The Shepparton and District Amateur Radio Club Hamfest was scheduled for Sunday 11 September, presenting an opportunity for a brief visit to family in Wodonga and a planned return home after the Hamfest. But plans changed…
I left home on Friday morning and headed to Healesville, then Yea and on to Benalla. By time I reached Yea, the forecast cold front and associated rain had arrived. I grabbed some lunch in Yea and continued to Benalla to refuel the car. I then arranged to meet Warren VK3BYD in Wangaratta mid-afternoon, at the golden arches place.
Warren had a coffee whilst a long chat progressed about all sorts of topics around SOTA. We eventually headed back to the vehicles and Warren took possession of a small 23 cm Yagi that was surplus to my requirements, plus some coax cable. We then parted ways and headed on up to Wodonga.
Saturday 10 September 2016
I did some shopping in the morning, driving Mum around for some goodies plus a visit to Jaycar for me. After lunch, the weather was looking reasonable, so I decided to head out to activate a summit and Park.
Jarvis Creek Plateau VK3/VE-208 694 m 2 points &
Jarvis Creek Plateau Regional Park VKFF-0969
I had last activated this summit and Park in late October 2015. Whilst that activation generated some 27 contacts, I needed more contacts to qualify the Park for WWFF with its quota of 44. So I headed out past Tallangatta and approached the Park via Jarvis Creek Road and Plateau Road. I found a high spot clearly inside the Activation Zone (AZ) and set up not far from the track.
It is expected that the summit location will change in the next VK3 SOTA update: There are two areas south of the current listed location which show 700 m contours, so the summit should also change to 4 points.
You can find very little information about Jarvis Creek Plateau Regional Park on the Parks Victoria website, but they have 3 photos showing the typical vegetation and a great view from the plateau.
I was set up and on air just prior to 05:00 UTC, with Gerard VK2IO the first contact in the log on 40 m SSB. I had marginal ‘phone coverage at my location, so data access was limited. I worked 31 stations on 40 m SSB, including Warren VK3BYD and Allen VK3ARH who needed the summit to each make a new Complete, both having Activated the summit during the FYBO weekend in late June. I switched to 20 m at around 05:45 UTC and worked John VK6NU, Phil VK6ADF and Peter VK6RZ in a short time, followed by John ZL1BYZ and Albert S58AL. Further calls yield no further responses, so I decided to pack up and head back to Wodonga.
Sunday 11 September
An early start in reasonable weather had me well down the highway with plenty of time to make the 1000 local start time for the Hamfest. I was aware that Warren VK3BYD was planning to Activate The Horn and The Hump on the Mount Buffalo plateau. I decided to divert to Dookie.
Mount Major VK3/VU-011 377 m 1 point
I had visited this summit on my last visit to the SADARC Hamfest a couple of years ago. I arrived at the car park to find a few mountain bike riders preparing to head up the hill, loading up the trailer and then jumping into the minibus. I parked and spoke to the person in charge, who indicated that it was fine for me to drive up – just to be alert for descending riders, especially on my return. I set up using a post near the trig point, hoping that the antenna legs would be out of the way of the riders.
Switching on the radio, I had loud signals from Marija VK5FMAZ/p in Belair National Park near Adelaide. I waited for a chance to call in, making contact at 2340 UTC. John VK5BJE/p and Paul VK5PAS/p were nearby and wanted the single SOTA point. I checked the SOTAwatch site and saw that Warren was on air, so dropped down to work him on 40 m CW for a S2S, then moved up to 7.085 and spotted myself, working 7 stations before UTC rollover. Most of the stations were a reasonable distance away, so NVIS was not working on 40 m. After rollover, I worked 6 stations before Warren called me on CW for a cross-mode S2S contact – thanks Warren! I guess that I could have changed to CW, but the contact was completed. I worked the gang over at Belair NP again, followed by Al VK1RX/p on Boboyan Divide for another S2S, this time on 80 m. I went back to 40 m, and managed to catch Andrew VK1DA/2 on VK2/ST-053 for another S2S at 0030 UTC. I decided to pack up and head on to Shepparton.
After a short chat with the guys at the door, I was almost immediately greeted for a longish chat. Several minutes later I managed to catch up with Peter VK3FPSR. He advised that the Club had a sales table, so I dashed back to the car to grab a box with an FV-107 which had been gathering dust at home for several years. After getting it set up on the sales table, I started working my way around the tables. Most gems had long been snapped up, but it was good catching up with lots of people.
I visited Dave and Claureen at the TTS Systems table, paying for and picking up a Spiderbeam 12 m fibreglass pole and accessories. More looking, a coffee and many more chats were had before the proceedings started to wind down after the raffle prizes were drawn. I was approached by an amateur and we haggled somewhat over the price of the VFO. I sold it, so at least offset the cost of the new pole. After that deal was completed, it was time to head off to find some food, fuel the car and head to the next stop.
Shepparton Regional Park VKFF-0976
I headed south on the Murray Valley Highway to Kialla, turning west into Raftery Road and then onto Rafterys Track, entering the Raftery Bend section of the Park. The dirt Rafterys Track had lots of potholes filled with water and some mud – clearly some visitors like making mud with their 4WD vehicles. I found a spot a few hundred metres into the Park which gave a little distance from any power lines and set up the 80/40 dipole with my 7 m squid pole to support it. I sat in the car, using the IC-706MkIIG set at about 30 W.
First in the log for a Park to Park was Warren VK3BYD/p on The Hump VK3/VE-014 for a SOTA chase as a bonus, 40 m CW. It was then to SSB to work Rob VK4AAC/3 a few kilometres away in Lower Goulburn National Park for another Park to Park (P2P). I was getting some RF feedback, so I turned the power down to 10 W. I am not sure why I was getting the feedback, having used a similar configuration in the past. Propagation was improved compared to the morning. I worked Marija, Paul and John in Belair NP for P2P contacts, and several more as the afternoon progressed. I spent time calling on 15 m and 20 m SSB after spotting myself on ParksNPeaks, with no responses. So back to 40 m, with slow progress. I eventually made it to a total of 48 contacts – Park qualified!
Notable contacts, all SSB except VK3BYD/p:
VK3BYD/p CW VK3/VE-014 in VKFF-0339
VK4AAC/3 in VKFF-0741
VK5FMAZ/p in VKFF-0022
VK5BJE/p in VKFF-0022
VK5PAS/p in VKFF-0022
VK1RX/p on VK1/AC-021 in VKFF-0377
Nick VK3ANL/4 on VK4/SE-117
VK1DI/p in VKFF-0852
VK5KLV/p in VKFF-0812
Steve VK2LAD in VKFF-0547
VK2YK/p in VKFF-1349
Tony VK7LTD/p in VKFF-1144
Marcus VK5WTF/p in VKFF-0933
It was a matter of packing up and heading back to Wodonga for another night.
Monday 12 September
A reasonable start time, but had to pack the car, then head off to meet Warren VK3BYD. Warren had sent a message on Friday evening that he needed to visit a summit on private land for work on Monday morning – an opportunity too good to miss.
Mount Lady Franklin VK3/VE-224 544 m 2 points
Access to this summit is via a reasonable track crossing land owned by 2 separate landholders. There are several communications installations on the top of the hill. I jumped into Warren’s vehicle after he locked the gate. At the top he parked close to his work site and I wandered about 100 m to the east to set up just off the summit proper.
I was set up and running not long after the start of the UTC day, with Gerard VK2IO first in the log. Despite the poor propagation (no NVIS on 40 m), the summit was qualified in 6 minutes. I tried 20 m, working Rick VK4RF/VK4HA again. Back on 40 m, it was slow progress. Thanks to some liaison, I worked Andrew VK2UH on CW – 519 reports both ways – to make the contact without having to go to 80 m. I could hear Andrew on SSB, but he could not hear me. I worked a few more, including Phil VK2JDL/p on VK2/ST-001 for a S2S. I then tried out the new 80 m extensions to the link dipole for the first time, working Rod VK2TWR who was not audible on 40 m SSB. Back to 40 m to work Col VK3LED, then Warren reappeared, having completed his tasks. I started to pack up and Warren drove down the hill until outside the AZ and made the final contact on 2 m FM, giving him a Complete. The activation also made the summit Complete for me.
We headed back down the hill to my car and each headed our own way. Thanks for the opportunity Warren!
For me, it was down the road and onto the Hume Highway for the start of the long drive home. The weather deteriorated, so no more radio activity happened.