By The Water

Saturday mornings have, for the time being, been set up as portable operating times for me. There are several parks in the area – Ohio seems to have an embarrassment of riches in that regard – and getting out into them feels really good. This past Saturday, West Branch State Park was the destination.

The original plan was to use the Jeep as the base of operations for this outing, but upon arrival, it was obvious that no one was there. No one. At all. The parking lot for the picnic pavilions was completely empty. It seems the parks empty a bit in the fall once school starts. It made more sense to get out of the Jeep and grab a nice picnic table by the water.

Portable setup arranged on a picnic table by the water.

The view was beautiful and, again, it was very quiet. The occasional bass boat would drift by in the distance, but for the most part it was as though there were no people in the park.

I will also hasten to add that the radials as seen in the picture were not left in a pile during operation. I did spread them out so that they could, ya know, perform as intended. I got an interesting comment on the picture when I shared it on Mastodon. More on that in a minute.

A view of the lake from the operating position.

It was somewhere between 9 AM and noon while I was operating. The bands were nice and open. I was hearing from stations as far off as Australia and I was being heard from Alaska to Eastern Europe (per pskreporter.info) but I only got a few calls back. I guess Ohio stations aren’t very enticing. That said, I did get a few contacts on the log and did some good listening.

All of the gear worked exactly as expected. It was quick to setup and quick to tear down. I was also glad to have the Lightsaver Max with me as it brought me up to 10 watts and that got me out a bit further as observed again on pskreporter.info. I meant to get on some voice modes, but didn’t because I was happier sipping coffee and staring at the water as I played around with FT8.

The Superantenna continues to be my antenna of choice. Easy to deploy and effective. What more could I ask?

I said that I got some feedback on my pile o’ radials from Mastodon. And by that I mean mastodon.radio. What is that? It’s a federated social media platform. Well, that’s what Mastodon is. Imagine twitter if it didn’t suck. On mastodon.radio, it’s all ham radio operators and makers sharing their (mis)adventures and the fun time had on the air. Or trying to get on the air. Or talking about gear that might get us on the air. It also has a really neat mascot and I got a couple of stickers from the instance admin. They’re cool!

Two stickers of a mastodon holding an HT and with a shoulder bag.

On another topic, I tried some OLIVIA with the local radio club as well. I didn’t do very well on 20m from my front yard. Propagation is a tricky thing sometimes. I will try it again and I’m going to listen around for some RTTY in the coming weeks, so there will be more digital fun shortly.

In the meantime, there’s another Saturday morning expedition planned. Which park will be a just in time decision.

Working With A Mast

When the summer was just rolling around, I ordered a SOTABeams Tactical Mini mast for portable operation. It seemed to stall out in Chicago (as a lot of things traveling into the states are) and then was magically in my mailbox one morning. I was pretty excited about it, but things got in the way and I didn’t really get a chance to do anything with it until this week.

I decided to get it set up in my yard and see how it worked with my Par EndFedz┬« End Fed Half Wave Antenna set up as a sloper. The mast itself is very lightweight and yet incredibly strong. I got it guyed out with a little assistance from my son (no callsign because he’s stubborn and doesn’t want to get his ticket…yet). Once I had it set up, the rope was cut to the proper length and I proved to myself that setting it up solo would be a breeze.

Mast set up with guy lines in place.

The antenna was attached to the top with a couple of zip ties that I made into a strange device for holding the end. I guess it works? It was resistant to the wind and all of that jazz, so it’s probably solid. At the end of the day, I would like to get a little loop to situate on top to make that part a little more stable and easier.

Full mast deployed.

It worked nicely and I was able to get 3 contacts in short order. This is largely because the antenna is so perfectly tuned on 40m and 20m. I cannot say enough good stuff about that antenna. And the combination of the two will make working in the field easy enough when there aren’t any trees around.

The addition of the mast muddies the water for me in only one respect: weight. I still love my SuperAntenna and I think it’s the one I’m going to use most often when operating portable. It attaches to the Jeep and performs really well. That said, the wire antenna is attractive because it’s small, tuned for the frequencies I use most often, and light. Neither of these options require a tuner under most circumstances.

That said, if I were to do another 40 mile hike with my IC-705, I would likely skip the SuperAntenna and the mast altogether as I’d likely be in the woods or near a tree most of the time. At that point, I would be debating the use of the arborists line as the weight adds 10 oz. and I have a bear bag that has a smaller bag for putting a rock in and tossing line over a tree limb. That’s the backpacking calculus: is it more miserable to carry something or miss it in the field? All in all, I could probably pare down to the radio and the antenna with my Lightsaver Max as a battery option for a bare bones trip.

Still, it’s nice to have options. I operate a lot with my Jeep (and soon my bike) as my method of transportation, so it does open up what I can take with me and what I might use given the circumstances.

I like the mast. I’m sure it will come in handy.