Saturday 12 May 2018
Thursday and Friday had been very cold and wet as a complex of cold fronts passed over SE Australia. The air mass was so cold that most of the alpine resorts had snow, with snow expected to fall down to around 800 m. The forecast for Saturday was for wet and very windy conditions in East Gippsland, but it was probably going to be a cool and dry day until late afternoon in Central Gippsland and a chance of showers in Melbourne.
I headed off from home at around 0730 and headed to Melbourne. The drive was uneventful in bright sunshine. First stop was to an electronics supply house in Clayton for a couple of items and I then headed off to the Brentwood Community Youth Club for the Moorabin & District Radio Club annual hamfest. This was a new venue for the Club.
I met up with my primary target person and exchanged a 5.7 GHz PA for some dollars, with the deal having been previously arranged via email. There was time for a bacon & egg sandwich and a coffee prior to the doors opening at 1000. I attempted to do one quick lap around the tables but this was thwarted by lots of people wanting to catch up….. I must admit that I was not worried – I attend such events primarily for the social aspect these days. If I find something worth buying, then the trip has an added bonus! The bonus this time was a 20 m length of RG-223 double shielded coax terminated with type N male connectors for only $20. I had examined all of the tables with about 45 minutes to go until the raffle draw, so decided to hang around for the draw. Whilst waiting, I partook of a hamburger from the club food stall, including some chatting about SOTA and Parks with some of the “staff” and some other amateurs. I had no luck in the raffle and finally got away at around 1300. On leaving the hall, the atmosphere was feeling cold and damp – it felt like rain was imminent. I checked the weather radar to spot showers a little to the west, so that made the decision of how to spend the afternoon easy – I would head down to South Gippsland and attempt to catch up with Stef VK5HSX/3, who was activating a couple of Parks near Cape Patterson.
A few stations were active as I drove down to Korumburra and then south to Inverloch, but none were strong enough to overcome the noise in the vehicle. Time was getting on, so I decided to head for my target Park and get on air and hoped that I could catch Stef on-air and arrange to meet up at some stage during the afternoon.
Screw Creek Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2188 Not previously activated
I had checked out this Park when I did my run to Wonthaggi earlier in the year. At the time, I was feeling rather tired after having activated Kilcunda NCR and Wonthaggi Heathlands NCR and decided against undertaking another activation.
The Reserve is just east of Inverloch – head towards Tarwin Lower and then turn right into Coastal Way and the new estate about 330 m after crossing Screw Creek. I then turned right into The Landings. The fence on the right is the boundary of the Reserve. I opened a gate and closed it behind me and parked near a large gum tree. I tossed a line over a branch and soon had the 80 – 10 m link dipole in the air. The 80 ends were low – less than a metre off the ground – but the 40 m link was at about 3 m.
First in the log was Colin VK3NCC/2 in VKFF-0587. I also heard Stef working Colin and we arranged to move down the band. Stef was in Bunurong Marine National Park, about 9 km to my southwest. We completed the contact and I then started working other stations. About 20 minutes later, Stef arrived and we chatted briefly as I continued to work the hunters. When the callers dwindled off, we had a proper chat and also changed the antenna links to 80 m. After spotting myself, we were quickly working VK3 stations, with Nick VK3ANL a solid 59 signal. Next was Andrew VK7DW/p in VKFF-0005 for another P2P. Geoff VK3SQ and Linda VK7QP were solid contacts, as was Nik VK3NLK. I was then called by VK3BI. I thought that I recognised the voice, but the call threw me. It was Mick VK3GGG operating the Central Goldfields Amateur Radio Club station as part of the Club activation of the Maryborough Knitting Mill site for Mills On The Air. Mick encouraged all the amateurs at the event to work me, so I quickly had another 10 contacts in the log. I went back to 40 m and worked Helen VK7FOLK/p in VKFF-1840 with signals a little marginal – the distance between us and band conditions would have better suited 80 m, based on the signals from other VK7 stations. During all of this activity, we watched a couple of kangaroos emerge from the scrub, ducking under the fence and hopping out onto the grassed estate. About 10 minutes later they retraced their route back into the scrub.
Stations eventually dried up, so I started packing up at around 1610 local, continuing to chat with Stef, who was now convinced of the value of using 80 m during the day. We discussed antenna options for him and I also offered to assist if needed when he was in the Latrobe Valley at the end of the coming week. Stef departed at around 1650 and I was about to drive out of the reserve when I heard Eric VK7EV in VKFF-1810 under the electrical noise. I shut down the car and managed to complete the contact with Eric for one final P2P contact. Contact number 54 in the log….
It was then a simple matter of exiting the reserve, closing the gate and heading back to home, a trip of around 90 minutes.
Overall, a good day out with lots of face to face interactions with other amateurs, plus a new Park safely qualified for WWFF. As a bonus, I managed to work Stef in the reserve the next day!