Sometimes, I like going a little stealth.
Stealthy field activations, for me, aren’t about activating where I shouldn’t (in fact, by definition, activations can only take place on public lands) it’s just fun!
As I’ve mentioned before, when I choose to be a bit stealthy, it’s strategic. I consider one of the privileges of doing POTA and SOTA activations is that I’m often the first ham others encounter out in the wild. It gives activators like me a chance to be a ham radio ambassador. I like giving our wonderful past time a proper introduction and even enticing others to join in on the fun.
That said, there are times when my on-the-air time is very limited and I want fewer interruptions. That’s when being a bit stealthy can help me get in/out quickly.
It simply attracts less attention.
I tend to be less conspicuous in a park when I’m in a busy area with lots of people and activity. I don’t want my operation to get in the way of others’ enjoyment of a park. I don’t want someone to trip on or get tangled up in my wire antenna while tossing a frisbee, for example.
Also, when it’s super busy and I’m pressed for time, I’d rather get the activation done and then move on.
Parc de l’Île-Lebel (VE-0967)
On Sunday, June 19, 2022, our family was traveling from Ottawa, Ontario to our final destination of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Québec where we’d spend the next six weeks.
To break up the trip, I suggested we stop at a park so I could do my first activation in the province of Québec as VY2SW and we could all stretch our legs a bit. My family was 100% on board.
The Parc de l’Île-Lebel, in terms of driving time, was about half way; a perfect spot to split up the trip.
It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon, so the park was quite busy.
It was so busy that there were no parking spaces left in the park parking lot, so we had to park on the street in the town of Repentigny; a 15 minute walk from the park. It’s times like these I’m always glad my gear is QRP thus lightweight and compact!
I walked with my wife and daughters on one of the park paths and discovered a small trail that led to the shore of the river under a large weeping willow tree. I decided that tree would not only provide me with a little shade on this very sunny day, but also would make me a little less conspicuous.
I unfolded a trail chair and set up my station under that large willow.
- Elecraft KX2 and KXPD2 Paddles
- Packtenna 9:1 UNUN Random Wire Antenna
- Moleskine Cahier Journal (affiliate link)
- Tom Bihn Synapse 25 backpack
- Mini Arborist throw line kit: Tom Bihn Small Travel Tray, Marlow KF1050 Excel 2mm Throwline, and Weaver 8 or 10oz weight
- Rite In The Rain Weatherproof Cover/Pouch (affiliate link)
- GraphGear 0.9mm 1000 Automatic Drafting Pencil (affiliate link)
- N0RNM homemade folding kneeboard
- Folding camp chair purchased on sale at ALDI
- Camera: OSMO Action Camera (affiliate link)
Set up was quick and easy. I was feeling pretty chuffed about the fantastic shady operating spot and the beautiful weather, but I would soon discover that this would not be a “quick” activation: propagation was in the dumps.
On the air
That day, we were feeling the impact of flaring and overall lousy propagation. My buddy Mike (K8RAT) sent me a message in advance noting that our local star had “no intention of making your activation easy.” He later told me after the activation that every activator he hunted that afternoon struggled to complete the activation.
Mike did warn me that 40 meters had been completely blown out by flaring, so I focused on 20 meters and 30 meters.
I started on 20 meters, then moved to 30, back to 20, then back to to 30 again. In the end, I did manage to work the 10 contacts needed in order to validate the activation. Here’s my log sheet:
It took about one hour of time on the air to log my ten. It’s times like this that I’m so grateful for those hunters (like KB9RPG) who can hear me on multiple bands and modes and work me multiple times.
It was also great logging so many friends in this one, too!
Here’s how my 5 watts propagated:
Here’s my real-time, real-life video of the entire activation. As with all of my videos, there are no ads and I don’t edit out any parts of the on-air activation time. Fair warning that this one has a lot of static between the contacts, but hey! That’s real life, right–?
Click here to view on YouTube.
At the end of the day, the activation was incredibly fun and enjoyable even though it was more of a struggle to “snag my ten” than I would have liked. My wife and daughters didn’t mind: in fact they explored the park and fit in a long walk. That was the only thing I missed out on in the end; by the time I completed the activation, I didn’t have time to take in a long stroll on the park paths because we needed to hit the road again.
If you ever find yourself near Parc de l’Île-Lebel, I highly recommend it for POTA. While there, I noticed many, many excellent spots to set up a station and play radio.
Thank you for joining me on my first POTA activation in the lovely province of Québec as VY2SW! I have many more field reports and videos from Canada in the pipeline.
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.
In fact, your support is what has made this extended family road trip to Canada possible. I apply any funds above and beyond the costs of running the website, producing the videos, and purchasing review equipment, to our family travel fund. This not only gives me an opportunity to play radio well outside my home area, but my family also gets to benefit from the work I put into producing activation videos and content on QRPer.com.
Thank you so very much!
Cheers & 72,
Thomas (VY2SW / K4SWL)
6 thoughts on “A stealthy and challenging activation at Parc de l’Île-Lebel”
regarding 20 / 30m…i prefer very often 30m only in CW. Because at weekend you have often a lot of contest running. On 30m, so my feeling, the response is also much better but, yes, the distance to the other end is not the same as on 20m.
So, like your reports! Go on 🙂
73 Andre / DL4QB
It was great to make your log on such a rough day. It was even sweeter that I was running QRP on my end of the exchange for a P2P contact. I was using my TR-35 at 5 watts into an EFHW in an inverted V at 30 ft. In spite of the band conditions, 40m made my activation that day, though I got a handful of contacts on 20m and 30m.
It’s always fun to read your reports! Thanks.
What trail chair do you use? I’ve used a 3-legged camp stool that, while light and cheap, isn’t the most comfortable to sit on for an hour.
The chair I used during this activation was a “special find” at our local ALDI grocery store. I bought it maybe two years ago and haven’t seen one since. There are loads of the same type on Amazon and eBay, though. I do have a three-legged folding trail stool I like too–I purchased it at REI. but like you, it’s uncomfortable on long activations and is also much less stable if the ground is soft.
Hi there, Thomas, looking at your latest blogposts sounds like you started appreciating the advantages of the humble random wire antenna, sure, an EFHW or a vertical may possibly offer better radiation efficiency, but when one goes portable and needs to use whatever frequency which is open, at the given moment, it’s hard to beat a random 🙂
Random wires with a 9:1 are incredibly versatile. I have been using them in heavy rotation recently due to the sites I’ve been activating and the unstable propagation which requires a bit of frequency agility!