The Adventure You Get

Many thanks to Matt (W6CSN) who shares the following post from his blog at

The Adventure you get is not always the adventure you expect. Recently I’ve been plotting a unique activation of the De Anza National Historic Trail, but that particular POTA activation is going to need a good antenna and just as importantly, time.

This day afforded a few hours in the morning for outdoor radio but not enough to retrace the steps of the De Anza expedition. Instead, I headed down to the San Francisco Bay side for a quick outdoor amateur radio session.

Marina entrance light from years gone by

Since it was was a Saturday, my usual spot at Presidio East Beach was heavily impacted by weekend recreation enthusiasts, so I continued for a quarter mile to the practically empty parking lot east of the St. Francis Yacht Club.

Small dry beach on the marina side of the jetty

Thence on foot past the old stone light tower and the clubhouse of the Golden Gate Yacht Club, you find yourself of the path to the end of the breakwater where a unique art installation sits.

Alcatraz Island at anchor off the point

The Wave Organ is a curious sculpture that uses tubes and cavities between old cemetery stones to channel and amplify the watery sounds of waves as the tides move in and out of the Bay.

Surrounded by saltwater at the end of this jetty, which by my reckoning is within the boundary of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (US-0647), this location was perfect for the “no impact” operation afforded by the Elecraft KH1.

This granite wall served as the operating bench

My plan was to see if I could complete an activation of making 10 contacts entirely by hunting other POTA activators, perfectly reasonable given it was a weekend with no geomagnetic storms to disrupt radio propagation.

An entire station in the palm of your hand

What I did not count on was that it was a contest weekend with both 20 and 15 meters wall-to-wall with rapid fire contesters. As a QRP station, finding the POTA needles in that haystack was going to be tough.

The wave organ is a naturally contemplative environment

I retreated to 17 meters which should offer good daytime propagation and no contesters. There on 18 MHz, I was was able to collect five park-to-park contacts in a span of 23 minutes.

At that point I’d exhausted all of the 17m active CW stations on the POTA spots page and didn’t really have time to wait for more to show up. Therefore the “all hunting” activation strategy was abandoned and I commenced calling “CQ POTA.”

A fresh charge delivers nearly 6 watts into a matched antenna on 17m

The activation was “validated” with a call from Dave, AA7EE as the 10th QSO and then completed with one more park hunted, K9DXA in US-1001. Most of the contacts were with stations east of the Rockies.

One thing I learned from earlier outings with the KH1 was to not cut the log sheets too small, as might be suggested by the lines printed on the page. Without enough paper under the top and bottom tabs of the logging tray the sheets can easily be caught and snatched away by the wind.

Leave enough margin on the logging sheets and they are easily secured in the tray, even in the face of brisk Bay breezes.

Looking across the marina entrance toward Fort Mason

The “hunting only” activation plan didn’t quite work out but it was a great time out playing radio at scenic spot in San Francisco Bay.

Sailing season is well underway on SF Bay

While I didn’t expect to activate from the wave organ today, it turned out to be a fun adventure and an excellent spot from which to get on the air with the KH1.

73 de W6CSN

10 thoughts on “The Adventure You Get”

  1. Quite a challenge and well done!
    My favorite POTA activity is chasing P2P contacts. I think that getting a couple of P2Ps means more to me than making 10+ contacts for an “official” activation.
    On a contest weekend I just give up though, and “go with the flow.” 🙂 On WPX Saturday I spent an hour at a park (US-0989) on 15 meters and had fun working North American coast to coast (literally: PEI to Vancouver Island), plus the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Central America, as well as Africa and Europe. Best DX was OH0Z on Aland Islands at 4600 miles. I heard some JAs, but no luck there. I have to admit to running a full 10 watts, but it looked as if my sloping EFHW wire was hardly off the ground.

    1. Agree, sometimes just making a handful of QSOs can just as satisfying as a complete activation, especially with QRP.

      And, when you stop and think about what you are accomplishing through the physics of electromagnetic waves, just one contact can be enough!

      Well done on the Coast-to-Coast contacts and FB DX with a low wire.

      1. Yes! Sometimes I try to explain the thrill of radio to people: Imagine one of those little incandescent nightlights — those are about four or five watts. Then imagine that tiny bit of energy being radiated in all directions at once. Imagine what a tiny, almost infinitesimal part of that energy would arrive at a location thousands of miles away. And yet we can receive, detect, and decode that energy and send a reply back!
        “But I can talk anywhere in the world with my computer or ‘phone!” Sure, I reply, give that a try and let me know how it works out. Pick a country at random, then a person at random, call them up and start a conversation… And even if you have success, all it took was the support of billions of dollars worth of infrastructure that you neither own nor control. 🙂

        1. Absolutely agree with your analogy of a “light bulb” – one I’ve used many times to describe the wonders of QRP and the random nature of finding someone who is of similar mindset. The thrill of the catch, winning the game with a weak hand, overcoming nature, working with science, all other analogies that help explain why we get the satisfaction (and sometime the adrenalin rush too!) from QRP.

          With you guys all the way!


          Richard MM0RGM

  2. I used to live in San Francisco and was frequently setting up antennae and operating out of the back of my car. There are so many scenic spots along that area from Ft. Mason, Crissy Field and out to Torpedo Wharf. What fun!

  3. Thanks Matt for the contact today when I was activating at the Presidio. I just had a small window of time so set up the KH1 on a bench near the visitors center. Conditions weren’t ideal -scratched out 6 contacts in 45 minutes with the KH1.Weather was perfect though..

    1. Dan, it’s great that you got an opportunity to activate US-7889.

      I don’t currently have an antenna at home so when HamAlert buzzed me that you were in the Presidio, I grabbed the KH1, opened the window of my 3rd floor apartment, tossed the counterpoise out, and worked you through the open window. ????

      I hope you get a chance to finish off US-7889 sometime.


  4. Thanks for the report Matt.

    Why is it that the KH1 bugs me so much? Probably because I have a KX2, and don’t need one… And what really gauls me is I might have too many radios already. It’s hard to admit I’m a radioholic… but there it is. I need help. de W7UDT

    1. I’m right there with you Rand!

      The KH1 is turning out to be an amazing little radio. It’s not so much the technology, it’s a pretty standard architecture for QRP field radios. What really makes the KH1 special is the functional integration and ergonomics. It enables spontaneous, “get on the air” ability from just about anywhere.

      I just hope the KH1 soothes my itch for a KX2, because I don’t know how I am going to sneak that one in 😉

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