A casual and stealthy POTA activation at Le Domaine Maizerets

The weather in/around Québec City has been amazing lately; nice cool mornings and warm, clear days. I know this probably won’t last, so we’ve been taking advantage of it as much as possible (il faut en profiter, as francophones like to say).

Yesterday, we had a few errands to run in town: we needed to pick up some groceries, order a tarte au citron for my birthday (today!) from our favorite patisserie Pralines & Chocolat in Château-Richer, and yes, enjoy the great outdoors.

I wasn’t entirely sure if I’d be able to fit in an activation, but I tucked my KX2 radio pack in the car just in case. I didn’t take the camera because it was family time and if I managed an activation, I didn’t want to film it this time. That, and I have a huge backlog of activation videos I need to publish; I sidelined a lot of my field reports while studying for the Canadian Basic exam over the past month.

Le Domaine Maizerets (VE-5020)

We decided to hit one of our favorite little parks conveniently located on the east end of Québec City (Beauport): Le Domaine Maizerets.

We’ve been to this park a few times in the past to attend a Celtic festival and to meet with friends.

The grounds are beautiful and there are loads of foot paths.

An ATNO!

I checked to see if Le Domaine Maizerets was actually a park in the POTA system and I discovered that not only was it a POTA park, but it was an ATNO (All Time New One); meaning, it had never been activated before.

I was a bit surprised it had never been activated because this is a very popular park and even has free entry with free parking.

Keeping it Stealthy

I decided I wanted to stay fairly low-profile while doing this activation. I wasn’t worried about permissions (families, friends and groups meet here for all sorts of activities) but I wanted to see just how stealthy I could be while operating from a park bench in a city park. I don’t get this opportunity a lot because, back home, I’m usually operating from rural state/national parka and in remote game lands.

We found a couple of benches at the edge of the park that very conveniently had perfect antenna trees behind them.

While no one was watching, I deployed the PackTenna 9:1 random wire antenna; the jacket on its radiator is black and simply disappears with trees and flora in the background.

The wire is next to impossible to see from even 5 meters away

The more conspicuous parts of the antenna–the feed point and RG-316–were tucked away behind the park bench.

My high-visibility arborist throw line was hidden behind the tree and out of sight from those walking on the footpath.

From the footpath, you couldn’t see the antenna, coax, nor the throw line unless you were looking for it.

From behind the bench, you could though; in the very unlikely event someone would have walked behind us, it was pretty conspicuous (always avoid antenna tripping points). That and my family would have warned anyone coming near.

The Elecraft KX2 was a natural choice for this activation: it’s all-in-one and incredibly compact. I can also operate it and log  using the knee board Carolanne (N0RNM) kindly made for me last year.  No picnic table needed.

Operating CW with earphones is insanely stealthy. A CW op makes almost no noise whatsoever.

One of my daughters (K4TLI) was kind enough to log for me on my Microsoft Surface Go (using N3FJP’s AC Log).

 

Here’s what I looked like to anyone passing by:

Click to enlarge – Photo courtesy of K4TLI

My wife (K4MOI) and other daughter (K4GRL) were on the bench next to us sketching and painting. We looked like any other family at the park simply enjoying the amazing weather.

On the air

This was only my third activation here in Canada using my new Canadian callsign: VY2SW.

I’m still getting use to sending the new call; it flows well for me, but my muscle memory keeps kicking in and I find myself accidentally sending K4SWL. 🙂

Since I’m in Québec but have a Prince Edward Island callsign, I do intermittently add a /VE2 to the end of my call. It’s a fistful (VY2SW/VE2) so I don’t use it with every exchange or CQ.

Conditions lately have been absolutely in the dumps and yesterday was no exception.

When a propagation path opened, it was great, but conditions were very unstable with severe QSB.

I spent the better part of an hour hopping between 30, 40, and 20 meters to scrape together enough contacts for a valid park activation.

40 meters was absolutely dead due to flaring. I tried hunting a few CW and SSB stations there, but if I could hear them, they were barely audible.

20 and 30 meters served me better, but the QSB was so deep and frequent, I had to repeat my exchange on a number of occasions.  Some stations would call me with a 599+ signal and after my reply with signal report, they were then barely audible.

Still, I managed to snag my ten with a couple to spare. 🙂

Many thanks to all of you who waded through the ether to reach me on the other end.

QSO Map

It’s interesting looking at the QSO map post-activation. My best DX (EA4B) was easily the strongest station I worked with my 5 watts.

Click to enlarge the map:

This activation was so much fun.

Sure, contacts weren’t frequent but they were all meaningful and, frankly, none of us minded spending time outdoors on such a gorgeous day! It added an extra dimension keeping things very stealthy, too.

Thank you

Thanks for reading this field report. Now that my Canadian exam is in the books, I’ll have time to catch up on the numerous activation videos in the backlog!

Of course, I’d also like to send a special thanks to those of you who have been supporting the site and channel through Patreon and the Coffee Fund. While certainly not a requirement as my content will always be free, I really appreciate the support which allows me to open up my work life to write more field reports and film more activation videos.

I hope you get a chance this week to play radio outdoors or chase/hint some park, island, or summit activators!

Until next time…73!

Cheers,

Thomas (VY2SW / K4SWL)

22 thoughts on “A casual and stealthy POTA activation at Le Domaine Maizerets”

  1. Thomas, happy birthday young man. And again congrats. I saw you on the pota app but couldn’t hear you on 20m. Maybe next time. Enjoy your vacation.

    73
    Wb8yxf

  2. Happy Birthday, Thomas! So glad to make your log in QC. Rough copy here in PA.

    Best 73 de Brian – K3ES

  3. Happy birthday, Thomas!

    Your daughter’s call, K4GRL, jumped out at me. One of my first Elmer’s was K5GRL! He was key to me getting my ticket in 1961 and helped me build my first transmitter!

    73 to you and your family!

    Randy, KS4L

  4. Happy Birthday!
    With regard to weather for the coming days, I just spoke with a friend who is a Weather Specialist for a Montreal TV station. She says there is a warm front moving into your area over the next few days and although you might get periods of rain in the short term, it should clear up for the Quebec long weekend (Friday is Fete Nationale). Currently there are thunderstorms over the Ottawa River valley which could move down over Ottawa and Montreal areas.
    Regards,
    Keith G0RQQ / VA2QU

  5. Thomas yet another amazing post
    And a constant inspiration

    Can I be a geek and a pest and ask about the packtenna element length ?
    Getting my self in a twist here to finally get a proper 9:1 system
    Reading a lot and getting all numbers under the sun ….

    Any advice here would be greatly appreciated

    1. Ha ha! Michael, I believe mine is the default 31′ length. It worked well for me all the way down to 60M (not sure if I’ve tried 80M for a match). The KX2, X5105, X6100, and KX3 all easily tune it from 60M up.

      1. many thanks Thomas
        31 feet it is !

        (your amazing magic 25.8feet wonder
        (I call it the Thomas / E (for Elecraft) Special
        isi the ebst one so far
        Small potent and by God – consistent on length!

        thank you
        Michael

  6. Happy Birthday, Thomas! Surprised to hear all of your family members have their ham licenses. I only knew of one family long ago that were all licensed except for maybe one. I first drew interest in radio through them.

  7. Bon anniversaire!
    My favourite place to eat on Rue St Jean is Au Peitit Coin Breton, a crêperie just down from the old city gate. Bon appétit!

  8. Free entry and free parking? In Québec? Are you sure you weren’t dreaming?

    It’s not terribly surprising that the park hadn’t been activated yet, as amateur radio enjoys an even smaller profile in Québec than it does elsewhere in Canada, which is already pretty somnolent on the ham front. (In case it wasn’t obvious, I’m from there.)

    But there are brilliant parks and any number of opportunities for great portable ops. If you get up into my neighbourhood of the Laurentians you get the added benefit of height. When I lived there I got great DX to the rest of the hemisphere with nothing but a longwire up 30 feet and 50 watts.

    Enjoy your visit!

    Rob
    KB7PWJ

  9. I was trying a POTA activation today, 4 contacts. Terrible band conditions unfortunately only one contact outside the U.K. 40 meters came to my rescue but 5 watts didn’t quite cut it. Still had a great day out in the sunshine.

  10. Welcome to the Canadian ham community. Will you be visiting PEI. It could make for a good 40m contact Tom here in western Newfoundland. Mike, V

    1. I messed up that comment. It just flew away before I realised the error. Ignore the “Tom”.
      Mike
      VO1OK

  11. Nice! On my last activation I sat on a park bench with my KX2 On my lap and had my AX1 next to me on a mini tripod. A near zero footprint and pretty stealthy.

  12. Thank you all for the very kind comments and birthday wishes!
    We had an absolutely brilliant day!

    Cheers,
    Thomas

  13. Joyeux anniversaire Thomas, je suis content que vous fassiez de si bon blog sur vos vacances Canadiennes.
    Votre écriture est très divertissante et naturelle
    Merci
    Jacques
    VE2JVX

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