Many thanks to Teri (KO4WFP) for the following guest post:
Getting My Butt Kicked in POTA Yet Again
by Teri (KO4WFP)
If you read my previous article, you know my family and I went to Nova Scotia for a week. You also know that my first attempt at an activation in Canada did not go well. So, being a glutton for punishment, I attempted a second activation, this time at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site (VE-4826) on Thursday, June 29th.
- look at the site in advance if at all possible,
- remember to check band conditions BEFORE the activation, and
- take all photos as the activation progresses because weather conditions may prevent you from doing so afterward.
After we departed the Halifax Citadel, we drove northward toward Baddeck, the town in which our next Airbnb and the Alexander Graham Bell site is located. Rain dogged us on and off until we reached Cape Breton Island. On the way, we stopped at Murphy’s in Truro for some of the best fish and chips and then The Farmer’s Daughter for ice cream, the consolation prize for my failed activation.
Being mindful of my first takeaway, we stopped into the Alexander Graham Bell site for reconnaissance before heading to our Airbnb. To my delight, there were trees present in the parking lot, though not many open branches over which to easily throw my line. I left for our Airbnb with the sun coming out from behind the clouds and an optimistic feeling about the next day’s activation.
My second takeaway from the Halifax Citadel was to check band conditions before the activation. Well, Thursday morning’s report was not promising. I didn’t see any mention of a geomagnetic storm (though one was forecast for Saturday), but the numbers were not good. What I didn’t realize was they were actually horrible.
We arrived around 10:10 AM and I began setting up the EFRW. It took me several throws to get the line in the chosen tree. Kudos to Thomas for recommending the arborist line. It never got stuck on any of the little twigs over which my line ran. The antenna was not as elevated as I would have liked but it was better than at yesterday’s activation and would work well enough.
Next I had to decide how to deal with the feed end and counterpoise. I really did not want them left running on the ground. So I improvised, pulling two suitcases out of the car and attached first the feed-end to a zipper pull on one and then the counterpoise to the other suitcase. And then it was time to get on the air.
The next 80 minutes was an exercise in frustration. I started with 20 meters first as that band had a fair forecast and I might be able to get into the states with it. No such luck. And then the dance began – I moved from band to band trying to find anyone with whom I could have an exchange – 17 meters to 15 meters to 40 meters and back to 17 meters which proved to be the only magic band present. I was able to log four QSOs (two in the first go round and two more in the second) on that band – NC, SC, VA, and NJ.
Despondent, I turned off the rig. And yet, I didn’t want to give up. One challenge was the noise at the site. I could hear whines from electric vehicles when they drove by. There was a clicking noise on most of the bands. I heard from other ops texting me that the band conditions were horrible but I wondered if noise at the site contributed to my difficulties. I chose one last ditch effort – move down the hill from where the car was parked and set up the AX1. It was worth a try.
I set up the KX2 and AX1 on the gorillapod, attaching the 20 meter counterpoise to nearby foliage to elevate it. (I needed all the help I could get.) I figured, given the band conditions report from the morning, 20 and 17 meters were my two best bets. Besides, it was on 17 meters that my only four contacts happened.
To my consternation, the clicking noise had followed me to the new location! Not dissuaded, I called CQ for the next twenty minutes on both 20 and 17 meters. I heard two ops who were friends but whenever I responded, they never heard me. I finally folded and called QRT.
A second failed activation was like a punch in the gut. Maybe I was a fool to think I could pull off this QRP POTA adventure in Canada. The defeat felt embarrassing given how many people knew of my trip and were likely chasing me. Thankfully friends sent emails and texts of support confirming how truly horrible the band conditions were, something over which I had no control.
It was time to, yet again, dust myself off, take a deep breath, and not give up. I planned an activation in Cape Breton Highlands National Park the next day. Would the third time be a charm? Stay tuned…