner, but not Trevor. My apologies Trevor!

In continuing with the VK5 party, I worked Col VK5HCF on Mt Burr VK5/SE-019. He was clear at 52, but my signal was a little unreadable at 33. Col needs a medal for the time he spent on top of Mt Burr. The number of times I scanned the dial after a period of inactivity to find him still calling CQ from the top was incredible. He must have been up there for hours, waiting for S2S and chaser contacts.

The next successful chase was with Marshall VK3MRG on VK3/VE-082. Marshall made me feel better about forgetting Trevor by completely forgetting my name, despite us spending quite some time talking about his and Allen’s activation plans at the SOTA dinner, and despite Andrew being one of the most common names in VK SOTA. His embarrassed reply was a 55 to my 53, but I clearly wasn’t in any position to take offence 🙂

I heard VK1MA on VK2/ST-003 as well, but with a lot of QSB and he continued to disappear into the noise. With no idea of when he was transmitting or not, I didn’t dare try to make contact. I also missed Paul VK5PAS on 20m. I could hear a VK4 station working him, but I was clearly in the skip zone for 20m and heard nothing of Paul.

I missed a few of the other activations in the interim, watching my kids splash around at Barwon Heads instead. I deliberately turned off data on my phone to avoid the distraction.

The final contact for the day was the other side of the Trev-n-Kev expedition, Kevin VK3KAB on Federation Range VK3/VN-003. Again, strong reports from the guys, 55 for my signal to them, and 57 from them. Whatever they use for equipment works. They were very strong all day.

All up, I chased 33 points for the weekend, all of them at QRP levels. This was about a normal weekend for me when I started a few months back, so I will be travelling at that level for the next few months until the summer holidays come upon us. I will probably take most of January off for work, so if anyone is planning weekday activations, slot them in there 😉

Lessons learnt:

  • Family is more important than SOTA. Turn off the phone and enjoy the time. (I knew that already, but worth reiterating)

Chasing of multiple varieties

The family trip up to Goulburn was a bust, the Spare Child deciding to contract some form of viral gastro and using up the Qantas spew bags and a few cups from McDonalds drafted into action. We made it, but spent most of the time wondering when the next spewplosion was coming. We made the trip back through Beechworth to break up the journey, and it sounds like I just missed Andrew VK1NAM at the Beechworth Bakery.

We arrived home Saturday afternoon, tired and needing a new holiday. Hawthorn, too, had won the Grand Final, which meant I felt the need to keep the news off for the evening, until the painful image of Hawks supporters being happy cleared the screen.

The next day, we had a bunch of things to do in the morning to restock and replenish after our week away. I managed to hear Andrew VK1NAM portable in Victoria at 5 and 7, but had to run before I could manage to work him. This started a bit of a frustrating period. I heard VK2WU on Feathertop VK3/VE-002, but he was stuck in the snow and only activated for a brief time. My QRP signal was drowned out by other chasers, and he packed up before I got a chance to work him.

The second chasing frustration was in the form of our chickens, who had managed to work out a way to get out of their run and were taking every chance possible. I spent a large portion of the afternoon chasing chickens rather than SOTA, trying to save the vegie gardens in the back.

wpid-20130929_174700.jpgChickens where they should be

After a chicken catching exercise, I worked Allen VK3HRA on VT-026 with a 54 signal to go with his 53, and then Glenn VK3YY on VT-006. We exchanged 52s, but the local QRM was back and getting in the way. I also worked Peter VK3PF on VT-046 for a 57 signal from me and a 56 from him. This was clearly a better signal than Peter and I normally exchange, so something good was up.

I missed Ian VK1DI. I could hear him at 41 but with QSB and a wood oven to fire up, I lacked the patience to try to work him. I was trying to get a lot of heat into the oven so we could cook a lamb roast. It worked and it was great.

wpid-20130929_142254.jpgFire!

After the fire was going, I managed to work Andrew VK1NAM/3 on VC-009, exchanging a 53 from him, and a 51 sent by me. The QRM was still around, but we managed to complete the contact.

I heard Marshall on VT-010 at 41, and Andrew VK1DA 5 and 3, but couldn’t chase them because of the chickens. After 30 minutes of chasing them, I wondered if roast chicken were a better option for the evening meal.

Later in the afternoon, I worked Andrew VK1NAM/3 again, now on VC-011. He had a much stronger signal, 5 and 7, and I had managed to double the strength to a 5 and 2. My reports were still down, but the main thing was I was in the log. Despite that, I was wondering if I had something wrong my end.

I think it turned out to be band conditions with the skip zone on 40m extending out a bit. I worked Allen on Mt Dandenong for a 33 signal from me, and Brian on Flinders Peak for a 45 signal. Flinders Peak is very close to me, and Mt Dandenong would be less than 100km line of sight. I suspect both of these contacts were ground wave, because after that I worked Ian VK1DI with 57s both ways no problem on VK2/ST-034, a distance of around 600km, so 40m was still working somewhat, just not locally.

Lessons learnt for this week:

  • Chickens are the antichrist
  • Spewing children aren’t much better