Election Day – something to avoid?

It seems as if the electioneering has been going on for ages. Adverts on TV from Palmer since before Christmas, or at least it seems that way. Since the official dissolution of Parliament, the intensity of advertising has greatly intensified.

My original plan was to be assisting with a Foundation licence Training and Assessment event to be held at the local radio club. This would have taken up most of the day, leaving almost no time to attend a polling place. I saw it as an opportunity and a valid reason to vote early, like at least 3 million other Australians….. Therefore, I could ignore all of the “news” coverage and all the political advertising. But by Thursday evening, we had no one indicating that they would attend the event, so the decision was made to postpone the training event. That left the day free…..

18 May 2019

The day started crisp and cold, with some fog around. I headed off to South Gippsland once again, planning to activate at least one of the Parks that have not yet been activated. The route was straightforward: from home to Boolarra, then to Mirboo, Dumbalk, Meeniyan and Buffalo and then south.

Kings Flat Flora Reserve VKFF-2348 Not previously activated

Travel time was around 75 minutes, with the roads having little traffic. There were quite a few parked cars in Dumbalk, mainly at the Hall which was set up as a Polling Place. Destination was the end of Kings Flat Road Tarwin Lower. I had checked out access on the last trip to South Gippsland, but it was a little late in the day to start an activation. Park the car near the Parks Victoria sign for the Reserve without obstructing the track. The gate here has a heavy chain and large lock, but there is a stile making it easy to cross the fence.

KingsFlatSign

The Reserve sign, with the stile on the right. The hill in the background is part of the Reserve, but the foreground is not.

After crossing the fence, it is about 750 m to the gate on the real boundary of the Reserve. The gate here is not locked, so entry is easy. I decided to climb to the top of the hill inside the Reserve, adding about 500 m to the walk, with a climb of just over 20 m vertically, mostly in the last third. Once at the hilltop, I looked around for a spot to set up the station. The track headed west and I saw a mob of probably 15 kangaroos lazing in the sunshine.

kangaroos

Looking west from the operating site, with a mob of kangaroos disturbed by my arrival

I set up at a small banksia close to the track corner, lashing the squid pole to one of the branches. I tried a doublet antenna that I had built quite some time ago – the worst that could happen is  that I dropped the doublet and raised the link dipole normally used on SOTA trips. I was using a LiFePO4 battery and the KX2. On initial connection, the KX2 shut down due to over voltage, so I inserted a DC-DC converter into the DC line. The KX2 then only wanted to operate on 5 W, as the converter is set at about 11 V. I must consider if I should raise the voltage a little higher…. A while into the activation, I removed the converter as the voltage had dropped below 14 V, so jumped up to 10 W output.

I went to spot myself and saw that several amateurs were on Mount Moliagul for a SOTA activation. I could only hear the chasers on 40 m, but then there was a spot on 80 m, so I soon had David VK3FSDA/p in the log as the first contact. I then noticed that Mike VK6MB/3 was also activating WWFF Hepburn Regional Park VKFF-0968. I heard nothing on 40 m, so I changed to 80 m and hit the tune button for the tuner…. The best VSWR that could be achieved was about 2.5:1 – not good but usable. I spotted myself and started calling. A few minutes later Mike was in the log, but I had no other callers. I then moved up to 40 m to find a clear frequency and spotted myself. I worked nine stations over the next 15 minutes. During that time, I received an SMS request to return to 80 m, which I did when I had no more callers. The swap yielded two Peters: VK3TKK/p and VK3ZPF/p, both of whom were at a Scout event in the Clonbinane area. Several minutes of calling yielded no responses, so I returned to 40 m SSB for one more caller before another SMS arrived….. Back to 80 m to work Geoff VK3SQ. I called with no more responses, so returned to 40 m, but on CW on the lower end of the band. This move gave me another five callsigns in the log, including Wal VK2WP/p on VK2/CW-043 in Nangar National Park VKFF-0379. I returned to the SSB band and worked another four contacts in about 10 minutes: it was slow going!

I swapped to 30 m and had no responses to calls on CW. I moved up the band and only worked three callsigns. I called for several more minutes without any responses.

I moved up to 20 m CW and soon had a small pile up, with at least 2 stations calling at the same time. Once sorted, I had four contacts in the log. Further calls yield little but a weak US station calling a bit fast for me. I heard a W but missed the rest of the call and replied with QRZ? All I received after that was a report of 229 and no callsign… Comments on Facebook suggest that it was probably Jess W6LEN – sorry that we could not make the contact Jess!

20 m SSB yielded only a single contact. I gave up and return to 40 m CW, a move which yielded six contacts in 10 minutes. I returned to 40 m SSB, but it took almost 20 minutes to gain another seven contacts, so that I finally had 45 in the log after three hours and 20 minutes of calling.

I packed up and headed back to the car.

Once I had loaded the gear, I started to head south toward Walkerville. My target was the Promontory View lookout, listed on Google Maps as “cape liptrap lookout”. The part of the car park furthest from the road is inside the Park boundary, so if you are undertaking a mobile activation, you must park the vehicle right up against the bollards at the front of car park.

Cape Liptrap Coastal Park VKFF-0745

I have activated this Park a couple of time previously, so today’s aim was to work at least 10 contacts towards the Boomerang Award.

I tuned up on 40 m SSB and first in the log was Greg VK4VXX/5 possibly in Great Australian Bight Marine Park VKFF-0214. The mapping here is confusing, as the appropriate Park may have been the Far West Coast Marine Park VKFF-1708. I discussed the conundrum briefly with Greg and he decided to stick with VKFF-0214. (nb: I chased out some maps on Sunday and emailed the boundaries to Greg so that he can decide. If he needs to change his reference, I will need to ask for my logs to be deleted, update them and resubmit them….). Next was Mark VK6BSA/5 mobile a little further west than Greg. Greg changed to 20 m, so I stayed on the frequency and started calling. I soon had a total of 16 contacts in 18 minutes. With no further callers, I declared the activation closed and started to drive to the next destination.

PromView

The sign at the operating site, with Wilsons Promontory hidden by the fog/haze

I travelled around to Walkerville and then on to Sandy Point and the end of Sandy Point Road. This allows you to drive onto the sand on the edge of the Shallow Inlet, inside the boundary of the target Park. Sandy Point Road is excluded from the Park.

Shallow Inlet Coastal Marine Park VKFF-0749

ShallowInletSign

The Park sign just before you drive onto the sand

First in the log was Greg VK4VXX/5 in VKFF-0214. I moved down the band and soon had eleven more contacts in the log in less than 15 minutes. I saw a spot for Ian VK1DI/2 in a Park, so moved down to 80 m as I had not been able to hear him a little earlier when he was on 40 m. Ian was in Cuumbeun Nature Reserve VKFF-1920. I moved up the band and soon had three more contacts, including Mike VK6MB/3 in VKFF-0968. I returned to 40 m SSB to work another seven stations before I closed. I had a dinner appointment in Traralgon at 1830 local and it was almost 1700, with a 95 minute drive anticipated. I had a total of 23 contacts in 33 minutes.

The drive back to Traralgon was uneventful and there was quite a crowd at the 60th birthday party for a friend.

It ended up being quite a long day.

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