The Sunday of President’s Day weekend, I was supposed to camp overnight at Reed Bingham State Park and pursue two more activations for my 2024 goal of 60 new-to-me parks. However, the Wednesday evening prior, I sustained an injury to my right hand which happens to be my sending hand. The injury was serious enough that I rescheduled that trip for June and, for my bi-weekly QSO with my code buddy Caryn KD2GUT, I sent on the paddle with my left-hand which turned out better than I expected.
Since I did not go out of town as planned, my son Sean attended his bi-monthly Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) meeting Sunday afternoon. Another code buddy, Gary K4IIG, suggested that while I waited for Sean, I should consider activating. The weather was unpleasantly chilly and overcast so I opted against an activation but did want to try out my new antenna, the Chelegance MC-750. I knew I needed another vertical for my POTA kit and it came highly recommended by several other hams.
After dropping off Sean, I headed to Skidaway Island, a 30-minute drive. Seven hundred acres of the north end of the island belong to the Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, part of the University of Georgia. The site is for salt marsh research and houses the administrative offices for Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. The land is open to the public for daytime hiking and wildlife viewing. In fact, Daisy and I have walked there on several occasions. The habitat is typical coastal maritime forest with live oaks, Spanish moss, and palmettos along with some more open areas populated by pine trees.
Daisy and I chose the open field outside the institute at which to park and set up the new antenna. We were not the only ones using the field that afternoon despite the weather. While there, several other dog owners showed up to let their pups run and play in the field.
I read the simple three-page instructional PDF from Chelegance’s website and thought I had a good idea of how to set up the MC-750. However, I had not read any instructions about using it with the tripod accessory. I knew the bottom spike needed to be removed but couldn’t get it out with my bare hands. This is why I carry a Wave+ Leatherman [QRPer affiliate link] with me! I rarely use it but when I need it, I REALLY need it. Soon the spike was off and I was ready to set up the antenna.
True to what I heard, the Chelegance vertical is easy to set up. You screw together a few sections, plug in the four radials at the bottom, select your band and extend the whip to the location marked on it, then screw the whip on. Viola! Yes, it was that easy!
Usually my son’s D&D sessions last 3.5-4 hours so I figured I would log onto the Straight Key Century Club (SKCC) sked page and see if I could scare up some QSOs as I work toward the rank of Senator. Yes, even POTA Babes do non-POTA things. For me, my non-POTA CW activities are code buddy and SKCC-related QSOs.
SKCC is a wonderful organization of more than 28,000 ops from all over the world. To pursue their awards and ranks, one has to use a mechanical (straight, cootie, or bug) key though anyone can participate in their sprints or other events to join in the fun (just send “none” for the SKCC number if using a paddle). It is because of them that I learned to use a straight key and cootie (my favorite key) and am now learning to use a bug.
I decided to start with 20 meters and moved the whip to the 14 MHz mark. Then I remembered my code buddy Caryn KD2GUT mentioning something about a contest going on this weekend. I set up my laptop and checked the Reverse Beacon Network online graph by HA8TKS. WHOA! That band was chock full of signals. As I was using my KX2 and was therefore QRP, I knew there was no point calling CQ on that band.
What about 17 meters? Checking that band yielded much better results. Now to log into the SKCC sked page.
The SKCC sked page is a wonderful resource. You can private message ops for a QSO or just to say hi! If calling CQ, you can post your frequency and on what you are working. I claimed 18.088 and noted I was working toward Senator, using QRP and slower ops were welcome. (I like to slow down for newer ops or those who are in an ambling frame of mind as many other ops slowed down for me when I entered the hobby.)
I spent about 10 minutes calling CQ and queried on the general section of the sked page if anyone was hearing me as I had a new antenna. That is when Jim N0IPA from Colorado answered my call. Jim, like me, is learning to use the bug. I suspect he is working on the Triple Key Award, too. To achieve this award, an op has to have 100 unique SKCC-member QSOs each with a straight key, cootie, and bug. I happened to be Jim’s first bug QSO! The standard SKCC exchange is RST, QTH, name, and SKCC number and it wasn’t long before we had each other in our log.
About ten minutes later, Jacob N3VH answered my call. He is located in New Jersey and said by the end of our QSO, my RST was a 559. Both Jacob’s and Jim’s QSOs counted toward my Senator progress putting me at 48 out 200 QSOs left to earn my toga!
Unfortunately, my son’s D&D session ended earlier than expected which meant it was time for this POTA Babe to call QRT. The short time was well worth it as I now felt more comfortable with the new antenna and was 2 QSOs closer to earning the rank of Senator with SKCC. Plus, I got on the air with QRP for a non-POTA exchange which is unusual for me. I also have a place I can visit (if the weather cooperates) two weeks from now for more non-POTA QRP work. The fun with ham radio never stops, does it?!
And for those of you wondering how my progress with my 2024 POTA goal is coming along, you’ll find out soon when I attempt to activate park #17 on that journey. Stay tuned…