Minnie Island K-1698 Kayak Activation
by Conrad (N2YCH)
As many readers know, I am on a Parks on the Air (POTA) quest to activate all references in the state of Connecticut. There are 136 parks, and four of them are only accessible by boat. You may have seen my recent field report here on QRPer.com about activating three islands located in the Connecticut River. For those islands, I enlisted professional help from a boat captain with the navigation experience and proper tools (like radar and maps) to access those islands.
The final boat-only accessible island is Minnie Island, located in the middle of Gardner Lake in the town of Salem, Connecticut. I DO have experience kayaking on a Lake, thanks to my uncle, who has two kayaks and has taken me out on Tillson Lake in New York’s Hudson Valley a number of times. Unlike the challenges the river posed, I felt like I could manage the lake on my own. I did need a kayak, though, which I didn’t own.
I had to do some kayak research then. In case you didn’t know this, different kayaks have different specifications on how much weight they can hold. I’m a big guy, six foot five inches tall. Add me, plus a backpack of radio equipment, and I needed to be sure I didn’t sink.
I started on eBay, looking for people selling used kayaks. There are all different kinds of kayaks. Some made for the ocean and dealing with waves and others for casual lake paddler. Some have rudders, some have small, sealed cockpits and some even have motors. I had no idea how serious you could get with all of the accessories and options. I was really looking for something simple.
After striking out on eBay, I found a fishing supply store at the end of the Connecticut River that also had kayaks you could rent. I visited their web site and was happy to see that they were having an end of season clearance sale, where they were selling their rentals. I visited their shop and after looking at my options, I ended up buying an Old Town Vapor 10 kayak. It came with a paddle and life jacket and it was 50% of the price new. A great bargain. The added benefit is now I own my own kayak…a friend suggested that now that I do, there might be IOTA activations in my future.
What sold me on the Vapor 10 was the open cockpit. No trying to squeeze myself in and plenty of room to bring a backpack with the radio equipment in-between my legs. Also, I was able to fit it into my Jeep Wrangler.
I decided to activate on 20 meters and this is the list of gear I brought along:
- Mindshift 18L Camera Bag Backpack for radio, cables, battery and computer
- Elecraft KX3 with CIV and audio cables
- Bioenno 1x 12V, 9Ah LFP Battery (PVC, BLF-1209A)
- Samsung Galaxy Book Flex2 Alpha 2 in 1 Laptop with Outdoor mode
- Sabrent USB external sound card adapter
- Elecraft AX1 antenna (with a Packtenna EFHW as a backup)
- Buddipole 15’ RF coax and choke balun
Nice calm water, the island not too far away, a boat ramp and dock, I figured this would be easy. However, no one told me there is no shore on Minnie Island, just rocks and steep drop-off. No easy place to land my new, used kayak. I paddled all the way around it and found some rocks I could activate from.
The water wasn’t deep and I was able to step out into the water and saw that there was a steep trail up into the center of the island, but I thought the rocks were a good spot. I didn’t bring the Buddipole this time, so I ended up using the Elecraft AX1 on a tripod as my antenna.
QRP Power with a compromised antenna sitting on a rock in the middle of a lake and I was still able to make a contact in Europe. Thanks to David, MM5DWW who confirmed me on LOTW from Scotland. Here’s the rest of my coverage with an added benefit of a park to park with Clint, W9AV.
I managed to not drop anything in the water, although I was a little anxious about the computer slipping out of my hands. I couldn’t really put it down, otherwise it would slide away and into the lake.
Anyone who activates parks has surely had the curious onlookers staring as they walk by and had to explain what it is you’re doing. I’ve gotten used to those looks and questions after a few hundred activations. What I didn’t expect was to get those looks while I was paddled out to and activating an uninhabited island in the middle of a lake. But, to my surprise, the lake traffic was busy and a fair number of boats went by and came in close for a look and a wave from me. I’m sure they were wondering what I was doing.
13 QSO’s later and an activated park, I decided to wrap it up and head back to shore. I paddled against the breeze to keep the kayak aimed towards the ramp and got everything back on shore without getting wet. My last boat only accessible island is in the books. While I was there, I decided to activate Gardner Lake, K-1668 to get that one in my log as well. You’d think that Minnie Island would be a twofer being within the lake, but it’s not, they are both separate parks. As of this writing, I have 17 parks left to go.
73, Conrad N2YCH