Many thanks to John (VE3IPS) who shares the following guest post:
by John VE3IPS
We had planned a vacation trip out to Nova Scotia to get our lobster fix. As I always do, I prep my radio with local repeaters, look up local radio clubs, museums and check the POTA and SOTA map for locations to operate from.
I noticed that several park locations had not been activated. Thus I had an opportunity to be first activator and to get some much needed Nova Scotia parks in the Hunters logs. I printed the map and noted the park identifiers. I decided to just activate the parks that were never activated. I could have worked more parks but you have sights to see and can’t be behind the mic all the time. My antenna was prepped to be rapidly deployed in a few minutes and torn down accordingly.
So a vacation with ham radio elements to keep me excited with some objectives in mind.
We did visit Peggy’s Cove, Burnt Coat Head to watch the tides in the Bay of Fundy, local wineries, Lunenburg (a movie shoot was underway), the Halifax Citadel and of course eat lobster every day. I spent over $200 in gas as we did a lot of driving around (gas is just over $8 a gallon CAD), retail tax at 15% and prices for food and restaurants up by 30%. Nova Scotia is a bit more expensive than other cities.
I decided to bring my Icom 705 with a LifePO4 battery to offer 10 watts instead of the FT-891 or FT-818. Why? Because it offered a voice memory for calling CQ Parks, built in SWR meter and better IF filters over the FT-818. I wanted to cover the Marine and VHF/UHF repeaters as well and that ruled out the FT-891.
Due to the Kleenex box form factor I ended up using a Lowe Pro Omni Trekker camera bag to use as a carry on. This included a Nikon V1 camera and Binoculars.
I had no airline security issues with the battery and it was in a lipo safety bag.
The Buddistick and the Delkin carbon fiber portable tripod and the rest of the wires and stuff went in the checked luggage.
The Buddistick used two 11 inch arms, the mini coil and a long whip with its Base unit. The base unit has two ¼” holes that allowed me to use the soft touch knob to screw down the support to the tripod. I should have brought the base unit clamp as well as I could have installed the antenna on beachside stair railings. I also brought a home brew 9:1 antenna with 29 ft of wire and the Elecraft T1 tuner in case I was to operate on 40m. The 20m band was dead day 1 so we came back 2 days later to activate VE-0458 and suffered QSB in the afternoon. Regardless I got all 3 parks activated with an average signal report of 55-57. QSB pushed me down to 3 by 3 several times. Yes, 10 watts and a Buddistick does work for those hunters with their ears “ON”. I did make a ptt CW key cable for keying the radio while making antenna adjustments but it wasn’t needed.
I was able to deploy the antenna in 2 minutes. Since I prepped the mini coil tap in advance, all I needed to do was roll out the counterpoise with my iPortable SWR meter attached and walk out the wire until the SWR was below 2:1. In all three cases I was at 1.5 so I tied off the winder to a 2 ft fiberglass driveway marker. Ok lets go spot myself and go CQ.
Beaches have no trees so throwing an end fed in a tree was not possible. I also wanted a lower angle of radiation in case I could work across the pond to Europe. Sure enough I was thrilled when EA1AF returned my CQ and he was able to work me from 2 parks. The VE-0465 and VE-5426 are located very close to each other so I was able to do double duty very easily.
K9ICP worked me from all 3 parks and was very happy to add Nova Scotia to his list of parks. I am sure he sits on the spots page of the POTA website looking for activity.
My HP netbook got fried by the hot sun on the last deployment and went into “main board” failure mode losing my 52 contacts from a Toronto area park (I should have kept the file on the SD card) so now I use paper logs and then transfer them into HamRS. I have HamRS on my smartphone but the pop up keyboard gets annoying especially when I need to enter in numbers. If I only make 15 contacts then that’s not a lot of work but over 50 contacts needs a tablet or use of my Microsoft Surface. Since I was travelling I felt the paper log weighing 30 grams was fine as I only planned on making the necessary contacts to get the activation marked down.
- Find out what parks you can activate
- Choose your radio
- Choose a power source
- Choose an antenna or two
- Choose a tuner
- Choose a logging method
- Spot yourself on the POTA website and ask Hunters to spot you
- Call CQ and activate the site with the 10 needed contacts
- Pack up and go to another park
I was thrilled to work a few of my friends back home including Marc VA3BLV as park to park (plus 6 others as PTP) and Spain but more importantly to activate unactivated parks and help promote the activity when I was at the Hamfest.
I hope this encourages others to try vacation POTA on their next trip.
BTW: My typical travel set up has been the FT-817ND replaced by the FT-818. I need the repeater bands that allows me a rental car mobile use case with a small mag mount antenna. I usually use the Windcamp internal battery with the MFJ 1820T short whip antenna, a 5/8 2m telescopic whip and a 3aH Bioenno battery. I have had numerous SOTA activations in the San Francisco Bay area with this set up. I plan to activate some Chicago parks in July. The 818 fits in my carry on Think Tank laptop bag external pocket very easily and the rest of the bits in the other pocket. The 705 is just too boxy for that bag. I, like K4SWL, have several QRP radios and we choose the best radio and antenna for the use case objective we have planned. Hunters are hungry for new parks and will strain their ears to uncover the 55 and 57 signals our radios offer (a few S units down from normal) in order to assure a contact.
I have used PackTenna, Buddipole, Super Antenna and Chameleon antennas while travelling along with speaker wire doublets and a LDG balun. The Elecraft T1 tuner is my go to tuner as its small and light and works like a dream.
The last time I was in Moncton I brought my Icom 703 backpack on the plane with a Norcal Doublet and Balun and it worked like a charm. The built in tuner was the big advantage as well as a solid receiver with Collins filters. When I was in St Johns, Newfoundland it was the FT-817 with the MFJ whip antenna for 20m and 6m. I did not do any POTA at Signal Hill which was a big mistake on my part, but I did work the eastern USA and Iceland as regular contacts from there.
John VE3IPS June 2022
VE-0458 Crystal Crescent Beach Provincial Park
VE-5426 Cole Harbour-Lawrencetown Coastal Heritage Park Provincial Park
VE-0465 Lawrencetown Beach Provincial Park
Thank you for sharing this, John! Nova Scotia is such a beautiful province!
I’m asked frequently if I experience problems taking my QRP rigs and batteries on flights. I’ve never had an issue although typically I bring much less field gear. I think what you did was very clever by placing your battery in a LiPo safety bag; an excellent best practice. It lets security and the airline know that you’re taking precautions with your batteries and electronics.
Thanks for sharing your journey and report with us!