I had participated in the ARRL January VHF QSO Party my very first year as a licensed Ham and I must admit that I wasn’t that impressed. It was cold, my fingers were numb and my arms were tired from holding an Arrow antenna at arms length trying to chase a dozen VHF/UHF contacts across metro Atlanta. Yet, I still answered the call from a fellow Ham to participate in this year’s VHF contest. I actually thought this year would be different — and for the most part, it was.
I was equipped with new radios, new antennas and most importantly, I intended on letting a mast do the work: I wasn’t going to be holding any antennas this time. So I met up with WK4U Saturday afternoon and we rolled up to the top of Sweat Mountain, found a spot in the shade a little ways down from all the antennas and EMI and got to work.
According to my APRS beacon, we set up shop right about here:
I was really hoping that by broadcasting my APRS position with the frequency I was monitoring that I might have drawn another station’s attention. In reality, I think a lot of other Ham operators use APRS to broadcast their location but nobody ever looks at it. 🙁
Here’s what our stations looked like in the shade under the trees:
Here is what our stations looked like under the shade of the trees. We originally planned on setting up in the clearing just down the road from this position but it was just too sunny and not enough shade. WK4U intended to work from the bed of his pickup and without any sort of shade from the sun I didn’t expect he would have operated long, if at all, in that position.
Therefore we decided to move up the road a 100 yards or so and set up on either side in case there were any traffic to/from the towers on the mountain. The only visitor we had was someone on a mountain bike who stopped for a few minutes to ask questions about radios.
Here was my setup. I used the Kenwood TM-D710A in my 4Runner operating at a full 50 watts on 2m and 70cm with an Elk 2m/440L5 antenna at the top of WK4U’s 28′ mast from Max-Gain Systems. I was feeling very ambitious with this setup and in the end it really only netted me 4 contacts between VHF/UHF.
My setup for 6M was somewhat the same. I used my Elecraft KX3 operating at 5 watts with a PAR Electronics OA-50B Omniangle antenna at the top of the same mast. (BTW, the mast was only extended about 22′ or so because of the trees overhead.) I wasn’t quite certain how this antenna would perform when I purchased it used and aside from making sure it was tuned correctly, I hadn’t used it until this contest. Although the band wasn’t open, I still made enough contacts to justify picking up this antenna on a whim for a really great price.
I’m thankful that WK4U allowed me to borrow his push-up mast because I had been evaluating purchasing one for a while now and having experienced the quality of this mast, I intend on purchasing one for myself. You might have also noticed my home-brew mast-mount strapped to my rear tire. I’ll post some close-up photos of it’s construction at a later date. I used the red ratchet strap laying on the ground to hold the driver’s door open while I was seated in the truck.
Here’s the short list of contacts I made after calling CQ for about 1.5 hours:
I worked three stations on VHF at 146.55MHz FM. Technically, only two of those counted since one station didn’t know his grid (required during the exchange for the conversation to count in the contest). I worked one station on UHF at 446.0MHz FM, but he didn’t know his grid, either. I had a great run on 6M on 50.135MHz SSB. I made a good run of it letting my Elecraft KX3 do all the work using the record feature to call CQ every 15 seconds.
Despite the repeated poor turnout for this contest, I’ll probably be back at it again in January, operating from the comfort of my vehicle, again. Hopefully the 6M band will cooperate and I’ll be able to score some great DX on the “magic band.”