Guest Post: QRP POTA Activation During the CQ World Wide Contest

QRP POTA Activation During the CQ World Wide Contest

by Joshua (KO4AWH)

I had an opportunity to activate Fort Yargo State Park (K-2177) during the CQ WW DX contest.

Fort Yargo is my local park, about 30 minutes away. The park features a great playground for the kids to play on and many tall trees which are perfect for deploying a wire antenna. There really is not much more I could ask for in a POTA location. Even the noise floor is very low, about S0, so I typically turn on the pre-amp which brings it up to S2-S3 on my Discovery TX-500.

This was very much a last minute plan. I knew the contest was going on which may present some difficulty activating QRP. I knew I would not be calling CQ on 20m where I normally activate and hunting stations could be difficult but likely doable.

There was a bit of rain at the house in the morning, then a promise of drizzle the rest of the day. Not too sure what I would find at the park, but hopefully the rain would hold off and I could get the activation in using the TX-500 without too much worry about it getting wet. I threw in a picnic blanket with a water barrier that promised a bit of protection from the rain if needed it.

I have a go-box setup with my TX-500 and IC-705, as well as several antennas, an ATU, and all cabling and power needed to run FT8 either on my Raspberry PI4 with the TX-500, or on my iPad through the IC-705.

I was taking my wife’s vehicle as she had the car seats needed for the 3 kiddos that were coming along. So, I had to be sure I had everything I needed. There are quite a few additional radio items I keep in the back of my car that I would not have available. But everything should be in the go-box, right?

Go-Box with two full stations, TX-500 and IC-705

After a bit of mist and some rain on the drive over, I planned to setup the TX-500 knowing it would get a bit wet. I tossed the throw line in the tree and pulled up my Tufteln EFHW QRP cut for 20m. In retrospect I probably should have pulled up the EFRW for a bit more band agility.

I tuned around for a few minutes.

Yup, there was not a single free place across 20 meters where I could start calling CQ in the clear. In fact, the stations I listened to for more than a few seconds had someone else start calling right on top of them. 20 meters was indeed crazy.

I could try to hunt some DX with my QRP signal, it would be a fight no doubt, and a nice challenge. After another DX station I tuned to had someone in the States start calling right over top of them, decided not to hunt.

TX-500 setup not worried about getting wet
TX-500 receiving WWCQDX Insanity

So, let’s work digital.

Instead of hooking up the Raspberry PI to run FT8, I decided to pack the TX-500 back up and get the IC-705 out. I could always cover it up if it started to rain, right? I can run FT8 on my iPad with no cables; such a simple setup. The only thing the IC-705 needs hooked up to run 5W digital, is the antenna! Once I had the IC-705 tuned to 20m I captured a great visual of the CQ WW. Wow.

IC-705, Antenna, and the IPad make for a very simple FT8 Station
SDR-Control Waterfall during CQWWDX
SDR-Control Running FT8 Calling CQ POTA

Without a heavy rain, I felt like turning the blanket up and over the radio was adequate. I started calling CQ POTA and continued to work a total of 19 stations in 38 minutes. Not bad work considering how many times I walked over to the monkey bars to help the 3 or 5 year old across.

I didn’t have a pile up to work but the stations were coming back consistently. Besides…everyone was working the contest right? With more than enough QSOs for the activation I packed everything up. I even had some help this time!

19 FT8 QSOs at 5W on the Tufteln EFHW

Truth be told, I didn’t work a single station for the contest. I did, however, get to play radio, and as always, I enjoyed it!

This activation had a few extra hands, some more helpful than others!
Of course the kids will enjoy the Radio Outing much more if it includes a stop for Ice Cream!


Joshua (KO4AWH) has been licensed since 2020 and designs field radio supplies at He likes to enjoy his park and summit activations with his wife and young children.

12 thoughts on “Guest Post: QRP POTA Activation During the CQ World Wide Contest”

  1. That strawberry shortcake or banana split reward at the end was worth all the effort. And I am sure that your kids loved every minute of it. You are a fantastic father mixing ham radio with other fun things for your kids.

  2. Excellent write up and congrats on successfully marrying daddy duties to POTA play time! The added treat for the kiddos will surely guarantee that they will want to go on another POTA adventure with you again! Well done!

  3. Ice Cream should be a standard POTA or any portable operation procedure!
    On a serious point, I would like to learn more about how you connect the iPad to the radio for FT8!

    1. I totally agree! I’m a sucker for Ice Cream.
      Checkout my reply below to Tom with a bit more info on the connection.

  4. Please give details on how you connected the radio to the iPad. This is what I’ve always wanted for field work.

    1. The connection is direct, the IC705 hosts a wifi SSID and the IPad can connect direct to it. Once connected, the SDR-Control software has control of the radio. The IC705 manual is helpful for getting the WIFI configured appropriately in “Access Point” mode. The help documentation over at for the software on the IPad is also quite useful.

      1. I get that the iPad can connect to the 705, but it’s not able to run WSJT-X, I believe, except for some apps in testing, there isn’t a fully operational FT8 app for iOS. I do see that FT8 Decoder has now moved from Apple’s Test Flight as is now a paid app in the App Store. Is that what you were using as shown in your photo? I tested it earlier this year in Test Flight but could not get any transmissions from it.

        1. Yes, the application is linked in on the developers site previously mentioned, check it out. This software is not WSJT-X but does indeed make FT8 contacts. Marcus the developer has done some great work with this application. SDR-Control is even supported on all apple platforms.

          I also Flight Tested FT8 Decode from Ronald Nicholson. It does exactly what it intends to do. It is certainly not a fully capable FT8 program but is quite versatile. I have seen several people start using it. It is not exactly straight forward though.

  5. Great post, and great award at the end!
    I have a question about the FT8 CQ messages for POTA: I read on the SDR-Control manual that messages longer than 13 chars are not supported by the tool, therefore I wanted to ask you how did you deal with this limitation.
    For example, according to the manual, I shouldn’t be able to send something like “CQ POTA IU6RHJ XXXX”, with XXXX being the locator.
    I want to be sure that this is not the case, before purchasing the app.
    Thank you in advance and keep rocking! 73

    1. Paolo,

      I have to think that may be an error in the documentation. You may want to reach out to Marcus to confirm but I can indeed send a “CQ POTA AA#AAA EM84” without trouble. Even a simple exchange between 2 5 length call signs would require 16 characters. Bonus, since I posted this article, the app is now available on an iPhone as well!
      N5FY (Previous call KO4AWH)

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