26 &27 November 2022
The normally annual VKFF Activation weekend followed on from the WWFF 10th Anniversary Weekend the previous weekend.
For the WWFF weekend a week earlier, I operated using VK3BEZ, the EZARC Club callsign, from Tarra-Bulga National Park for most of Saturday and then from Traralgon South Flora Reserve late in the afternoon. On Sunday, I simply chased from home.
The weather forecast for Sunday was looking marginal, with rain overnight and for most of Sunday, so I decided to head out on Saturday. The logical choice was to return to Traralgon South Flora Reserve using the Club callsign to build the number of contacts closer to the 200 contact tally required for the WWFF Teams category.
Traralgon South Flora Reserve VKFF-2465
I headed out and set up on the edge of the access track. I soon had the doublet up in the air and the radio gear set up on the tailgate of the vehicle. I was operational by about 2300Z.
I started by hunting the stations already spotted, working six stations in the first 10 minutes. I found a clear frequency and spotted myself and started calling. By UTC midnight, I had 22 contacts in the log. For the next 30 minutes, I was calling or moving to hunt other activators. I then hunted one Park and one SOTA Activator on 40 m CW. Back to 40 m SSB yielded two more Park Activators.
A change to 20 m produced another Park to Park contact, plus one Hunter on CW. With no further replies to CQ calls, I decided to set up the laptop and try some FT8. 40 m FT8 yielded seven contacts, with a quick diversion to 80 m SSB for a Park to Park contact. I then hunted on 40 m SSB for a while. I then tried some higher bands with little success. I did manage to work Madagascar on 17 m FT8.
I returned to 40 m SSB to hunt others and to call CQ, with the occasional diversion to hunt other Activators on other bands.
I tried some FT8 on various bands with a few contacts made. I returned to 40 m SSB before moving to 80 m SSB where I made 11 contacts. I finally shut down at around 0830Z and then packed up and headed for home.
Overall, it was a mixed day, with long periods of calling with few replies. Thankfully the IC-7300 made the task easier through the use of the memory keyer on both voice and CW. I ended up with 133 contacts for the day, including 66 Park to Park contacts.
Sunday 27 November
The rain had largely cleared by morning. I was a little slow off the mark, but decided to head out again. I drove to Sale, with a stop at the Rosedale Bakery. I headed around to the first Park for the day and parked the vehicle close to the gate.
Herb Guyatt Flora Reserve VKFF-2329
I had visited this Park once previously, making 18 contacts. The Park boundary begins inside the gate. There are areas inside the fence which is a reserve, but not part of the actual gazetted Park, so care is needed to ensure that you are inside the Park boundary.
I grabbed the SOTA pack and entered the Park. The low point of the track was under about 20 cm or more of water, leaving me little space to set up within the boundary without getting wet feet. As a result, the antenna set up was compromised.
I started by hunting Paul VK5PAS/p and Marija VK5MAZ/p in VKFF-0826 on 40 m SSB, followed by Gavin VK2YAK in VKFF-1319. I hunted a couple more stations before spotting myself and calling. I soon had 18 in the log, before I ventured to CW for four contacts. I returned to 40 m SSB to call CQ and managed four Park to Park contacts, then nothing. I dropped down to 80 m for two contacts with locals. I had a total of 30 contacts, with 13 Park to Park. I decided to close and move to the next Park.
I drove around to my preferred location at the next Park and found the access route under water. I back tracked to an alternate car park. I needed to drive slowly through about 10 cm of water to reach the car park, which had only limited areas of ground exposed. I decided to activate from the vehicle with the mobile whip.
Sale Common Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2431
My first contacts were Paul VK5PAS/p and Marija VK5MAZ/p in VKFF-0916. I moved to a clear frequency and spotted. I worked a total of 14 contacts before I closed down and headed off to the next Park.
Whilst travelling, I decided on yet another short activation from the vehicle, saving set up and pack up time but at the expense of a less efficient antenna. I parked inside the Park boundary and set up the logging software.
Giffard Flora Reserve VKFF-2321
I again started by hunting those spotted, then finding a clear frequency and spotting myself. I worked 11 stations, including seven Park to Park contacts. I quickly changed the antenna to 80 m to make two contacts with locals. I then headed off to the next Park.
Mullungdung Flora and Fauna Reserve VKFF-2406
This time I set up the doublet, with the apex at around 12 m. I soon had two Park to Park (P2P) contacts in the log. The next 20 minutes yielded 27 contacts. I then tried 20 m SSB, making 10 contacts before I dropped back to 40 m for another P2P contact. I then tried 20 m CW, making four contacts. A jump to 80 m produced another P2P, followed by one on 40 m SSB. I moved to 40 m CW and was called by Gerard VK2IO for another P2P, followed by four more hunters. My final contacts were all P2P on 40 m SSB. I closed down and packed up, with 53 contacts logged, including 16 P2P.
I drove around to the next Park.
Kangaroo Swamp Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2121
I parked and again set up the doublet. I again started by hunting those spotted, then finding a clear frequency and spotting myself. Four P2P contacts were followed by 36 contacts, including five more P2P. I then dropped down to 80 m SSB to hunt Brett VK3MCA/p in VKFF-2211, whom I had been unable to hear on 40 m due to propagation. I returned to 40 m SSB for only one contatc in 15 minutes before I hunted another P2P. I then tried 30 m CW, making four contacts. Next was 80 m, where I made 11 contacts. I returned to 40 m and made a further 11 contacts before closing down.
I drove around to the next spotted, managing to hit a couple of potholes en route.
Stradbroke Flora and Fauna Reserve VKFF-2443
I quickly raised the doublet by using a line over a tree branch. As I was finishing the set up, I noticed that the awning on the rear left-hand side of the vehicle was missing – the multiple pop rivets holding the awning proper to the mounting system had failed! I decided to start operating, but with an eye on the time as I decided to retrace my approach route to see if I could find the awning before the light levels dropped too low.
I spotted on 40 m SSB and worked 20 stations in under 15 minutes. I then stopped and pulled down the doublet. Just as I was putting the antenna in the car, I heard Gerard VK2IO calling me. I was soon back in the car and managed a final P2P contact for the day, using the mobile whip. The activation was short, but yielded 22 contacts.
I then headed back south and found the awning on the side of the track about 4.5 km south of my operating position. I loaded the awning into the car and headed back north. Given the time of day, I decided to simply head home. As I was driving home, I realised that I could have left the antenna up whilst I had driven to attempt to find the awning and then returned to the operating site for further contacts. Perhaps the efforts of the day had an influence on the decision to close down at the time…
The total trip distance was about 220 km.
The day had been a success, with a total of 202 contacts made, including 52 P2P. Thanks to all the Hunters and Activators for a great day out, despite the lack of short haul propagation on 40 m. The propagation meant that most closer in stations were not heard. The exception were the small number who dropped down to 80 m.Postscript
A few days later, I dropped into the store of the supplier of the awning. My aim was simple – to look at how the awning was mounted to the mounting plate. A staff member helped me unzip the display awning and it revealed that there appears to be plenty of space to repair my awning by drilling out the existing rivets and replacing the rivets with machine screws and nuts, at least in my mind. The staff member asked about my interest and I explained what had happened. He followed me out to the vehicle and examined the rivets – all cleanly snapped off. We returned into the store and found that I had made the purchase just over 2 years earlier, well outside the normal 12 month warranty period. Before I knew it, I was presented with a new replacement awning at no charge. You cannot complain about the after sales support!