VK3ARR's SOTA Blog

Ego loqui ad viros super montes

Month: April, 2015

W4C/EM-058 Redux and Rich in Raleigh

After my last effort at W4C/EM-058, it was time to tackle the beast again, and a rest day in Raleigh, NC meant I could grab a car, go for a drive, and slay the dragon.

I left Raleigh at a sensible time, largely due to the lack of the usual drink-induced post-work-meeting stupor. This was because the meetings hadn’t started yet. I had checked out the weather and was a little worried: scattered thunderstorms, leading to thunderstorms in the evening. I left Raleigh in sunshine, and apart from a heavy shower I passed through, the activation was in sunshine.

Equipment used was my FT-857D, 4.2Ah LiFePO into the Buddistick vertical. I set up on the Overlook side, using one of the signs as a stand for the vertical. As I set up, I noticed my SWR meter had been shaken out of calibration due most likely to baggage handlers, so I was flying blind in terms of tuning the vertical. I got it roughly right, and compensated with power. I had plenty of forward power and some reflected, so the SWR was probably in the 2:1 area.

Contacts on 40m were slow, but I qualified the summit working first WX4ET, then NE4TN, KK4QML and finally Dow W4DOW, who has been looking for VK contacts. Final contact on 40m was Rich N4EX.

I then switched to 20m, got 4 more contacts, 2 in Florida and 1 to Oregon (NS7P) and 1 to New Jersey (KQ2RP), before I tried 15, 17m and 10m. I made no contacts there, and with my stomach wanting food, I decided to head back to Raleigh.

The view

The view

The view

The view

Later that week, I managed to catch up face to face with Rich N4EX. Rich and I had worked each other on 10m on April 1, and on 40m earlier in the week. We had an eyeball QSO, with Rich giving me the QSL card for our NA contact. Unfortunately, I had left mine at home, but we chatted for a good couple of hours about SOTA and all the many and varied things currently happening in this space.

All up, a great week in Raleigh, and now I get to head back home. I will be QRV in HL in a few weeks time.

Rich N4EX and Andrew VK3ARR

Rich N4EX and Andrew VK3ARR

Rich's QSL card

Rich’s QSL card

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VK3/VC-018 Buninyong, Andrews’ Modulation and NA from a summit

For some strange reason, my place of employment considers me suitably responsible for maintaining the health of the rest of the workforce. As designated First Aid Officer, I’m required to counteract the sudden yet inevitable effects that a diet of donuts, fried chicken and caffeinated, carbonated beverages has on your average IT worker. More than a few of my colleagues wonder if indeed I would save their lives in that situation; I prefer to let them worry, and in the meantime pander to my needs in an attempt to curry favour should a sudden cardiac event grace their no-longer-svelte body while on my watch.

In any case, once a year I have to review the process of bringing them back from the dead. A day out of the office filled with borderline inappropriate actions on various plastic dummies in the name of workplace safety. The plus side of that? A slightly later start, which meant I could fill the time with a quick activation of Mt Buninyong to join in the April 1st AM activation day (not quite) called by Andrew VK1DA. Andrew VK1NAM was also going to be out in the evening, making it a day for us to use Andrews’ Modulation.

I got up earlier than usual, packed the gear in the car, and headed up the road, filling up with petrol first. There is something about me and Buninyong that seems to involve low quantities of fuel, so I decided to skip the excitement of riding the fuel light home this year. I arrived a few minutes prior to 0830, set up the linked dipole and scanned for a free frequency.

I’d decided to operate up a bit higher on 40m to avoid the Hip Replacement Nets that seem to occupy 40m during the weekday, and discovered 40m was open to South Africa, although the operator there was working a pileup. I ended up on 7.180kHz, almost unheard of for a SOTA activation in VK, turned the radio to AM, power to 20W and put out a call.

I can understand why we don’t use AM now – the battery rapidly started to decrease in capacity as I wasted time sending a carrier. I dialled the power back to 5W to try keep things nice, and after a while, Ian VK1DI came back with a great 59 signal. After about 10 minutes, John VK2YW came up across almost 500km. I intended to only work another few minutes on AM to give those waiting on SSB a chance before heading up to 10m, but I picked up Ian VK7IF at the mouth of the Derwent River who heard my CQ and came back and suddenly I felt I needed to qualify the summit on AM. One more needed.

I called for another ten minutes, and finally Bernard VK3AV came back with a horrible signal. I gave him the most charitable 4/7 signal I’ve ever given (probably 2/7 if I was being fair – it was badly distorted), and the summit was qualified. I switched to SSB and worked another group of signals, including Amanda VK3FQSO and Gerard VK2IO, who’d barely heard me on AM, a 800km path. True to form, a “final call” netted a bunch more, and then I switched to 10m SSB.

Ernie VK3DET was my first contact, ground wave over a path of maybe 20km. That was followed with what I was after, a nice bit of DX into America from a summit. Rich N4EX first from Raleigh, North Carolina. He gave me a 2/3 and after a lot of repeats, he got his report of 3/1. It was a tough haul, but we got there. I was using the linked dipole cut for 12m, which has a 2:1 SWR on 10m. I had an ATU in place to bring that down to 1:1, and I used a transmitter power of about 50W, increased to 60W as I finished the activation and knew I had battery capacity to spare.

Raleigh, NC is a familiar place for me, as my company is headquartered there, and in fact I’ll be over there in a few weeks time. I hope to be able to get a summit activation in to address the issues from last time.

Second was Dan NA6MG, with similar signals, and then I called CQ for a while. A station starting in Alpha Bravo(?) was also barely audible above the noise and trying repeatedly. Had we been able to give reports, I’d have given a 2/1, but the signal never came up enough for a complete callsign, much less a QSO. If you were that station, let me know. I’m sorry we couldn’t work.

Needing to go QRT at 2225 UTC, I put out a final call and NN2X Tom from Texas called in with “only 100W”. He eventually got the linear fired up and hit me with the full 1.5kW, but the S-meter didn’t move, and his 5/7 signal with 100W from his 4 element yagi was perfectly readable anyway. Tom was a nice guy with a chatty demeanour, and we exchanged details on our set up – he was surprised at 60W from a dipole getting the distance to Texas, and he offered to spot me on the cluster, but by that stage, I was desperately late to get off the mountain, so declined and went QRT.

So, success:

  • Qualified the summit on AM. Probably the first instance of that in VK?
  • Worked NA DX from a summit. First contacts for me on that band despite a few tries previously.
  • Had a heap of fun, despite not getting back to that ZS station.