Connecticut River Island Activations
by Conrad (N2YCH)
August 22, 2023
I’m on a POTA quest – activate all references in the state of Connecticut. There are 136 parks in the state and four of them are islands, only accessible by boat. Three of which are in the Connecticut River: Dart Island (K-1659), Haddam Island (K-1673) and Selden Neck State Park (K-1714).
I don’t own a boat. Plus, even if I did, I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to tackle the Connecticut River on my own. I have no experience navigating these waters, and it’s a real river, more than you’d want to try with a kayak with the currents and all. Even the POTA web pages for these islands warns “Boating experience and channel knowledge recommended.”
This created a dilemma – how do I get to and activate these islands?
I strategized for a while and decided on chartering a “river cruise” boat who actually listed visiting Dart and Haddam islands as part of their services on their web site. The boat captain hadn’t visited Selden Neck, so that was new, even to him. However, he had a radar, and depth finder on his boat that mapped the channel and gave us the depths of the waters near each island. His boat drew 3 feet, so we had to have at least that much depth in each place we stopped. He also had a small “Achilles” boat that connected to the back of the cabin cruiser that we used to get ashore.
We left from a marina that was directly across the river from Dart Island but decided first to head South to Selden Neck and then work our way back North to Haddam and Dart.
Putting aside the island access for a moment, I also had to strategize on what gear to bring along to do these activations. I am primarily a digital mode activator and have used the Elecraft KX3 and AX1 antenna in many of my travels where I needed a light kit.
However, I thought, I can use the KX3 but take along a more efficient antenna. I used my Buddipole tripod and mast with a versa-T and a 17’ 9” Alpha whip antenna and a 15’ counterpoise elevated off the ground with a Home Depot electric fence post.
Because the mast elevates the versa T to 11’ high, and the telescoping whip at another 17’ 9”, I was able to get the antenna nearly 30’ off the ground to the top. It was easy to pack and carry and provided better coverage than the AX1 would have. You’ll see just how good QRP on FT8 can be in my Dart Island coverage map.
- 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
- Buddipole Tripod with telescoping mast and Versa T in Buddipole case
- Buddipole 15’ RF coax and choke balun
- 15’ home-made counterpoise wire
- Home Depot 3’ electric fence post to suspend the counterpoise
- Alpha Antenna 17’ 9” telescoping whip
- Backup of everything in another bag in case I ended up in the water, including a spare radio and computer.
Once I decided on the KX3 and the Alpha telescoping whip, I packed my backpack with the computer, cables, the radio, batteries and extra antennas. I always have the AX1 and a Packtenna EFHW as backups and they fit easily into the backpack. Two bags would need to make it from the boat to each island, the radio gear with computer and the antenna bag with the tripod and telescoping antenna. To be safe, since it would not be easy to do this again if something didn’t work, I brought along an entire backup system, packed in a second backpack with an Icom 705 and my spare laptop.
One of my goals with POTA is local discovery, and my boat captain was very knowledgeable about the river and the various sites along the shores. I learned that a manufacturing plant owned by Pratt and Whitney still uses water from the river as part of their manufacturing processes and also that there was a sea plane airport along one bank. I saw an automobile ferry along the way that I had no idea existed and saw the site of the former Connecticut Yankee nuclear plant that was decommissioned in 2004. Continue reading POTA Quest: Conrad Activates Three Connecticut River Islands!