A Park after a hamfest

Sunday 17 February 2019

The weekend ended up being a little hectic. It all started with the trip to Melbourne on the Friday, with a radio being dropped off for repair, followed by a pick up at an electronics store. I drove across to Bayswater to pick up some books from the WIA office and then headed across to the west of Melbourne to my host for the weekend.

Saturday saw a trip to the Moorabbin and District Radio Club in Highett for the annual VK3 SOTA Conference where I was one of the eight presenters, with “SOTA and Parks for Newbies” the theme this year. The day went well, with the informal discussions as valuable as the formal presentations – it was great to catch up with everyone. Following the conference, I returned to my host’s home for the night.

Sunday morning was a relatively early start to arrive at the venue of the WANDARC Hamfest in Werribee to set up a table to hopefully sell some books and other stock on behalf of the WIA. Sales were slow, but it was a good morning for catching up with lots of amateurs who I had not seen for some time. These days, the socialising is the main reason to attend such events.

The crowd dissipated quickly after the door prizes were drawn at noon. I packed up and loaded the stock into the car after buying some lunch. I then headed across to Point Cook, negotiating the traffic en route.

Point Cook Coastal Park VKFF-1875

Traffic was heavy, especially once close to Point Cook Road. There was a significant delay at the road junction at Point Cook Road, a T intersection where I faced a Give Way sign. Patience was required. Just before reaching the Park, I worked Rob VK2QR/5 in VKFF-0822 whilst mobile.

The Park extends from the boundary of the Point Cook RAAF Base (RAAF Williams) in a northeast direction towards Altona. The northern end of the Park incorporates the Cheetham Wetlands – an area of shallow lagoons previously used as salt pans to harvest salt. The Park is part of a complex of RAMSAR wetlands around Port Phillip Bay. As such, the Park is popular for bird watching, sightseeing, walking and also aircraft watchers. There are many paths within the Park and I saw several family groups riding bicycles on the sealed roads. The Park adjoins the Point Cooke Marine Sanctuary. The latter is listed on Protected Planet and the CAPAD database (IUCN Category II), so may be added to the VKFF program in the future.

PointCookCP

The Park. Thanks to Google Earth.

I headed south towards the Park and entered via the Main Drive gate. There were plenty of people in the car parks, so I continued on toward the Picnic Area at the end of Side Entrance Road until I found a car park which had only a single vehicle and parked at the opposite end. I quickly set up the ZS6BKW antenna using a squid pole lashed to a post. The station was set up on the tailgate of the vehicle and I soon had Rob VK2QR/5 in the log as a Park to park (P2P) contact at 0254Z. I moved up to 7.144 MHZ and heard Mike VK6MB/1 in Namadgi National Park VKFF-0377, so waited for a chance and completed another P2P contact. I then moved up to 7.150 and started calling whilst posting a spot. As is often the case, there was an initial flurry of callers and then things started slowing down. At this time, I started having a lot of audio noise due to the RAAF Roulettes aerobatics team commencing a display above the nearby Point Cook RAAF base and Museum. It was quickly obvious that a special event was occurring at the base, which explained the large number of cars parked opposite the end of the runway in the Park: plane spotters! It was rather distracting, with the aircraft often completing a manoeuvre near my location. It was an occasion when I wished that I had packed the SLR camera with a long lens to capture some images. I later found that the display was part of a Valentine’s Day celebration at the RAAF Museum.

After about fifteen minutes Alan VK5AR/p called in and I had another P2P contact. I then assisted Alan by looking up his Park reference. I went back to calling with a steady but slow rate of contacts. I had 36 in the log by 0400, so took a short break to connect up my new paddle and spotted on 7.034, with a contest station calling on 7.032 MHz.

The new paddle took a little adjusting and a few contacts to become familiar with its use. The paddle is the Porta Paddle-II Precision Iambic Paddle, purchased as a kit. The kit arrived midweek and was easy to assemble apart from a couple of fiddly bits such as the springs. I also purchased the leg strap mount for the paddle, so I was also learning a new position for sending. I had a little noise on the band, making some calls a little harder to copy. This was not helped by the fact that I was feeling tired….

Cliff VK2NP was first in the log on CW. Several contacts followed, with the last contact tough – he called at a much higher speed and I had trouble deciphering the callsign, He slowed down a little when I sent “QRS pse”, but it was still probably 25 wpm. I finally decoded the callsign and had a report in the log. I called again with no replies, so dropped down to 80 m SSB to work Nick VK3ANL and Allen VK3ARH.

I then moved up to 20 m SSB and worked another three stations, making a total of 50 contacts.  The time was now 1615 local, and I still had a long drive home, so I closed down and packed up to start that long drive home.

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