POTA Field Report: Fort Dobbs, 5 watts, and speaker wire

After making my first activation of Fort Dobbs State Historic Site, I knew I’d be back in short order. It had all of the things I love about a great POTA site: it’s accessible in my weekly travels, has tall trees, a huge shelter, and friendly park rangers. Plus, it’s chock-full of history.

Does it get any better?

Fort Dobbs State Historic Site (K-6839)

On Wednesday, August 25, 2021, I stopped by Fort Dobbs for a quick activation.

Even though I arrived only shortly after the park opened and I was obviously the only guest there, I checked in at the visitor’s center to get permission to do the activation.

Not only did they grant me permission, but they also allowed me to set up in their main covered picnic area.As I mentioned in a previous post, I believe you should always ask permission at small historic sites like Fort Dobbs.  For one thing, I want the staff to know where I am and what I’m doing. Unlike vast state and national parks, their spaces to set up may be more limited and the last thing you’d want to do is set up shop in a space where they plan to do a scheduled outdoor presentation in period costume.

 

In addition, some historic and archaeological sites  may have restrictions on the types of antennas you employ. I’ve known of some, for example, that require fully self-supporting antennas that need no trees nor no stakes in the ground.

The folks at Fort Dobbs couldn’t be more friendly.

On the air

I decided I’d pull out the trusty 28.5′ speaker wire antenna and see how well it might perform while paired with the mAT-705 Plus and Icom IC-705.

Set up took all of three minutes.

With super lightweight antennas like the speaker wire antenna, there is rarely a need to tie off the end of the throw line to hold the antenna in a tree and in position. Unless there are strong winds, the weight of the throw line itself will hold it in place. Deploying the antenna and connecting it to the ATU and transceiver may have taken me two minutes.

Relying on trees can be a little unpredictable; some sites may have trees that are too short, some with branches that are too high, some that are too dense with branches, and/or trees may not be ideally situated for a field activation.  When things aren’t ideal, it might take much longer to deploy a wire antenna in a tree. This is one reason why so many POTA and SOTA ops choose to bring their own collapsible support–it gives them a degree of predictability when setting up at a new site.

Fortunately, at Fort Dobbs, there are numerous trees that are ideally situated for effortless field deployments.

Gear:

I hopped on the 40 meter band and started calling CQ.

Fortunately, propagation was in pretty good shape, and I worked a string of contacts.

It was nice to experience a more “normal” activation where propagation wasn’t completely in the dumps.

I eventually moved up to the 20M band and did a little hunting before finally packing up.

All in all, I made eleven contacts–just one more than the 10 required for a valid POTA activation.

I could have stayed and played radio for a much longer period of time–and I was tempted for sure–but I chose to fit in one more activation that morning at nearby Lake Norman State Park. So I packed up and moved on.

QSO Map

Here’s the QSO map of my contacts at Fort Dobbs:

Video

I made another real-time, real-life, no-edit video of the entire activation as well. You can view it via the embedded player below, or on YouTube:

I didn’t work any DX at Fort Dobbs, but I was super pleased with the speaker wire’s performance using only 5 watts of output power. I imagine if I would have stayed on the air for another hour or two, I could have worked a couple stations in Europe. It was a tad early for much activity on 20 meters.

Thank you!

Thank you for reading this field report and a special thanks to those of you who are supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement–my content is always free–I really appreciate the support.

If you can, find some time to chase or activate a park or summit near you! Or, if you have an opportunity, just take your radio outdoors, hop on the air, and have some fun. It’s good for your soul!

And a friendly reminder: you don’t need a fancy radio or fancy antenna. Use what you’ve got. Pretty much any transceiver you’re willing to lug to the field will work. And antennas? As you can see, even $4 of speaker wire conjures up some serious QRP magic!

Cheers & 73,

Thomas (K4SWL)

11 thoughts on “POTA Field Report: Fort Dobbs, 5 watts, and speaker wire”

  1. Great article. I have not tried such antenna, but yes if have a structure to put it up would be good for goes up quickly, a must for short operations in parks. Might try with my Z100pro LDG tuner and compare to my 40m OCFD with 20ft portable flag pole. The OCFD is tuned for 20 & 40m, good SWR on lower ends of these bands without tuner.

  2. Thomas,

    Did you really pay $325 for that travel bag???

    I do carry my IC705 with Z100pro tuner, battery, power cables and keyer paddle in a suit case style case. Do have to remove for setup, but really protects the rig.

    One note got from a FB IC705 page…need to pay attention to the IC705’s internal battery for during the rig being off still draws some low current and can drain battery if left for long periods. Is in the manual.

    1. I hope it was a “freebee” or very steep discount. My requirements are somewhat less than combat and special forces needs…maybe just POTA/SOTA!

      1. Same here. Plus my wife would kill me if I spent that much on a bag. Or at the least I would be living out of it under a bridge somewhere.

      2. Ha ha. No–it wasn’t a freebie, but I did purchase the GR1 when GoRuck had deep discounts for the particular color scheme I bought. This was just prior to GoRuck moving the bulk of their production from the USA to Vietnam.

        As I mentioned in a previous post, I’m a pack geek, so I will pay a premium knowing that I’m paying for US manufacturing and a pack that will outlive me.

        The GR1 is used for much more than radio. I’ve traveled, hiked, and camped with this pack extensively. It meets “personal carry on” standards for almost all airlines, so I can pack for 1-2 weeks of travel in it and pay no baggage fees even with discount carriers.

        It just happens to work for POTA/SOTA too! I love it.

        I would certainly not blame someone for *not* forking out so much money for a pack.

        Cheers,
        Thomas

  3. I watched the video even though I don’t do code. You should do a blog post on doing POTA covering how the exchange works in CW. I didn’t know about QRL? until you explained.

    Knowing the exchange abbreviations etc may get more people into code for POTA. Trying to use CW to send everything that is said in a SSB POTA contact is intimidating.

    1. Marshall,

      Most POTA and other QRP outings at parks give basic info, RST, state, your name and maybe park number.

      But I also make a longer QSO with some conversation as with many CW QSOs. Rig antenna, power, etc and often weather. I have noticed many give their age and how long been licensed, get so big numbers from these, hi.

      We use some Q signals, QTH (location) QRZ (who is calling), QRL (is freq in use to start), QRT (closing station), QSL (same as roger or transmission rcvd), QRL (5W or less). Will use more on CW traffic nets, but not much else for typical CW QSO.

      If doing a QRP good to do on weekend for there is most of the time a state QSO party, hear lots of stations on CW, but of course these are very quick QSOs, RST and county or state. But can make lots of contacts.

      73, ron, n9ee/r

      1. Thanks Thomas. I thought I saw an email about that but I couldn’t find it thus my comment. I’ll go read the previous blog post.

  4. Thomas, I stopped in at Walmart last Sunday and bought some Monster Standard 16 GA speaker wire. Built the 28.5′ random wire and Counterpoise. Took it to South Mountains State Park and it worked well hoisted in vertical configuration at the Visitors Center. The LDG Z-100Plus tuner matched it up well on all bands from 40m and up.

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