Ada Tall Trees Reserve VKFF-2253

Saturday 23 March 2019

Saturday was wet and windy in the morning. I had been considering heading out to support the South Australian National and Conservation Parks Awards anniversary weekend. With the rain, I decided to chase for a while from home, working several stations. Late in the morning I checked the weather forecast and the weather RADAR. It looked like the rain would be clear of my intended target Park by time I arrived on site. I packed the required items into the vehicle and headed off at about 1240 local time.

I drove west to Nilma, then north through Neerim South and worked my way up to the Park via New Turkey Spur Road. Federal Road passes through the Reserve, with around 120 metres of the road inside the reserve boundary. I parked close to the lowest point in the road, roughly in the middle of that section of the Reserve.

AdaTallTrees

Operating site in Ada Tall Trees Reserve. Thanks to Google Earth.

I managed to toss a line over a branch at around 15 m and soon had the ZS6BKW with the centre at almost 14 m high. The rest of the antenna was strung out and the station assembled on the tray at the rear of the vehicle. The major problem with this operating site is that you are well away from major roads AND in a low gully, so there is no mobile phone coverage. I would need to rely on Hunters to spot me.

I switched on and had a quick hunt around on 40 m SSB. I worked John VK5FLEA.p in VKFF-0790, followed by Andy VK5LA/p in VKFF-0372 and Tony VK5MRT/p in VKFF-1767. I settled on 7.135 and soon had more callers.

Further Park to Park contacts included:
Adam VK2YK/p in VKFF-1410,
Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-2784,
Alan VK5AR/p in VKFF-0022,
Peter VK5PET/p in VKFF-1767,
Mike VK6MB/3 in VKFF-0764,
Paul VK5PAS/p in VKFF0791,
Tony VK3XV/5 in VKFF0805,
Hans VK4YX/p in VKFF-0890,
David VK5DG/p in VKFF-0793,
Adrian VK5FANA/p in VKFF-0813,
Andrew VK5MR/p in VKFF-0935,
Angela VK7FAMP/p and Tony VK7LTD/p in VKFF-1147,
Lesley VK5LOL/p in VKFF-0890, and
Jon VK7JON/p and Helen VK7FOLK/p in VKFF-1152.

I also worked Matt VA3OZI/VK2 on VK2/IL-002.

I moved down to 80 m SSB to work a couple of locals plus Steve VK7CW on CW before returning to 40 m for only one more contact. In just over two hours I  had managed to make 53 contacts, so the Park was now well qualified.

I packed up and headed back to Neerim South. I decided against a second activation as I was feeling a little weary and tomorrow required an early start, so simply headed for home.

A good fun afternoon of Park radio activity. Thanks to all who worked me during the activation.

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Another step in VKFF Hunter Honour Roll

I have been slowly  increasing the count of new unique VKFF references worked.

Last week’s trip to Outtrim gave me the chance to chase/hunt Ross when he was inside the reserve and I was outside and that happened to bring up the next milestone. I am sure that there are a couple more new parks waiting for the activator to upload logs, but that is the way that things go for the Hunter: you must have patience for the activator to “do the paperwork”.

VK3PF VKFF Hunter Honour Roll 1375

Thanks to all the Activators for the fun of hunting you. Thanks to the VKFF admin team for your efforts in uploading the logs and sending out certificates. Thanks to Paul VK5PAS for his excellent photos  used on the certificates.

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A trip to Outtrim

Thursday 14 March 2019

I had been chatting again with my friend from Maffra. It appears that he enjoyed being out in the field with me on Tuesday when I activated Glenmaggie Regional Park. We decided to do a Park activation on the Thursday, with Ross to try getting on air and at least qualifying the target Park for VKFF. Ross has chased me on many occasions, often providing valuable contacts to get me over the line when on a SOTA peak or helping towards the quota for VKFF/WWFF.

Ross arrived a little later than planned, so we headed off a little late. After adding fuel to the car, we headed to Mirboo North and on to Leongatha, where we stopped at a bakery to buy some lunch. We then travelled towards Inverloch to Leongatha South, then west towards Outttrim.

Outtrim Cemetery Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2171

The Reserve has no vehicle access, but pedestrian access is simple. There are some interpretive signs near the pedestrian access gate. Parking is limited. There is a lane beside the east end of the Reserve, with a very pot-holed entrance to the lane. There is space to park a vehicle beside the locked gate to the Reserve and it is simple to climb over the gate and set up inside the Reserve.

Note that located directly opposite the Reserve is the Koorumburra Motorcycle Club motocross track, so you may have lots of motorbike sounds as background noise for your activation. I had checked out this site earlier in the year and had decided to revisit and activate the site on a week-day, when it would be unlikely to have lots of motorbike activity.

The Reserve is just over 5 hectares in area and is divided into two sections. The Northern area is periodically slashed and has thus developed a higher percentage of wildflowers, grass-like plants and orchids. The introduced Watsonia has been a persistent invasive problem. The Southern area is more typical of the Dry Sclerophyll forest found in the foothills of the Strzelecki Range. It is more protected and has a greater diversity but less abundance of flora. It has been subject to invasion by Pittosporum undulatum, and is being monitored to maintain the integrity of the area.

OuttrimConservation

History

Outtrim is located in Gippsland, approximately 20 km southwest of Korumburra. The township was first surveyed in 1893, with council records in 1894 showing that three people occupied houses and four others owned shop/dwellings. Following the development of black coal mining operations, Outtrim developed rapidly, and Shire records show that by 1901 the town contained 323 houses and approximately 1,700 inhabitants. Primary School no. 3221 was opened in 1900, and by 1903, 347 students were enrolled.

In 1895 ten acres were allocated for the Outtrim Cemetery. It is believed that 220 individuals were buried in the cemetery, which fell out of use as Outtrim declined in the early 20th century. The last burial is thought to have taken place in 1946.

The township of Outtrim has now virtually disappeared from sight, and the area of the former township has been absorbed into surrounding farmlands.

History of Place

The cemetery site was approved in 1894, and ten acres of crown allotment 25X and 25V of the parish of Kongwak were allocated in 1895. The trustees were elected at a public meeting in the Outtrim hall in 1896.

The first of a total of 220 burials took place on 3 October 1897. It is thought that the last burial took place in 1946.

The site was classified as a Nature conservation reserve in 1984 and has been managed as a nature reserve since that time.
http://vhd.heritagecouncil.vic.gov.au/places/44895/download-report

The last burial occurred on 15 April 1946.

OuttrimCemetery

Activation

We had nice weather, with some clouds and low to mid 20s temperatures and a gentle breeze for most our time on site.

Ross and I moved the required equipment across the gate. I set up a 12 m squid pole using the gate post as a support. We laid out the ZS6BKW antenna running north-south, as any other orientation would require the antenna being outside the Reserve boundary or more effort to set up support for the squid pole.

I set up a folding table and the usual folding chair near the gate. I soon made some contacts with Ross on VHF and UHF, with Ross outside the Reserve. I then finished hooking up the KX2 to the battery and antenna. On switching on, the KX2, I started to move up the 40 m band towards the VKFF focus frequency of 7.144 MHz. Just prior to reaching the target frequency, I heard a CQ call on 7.140. I soon had Ade VK4SOE/p in the log. I moved up to 7.144 MHz, spotted myself and started calling, but had few responses. After a few minutes, I dropped down to 80 m and started to work a few Gippsland locals plus Geoff VK3SQ.

The sun was out from behind the clouds and was feeling very hot, so Ross and I assembled a shelter that I have which is designed to sit on the rear of a 4WD. We set it up with the “roof end” tied to the top post of the gate/fence. The shelter was not very high, but there was enough room to sit comfortably underneath.

I returned to 40 m, but on CW and spotted. I soon had four calls in the log. I then moved back to 7.144 MHz and worked 11 contacts over the next 45 minutes – it was slow work. Amongst those contacts was Tony VK3XV/5 in Peachna Conservation Park VKFF-1075.

I moved up to 20 m to find OTHR signals high in the band, so spotted on 14.244. I soon had seven calls in the log, including VK4NH and VK4TJ. I then worked John VK4TJ on CW on the same frequency.

I next checked how well the KX2 tuner would match on 30 m – okay was the result, so I spotted on 10.116 MHz CW and worked John VK4TJ again. I then moved to SSB on 10.125 MHz and again worked John and Ray VK4NH.

I moved back to 80 m SSB for several minutes of calling, but only worked Peter VK3FPSR in northern Victoria. Mike VK6MB/3 was in the Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park VKFF-0747, but we could not hear each other, which was strange. We coordinated the attempted contact via mobile phone. Conditions were odd. I decided to give up and to get Ross back on the microphone so that he could qualify. Whilst we were setting up on 40 m, we heard Mike VK6MB/3 weakly. I managed to work Mike with several overs required to complete the contact. I then moved down the band to work Adrian VK5FANA for my final contact and the next contact for Ross. Ross started calling and soon had enough contacts in the log – 10 for VKFF – including a contact with Mike VK6MB/3. We were calling from the Reserve for about 3.5 hours – slow going and hard work at times.

We packed up the station, and I finally remembered to take a snap of Ross operating before we finished packing.

RossVK3NRB_VKFF2171

Ross VK3NRB/p operating

We loaded the gear back into the car and headed back to Churchill before later heading to the local radio club for the weekly gathering.

Thanks to all the callers during the afternoon.

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A second visit to Glenmaggie Regional Park

A friend had requested advice regarding a delicate matter that had arisen. I suggested an option would be to start documenting the chronology of events leading to the current situation. I offered to head across to his home to assist with the task. So I headed off from home a little prior to 1000 local time, arriving in Maffra just after 1100 local (0000Z).

We soon had the computer fired up and started the documentation task. Whilst waiting for a task to complete, I checked ParksnPeak and saw that Ian VK5CZ/p was out on a SOTA summit. I dashed out to my car to grab the CW paddle to hook up to the rig. A few minutes later, I managed to work Ian on 40 m SSB: our first successful outcome for the day. We returned to the main task at hand. I managed to miss a couple of spots posted by Liz VK2XSE/p, but listened for her and even called. A couple of minutes later, Liz spotted that she was going QRT.

About an hour later, we heard a weak signal in the noise, as I had left the transceiver running on 7.144 MHz. Gerard VK2IO and Lee VK2LEE were attempting to work out where Tony VK3XV/5 was operating. I jumped in and managed to finally get the Park reference from Tony along with 33 reports both ways. I spotted Tony and heard the others complete contacts with Tony.

With the documentation task completed, we posted a response to the correspondent causing angst, then left to grab some lunch. We also decided to head off to the nearest Park to try an activation, after having checked the RADAR to note that the light showers would soon be past our intended location.

We headed off to the west in separate vehicles, through Tinamba and on towards Glenmaggie. I found a spot inside the Park boundary to stop and set up the station.

Glenmaggie Regional Park VKFF-1877

We parked to the east of Tyson Road, north of Tinamba Seaton Road, well inside the boundary of the Park. I quickly tossed a line over a tree branch at about 10-11 m and hauled up the centre of the doublet. We soon had the antenna legs run out and the station assembled. Opening ParksnPeaks showed that things were busy, with VK3XV/5, VK3TKK/p and Rob VK4AAC/3 all on air.

I quickly listened to the spotted frequencies and could only hear Tony, so soon had VKFF-1011 in the log for a Park to Park (P2P) contact. I spotted for 80 m and moved down and started calling., A few minutes later, I worked Peter VK3TKK/p in VKFF-2316, followed by Rob VK4AAC/3 in VKFF-2100 – two more P2P contacts. Shortly after, I worked Steve VK3KTT. I soon  had seven contacts on 80 m SSB in the log. I moved up to 40 m and found a clear frequency to start calling. 15 minutes later and I only had two contacts in the log…. I moved to 40 m CW, which yielded five contacts in the next ten minutes, then nothing. I tried 20 m CW and worked another three stations. 20 m SSB yielded only a single contact with a local, who was also worked on 40 m, 15 m, 10 m and 6 m SSB plus 2 m and 70 cm FM.

Back to 40 m SSB, I worked Rob VK4AAC/3 again from VKFF-2100, plus David VK5PL. With no further responses to CQ calls, I decided to try my first session using FT8 in the field. I hooked my laptop up to the IC-7300 and was soon receiving signals on the FT8 frequency on 20 m, but I was not transmitting. I soon corrected the settings and was transmitting. I called a ZL station but was unable to complete despite continuing transmitting. My signal was reported at -16 but the other station gave up after several minutes. I tried a few CQ calls but had no responses. I dropped back down to the 40 m FT8 and soon had several calls in the log: VK2AJG, VK2IO, VK5WU, VK3NRB and VK1MIC. With no more responses, I changed back to 40 m SSB and was quickly answered by Paul VK5PAS, followed by Adrian VK5FANA. Paul posted another spot for me and I soon had another couple of contacts. I finally had 44 in the log – I thought at the time it was 45, but I had one duplicate contact. I moved up to 20 m FT8 and worked Ross VK3NRB on FT8, making it 45 contacts for the day. I decided to pack up and head for home.

Thanks to all the Hunters for your contacts.

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A trip to Neerim East

Saturday 9 March 2019

The morning started a little slowly, but with a little radio fun with chasing Katsu JP3DGT/3 activating JA/OS-004 on 17 m CW. After midday local time, I chased Tony VK3XV/p and Mike VK6MB/3 in Parks. I was considering what to have for lunch and then decided to head out to activate a Park which I had not yet activated. There was a lot of smoke in the air from bushfires – the closest one is about 10 km south of home: the Budgeree/Yinnar South fire. With the smoke, I did not want to do any outside work and decided for some radio therapy in the filed instead, hoping that the smoke would not be too bad at Neerim East, despite being not far from the Bunyip fires. The wind was from the east, so there was some logic in choosing the target Park.

The route was relatively simple: head from home to Moe, then I made my way around to Old Sale Road and followed it in its north of west route to Beards Track Rosworth. North along Beards Track, travelling through Sweetwater Creek Nature Conservation Reserve, which have previously activated. I travelled on until reaching Latrobe River Road, then a short distance north until I worked my way around onto Carrols Track and drove along it along the edge of pine plantations. Carrols Track ends at a junction with PP2 Track, which drops steeply down into a gully, with some short steep spoon drains plus some erosion. I changed into 4WD and slowly made my way down the hill until after reaching the western boundary of the target Reserve. Close to the bottom of the hill I reached a tree across the road – a tree big enough to no want to tackle without a chainsaw. I was adjacent to roughly the middle of the southern boundary of the Reserve, so I simply parked the vehicle and started to set up.

Neerim Flora Reserve VKFF-2410

This reference had been activated only once previously, by Peter VK3ZPF on a week day under wetter conditions. Peter had parked at the top of the hill and walked down and into the Reserve. Before I left home, I had double checked the Reserve boundary using the MapShare viewer. You can see in the image below that the southern boundary extends to beyond PP2 Track apart from a small section of the Track. The tree across the track was close to the point where the track deviates slightly further south and outside the Park boundary. I set up on the northern edge of the track.

NeerimFR_boundary

The antenna was running east-west, with the apex at around nine metres. I set up using the tray at the rear of the vehicle as the operating table. I could not spot myself as I had no phone coverage, being down in a gully away from any nearby sealed roads. I dialled up 7.144 MHz and asked if the frequency was in use. I heard no initial response, so started calling. Andy VK5LA came back to me, and when he finished, I heard Mike VK6MB/3 weakly. Mike did not hear my replies to him and dropped down to 80 m. I worked Andy and he spotted me. I worked four others before I dropped down to 80 m to work Mike for a Park to Park (P2P) contact. Mike was in Lake Tyers State Park VKFF-0761.

I returned to 7.144 MHz and started working other callers. John VK4TJ was next, followed by Tony VK3XV/5, now in Carappee Hill Conservation Park VKFF-1016. The calls continued to come slowly – thank goodness for the voice recorder on the IC-7300. About 44 minutes after I started calling, I worked Ian VK1DI/2 in Bimberamala National Park VKFF-0032. A short period with no responses to calls had me announce that I would drop down to work CW on 40 m, when Scott VK4CZ called in. I then moved down to 7.032 MHz CW to work six stations over the next 12 minutes.

I moved back up to 7.144 MHz and worked 10 stations over the next 10 minutes, the last of whom was Nick VK3ANL. Nick was weak on 40 m, so we moved down to 80 m SSB to make another contact. 80 m brought six contacts in total, including Nick VK3ANL on CW in addition to SSB. Ken VK3UH spotted me for 20 m SSB and I soon had Ray VK4NH in the log. With Ray’s extra callsigns, I finally had 47 contacts in the log. With no more responses, I started packing up and retraced my route back towards Latrobe River Road, but with a detour to check out the approach to the Reserve from the east.

NeerimNR_scrub

The “open” scrub at the operating site

I dropped down Boundary Track to Stanley Vale Track, then onto Invert Track and the eastern end of PP2 Track. There were a few potholes and ruts to dodge until I reached a nasty looking bog hole which had several big ruts and wet areas. I jumped out and walked around the bog and around the bend I saw the same tree across the track as I had encountered earlier. So access from the east is possible, but I suspect it could be very wet and muddy when wet. I retraced my route, but continued on Stanley Vale Track and climbed up Spur Track to get back to Latrobe River Road.

I missed the corner with Beards Track and simply made my way out to the west to Neerim South, then south to Bloomfield Road and Crossover. I decided to drop in for another activation of VKFF-0965.

Crossover Regional Park VKFF-0965

Shortly after passing Gunn Road, I swung in to the southern end of Bridge Road and then left onto Rokeby to Neerim Trail. I stopped and parked on the remnant of the track that has been cut off from reaching Bloomfield Road by a cutting. The spot is reasonably high and there is space to hand antennas from the trees, as long as you do not run lines across the track – it is used by walkers, horse riders, cyclists and motorbike riders.

I managed to throw a line over a branch at around 12 m above ground. As I was running out the antenna, the first of several motorcyclists came through and stopped for a short chat. He left after I reassured him that I would not be running any lines across the track at any low height!

I was finally set up at 0623Z and spotted myself. John VK4TJ was first in the log at 0625Z. Ten minutes later, I worked John VK5FLEA/p in Kenneth Stirling Conservation Park VKFF-0781. I worked three more stations before I had no resposnes.

I dropped down to 40 m CW and called for a few minutes before my first reply: Allen VK3ARH. I soon had seven on CW in the log, when I worked Gerard VK2IO/p in Rouse Hill Regional Park VKFF-2784. Next was John VK5FLEA/p again, this time on CW.

I dropped down to 80 m and soon had four more contacts, including Nick VK3ANL on SSB and CW and Mike VK6MB/3 in Lake Tyers State Park VKFF-0761. With no further callers, I returned to 40 m SSB but had no responses to calls. After about 15 minutes, I had a short tune around the band and managed to work Frank F5PAU.

I moved up to 20 m SSB but had no replies. I dropped down the band for CW and worked only Andrei ZL1TM.

I moved back to 40 m SSB at around 0800Z and worked another five contacts, including Gerard VK2IO/p again. I then worked three calls on CW on the same frequency. The tally was getting closer to the magic 44, but I had no further responses to calls. I again dropped down to 80 m SSB and soon had six more in the log, including both Gerard VK2IO/p and John VK5FLEA/p for P2P on both SSB and CW. These were followed by eight more contacts, including three on CW plus Nik VK3ZNK/p in Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park VKFF-0747. It was getting late – the sun had set and I would soon run out of light. I had 49 in the log, so I was happy.

I packed up and headed back out to Bloomfield Road, hitting the bitumen at 2000 local. I then had a drive of about an hour to reach home to grab a late dinner.

Thanks to all the Hunters, with special thanks to all who spotted me from Neerim Flora Reserve, especially John VK4TJ.

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A trip to Melbourne with a Park detour

Thursday 28 February 2019

I needed to travel to Clayton to pick up an item, so decided to add a detour to the trip home. I left home about mid-morning and arrived at destination in Clayton in reasonable time. I made a couple of other stops before heading east along Wellington Road towards my target Park for the day.

Baluk Willam Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2042

This Reserve is located in South Belgrave, north of Wellington Road. It is split by Courtneys Road, with the road reserve excluded from the reserve boundary. There are some walking tracks and a small car park off Orchid Road. There is an interpretive sign at the car park, but only part of the car park is inside the reserve boundary so care is needed to select an operating site to ensure the station is inside the boundary, as required by the WWFF rules.

The Park is just over 67 hectares and mostly scrub. It is a sanctuary for over a third of Victoria’s orchid species. The Reserve contains thirteen Ecological Vegetation Classes, including shrubby foothill forest, damp sclerophyll forest, wet sclerophyll forest and heathy woodland (dominated by Sliver-leafed Stringybark). Over 250 indigenous plant species have been recorded in the reserve, including 73 orchid species. Several of the orchid species are rare or vulnerable in Victoria.

BalukWillamSign

The Reserve Wecome sign

I quickly set up the station, posting a spot as I commenced the process – I wanted to let Mike VK6MB/3 know that I was coming up shortly having seen a spot from Mike on arrival. I had a major issue once set up – S5-6 noise across 80 m. Despite the noise, I managed to complete a contact with Mike on 80 m SSB Park to Park to Lind National Park VKFF-0287. I spent another 10 minutes calling on 80 m with no replies heard above the noise. I then decided to move one end of the antenna. The result was a significant drop in the noise level. There was a power line transformer not far away, plus an obvious solar panel array on the closest house, either of which may have been the source of the noise.

I moved up to 40 m SSB and soon had three regulars in the log: John VK4TJ, Gerard VK2IO and Adrian VK5FANA. Further calls yielded no replies, so I set up the paddle and moved down to the CW segment of the band. This resulted in several calls, again working John and Gerard, plus Steve VK7CW.

I returned to 40 m and could just hear Geoff VK3SQ calling but he could not hear my responses. We dropped down to 80 m SSB to make a contact. I then tried 20 m SSB, with the noise level higher. I worked John VK4TJ on CW, as I was not deciphering his voice signal.

I next tried 30 m SSB, even knowing that the antenna match was poor. I again worked Mike VK6MB/3 in Lind National Park. I had no further contacts on SSB, so spotted for CW and again worked John VK4TJ plus Joergen VK2KJJ. I tried 15 m SSB and soon had John VK4TJ in the log on both SSB & CW, but no other callers. I tried 12 m, again working John VK4TJ on SSB & CW but no other callers.

I moved back to 40 m SSB and managed another contact with Mike VK6MB/3, working hard to make contacts from Lind National Park. I moved down from 7.144 MHz to 7.135 MHz and soon had some more callers: Mark VK3MDH/m in Belgrave, Compton VK2HRX, John VK2JON, Keith VK3MKE and then Nick VK3ANL on SSB and then CW. I then dropped down to 80 m and worked Keith and Nick again, but no further callers. Back on 7.135 MHz, I worked Dennis VK2HHA. After working Dennis, I stopped to chat with Mark VK3MDH, who had driven down to find me. With some assistance from Mark, we managed to finally make contact  with Michael VK3FCMC on 2 m FM – I could hear Michael on 15 m SSB, but he could not hear me on 15 , 40 or 80 m. Michael was contact 44 – Park qualified. As Mark drove off, we made an “insurance” contact on 2 m FM – 45 in the log and all done for me. It had been a hot afternoon, with temperatures in the mid to high 30s relieved a little by a gentle breeze for most of the afternoon. It took about three hours to make the contacts. Thanks to all who called, but especially John VK4TJ who looked for me on every band.

I packed up and started the drive home, coping with the Melbourne afternoon peak traffic.

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A new WWFF Activator certificate

I had not been keeping a close watch on my WWFF Activator tally, so received a pleasant surprise when I checked on Logsearch last week: I had qualified 121 Parks as an Activator at the 44 contacts qualification level. As usual, it took only a couple of days for the new certificate to arrive via email.

Once again, thanks to all who hunt for us Activators when we are out in a Park, and thanks to the team who manage the database and associated systems.

vk3pf_A-121

Activator certificate: 121 references activated

 

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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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Cape Paterson (Patterson) Nature Conservation Reserve VKFF-2063

This Park had been activated twice previously, but looked to be worth activating. It is about 1.5 hours’ drive from home.

Sunday 10 February 2019

I headed off from home aiming to be on site after UTC rollover. I used my normal route towards South Gippsland, heading to Yinnar, then west onto the Strzelecki Highway (B460), south to Mirboo North and then SW to Leongatha. Minor issue though: a couple of kilometres south of the B460 / C469 junction, I reached a traffic jam – traffic was largely stationary. I do not know what was causing the delays, perhaps a road accident at the junction. I headed into the plantation south of the road and worked my way through the track network onto Darlimurla Road and met further detours manned by CFA volunteers before finally getting back onto B460. (Update: local news on Monday night indicated that a motorcyclist died after running into the rear of a car waiting to turn right into Darlimurla Road. Sad news!)

That was not the only delay….. I had forgotten that the date was the Mirboo North Italian Festa, with around 15000 people attending. Traffic in Mirboo North was a disaster….

Once through Mirboo North, things moved fairly smoothly, despite an area of roadworks with a 40 km/hr speed restriction.

The route was simple from Mirboo North: On to Leongatha, Inverloch and around to Cape Paterson. It is interesting to note that the Parks Victoria website lists the Reserve as having only one “t”, yet the CAPAD database has the spelling with two “t”s….

I drove along the eastern and northern boundaries, finding very limited parking. The road reserves extended to the edge of the thick coastal vegetation within the reserve. I travelled around to the local small shopping centre and purchased some lunch, then headed back to the reserve via Cassia Street.

The end of Cassia Street extends onto a mown firebreak that extends along the inside of the western and southern boundaries of the Reserve, providing a place to park the vehicle and set up with the antenna running close to the thick scrub and bracken. It looked as if the firebreak was regularly used, so I avoided obstructing the fire break. I set up using the tailgate of the vehicle as my operating table.

VKFF-2063map_s

The Park aerial view showing the boundary, with the firebreak visible

I was finally set up at about 0245Z and spotted myself. I then noticed that Linda VK7QP/p was in a Park (VKFF-1133), so listened for her signals for a couple of minutes. Linda was in the noise at my location and we probably would have needed 80 m to make a contact. I returned to my spotted frequency and promptly worked Geoff VK3SQ, who had been calling me after seeing the spot. Next was Lou VK3AQZ in Wonthaggi, who invited me to visit for a coffee when I was finished. It was slow work, with lots of calls with few replies. Thank goodness for the IC-7300 Voice Memory… I was called by Mike VK6MB/2 for a Park to Park (P2P) from VKFF-0334. I occasionally changed frequency to listen for Linda, but she was always only just audible in the noise and not good enough to work.

At around 0315Z, I tried switching to CW, only to find that the 6.35 mm to 3.5 mm stereo adapter had a fault, with a short causing continuous sending of dahs. So much for picking up some CW contacts!

With only eight contacts in the log, I dropped down to 80 m SSB and worked 5 station in about 15 minutes. I returned to 40 m SSB and managed a Park to Park (P2P) with Peter VK3ZPF/p in VKFF-2054, followed by Cliff VK2NP. Ten minutes of calling produced no callers, so I set up for CW, setting up the KX2. Only 10 W output compared to the 30 W I was using on the IC-7300, but I quickly had four more contacts in the log. I switched back to the IC-7300 and 40 m SSB to work some more stations, including Alan VK5AR/4 in a Park for which he did not know the reference. I had some noise at the time and recorded the Park name incorrectly, so I will not claim a P2P contact. I finally managed to work Linda VK7QP/p, now in VKFF-1153 for another P2P. This was followed by lots of calls with no response, first on 40 m SSB and then 20 m SSB. 20 m CW yield three calls in the log.

I returned to 40 m SSB and worked several more stations. I was about to pack up when I saw a new spot from Peter VK3ZPF/p in VKFF-2031: I had tried calling Peter earlier on 40 m SSB and later found out that he had been calling me, but signals were too weak. We finally made it on 80 m SSB. It was now 0552Z and I had 49 in the log, so I decided to call it quits.

Station VKFF-2063

Partial view of the station taken from just outside the park boundary

After packing up, I called Lou VK3AQZ on the ‘phone and arranged to visit him and his wife Rhonda VK3ZYL in North Wonthaggi. It only took about 15 minutes to reach Lou’s house and we had a very long chat over coffee and home-made scones with jam and cream. Lou showed me some of his very well built home-brew equipment, including his multimode, multiband HF transceiver, his automatic antenna tuning unit and antenna/rig switch.

It was then a matter of driving home. I took a punt that the Festa in Mirboo North and the road incident would both be over, which proved to be the case, so the trip home was uneventful.

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Hotham SOTA Summit 2019 – wrap up

Monday 4 February 2019

I had not decided on a firm plan for the day. The day started with contacts on 2 m FM with Gerard VK2IO/3 and Compton VK2HRX/3 on Mount Hotham VK3/VE-006. I then had breakfast and checked the Victorian Emergency website to find Plan A was ruled out with a fire located nearby to the intended target summit. We soon had a request to help move a pile of firewood. With many helping, the wood pile was soon in the wood shed portion of the lodge. People started tidying up, packing up and departing. In the end, I decided to simply drive home.

Things were very busy at times over the weekend, especially when several groups were on different summits at the same times. The larger distances between groups meant that 2 m FM communications were not always possible, especially with simple “rubber duck” antennas. When one group was moving between summits, they would drop to lower altitudes and behind ridges and hills, thus some possible contacts were missed.

Overall, I am more than satisfied with my weekend’s results. I worked two new Activator Unique summits and therefore gained two Completes. Our first summit on Saturday gave me a new Chaser unique and Complete.

Overall results for the weekend:

Activator points:  118
Chaser points:  413
Summit to Summit points:  430

Now qualified for Activator CW points 500 certificate, with CW qualified points tally now at 579. I will need to wait for the SOTA Awards shop to reopen for electronic certificates to apply for the formal certificate, plus a couple of others. I see no point in claiming a paper certificate, as it takes the Awards Manager time to confirm eligibility. The MT IT team are working to make the database more friendly for the Awards Manager & I am happy to wait!

Thanks to all who attended the weekend and a huge thank you to Brian and Kathy for hosting the event. It is great to spend time with like-minded people, discussing mutual interests. It is also good to have some company in the car when travelling to and from summits.

I am expecting that a summary report of the weekend will be published in Amateur Radio magazine in an upcoming issue.

Some of the others who attended have published accounts on their own blogs. Paul VK3HN has prepared an interesting video, so check it out.

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