A trip to Bacchus Marsh

Mid-week I remembered to browse the adverts on vkclassifieds. You never know what might come up. This day, I spotted a microphone – the Icom IC HM-103. This microphone is the one that came standard with the IC-706MkIIG. I have an IC-706MkIIG, and the price was very good, even if the condition was listed as “unknown”. So I logged in and sent a message to the seller. A little later, the phone rang – it was the seller. I agreed to buy at the cheap asking price and we then discussed options for postage or pick up. I decided on the spot to pick up the microphone on Saturday from Bacchus Marsh – a bit of a drive for a $15 microphone of unknown working state. The weather forecast was reasonable and I hoped to activate at least one Park. I arranged to ring the seller early in the afternoon to meet and do the exchange.

Saturday 20 January 2018

I woke a reasonably early hour despite not setting an alarm and was on the road before 0800 local time. The drive was straightforward – north to the Princes Highway and then head west to Melbourne, along CityLink and then around to the Western Ring Road and onto the Sunshine Bypass. Then on through Melton and I stayed on the Highway and turned off onto Pentland Hills Road. From there, it was into Myers Road and into the car park just inside the Park gate.

Werribee Gorge State Park VKFF-0775

I had often driven past this Park, usually on the highway with a more distant destination as my target. The trip today allowed me to consider this Park as the target. The good trip meant that I was on-site by around 1030 local time. The car park was almost full, but I found a spot to park with a convenient nearby tree. I tossed a line over a branch at about 8 metres and was set up within 15 minutes.

Geoff VK3SQ was first in the log on 40 m SSB. When I was setting up, I saw that Rob VK4AAC/2 was in a Park, but I could not hear him on 20 m, as he was too close to me. Rob called me before UTC rollover on 40 m, an easy contact. I ended up with 17 in the log by UTC rollover.

After UTC rollover, I continued working stations on 40 m SSB, including a few repeat contacts as the rules allow. I switched over to 20 m after about 25 minutes after rollover and quickly worked seven stations, taking me to a total of 46 stations in the log in under an hour of operating. This was my quickest qualification of a Park for quite some time. I started packing up and then headed into Bacchus Marsh to grab some lunch.

KellysCkWerribeeGorge

Kellys Creek near operating site

Traffic was rather heavy in Bacchus Marsh, but I found something to eat and also had a quick browse at the Darley Market. I then called the seller and drove around to his home for the exchange of dollars for the microphone. After a few minutes of chatting, I headed off to the second target of the day. Back to Gisborne Road and then north to Russells Road and then onto Seereys Track.

Lerderderg State Park VKFF-0763

I drove up Seereys Track well past the Park sign and found a spot off the track close to a high spot on the ridgeline and well off the road reserve. I set up by again tossing a line over a branch to raise the antenna.

I was ready to be on-air shortly after 0200Z. I spotted myself and started calling on 40 m SSB. Forty minutes of calling yielded 22 stations in the log – much slower going than the morning had been. I swapped to 20 m SSB and worked 15 stations over the next 30 minutes, including Mark VK4SMA/p for a Park to Park. I then tried 30 m SSB, whom I could not hear on 40 m. Next was 30 m SSB for three stations over 20 minutes of calling. I then dropped back to 40 m SSB, after spending some time listening for Jon VK7JON/p on 10 m SSB – nothing heard. Four new stations on 40 m got me to 44 contacts before I swapped to CW on the same frequency. The IC-7000 was not set up for CW, so I swapped radios to my KX2 and called CQ. The first call threw me a little – it was not the callsign that I was anticipating….. So I sent “AGN” and got the callsign: John VK4TJ. I then worked Andrew VK2UH. I went back to SSB briefly and chatted with Andrew – he did not initially hear me, as the KX2 must have been transmitting on the displayed frequency without any CW offset, so Andrew did not hear me as I was exactly on zero beat. But we ended up making the contact, so thanks to both Andrew and John for the contacts. A total of 46 contacts were made in just over 2 hours of operating to qualify the Park.

I again listened briefly on Jon’s frequency on 10 m, but again nothing was heard. So I packed up and retraced my route to Bacchus Marsh and then onto the highway and headed towards home.

The return trip was unremarkable, with the usual traffic hot spots as one crossed Melbourne and the suburbs. I arrived home just after 1800 local.

So, what about the microphone? On Sunday afternoon, I pulled out the IC-7000 from the car and plugged in the HM-103. On SSB, there appears to be no transmitted audio with the HM-103. This will require some further investigation… But the other reason for buying the microphone makes the purchase worthwhile: After setting the menus correctly, the HM-103 Up/Down buttons work as expected in CW mode. So for $15, at least a bought a cheap paddle for CW! Now to do some research and figure out why the audio side does not work….

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