Tag Archives: Skidaway Island

The POTA Babe and AX1 Make Up

by Teri (KO4WFP)

Sunday, March 10th, my son had another Dungeons & Dragons session. I figured why not play QRP radio again on the north end of Skidaway Island at the University of Georgia Skidaway Institute of Oceanography. The weather appeared more conducive for radio than my previous visit. My friend Glenn W4YES accompanied me.

Skidaway Island’s Location in Savannah, GA area from Google Maps
UGA Institute of Oceanography at north end of island as per Google Maps

I chose as my location the bluff behind the aquarium which contains picnic tables and looks out over the intracoastal waterway. There was a stiff breeze but what a pretty place to play radio!

My QTH on the bluff

The Straight Key Century Club (SKCC) was holding the Weekend Sprintathon (WES), a monthly event for members. As I mentioned in my previous Skidaway article, SKCC is an organization with 28,000 plus members that use mechanical keys (straight, cootie, and bug) for their QSOs. Participating in their sprints is a simple way (like POTA) for new ops to gain experience and build confidence.

I figured I’d accomplish several things at once today: get more QRP experience with something other than POTA, garner a few more QSOs on my march toward Senator for SKCC, and use the AX1.

In researching my upcoming summer POTA trip, I read a post by Bob Condor (K4RLC) on the W4SOTA groups.io about modifications to the AX1. I plan to attempt my first SOTA activations during the trip and want light, nimble antenna options.

Admittedly, the AX1 and I haven’t been on the best terms. Bob modified his by adding three 14’ radials instead of the counterpoises with which the antenna comes.  He used this configuration during a trip to Greece and had good results. I figured, why not give it a try? It was easy to make the radials with a lug connector on each end to add them to the AX1 mount on my Joby Gorillapod (the only tripod I currently have).

While Glenn took a leisurely walk on the nature trail at the bluff, I began on 20 meters.

I engaged the ATU which dropped the SWR from 2.2 down to 1. There were a lot of stations on 20 meters but I finally found a place to settle. After 8 minutes calling CQ, Randy K8ZAA answered me and gave me a 579 in MI, a good signal report for the AX1.

Given the paucity of stations answering my CQ, I decided to move to 17 meters but realized the WARC bands are not allowed in the SKCC WES so I opted for 15 meters instead. After a few minutes calling CQ, Bob AF5Z answered me. He gave me a 449 in Texas.

It became quiet again after that QSO so I jumped to 40 meters, had no callers, and moved back to 20 meters. After 10 minutes calling CQ, Jerry WA4JK answered me and gave me a 559 in Alabama. By this point, the wind had increased and Glenn and I had enough of being buffeted by what felt like gale-force winds. However, I still had an hour and a half before my son’s Dungeons & Dragons session ended so this POTA Babe wasn’t ready to call it quits. Continue reading The POTA Babe and AX1 Make Up

Filling in the Gap at Skidaway Island

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.

Not welcoming weather!

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.

Source: https://dxcluster.ha8tks.hu/V2/rbn_ct1boh/

What about 17 meters? Checking that band yielded much better results. Now to log into the SKCC sked page.

Source: https://dxcluster.ha8tks.hu/V2/rbn_ct1boh/

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…