After my successful operation in this contest in 2021 I was pleased to be invited to repeat the experience this year.
I decided to operate from the tent this time and stay overnight to allow me to continue operating in the morning without having to set up and tear down the station several times.
I selected Snow Gum Mountain which is a SOTA summit vk2/ST-028 and during the weekend I would be able to find a few moments to operate as a battery powered portable for SOTA purposes. I took the usual SOTA gear, including a 4.2 AH LiFePO4 battery to run the KX3.
To be able to operate during the night without running a generator, I took a 100AH AGM battery. When the voltage level dropped too low for the IC706 I would start the generator and run from that for an hour or so. The battery charger would bring the AGM battery up to a workable voltage level within that time.
Before the contest: Sad news
After packing all my gear, I departed from home and topped up my fuel tank before leaving my home town. I was leaving the service station when I heard a beep from my phone. Thinking it may be my wife telling me I had forgotten something important, I immediately stopped on the roadside to read the message. It turned out to be a Whatsapp message from Ignacio, EA2BD, telling me that our friend Guru, EA2IF, had passed away the previous day. He had been battling cancer for several years but had thought he had it beat. He lost the battle.
I met Guru in Pamplona in 2019. He had met me there in 2019, and had taken me up to a SOTA summit, then we had a meal together. We discussed our medical problems and he shared his concerns about the cancer he was being treated for at the time. We stayed in contact via Whatsapp since then and we had discussed lots of things. I don’t know what it was about him, I think he was truly a genuine friend, wanting the best for others and offering true friendship in return.
The news of his death was a shock as I had been chatting with him only days beforehand. He was on my mind all weekend.
I dedicated my weekend’s contest operation to the memory of my friend Guru EA2IF.
The contest start time was 10:00 UTC which in our summer time is 9pm at night, hence the need to operate overnight if possible. It turned out well because 40 and 20m were running well into the night and I finally gave up at about 1AM, resuming in the early morning, about 5AM to catch some dx contacts around sunrise.
I operated under the callsign VK1WIA as an HQ station. The HQ stations are selected by each country as stations representing the national association, and count for extra points for anyone working them. There were HQ stations operating in all VK call areas other than VK8, VK9 and VK0. Also ZL, VE and G had HQ stations, there may have been others I was not aware of.
Antennas: I used my linked dipole as it could be used without an ATU and also, being a full size dipole for 80m, I thought it would be more effective than the ZS6BKW doublet on 80m. It turned out to work well enough but not noticeably better than the doublet. I erected both antennas and was able to compare them when they were both set up on the same band. As both antennas had a maximum height of about 7m, both struggled to give me any dx coverage on 80m, it was mainly the VE stations I would have liked to work. Both gave me all states of Australia plus New Zealand north and south islands. Both gave good performance on 40m and the doublet was quite good on 20m.
On Sunday afternoon I erected the 20m quarter wave vertical that has done well for me on SOTA summits in the past. Comparing it with the doublet I gained the impression that it was slightly better. Certainly it gave me some good contacts into Europe.
Contacts: My final contact tally was 115 but after a few problems in my log I lost 5 of those contacts, which was disappointing. The main problem was not changing the band in the N1MM log, so some contacts made were actually dupes, also some possible contacts were rejected by the N1MM logging program, when they should not have been – because I had actually changed bands and would have been allowed to make those contacts if I had updated the band setting in N1MM. The solution to that is to use the link between the computer and the radio, then the radio tells the logger what band you are on and these mistakes cannot happen. I just didn’t have the cable required to set up that interface.
I found N1MM to be very easy to use apart from the band changing, which was operator error. In some ways it was like FLE (fast log entry) where you just type the new data and if you don’t have a band or mode change, it stays as it was in your last contact.
Before the contest started I made a few contacts for SOTA, including some with Ignacio EA2BD and Jorge EA2LU, who took me up a SOTA summit in Spain in 2019. I also made some dx contacts for sota on Monday morning, as I still had the entire station setup then.
As a portable contest station there are always limits to the antennas you can erect and also it is hard to take enough equipment to be able to run more than a 100w station. So it is satisfying when a simple station can produce a good contact count.
I have ideas for other antennas to use for future events. In the coming years, conditions should be better than in the past few years, so it will be even busier and there will probably be more contacts to be made.
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