Lightweight ZS6BKW doublet for portable operations

A recurring topic of discussion amongst amateur radio operators who activate at portable field locations is “Which antenna do you use?” or something similar.

Each person has their own preference.

I started my SOTA operations using a home built Link Dipole. It was heavy, as it was built with materials on hand. I subsequently built a lightweight version, as described elsewhere on this blog. Both versions of the antenna suffered some mechanical failures due to the repeated deployment causing fatigue fractures in the wire.

Many operators make other antenna choices: end fed half wave, random length wire, small transmitting loop (a.k.a. magnetic loop), vertical antenna and the list goes on…..

One key consideration when making antenna choices for portable operation must be antenna efficiency. As portable antennas will often be operating at relatively low heights, ground losses will dominate antenna performance. Adding additional losses due to input transformers or physically small antennas can easily affect the success of an activation, especially when operating QRP.

After yet another fatigue fracture induced fault in a heavier link dipole during a Park activation, I decided to build a new antenna which would be stored in the back of the vehicle. I decided to build a doublet and thus remove the need to raise and lower the antenna to open or close links, a required activity for every band change with a link dipole. I considered several options, but decided on the ZS6BKW antenna. One downside of such a doublet is that one needs an antenna matching unit (or ATU if you prefer) on some bands, but this was not an issue for me as I had such units at hand. For SOTA activations, my KX2 has the ATU option installed.

The ZS6BKW is a based on the legendary G5RV doublet. Brian Austin G0GSF (ex ZS6BKW) wrote the article, first published in RadioZS (June 1985) and also in Sprat (#130, Spring 2007). There are many articles on the internet, but perhaps the most useful reference can be found here. This article includes the article “The ZS6BKW Antenna – from the horse’s mouth” plus some additional information.

My first ZS6BKW has built using uncoated 49 strand “600 lb” stainless steel wire, purchased at a local hunting & fishing store. It is 1.8 mm diameter. One attraction was that it was unlikely to break during normal operation in the field! I used 450 ohm ladder line for the feed line section. The antenna worked well, so when my lightweight SOTA antenna failed again, I considered options for its replacement.

I determined my antenna dimensions using Figure 2 of the Austin article. The figure allows one to choose a doublet length and the appropriate feedline length based on the feedline impedance. 300 ohm feedline suits longer doublet length – a possibly less desirable characteristic for portable use.

For SOTA operation, something lighter was desirable. I spent a little time over a long period looking to source some 300 ohm “TV ribbon”. Not a lot of time each time that I thought to go searching for it, but these thoughts came infrequently! I eventually found some in a hardware store in Traralgon when wondering around waiting for the vehicle to be fitted with new tyres. There were two rolls on the cable rack – one with about half of the cable gone, plus a roll which was nearly full. The latter was covered with a thick layer of dust. The price tag said 30 cents per metre. When an assistant arrived, I asked for a price for the whole roll, hoping for a discount. After several minutes, she returned and advised that the price was incorrect and should be more than twice the price estimated ($30 for 100 m) based on the displayed price. She did advise that I could have the whole roll for $30. I accepted.

The next task was to consider the wire for the horizontal span. I ruled out the lightweight DX-Wire used on the lightweight link dipole: it is very light and reasonably strong, but it is prone to fatigue fractures if you manage to induce a kink in the wire. I settled on some 1 mm stainless steel wire rope purchased at the local large green-clad hardware warehouse. A roll of 50 m cost less than $15. The wire is made up of 19 strands of 316 Marine Grade stainless steel wire, with 17 kg working load and breaking load of 85 kg. Larger sizes are also available, but the small size fitted my needs. The 50 m roll would make 1.5 antennas.

I also purchased some 1 mm ferrules to form small loops at the ends of the wire.

I made a centre insulator/joiner from some 1.6 mm fibreglass pcb material, without any copper cladding, cut from a scrapped board. Once I had cut the required shape, I made several holes: 2 x 1.6 mm holes each side of centre to feed in the inner ends of the horizontal wires, a larger central hole at the top as a tie-on point, some holes joined to form 2 slots to feed in the feedline, a hole to anchor a terminal block and some holes to take cable ties to fix the feed to the centre insulator.

The doublet centre assembly.

The prototype doublet centre. Each side of the doublet comes in through two (2) holes and then bends into either side of the terminal block. You could apply some conductive compound to the ends of the wire if desired. Similarly, the feedline enters via two slots cut in the insulator and then into the terminal block. A cable tie anchors the feedline to the pcb below the first slot to further reduce stain on the feedline.

I assembled the antenna using small loops at the ends and directly tying off some builder’s line to the loops, thus saving a small amount of mass from end insulators. Prior to forming the loops, I had slid some heat shrink tubing over the wire so that I could later cover any sharp ends on the wire. I erected the antenna in the backyard using a 10 m squid pole, with the antenna in a typical inverted V configuration. I then checked the impedance with an antenna analyser and soon had the system resonant at 14.23 MHz.

I next fashioned a small scrap of single-sided pcb material to form a termination for the rig end of the feedline and to join to some RG316 coax. I added some holes to use cable ties to fix the feedline and the coax to the board and soldered the lines to the hand-cut tracks. It was a little crude, but works for me.

As a precaution, I fitted a choke balun on the coax near the feedline junction.

A small pcb fashioned by hand to facilitate the junction between the coax and the 300 ohm feeder. The coax is fed through a ferrite to form a choke. A Velcro tie facilitates winding up and storing the antenna assembly.

The entire antenna and winders comes in at 460 g.

The antenna assembly ready for the backpack. Each half of the doublet is wound on a “Wonder Wabbit Winder”.

I have the option of raising the antenna centre with a squid pole or by throwing a line over a tree branch. The antenna seems to work well. Band changing is now a breeze: change bands, dial up the required frequency and hit the TUNE button. Ready to go! The KX2 ATU usually manages to find a match. To date, I have made contacts on all bands from 80 m through to 15 m. Propagation conditions being what they are at/near the bottom of the solar cycle, I have not yet used the antenna on on 12 or 10 m.

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A new VK3/VT summit

Friday 10 September 2021

After a few weeks of lockdown due to COVID, regional Victoria, other than Greater Shepparton, was released from movement restrictions at midnight Thursday 9 September. I was keen to get out and play radio!

I had an appointment early in the morning, which meant that I could not depart home until around 1045 local time. I packed the gear in the car and headed off ASAP. I drove to Traralgon South and then to Balook, then west along the Grand Ridge Road.

Along the way, I encountered a tree service cleaning up some debris across the road. I continued on to my anticipated access route.

VK3/VT-091 (unnamed) 686 m 2 points NYA

This is a new summit, added on the VK3 update on 1 September 2021.

I had identified the summit and forwarded the suggestion along with some other changes for the VK3 Association, most of which were implemented on 1 September 2021.

The logical route to the summit was via the Grand Ridge Road, then south down Whitelaws Track. All looked good, until I reached four trees across the road! I decided to try alternate approaches.

The first alternative from the mapping was Transmission Track. But I found no obvious northern end, later confirmed by exploration from the south after completing the activation – the track simply ends at the end of a logged area.

The next option was either Hour Road or Gossipers Track from the west. Despite the mapping, both tracks start at essentially the same location. Hour Road looked very overgrown, so I started up Gossipers Track. All was fine for a while, until I reached a muddy patch. I stopped and engaged 4WD before continuing up the track. The scrub encroached, giving the vehicle some more scratches…. I drove up to the junction with Transmission Track and then headed south. I passed an overgrown track which looked to head to the summit, but continued on to a side track to a knoll just south of the summit. The GPS data and maps indicated I was above the 680 m contour, with the summit plus saddle and the knoll were above the 870 m contour, thus well inside the AZ. The summit itself had been logged and one could walk up to the summit by the very weedy track that I saw as I approached my operating site.

Looking east towards Mount Tassie with its large towers.

I set up using the ZS6BKW raised via a line over a tree branch, then set up the KX2 and battery on a folding table a few metres away from the vehicle.

The temperature was around 8C, with a light breeze – cool but comfortable. I had spotted that I was setting up at around 0157Z and started calling on 40 m CW at 0205Z.

First in the log on this new summit was Gerard VK2IO/p in Double Island Point Conservation Park VKFF-1532. I worked another seven stations over the next 20 minutes before moving to SSB.

The first station on SSB was again Gerard VK2IO/p at Double Island Point Conservation Park. I worked another 14 stations over the next 25 minutes before moving to 20 m, where I worked 2 stations on SSB and then another 2 on CW.

I then moved back to 40 m CW without spotting to work VK1DA and VK5CZ before closing down.

I had 29 contacts in the log – many more than the 4 required for SOTA!

Thanks to all who chased. I am happy that you have a new chased summit.

After taking a couple of photos, I packed up and headed out. I first explored north along Transmission Track to find a dead end. I then returned to Gossipers Track and headed east to Whitelaws Track, then headed south to the junction with Hour Road. It looked very overgrown. I was sure that I saw some raised dust, indicating that perhaps the road had been cleared, so retraced my route and headed north along Whitelaws Track, only to find the same the same set of downed trees. Although I had a small chainsaw on board, I decided against clearing the road. I returned to Gossipers Track and followed it back out to the Grand Ridge Road, the headed back to Balook.

Tarra-Bulga National Park VKFF-0480

One of the National Parks signs, this one at the western edge of the Park.

I briefly dropped into the Visitor Centre car park at Balook. As I had previously experienced, there was poor ‘phone coverage at the site, so I headed further east to the old small picnic area east of the junction of Grand Ridge Road and Cooks Road. This site is just inside the Park boundary and just south of the main road.

I parked in the clearing and set up with a line over a tree branch. My first couple of throws missed the mark, but throw three was over a branch at about 17 m above ground.

The station at Tarra-Bulga National Park.

I raised the centre of the heavy duty ZS6BKW and had to stop at about 15 m above ground – any higher and the feed line would not reach the radio! Once tied off, the ends were at about 4 m above ground.

I set up the IC-7300 on the tail gate of the vehicle and soon started calling on 40 m SSB. Calls came in thick and fast, with VK1MA first in the log, before I called CQ. I worked 39 stations in 39 minutes. I then moved to 40 m CW, working 15 stations over the next 30 minutes, including Jess W6LEN. Thanks to Andrei ZL1TM for the heads up that Jess was calling – he was there, but weak compared to the locals.

I was about to pack up when I heard a spot on the ‘phone. I then worked Andy VK5LA again, this time on 40 m SSB.

I then packed up, with 55 in the log, all on 40 m. I did not go to any other bands, as I was starting to feel cold.

I then headed for home.

I had a great day out playing radio, especially for my first day out after weeks of lockdown.

Thanks to all who chased or hunted!

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Another VKFF Hunter Honour Roll Award – 1900 entities worked

The past couple of months have seen a reduction in the number of Activators who have been able to venture into the field to activate, primarily due to movement restrictions imposed by the responses of various state governments to the COVID19 pandemic.

Some Activators have been out, most notably in Queensland. A small number of Activators have been out in NSW and Victoria, when restrictions allowed.

According to the Logsearch system, my next step in the VKFF Hunter Honour Roll Award was reached on 18 August 2021, when contacts were recorded by Daryl VK3AWA and Deryck VK4FDJL. The addition of the last log was seen by me on 22 August, when I checked the Logsearch system.

Of course, I have made a few other contacts in the last two months as a Hunter, but with entities which I had previously worked.

So particular thanks on this occasion to the following Activators, with whom I made contacts to gain the latest 25 new entities worked:

Rob VK4AAC/P        8 entities
Deryck VK4FDJL      6 entities
Gerard VK2IO/P        5 entities
Daryl VK3AWA        2 entities
Gerald VK2HBG/P    2 entities
Bob VK2BYF/P         1 entity
Dean VK3KXR/P       1 entity

Thanks to all Activators and a big thank you to all the admin team members here in VK and at the global level.

The VKFF Hunter Award Honour Roll 1900 certificate

Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area Award

VKFF National Coordinator Paul VK5PAS also recently reminded everyone of a special Award for activating or working activators operating from one or more of the eight National Parks which make up the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, during November and December 2020 as part of the 20th Anniversary of declaration of the World Heritage area.

I checked my logs and found that I had worked two qualifying Parks during that period and therefore claimed the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area – the 20th anniversary of World Heritage Listing Award.

The Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area 20th anniversary Hunter certificate

Thanks to Paul VK5PAS and the VKFF Team and the Activators who made the effort to activate the Parks.

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10th KRMPNA Activity Weekend 2021 – postscript

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Tony VK3XV / VK3VTH had announced a special Award for the 10th running of the Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award (KRMNPA) Activity Weekend.

Two special Operating Awards were sponsored by Amateur Radio Victoria, one each for the Top Activator and the Top Hunter across the 48 Hour weekend period. The Rules meant that some contacts which were valid for VKFF / WWFF purposes were not valid for the Operating Awards. My approach was to work everyone one that I could and to then “massage” the final log to remove the contacts which were invalid for the Operating Awards.

Tony VK3XV announced the outcome of the Operating Awards on 17 May 2021. It then took quite some time for the physical awards to be prepared and posted, a process impacted by further COVID19 restrictions.

Tony announced the Awards as follows:

The winning Activator is Peter VK3PF/P…………  Peter put in a truly mammoth effort, requiring much accurate planning (and even more accurate driving) to activate 12 VK3 National Parks.  A total of 290 eligible contacts were logged across the weekend, resulting in a points total tally of 3480.   Very well done Peter!  The Chasers “Thank You” for providing many Parks in challenging circumstances.

The winning Hunter is Gerard VK2IO/P………. Gerard went Portable in VK2 from various VKFF Parks across the weekend, working an amazing 26, of a total available 29 activated VK3 National Parks!   With 47 eligible contacts into KRMNPA parks, Gerard’s total points tally was 1222.   Very well done Gerard!   The Chasers also “Thank You” for providing many new VKFF Parks and the Activators appreciated your Calls.”

The Award actually arrived in early July. It is rather fancy and presented some challenges in obtaining a reasonable photo of it due to the highly reflective surface. Please excuse the reflected items in the photo, taken in a rather “busy” radio shack!

Award plaque
The KRMNPA 2021 Top Activator plaque

Many thanks to Amateur Radio Victoria and especially to Tony VK3XV for the Award. It was clear to me that the goals of the Special Awards:
To promote and encourage Portable activity
were well and truly met, despite the challenging weather conditions.

Many thanks go to all who participated in the weekend, whether as Activator or as Hunter. Congratulations to Gerard VK2IO for his Top Hunter award.

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Another VKFF Hunter Award Honour Roll step achieved

I reached the 1850 references worked step of the VKFF Hunter Award (Honour Roll) on 29 June 2021.

There have been a small number of Activators in particular who have been “out and about”.

Gerard VK2IO has been on the road for most of June. Gerard had been activating Parks and some SOTA summits when a COVID lock down in Sydney was announced, so his plans adapted by continuing his trip. He was in the greater Brisbane area when restrictions were announced for Brisbane and some surrounding local government areas. Gerard managed to move to the west and was able to continue his radio activities.

Marty VK4KC had also been out and about, mainly fitting activations around some work-related activities which took him well north of his home area.

Bob VK2BYF and Gerard VK2HBG have been out activating Parks to the south and west of greater Sydney from their homes in the Shoalhaven area.

Rob VK4AAC has been on an extended caravan trip in western and northern Queensland and has activated several Parks which were new Parks for most Hunters.

There have been others able to be out Activating, providing all Hunters with some targets.

On 7 July 2021, I noticed that I had qualified for the next step of the Honour Roll – 1875 references worked.

The latest 25 references came from only 5 Activators:

Marty VK4KC – 16 references
Peter VK3TKK – 5 references
Gerard VK2IO – 2 references
Bob VK2BYF and Rob VK4AAC – one reference each.

As always, thanks to all the Activators and the Hunters, and thanks again to all involved in the VKFF and WWFF administration teams.

The VKFF Hunter Award (Honour Roll) 1875 references worked certificate
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VKFF Hunter Awards Honour Roll 1825 and 1850

In between the various lock downs and other movement restrictions due to COVID19 over recent weeks and months, Australia amateurs have been lucky that restrictions have occurred in different states at different times. So if one has been unable to head out to activate, one could at least Hunt from home.

Gippsland suffered a severe storm in mid-June, with flooding and significant damage to forests, with many roads closed due to either flooding and/or trees down blocking roads. Therefore, most of my radio activity has been restricted to Hunting or Chasing Activators.

In recent weeks I have qualified for the next two (2) levels of the VKFF Hunter Honour Roll Awards – 1825 and 1850 references worked.

As always, the Hunter Awards only come thanks to the Activators getting out into the Parks, be they first time activations or activations of references which have been previously activated but which I had not managed to work.

In particular, I thank the following Activators who have given me new references in recent weeks, as shown in the LogSearch report of the award application:

16 references: Gerard VK2IO
6 references: Marty VK4KC
5 references: Rob VK4AAC
4 references: Stuart VK3UAO, Neil VK4HNS
3 references: Bob VK2BYF
2 references: Adam VK2YK, Warren VK3BYD, Ross VK3NRB
1 reference: Andrew VK1AD, Mark VK2KI, Peter VK3ZPF, Scott VK4MGL, Nick VK6NDX and Hans VK6XN.

As always, thanks go to all the Activators and Hunters – we have symbiotic relationships!

None of us can gain these awards without all the VKFF and WWFF admin team members – many thanks to all of the volunteers!

VKFF Hunter Award Honour Roll 1825 references certificate
VKFF Hunter Award Honour Roll 1850 references certificate
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Another radiosonde recovery: RS41-SGP R3551543

30 June 2021

It was a mixed day. I managed to hunt a few Park Activators in the morning from home before I had to leave to head into town for an appointment. As expected, the appointment cost me over an hour. It also meant that I missed several VK1 Activations.

I headed home and worked a couple of SOTA Activators and some Park Activators before I decided to head out after lunch to attempt to retrieve another radiosonde.

The regular morning radiosonde from Tullamarine Airport landed to the southeast of Drouin, at least an hour away by car. It landed on private property, so one would need to first acquire a ground fix, then find the likely property house before seeking permission to recover the package. I decided against the trip!

The weekly ozone radiosonde was released from Broadmeadows and I watched with interest – given the landing site of the morning radiosonde and the expected longer flight time and higher peak altitude, there was good probability that the ozone package would land closer to home.

I loaded the gear into the car before the balloon had burst and started off towards Thorpdale. I stopped just up the road to check the latest data and the balloon had burst, with a change in the predicted landing area. I started towards Loy Yang, in the latest predicted direction. The gear in the car was tracking well, with the sondehub website giving me the predicted landing area.

As I approached Loy Yang, the prediction was suggesting a landing site north of the Grand Ridge Road, so I headed towards Traralgon South and Callignee. Once at Callignee, I stopped to check the predictions, and it was now suggesting just south of Carrajung. I chose to continue south past Mount Tassie and then east along the Grand Ridge Road, rather than to retrace my route to Loy Yang and then take the Hyland Highway.

I continued towards Carrajung and then south towards Won Wron. I stopped just south of the Recreation Reserve to check both the predictions and the data from RS41 Tracker. I retraced my route a short distance before heading onto Calrossie – Won Wron Road. The track was slightly favouring the western road as the approach route, rather than the Hyland Highway. I stopped a hundred metres short of a farmer starting to herd cattle from the east side of the road to the dairy on the west side.

I watched the parachute and ‘sonde descend, taking a couple of photos. I should have thought about taking some video! I watched it cross over my head and land about 40 metres into a paddock on the west side of the road.

The parachute and ‘sonde package descending on the east side of the road. Looking almost straight up.

Given that the cows were still crossing the road, I started walking down towards the cows and the two farmers on quad bikes. One of the farmers saw me and I waved. He approached and I said: “Hello”. I pointed out the parachute and requested permission to retrieve it from the paddock. He said that the electric fence was live and suggested that I approach from the driveway a short distance to the south.

I moved the car and parked near the start of the drive, then climbed over the fence, staying away from the electric fence wire. It was then a short walk across the very damp paddock to the parachute and the ‘sonde.

The parachute on the ground, with the package beyond.
The radiosonde package as it landed.

I took a couple more photos and marked the ‘sonde as recovered on the sondehub site. I then switched off the ‘sonde and disconnected the pump power connector before winding up the line to the parachute and returning back to the fence. I managed to cross the fence without any shocks and returned to the car. It was then a simple matter of driving back to Churchill.

Despite the slightly longer than optimal route, it was a pleasant drive on a sunny winter afternoon.

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Beaches On The Air (BOTA)

There has been a rapid increase in “OTA” award schemes over the last couple of years. OTA is “On The Air”. The commonality is that the schemes promote amateur radio operators to set up and make contacts on amateur radio frequencies from sites which fit the theme of the award scheme in question.

One well-known scheme is SOTA – Summits On The Air. Readers will be aware that this is an award scheme which has been a significant part of the hobby for me, having participated from the first few weeks of the introduction of SOTA into Victoria (VK3) in February 2012. SOTA began in the UK in March 2002.

A very early scheme is Islands On The Air – IOTA, established in 1964.

Probably the first award scheme which stimulated me to participate was the Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award, an award sponsored by Amateur Radio Victoria. I did not “jump in, boots and all”. I simply started working stations that were operating in Victorian National Parks. I activated some Parks when it suited me. I became a little more serious about activating Parks during 2012, when I travelled to Mildura for the WIA Annual General Meeting in May. I planned a trip which would allow me to activate several National Parks in the western half of Victoria, with a planned three days in Mildura. That trip also saw my first activations for SOTA, when I activated some SOTA summits which were located in National Parks.

This pattern of activating sites which are part of at least one award scheme has become a feature of my portable operations. I will often activate sites which comply with the rules for more than one scheme.

My SOTA and KRMNPA activities fitted well with the WWFF award scheme and so I started activating and chasing WWFF Parks.

BOTA is a scheme of which I have been aware for some time. There has been a recent push to promote the scheme in Australia. I see the scheme as another participation opportunity which fits well with Parks activations.

I have slowly been adding activations into the BOTA scheme, mostly from sites which comply with the BOTA rules that I have activated as Parks activations. I plan to go back through my Parks activations to check which activities comply with BOTA. I will add those activations to my BOTA activations on the BOTA website. I can only add activations which occurred since the start of 2018.

On a recent trip, I activated four Parks from sites which complied with the BOTA rules and therefore also qualified as BOTA activations.

BOTA does not require Activators to upload a log, but does require an activation to be registered. The activation becomes validated within the scheme when Chasers add their contact to the activation. Registration is free. Once Chasers confirm their contacts, they become eligible for awards within the scheme, so Chasers can download a certificate from the BOTA website by looking at their Profile page under the “Courses” tab. Activators can earn points when Chasers confirm their contacts with the activation, and in turn the Activator will qualify for Activator awards. The first Activator certificate is the “Leader 10 Award”, which needs 10 chasers to confirm each activation, with 10 Beach activations.

This leads me to a request:
If you have Hunted me in a VKFF Park which also qualifies as a BOTA activation, can you please also register your contact on the BOTA site as a Chaser? Doing so will help me qualify for Activator awards for BOTA!

BOTA Activations to date

Shack Bay – Bunurong Marine National Park VKFF-0945

23 May 2021, 30 November 2019

Cutlers Beach – Wonthaggi Heathlands Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2235

23 May 2021, 30 November 2019, 11 March 2018

Rennison Bight – Churchill Island Marine National Park VKFF-0947

23 May 2021

Bass River Mouth – Reef Island and Bass River Mouth Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2181

23 May 2021, 28 April 2018

Point Impossible – Breamlea Flora & Fauna Reserve VKFF-2276

18 October 2020

Venus Bay No 3 Beach – Cape Liptrap Coastal Park VKFF-0745

2 August 2019

Foster Beach – Corner Inlet Marine and Coastal Park VKFF-1768

8 June 2019

Ricardo Beach – Cape Conran Coastal Park VKFF-0744

29 May 2019

Shallow Inlet Sandy Point – Shallow Inlet Coastal and Marine Park VKFF-0749

18 May 2019

Below is my first BOTA certificate, the Chaser 10 Award.

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An afternoon out near Mirboo North

Sunday 10 May 2021

After a very dull morning, the sky cleared up early on Sunday afternoon. After checking the weather RADAR, I decided to head out for another dose of radio fun in the field.

On Thursday afternoon, I had been checking the details for the Moorabbin & District Radio Club Hamfest on the Saturday (see my previous report). I noticed a new issue of the Club News was published on the Club’s web page, so spent some time reading the newsletter.

I found an article by Ron VK3AFW which announced that Humps had been added for VK3. Humps? More correctly, HEMA – Humps Excluding Marilyns Award. Humps are broadly similar to SOTA summits, but they require a prominence of only 100 metres. Therefore, the Humps are excluded from SOTA but are included in HEMA. The scoring is different than the SOTA scoring, with the activation of a Hump earning the Activator one (1) point. There are some other rules to consider, so check out everything at the official website:

Exploring the website, I found that there are 42 peaks in VK1, 89 in VK3 and 86 in VK6. The only region mapped to date in VK3 is the Victoria Central region. I found that there was a hump near Mirboo North, adjacent to a possible access route to a section of the Mirboo North Regional Park.

Early on Sunday afternoon, I loaded the required gear into the car and headed out towards Mirboo North and around to Old Thorpdale Road. I drove around the peak of the Hump and along an unsealed road which rapidly deteriorated once past a house located to the west of the peak. The “road” on the map became damp, very bumpy, narrow, slippery and was steepening. I aborted any attempt to reach the Regional Park section to the west and headed back to the corner of the access road to find a spot to activate.

VK3/HVC-074 (unnamed) 408 m

The high point on Old Thorpdale Road passes across the shoulder of the Hump above the 400 m contour, clearly well within the Activation Zone. I found a spot just off the road on the eastern side to park the car near the edge of a pine plantation. I soon had a line over a tree branch and hauled up the ZS6BKW doublet. I set up the station on a folding table a couple metres from the rear of the vehicle.

I spotted myself on 40 m as a QRP station. Perhaps Allen VK3ARH might add HEMA support to the ParksnPeaks website….. I called for several minutes before I had my first response – Paul VK5PAS. I worked Paul and explained the concept of Humps. I next worked Marija VK5MAZ. Several of the SOTA and Parks regulars also called. I worked 10 stations in less than 20 minutes, thus easily qualifying the Hump (four (4) contacts required). With no further callers, I closed down and packed up.

I then headed back down to the Strzelecki Highway and around onto Ricardo Road and drove up the hill to find a spot to set up within the target Park for the afternoon.

A Google Earth view looking north from near Mirboo North showing the two operating sites.

Mirboo North Regional Park VKFF-1876

I again set up with a line over a tree branch to haul up the centre of the doublet. I ended up with the centre at around 14 m above ground, with the ends at around 6 m height. I set up the station on the tailgate of the Ranger and used the IC-7300. I spotted myself on ParksnPeaks for 40 m SSB and worked 10 stations in only 20 minutes. I then moved to 20 m CW to see if I could hear a Japanese SOTA station, but had no success.

I moved to 40 m CW and spotted. Several minutes of fruitless calling CQ was finally rewarded with a contact. I then moved to 17 m CW, to see if the Japanese SOTA station was audible. Success – I could hear him and I soon had Seiji JG4LCS/4 on Daigasen JA/OY-152 in the log!

I then returned to 40 m CW, spotting myself once I found a clear frequency. I worked four chasers in five minutes. I moved to 40 m SSB, where I worked 20 chasers in only fifteen minutes. I then made some contacts with some locals on 2 m FM and 40 m and 80 m SSB, boosting the number of contacts. I returned to 40 m SSB and worked John VK5HAA on SSB and CW before moving down to 7.144 MHz. I could not hear Chris VK1CT clearly on SSB, but thanks to assistance in message relay from John VK5HAA, I did manage to work Chris VK1CT on CW for a Park to Park (VKFF-0853).

With 55 contacts in the log and the sun well behind the trees, I closed just before 0700 UTC. I packed up and then worked my way out to Darlimurla and headed home via Boolarra.

Thanks again to all the Chasers.

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Moorabbin Hamfest and The Pines

Saturday 8 May 2021

With COVID restrictions somewhat eased in Victoria, I planned to attend my first Hamfest in around 18 months. Ross VK3NRB decided to join me for the trip, staying overnight Friday at my home so that we could be away early.

We were underway at around 0730 local time and headed towards Melbourne, with a short stop at Nar Nar Goon to add fuel to the vehicle. We then headed in to Moorabbin via the Dandenong Bypass and the Dingley Bypass and on to South Road. We then found a spot to park on the western side of Nepean Highway and walked across to the Kingston Town Hall to queue to check in to the venue and then again for an entry ticket. We then spent about 10 minutes chatting with others until the doors opened at 1000.

I dropped some of the VK3IL Pressure Paddle kits at the Moorabbin & District Radio Club table, hoping that some might sell. Lots of people wanted to chat, so it took quite some time to walk around to see what was on offer on all the tables.

At around 1130, I saw that a spot had been posted for a group of amateurs on a SOTA summit, so Ross and I walked back to the car and set up the HF whip. We heard nothing of the activators, only chasers. I asked Gerard to QSY down 5 kHz after he had worked the activators and logged a contact with VKFF-0281. I sent an SMS to Glenn VK3YY/p, suggesting that we try 80 m. We sat back and waited until the team spotted for 80 m. Due to S7 noise, we had great difficulty copying the activators. I again texted Glenn and suggested that they try CW. Within a few minutes, I had Glenn, David VK3IL and Andrew VK3JBL in the log from Mount Dawson VK3/VT-015 and VKFF-0619.

We drove around to find a parking spot just outside the venue and were back inside for a few minutes of browsing and chatting before the door prize draw at around 1230. Neither of us had any luck with the prize draw….

I collected my kits, with none having been sold. I then had a chat with one of the WIA Directors. Ross had purchased a couple of antennas after he borrowed some cash. He spotted something else of interest. After finishing my chat, I joined him and ended up buying a couple of HF whip antennas, which required a quick trip across the Nepean Highway to withdraw some cash from the nearest ATM.

We purchased some lunch and coffee from the small café at the venue, loaded the gear into the car and headed south towards Frankston. Along the way, I had a contact with Gerard VK2IO/p, now in VKFF-2012. The contact was difficult due to the QRM as we drove along the suburban roads. We then made our way around to our target park for the afternoon.

The Pines Flora and Fauna Reserve VKFF-2451

We parked in the far corner of the car park off Ballarto Road Carrum Downs. I soon had a squid pole lashed to a bollard and the ZS6BKW doublet was in the air. We set up with the IC-7300 on the tailgate of the Ranger.

Our operating site in VKFF-2451. Image thanks to Google Earth.

At about 0430 UTC, I came up on 7.144 MHz and checked if the frequency was clear. I promptly worked Gerard and Compton VK2HRX, both in VKFF-2012. Gerard and Compton had been chatting face to face, awaiting our arrival. Gerard closed down, leaving the frequency to us. Ross and I operated by passing the microphone until Ross had at least 10 in his log. He then went for a walk. I had a steady stream of callers. When the callers diminished, I went to 40 m CW and worked four hunters. We then returned to 40 m SSB and worked Gerard in VKFF-1921 and Bob VK2BYF and Gerald VK2HBG in VKFF-0043.

I moved up the band and again spotted and worked further hunters, including a CW contact with Gerard VK2IO/p. I had 44+ contacts in the log by 0610UTC and we packed up the station. I went for a walk to exit the Park and made a contact with Ross in the Park. As I returned to the car, I heard an Alert and saw that it was Paul VK0PD on air on 20 m SSB. We could hear Paul from the car, but the mobile whip was insufficient to make a contact. We quickly again set up the station at the rear of the car, working Paul at 0633 UTC for a P2P contact to VKFF-0571.

We missed the Alert for Sue VK5AYL in a park and we could not hear Fred VK3DAC in VKFF-0333.

We packed up again and started the drive back to home.

Thanks to Ross for the company during the day and thanks to all the Hunters for their calls.

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