Many thanks to Teri (KO4WFP) for the following guest post:
A Return to Butter Bean Beach
by Teri (KO4WFP)
Given the trip to Nova Scotia and then getting a cold upon my return to Savannah, Georgia, it had been awhile since catching up with the guys in my local club – Coastal Area Radio Club (CARS). They have a No Work Wednesday club that meets weekly, activating either Butter Bean Beach at the Wormsloe State Historic Site (K-3725) or Fort Pulaski National Monument (K-0930). This Wednesday, July 19th, they opted for Butter Bean Beach, hoping for a maritime breeze given the hot and humid weather.
I always arrive early at Butter Bean Beach on Wednesdays to get my CW activation out of the way as my local guys use SSB. I rolled into the parking lot around 7:30 AM and saw stuff already piled up on one of the picnic tables in the pavilion. Uh-oh.
I, then, saw people I recognized – Garret Jones and Lisa Goodman. Garret volunteers with Wilderness Southeast and Lisa is the organization’s Executive Director. Wilderness Southeast offers eco trips and group programs to connect people with the environment. On one of my past activations, they were at Butter Bean Beach with a group of ninth graders for their Fish Gotta Swim program. Also assisting Lisa and Garret today was Sierra Abbasi. They warned me that around 9 AM a group of kids would arrive for their kayaking camp. Good thing I had my noise-cancelling headphones!
Last time I activated this site, I used the EFRW antenna in a tree but I thought to try something different today. Frankly, I figured my SOTAbeams travel mast looked a bit lonely, especially since I had lugged it all over Nova Scotia but not deploying it once while there.
It didn’t take long to get the mast deployed and the antenna where I wanted it. Now how to deal with the feed-end? The night before, I recalled a recent conversation with a friend who suggested using gallon water jugs to hold the ends of an inverted V. I figured that might work just fine for attaching the feed-end and keeping it taut. It did!
As for the counterpoise, even though I received a comment on a previous trip report that the counterpoise does not need to be elevated, I thought “let’s just gild the lily and elevate it anyway.” So I put out my water bottle and attached the end of the counterpoise to that. Besides, I wanted to be prepared for kids possibly walking around my antennas. A black, thin wire lying on the ground would not be easily noticed. But one slightly elevated with neon pink flagging tape might.
It wasn’t long before I was on the air. When at Butter Bean Beach, I almost always start first on 40 meters due to the early hour. (Note: I did not check the band conditions before heading out that morning but good thing I didn’t because 40 meters obviously didn’t read that report either.)
The noise level was a S1-S4 but in 20 minutes I had eight contacts, including one of my code buddies, Charles W4CLW. Near the end of those 20 minutes, though, it sounded like the band was shifting because I’d hear people only to lose them after sending my information.
So I moved to 20 meters and managed to snag seven more contacts. Then it got quiet. As 17 meters had proven to be my friend in Nova Scotia, I gave it a try. I got two contacts on that band but both times I received a 339 for my signal report. That was not encouraging. By this point, I had a successful activation. But those of you who activate know POTA QSOs are like Lays Potato chips – you can never get enough!
I headed back to 20 meters. The noise was horrible and I heard no one during the five minutes I called CQ. OK – I gave 40 meters one last go and snagged two more contacts, including a friend Lane WK4WC in NC. At this point, I actually checked the band conditions report which listed 17 and 15 meters as “good”. I gave 15 meters a try but after calling CQ for awhile and not hearing any response, I called QRT.
Meanwhile, my local radio club showed up. It was great to visit with them including a new ham Tony KQ4JFF who received his Tech license 3 weeks ago. The guys wanted to walk Tony through a POTA activation. Not wanting to miss the fun, I hung around. Boy, am I glad I did!
Usually when my guys activate, they might hit eight or so states on SSB with 100 watts. However, 20 meters today was crazy – Billy KG4SZS, who was running the activation, kept adding states to his total. And there was no discernible pattern to the propagation – it moved randomly from the west coast to the northeast to the midwest and so on. Every time he made contact with a new state, we’d cheer! In the end, he worked 29 states plus Canada!
At this point, it was time to call it day. Despite sitting in the shade of the pavilion, the 92 degree heat had baked us enough. We packed up and headed out a little before noon. On the way to the main road, I noticed the day’s food truck – the Naked Dog. I didn’t order anything but did snap a picture.
This is the fun of POTA – you never know who may show up and what may happen. You might struggle to get a valid activation, as the CARS guys had the past several weeks, or you might hit the jackpot with 29 states plus Canada like Billy did today. And no matter the outcome, you can enjoy a great hot dog afterwards!