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.
Many thanks to Conrad (N2YCH) who shares the first of a three-part field report series outlining his 2023 Hamvention rove with Peter (K1PCN). Click here for Part 1 and Part 2.
Part 3: Dayton Hamvention Trip QRP POTA Rove
By Conrad Trautmann, N2YCH
The Bonus State
Welcome to part three of a three-part POTA rove story where Peter, K1PCN and I decided to activate six state parks for our Parks on the Air Activated States Award on the drive to the Dayton Hamvention.
In installments one and two we activated Delaware, Maryland, West Virgina, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. I thought we had exhausted all our state activating possibilities for this trip, until…Peter said, “you know, Kentucky is not that far away. And, by the way, there is a park down there that has never been activated digitally…”
Really? I’m in.
We decided that on day two of the Hamvention, we would leave in the afternoon and make our way to Kentucky, which was just over an hour away. While we were standing on the line to get into the Hamvention on Saturday morning, one of the people near us mentioned that the Voice of America Museum was open until 9pm that night and he was considering going.
I stopped at the VOA booth in the Hamvention and picked up a brochure and on our way to Kentucky, Peter suggested that maybe on the way back, we stop in.
Our best bet for a Kentucky POTA activation, which was recommended by a fellow digital activator at the South West Ohio DX association dinner we attended the night before, was Big Bone Lick State Historic Site (K-3779). According to the Internet, it was named Big Bone Lick because of the “mammoth artifacts that were found and because of the salt springs that animals drank.” I found that it was impossible to tell anyone the name of the park without a smirk or chuckle in return.
When we arrived in Kentucky, we drove around Big Bone Lick park looking for a place to activate. Apparently, there are buffalo at the park…however, we did not activate near the buffalo. We found an unused picnic area and split up.
Literally about five minutes after I set up and got on the air, a group of moms with five-year-olds celebrating one of their birthday’s showed up. One of the mom’s apologized and explained that I had found her secret place in the park…but by then, I had almost completed my activation and was ready to break down.
I don’t mind it when people come up and ask about what I am doing, I’m always happy to explain ham radio to anyone who’s curious. Activating a park surrounded by a group of five-year-olds was a new experience that I hope to never repeat. Here is a photo of my setup at Big Bone Lick.
Given that it was later in the day by the time we arrived, Peter chose 40 meters, and I took 20 meters. 22 QSO’s later, here’s my coverage using the Buddipole with the 17’ MFJ whip and the Elecraft KX3 at 10 watts.
Early on Thursday morning, May 18, 2023, Peter, K1PCN and I headed from Morgantown, West Virginia north to Pennsylvania to activate K-8920, the PA 223, Pennsylvania State Game Lands. While the park covered a large geographical area, we were able to find a parking lot not far off the highway that made it easy for us to get to and activate.
Peter spotted a nearby gazebo which was also a viewing area and hiked over to it to activate. If you look closely in the photo below, you can see it in the distance behind the sign and my antenna. I stayed with the Jeep and set up on the tailgate using the Buddipole vertical.
Since it was early in the day, we used our frequency strategy of Peter on 40 meters and me on 20 meters. My QSO map here shows some decent DX for QRP on 20 meters at 8am ET.
We traveled North towards Pittsburgh on Interstate 79 and then West on Interstate 70, passing through West Virginia again and then stopped at K-1934, Barkcamp State Park in Ohio.
I tuned my antenna for 17 meters and Peter activated on 20 meters.
I managed to activate the park, but it was slow going for me on 17, so when Peter finished up on 20, I changed to 20 meters and got a few more on that band just for good measure. Thinking that the slow QSO’s could have been the radio, I did switch to the IC-705 here, but that did not make any difference. It could have been conditions or our location. I did have better luck on 20 meters than 17. And I don’t know about you, but I can never go for just ten QSO’s. I feel like I need a few extra ones just in case. Here is a photo of me set up at a picnic table next to my antenna. Continue reading Part 2: N2YCH and K1PCN’s Dayton Hamvention Trip QRP POTA Rove→
Many thanks to Conrad (N2YCH) who shares the first of a three-part field report series outlining his 2023 Hamvention rove with Peter (K1PCN). Look for Part 2 next week!
Part 1: Dayton Hamvention Trip QRP POTA Rove
By Conrad Trautmann, N2YCH
Peter, K1PCN and I are both avid Parks On The Air activators here in Connecticut and neither of us has ever been to the Dayton Hamvention in Xenia, Ohio. At the urging of others who have attended in the past, we made the decision to attend this year and while we were making the trek out, we wanted to activate parks along the way to add to our activated US states award. We originally planned to activate six states and ended up with one bonus state for a total of seven. This is how things looked before and after the trip.
I would like to begin by saying that attending the Hamvention was a great experience. If you have not been to it, I would like to encourage you to attend if you can.
You may have heard about the flea market, the vendor booths, the forum sessions or the food trucks, which are all good, but the best part for me was being in the presence of other hams with similar interests. I struck up conversations and shared stories with many other hams. Everyone was very nice and willing to share their experiences, which is a great way to pick up some good tips.
I am extremely glad I went. If you are on the fence about going, I would recommend you plan to go next year. Oh, and I got to meet this guy in person….
Now on to the rove…
I planned the trip to get as many states as possible. Both Peter and I had already activated CT, NY and NJ, so we did not need to stop in those states as we passed through. I had scoped out some parks near the Delaware and Maryland border, so I looked at those first.
My main criteria on park selection was to pick parks that would be easy-off/easy-on to the main highways we would be traveling to save time on driving. Here is the route map we followed.
We strategized on how we would activate the parks when we got to each one. Peter is an SSB activator, and I am a digital activator. We would not be colliding on the mode of operation. We did need to be on different frequencies though.
In the mornings, Peter took 40 meters and I used 20 meters. Later in the day when the bands opened up, Peter moved up to 20 meters and I bumped up to 17 or 15 meters. Using this strategy, we had no problems getting our minimum ten QSO’s to activate while operating at the same time. Peter also reminded me to bring a handheld and we did park to park QSO’s on 2 meters and 70cm.
As for equipment, I used my Elecraft KX3 transceiver, but I did bring an IC-705 as a backup.
Field Report :POTA Activation K-0228, Stuart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge, Great Meadows Unit
by Conrad (N2YCH)
January 21, 2023
Parks On the Air’s Support Your Parks weekend event for winter 2023 is the third full weekend in January and I found myself without my Jeep. I sold my ten-year-old Jeep Wrangler and my new Jeep wasn’t due to be delivered until the following week, leaving me without my “POTA activation vehicle”. I ended up borrowing my XYL’s MINI Countryman to activate K-0228, but let’s face it, a MINI is not a Jeep. It didn’t have all of my “stuff” in it. I needed to get creative about what to bring along with me that would fit easily in the MINI, yet work well enough to activate the park.
I started with my backpack kit which contains an Elecraft KX3, battery, Signalink and computer (for FT8 and logging).
It includes everything I need to transmit and it’s easy to toss in the car. I just needed to decide on what antenna to use. Since it’s winter here in Connecticut and pretty cold outside, this would be an “in-the-car” activation and without the Jeep, my antenna options were limited. I could have brought my Sotabeams Tac-Mini which could fly my PackTenna EFHW up about 20’. However, anchoring the mast would be a challenge in the cold weather. In the end, I decided to bring my Buddipole tripod and nested mast, which are compact and fit in a small bag which fit right in the passenger seat. Continue reading MINI Portable: Conrad’s POTA field report from Stuart B. McKinney National Wildlife Refuge→
K-1716, Silver Sands State Park, Milford, Connecticut
January 13, 2023
By: Conrad Trautmann, N2YCH
A digital mode multiband transceiver for $69? Yes! QRP Labs has the QDX kit available for $69 US. Add $20 if you would like a very nice black anodized aluminum case to mount it in and if you want it assembled and tested add another $45. Visit the QRP Labs web site for all of the details (QDX 4-band 5W Digi transceiver (qrp-labs.com)
How well can a $69 digital transceiver work? Read on…
I ordered my QDX kit back in May 2022. It arrived in June, I assembled it and ran some tests at home. It worked well on FT8 into my home antennas. It interfaces nicely with WSJT-X and I liked the idea of using a low power transceiver to band hop on WSPR. My QDX is an early four band version, which does 20, 30, 40 & 80 meters. I set it to band hop on all four bands not remembering that my multiband offset center fed dipole is not resonant on 30 meters. Since the QDX does not have a tuner, it didn’t like the higher reflected power of a two minute long WSPR transmission into a bad load and smoke resulted. I was fortunate that the failure was isolated to the RF power amplifier transistors and replacing those got me running again. This was my own fault, not the transceiver. Now, it band hops on 20, 40 and 80 meters with no issues, I eliminated 30 meters from the hop schedule.
I share this important story at the beginning of my field report as a warning to anyone considering using a QDX to be very careful when connecting an antenna to it. Since the QDX does not have an internal antenna tuner, you either need a resonant antenna or must use an external tuner to provide a 50 ohm load with low SWR to the QDX. The QRP Labs groups.io site has a number of posts from users with different tuner suggestions.
Now comes the fun part. I visited Silver Sands State Park, K-1716, located on Long Island sound in Milford, CT on January 13, 2023 in the afternoon. While it was Friday the 13th, I had nothing but good luck. Knowing I would be running QRP power, I decided to use what I consider to be my best 20 meter antenna. It’s a modified version of a Buddipole, which I call my “no coil” Buddipole dipole. I use a Buddipole VersaTee mounted to a WILL-BURT Hurry Up mast, which is a push up mast that extends to about 25’ high. The dipole consists of two Buddipole 32” accessory arms, one for each side of the VersaTee and two MFJ 17’ telescoping whips, extended to just about 17.5’. This provides a very broad bandwidth and low SWR on 20 meters. See the screen shot of my antenna sweep from the RigExpert analyzer below.
Here’s a photo of the antenna in the air.
The temperature on this January day was a mild 55 degrees so I was able to set up my equipment in the back of my Jeep. Here’s everything I needed to do the activation. Since the antenna is resonant, I did not use a tuner.
My iPhone gives you an idea of just how big the QDX is, which is sitting just to the right of it. There are only three connections needed, the antenna cable, a 12V power cable and the USB cable. I was using my Bioenno 9ah battery for power. I brought the Bird Model 43 with a 25 watt element in it to monitor the output power and also to measure the reflected power, which barely even nudged the meter. It was effectively zero watts reflected. In the photo above, I was in a transmit cycle and you can see the power meter just a touch above 5 watts. On the computer, you can see a mini pile-up of six hunters in the queue. One thing to note about the QDX is that you can’t adjust the power by lowering the PWR slider in WSJT-X. It’s recommended to leave that at maximum. The way to adjust output power is to adjust the power supply voltage. In this case, the Bioenno had a full charge, so the radio was running full power.
I began the activation without spotting myself, just to see who’d hear me. Here’s a map of the pskreporter showing my spots.
I eventually spotted myself so hunters would know what park I was at. I was amazed that during my activation, I never ran dry or had to call CQ POTA, there was a steady stream of hunters the entire time. The QDX does a fine job receiving, here’s a screenshot of WSJT-X including the waterfall to show what it was receiving.
So, how did the $69 radio do? In a one hour and 17 minute activation, I completed 46 FT8 QSO’s. Here’s my coverage map.
I managed to complete three park to park QSO’s, too. One park called me and I called the other two who heard me and answered. I use JTAlert which helps me keep track of the order of who called. I always try to answer the hunters in the order they called me. I’ve set up a Directed CQ alert in JTAlert for anyone calling “CQ POTA” which helps me to see who else is at a park while I’m activating. If I’m able to contact them, I use the POTA spot list to include their park number in the SIG_INFO field of my log, which is N3FJP. N3FJP is handy to use since I start a new log for each activation and I’ve configured it to upload to LOTW and QRZ when I’m done for the day.
Another thing worth noting is that there is no speaker on the QDX. I’m one of those digital operators who actually listens to the cycles while I’m on the air. It provides a certain cadence to hear each cycle go by so you know what to be looking at or clicking on and when. With no sound coming out of the QDX, it forces you to find that cadence by looking at the computer screen. For me, it means watching the receive audio levels and the progress bar to see if I’m transmitting or receiving. The QDX does have a single red LED on the front panel that will flash during transmit cycles, which is also a helpful indicator.
I’d say the results shown here speak for themselves. I had a steady stream of hunters, I had just one or two QSO’s that needed a second RR73 to confirm and the coverage was as good as most activations I’ve done with more expensive radios and more power. Despite the self-inflicted hiccup I experienced at the beginning, I’d say that If you’re looking to try activating digital for Parks On The Air or even for your home, the QDX certainly works very well and provides a lot of value for the money.
After being bitten by the Parks On The Air (POTA) bug, I became an activator in early 2022. I was hooked. Digital, and specifically FT8 & FT4, is the mode I prefer. A lot of experimentation ensued until I was able to refine my POTA setup to an Icom IC-7300 powered by a Bioenno 20ah battery mounted in a four rack unit Gator case and a Buddipole dipole antenna on a push up mast.
As a radio broadcast engineer by trade, I was very focused on maximizing performance and coverage and after much refinement and trying different things, I feel like my POTA kit performs well. I’ve made contacts as far away as Indonesia, Japan and Israel using the POTA setup in a park… so mission accomplished.
The POTA kit above is not something I can easily take with me on a business trip however, especially by air, so I turned my sites to a Xiegu G90 and various end fed half wave antennas and fiberglass masts and more Buddipole parts to pack into my carry-on luggage. Now I could activate parks wherever I could fly to and I’ve completed successful activations in Wisconsin and Georgia.
Still, I needed to pack a second bag and check the luggage to do these trips. What I really wanted was something I could carry on the plane with me.
I knew I had to change my point of view on what I could achieve using a portable kit. A small radio and antenna wasn’t going to get me contacts in Indonesia, but I could transmit far enough to have someone hear me and get my ten contacts to activate a park. Researching my options online constantly brought me to videos and blog posts here on QRPer.com. Thomas loves his Elecraft KX2 and in a few field report videos he demonstrates an Elecraft AX1 antenna connected directly to the radio for some fast CW POTA activations. This setup was appealing because of the size and he always has a successful activation.
I researched the Elecraft options and the KX3 seemed like the right radio for my digital activations. It has a DATA mode, it can run split operation, it’s got a wideband filter setting and while Elecraft only recommends 5 watts for data modes, it can do up to 10 watts. I managed to find and purchase one gently used on eBay.
I installed the Pro Audio Engineering Kx32 aftermarket heat sink to be sure I protected the final output transistors from overheating and use a Signalink model USB SLUSBKX3 as a sound card interface to the computer. The Signalink can key the radio using the audio keying feature, but I chose to use the Elecraft KXUSB cable to use CAT control and let WSJT-X key it instead. It also allows WSJT-X to read and control the radio’s frequency for easy band changes. I have a Bioenno BLF-1209A 9Ah battery to run it rather than use the internal batteries and I haven’t come close to running the battery out on an activation yet.
Then I bought the Elecraft AX1 antenna with the 40 meter AXE1 optional antenna extender and the AXT1 tripod adapter. It is tiny. There’s really no other way to describe it. It’s a little, baby antenna. Fully extended, it is about four feet tall. I was highly skeptical of how this might perform given its size. I’m using a 25’ Buddipole RG-58 A/U 50 ohm MILSPEC-17 cable terminated to BNC connectors to get the antenna away from my computer because I’ve found that RF and USB do not play well together. I typically try to get the antenna situated in a nearby spot, with a little distance between it and the computer. I bought the Maxpedition Fatty Pocket Organizer Thomas suggested on QRPer.com and a little Amazon Basics Lightweight Mini Tripod.
The AX1, the adapter and tripod all fit in the organizer with room to spare and it fits into a backpack with the radio, battery, cables and my Lenovo Thinkpad 3 laptop. I’m also able to fit in the the Bioenno battery and laptop chargers. At the urging of my XYL, I also have a printed copy of my license in the backpack, too. I haven’t had to show it to anyone yet, but I’m ready, just in case. The backpack is a Mindshift model 18L, designed for photographers, but is easily adapted to contain all of the components I need for a portable activation. Here’s a photo…
Many thanks to Brian (K3ES) who shares the following field report:
K3FAZ, K3STL, and K3ES POTA in the Cold with a Bonus Gear Report
by Brian (K3ES)
Saturday November 19 dawned clear and cold in northwest Pennsylvania, but the truth is that I was up well before dawn. The third Saturday of each month, I try to make the 2 hour drive south to help with Skyview Radio Society’s monthly Volunteer Examiner (VE) testing session for new or upgrading licensees. Clear skies (which matched the forecast) meant that road conditions would not be a problem. So, shortly after 5 am I pointed the truck south.
One of the creature comforts I appreciate about our VE session is meeting for breakfast before the test. It was obvious on arrival at the restaurant that the VEs would greatly outnumber the test candidates, but many hands make light work. Coffee and an omelet definitely helped fuel the effort. Since the test sessions normally last less than 2 hours (and that held true this time), three of us VEs had made plans for post-test session POTA.
Before launching into the field report, let me acknowledge that K3STL’s photography was instrumental in providing a report with visual appeal. Personally, I almost always forget to take the pictures.
The plan for the day was to attempt activation of two POTA sites, Beechwood Farms State Conservation Area (K-0620) in suburban Pittsburgh, and Todd Sanctuary State Conservation Area (K-0621) about 20 miles further to the northeast. John “Tall Guy” – K3STL and Brian – K3ES would do a short activation of K-0620, then meet Steve – K3FAZ at K-0621 for the rest of the afternoon.
Knowing it would be a cold day for mid-November (temperatures peaked for the day just barely above freezing), each of us made plans to adjust for operating from our vehicles. That meant that we would be doing parking lot activations at both locations. While we each normally activate with slightly different operating styles that are suited to outdoor POTA operations, some tweaks made it possible to have wind and weather protection for this outing. In hindsight, it was a perfect choice.
Many thanks to Scott (KK4Z) who shares the following post from his blog KK4Z.com:
The Maiden Voyage of the Radio Flyer
by Scott (KK4Z)
When I was young, it was a simpler time. All you needed was a pen knife, cap gun, your dog, and a Radio Flyer red wagon to put your stuff in. The world was your oyster and adventure was right around the corner. Even though I am much older now, and my horizons have expanded; adventure is still right around the corner. It was fitting that my new camper is also a Flyer. I thought it fitting to name my camper the Radio Flyer, big boy’s red wagon.
For my first adventure, I chose to go to the Stephen C. Foster State Park located within the Okefenokee Swamp. It’s about a 6-hour drive from my home QTH. Getting off of the interstate at Valdosta; it’s about a 45-mile drive down a highway that is largely uninhabited. For a man who likes his solitude, I felt alone. I pulled into Fargo, GA for gas, and then it was another 18 miles of desolation to the park. The first gate was entering the refuge. Then another lonely stretch to the park entrance.
The park was quiet with several different species of Owl providing commentary. The park never got noisy while I was there. I liked it. The campsite was rustic and nice. In short order I was set up and ready to go.
One of the things I like about the camper is its simplicity. The interior is open and spacious. there is enough room for me and my gear plus I can sit comfortably. The AC and heater work well. The galley is all I need. I added a microwave that fits on the storage shelf. Continue reading Scott takes the Radio Flyer on a maiden voyage→
QRP POTA Activation During the CQ World Wide Contest
by Joshua (KO4AWH)
I had an opportunity to activate Fort Yargo State Park (K-2177) during the CQ WW DX contest.
Fort Yargo is my local park, about 30 minutes away. The park features a great playground for the kids to play on and many tall trees which are perfect for deploying a wire antenna. There really is not much more I could ask for in a POTA location. Even the noise floor is very low, about S0, so I typically turn on the pre-amp which brings it up to S2-S3 on my Discovery TX-500.
This was very much a last minute plan. I knew the contest was going on which may present some difficulty activating QRP. I knew I would not be calling CQ on 20m where I normally activate and hunting stations could be difficult but likely doable.
There was a bit of rain at the house in the morning, then a promise of drizzle the rest of the day. Not too sure what I would find at the park, but hopefully the rain would hold off and I could get the activation in using the TX-500 without too much worry about it getting wet. I threw in a picnic blanket with a water barrier that promised a bit of protection from the rain if needed it.
I have a go-box setup with my TX-500 and IC-705, as well as several antennas, an ATU, and all cabling and power needed to run FT8 either on my Raspberry PI4 with the TX-500, or on my iPad through the IC-705.
I was taking my wife’s vehicle as she had the car seats needed for the 3 kiddos that were coming along. So, I had to be sure I had everything I needed. There are quite a few additional radio items I keep in the back of my car that I would not have available. But everything should be in the go-box, right?
After a bit of mist and some rain on the drive over, I planned to setup the TX-500 knowing it would get a bit wet. I tossed the throw line in the tree and pulled up my Tufteln EFHW QRP cut for 20m. In retrospect I probably should have pulled up the EFRW for a bit more band agility.
I tuned around for a few minutes.
Yup, there was not a single free place across 20 meters where I could start calling CQ in the clear. In fact, the stations I listened to for more than a few seconds had someone else start calling right on top of them. 20 meters was indeed crazy.