KO4WFP: Part Two of Teri’s Nova Scotia POTA adventure!

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.

I learned several “takeaways” from the failed activation at the Halifax Citadel:

  1. look at the site in advance if at all possible,
  2. remember to check band conditions BEFORE the activation, and
  3. 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.

Source: hamradiofornontechies.com

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…

18 thoughts on “KO4WFP: Part Two of Teri’s Nova Scotia POTA adventure!”

  1. Thank you so much for this field report, Teri.

    First of all, you are doing a brilliant job!

    Seriously: you’re only experiencing what every operator will eventually experience. That and you’re sharing your frustration with the world. 🙂 Kudos!

    I also tried to work you at this park and the conditions–as you noted and as your friends said–was horrible. Much worse than that forecast even predicted. Note, too, that you were at a latitude where those geo disturbances are more profound. Back in Georgia, you might have had better luck.

    But the takeaway here is that KO4WFP is determined and a top-shelf operator! I can’t wait to read your future reports!

    Thank you so much for sharing them.

  2. Thanks for sharing yet another fantastic report, Teri!

    Always lots to learn here so I really enjoy field reports. Keep up the great work. By the way, I’ve not seen a Tufteln antenna setup with luggage before, love it! I’ll have to share those photos!


  3. Enjoy Nova Scotia. Two sites might help with your POTA, one digisonde site map, gives MUF for several locations in the US and many around the world. Updated every 15 minutes. The other is SWPC gives update about every two hours, K index important.
    Enjoy your KX2, I love mine, 103 DXCC countries worked and tons of POTA hunted.

      1. GM, the first is Digisonde Station Map, run by UMas, Lowell. The other Space Weather Prediction Center part of NOAA. You can find it on QRZ page click on the “Sun” and go to space conditions , move down and you will find their site. Hope this helps.
        73, Jim KI1H

  4. Our NWC outing at BB Beach (K-3725) yesterday had same issues, without the clicking. Jack made close to 30 phone contacts but had to work hard to get them.
    It is brutally hot here, looks like we will have a break in that, but only for a couple of days.
    Wonder if the clicking is from lighting sensors as I see lighting in one of your photos.
    As mentioned above, stay your course, it’s all a learning experience.

  5. Thanks Teri for the POTA “failure” reports which are usually more valuable than the regular successful ones, they are great textbooks for people to learn.

  6. I heard the worst whine ever from a golf cart at Pulaski K-2175. Horrible….Teri, I promise, Armstrong and Maxim are smiling at you because of your grit.


  7. Awesome stories you are sharing. It is right in line with Thomas’s practice of not editing out the things that go wrong. I think that we all run into this kind of situation where you just can’t make contacts and it is disappointing for sure. Happens to me all the time, but with time I have learned to just enjoy the act of activation, the act of setting up and operating, regardless of the number of contacts made.
    Keep at it and thank you for sharing your experience.
    Bill, N1ONE

  8. I have operated POTA and SOTA around the world and did Halifax last year

    Every outing has its challenges but you learn to adapt and pivot accordingly

    The more you operate the more you succeed and have failures

    In Venice I could not activate the POTA location due to poor propagation and lack of POTA activity

    In Kronplatz I had the same issue on a SOTA event missing the activation

    But there is always a next time

    Keep it up and have fun

    John VE3IPS

  9. I read all the comments above, and just about everything I would want to say has been said already; I can only heartily endorse it all!
    I really liked the detailed narrative and all of the pictures, and looking forward to the next installment.
    Hiram Percy Maxim and all of the other greats of ham radio would indeed be proud! Improvise, Adapt, Overcome!

  10. Terri, I don’t if it’s a possibility for you, but I find band conditions earlier in the morning work well enough for me, when they wouldn’t otherwise in mid-day.

  11. Sometimes all you can do is to take consolation with a giant ice cream cone… Take stock in what you’ve learned… Itemize what you brought and didn’t use… Low power portable operations are learned afield, in triumph & defeats… We can all testify to that.

    Regardless and propogation be damned, your perserverance and field craft will win the day!

    Thanks for the report Teri!

    de W7UDT

  12. Great Article with real world improvs. Keep at it! I am up in Cape Breton all summer and will be doing some more POTA soon!


  13. Rich – NJ6F
    I have enjoyed your articles! Just brainstorming here with a few comments. On the vertical with counterpoise assume you have the SWR optomized at such low power it all counts. Perhaps a tuner for final tweak. Also I use a DSP like the NIR-12 by JPS which really eliminates a bunch of noise etc., with adjustable bandwidth filtering. Perhaps on the vertical use resonant radials for 20 or 40 etc. Also if you get the ground radials above about 7 feet you minimize or eliminate ground effect noise, possibly those electric vehicles etc. Try a magnetic loop like the MFJ 15-40 meter 3′ loop up to 125 watts for flexibility, if you have the room. Very quiet and directional with no need for height. You can work the world with it sitting on a box just above ground level…Mag loop is amazing. The ANC-4 works well on 40 by nulling out the noise with it’s small screw in antenna and could minimize all that local noise you are running across. I use a CCD dipole 40/20 with 4:1 balun which is a gain antenna on 40 due to use of silver mica capacitors every 3 feet to limit the current distributon allowing to be low to objects or roof with quieter reception. Now my favorite in your windy wx is what I do sometimes… Get a (8 foot Delta kite) which is very stable and use RG174 – 300 feet. RG174 takes up to 600 watts on HF. Tie a 20 meter or 40 meter full dipole with clip on ferrite balun and streamers on the lower end of dipole to keep away from small coax and it will go up easily 200 feet with 5 knot wind or more in one minute…Now you have a 200 foot tall antenna kite mobile which everyone will want to work you, using a vertical dipole and no hassles with being close to ground. You still need a reel with decent string to hold the kite it in place over the car at 45 deg but straight up 200′ with a roll of coax on a hand spool. At 2PM on the bay in San Diego I worked Milano Italy with a S-8 one day. Turn wind into your friend with a stable kite You can launch in minutes right from the rig. Check eBay 🙂 That makes it fun for the kids as well hi.
    73 and good luck
    Rich / NJ6F

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