Many thanks to Brian (K3ES) who shares the following field report:
K3FAZ, K3STL, and K3ES POTA in the Cold with a Bonus Gear Report
by Brian (K3ES)
Saturday November 19 dawned clear and cold in northwest Pennsylvania, but the truth is that I was up well before dawn. The third Saturday of each month, I try to make the 2 hour drive south to help with Skyview Radio Society’s monthly Volunteer Examiner (VE) testing session for new or upgrading licensees. Clear skies (which matched the forecast) meant that road conditions would not be a problem. So, shortly after 5 am I pointed the truck south.
One of the creature comforts I appreciate about our VE session is meeting for breakfast before the test. It was obvious on arrival at the restaurant that the VEs would greatly outnumber the test candidates, but many hands make light work. Coffee and an omelet definitely helped fuel the effort. Since the test sessions normally last less than 2 hours (and that held true this time), three of us VEs had made plans for post-test session POTA.
Before launching into the field report, let me acknowledge that K3STL’s photography was instrumental in providing a report with visual appeal. Personally, I almost always forget to take the pictures.
The plan for the day was to attempt activation of two POTA sites, Beechwood Farms State Conservation Area (K-0620) in suburban Pittsburgh, and Todd Sanctuary State Conservation Area (K-0621) about 20 miles further to the northeast. John “Tall Guy” – K3STL and Brian – K3ES would do a short activation of K-0620, then meet Steve – K3FAZ at K-0621 for the rest of the afternoon.
Knowing it would be a cold day for mid-November (temperatures peaked for the day just barely above freezing), each of us made plans to adjust for operating from our vehicles. That meant that we would be doing parking lot activations at both locations. While we each normally activate with slightly different operating styles that are suited to outdoor POTA operations, some tweaks made it possible to have wind and weather protection for this outing. In hindsight, it was a perfect choice.
K3FAZ operated his treasured Kenwood TS-50 using SSB mode with an EFHW antenna in a tree. Rather than setting up with a table and chair, Steve configured his station to fit in the front seat of his SUV.
K3STL operated his ICOM 7300 using SSB and FT8 modes with a selection of hamstick antennas on a magnetic base. Instead of using the tailgate of his truck for a desk, the Tall Guy moved his passenger seat forward and found enough room to set up and work his station from the truck’s back seat. Unfortunately, K3STL found it difficult to take a selfie while operating.
I operated an Elecraft KX2 using CW mode with a Tufteln 35 ft random wire antenna with 17 ft counterpoise suspended vertically from a tree branch. My radio and logging clipboard fit neatly on the console of my truck, with the antenna feedline running in through the door seal. I felt positively decadent operating from a seat with lumbar support instead of sitting on the ground.
The QRPer may ask: “With those QRO rigs in the area, was it still possible to complete a joint activation?”
The answer is emphatically yes!
Given a few precautions, joint activations using multiple radios and different power levels can be successful. Think Field Day. During this outing, we discovered that with 40 ft separation between antennas, and radios operating on non-harmonically related bands, there was very little RF interference between stations. At the second location, the separation between antennas was less than 20 ft. Operations with QRP CW on 30m alongside QRO SSB on 20m caused no problems on either frequency. Late in the activation, I moved over to 17m for a couple of contacts, and found that the KX2’s automatic attenuation function kicked in during the 20m FT8 transmit cycle.
A problem? Yes. Avoidable? Yes. To answer another question: we did have band pass filters available, but did not have enough issues to cause us to install them.
I committed to activating on the 30m band to minimize interference between stations, because it is not harmonically related to other amateur bands commonly used for POTA. I found during this outing, as previously, that 30m is a reliable band for completing CW POTA activations at QRP power levels. As the results show, avoiding the 40m and 20m bands was not a handicap.
In 30 minutes on the air at K-0620, K3STL made 36 SSB contacts on 20m, and I made 23 CW contacts on 30m. At K-0621, we spent 2 hours on the air, packing up as the temperature began to drop with the sinking sun. K3FAZ made 50 SSB contacts on 40m. K3STL made 45 SSB and 17 FT8 contacts on 20m. I worked all CW, making one contact on 40m, 48 contacts on 30m, and finished with two contacts on 17m.
For a cold day in November, where we might otherwise have decided against activating, all had a great time. Each of us improved our operating capabilities to accommodate otherwise inclement weather, and yes, we will be doing more cold weather activations!
Bonus Gear Report from K3ES
Besides enjoying time activating two new POTA entities, I had another objective for my outing. I had just taken delivery of the new CW Morse/N0SA SP4 paddles. I wanted to try them out during an activation (or two). The paddles worked splendidly for most of my activation time, but I started having difficulty sending accurately at the end of the second activation. I traced this problem back to my over-tightening the magnetic return tension screw. After backing this adjustment off a bit, the problem disappeared completely. Apart from that, I am really pleased with the feel and the operation of these new paddles.
I think it is great that CW Morse’s production capacity can put N0SA-designed paddles in the hands of more field operators. I expect those operators will be pleased with these paddles, too. Just don’t make my mistake trying to adjust the return tension too far.