Clear Mountain Conservation Park

Thanks to all the chasers today, made for a very successful first activation of Clear Mountain Conservation Park, VKFF-1511

Big thanks to those who called in CW, especially Allen Harvie who I managed to destroy his call about 5 times before i got it right HIHI and thanks for the patience 🙂

Also thanks to those who gave 15m a shot with Brian VK3BBB and Paul VK5PAS both making a contact, joining Rick who was just on the other side of the lake 🙂

Managed a whole swag of park to parks with Rob VK4AAC/2, Andrew VK7DW and a surprise call in from Hans and Leslie VK5YX and VK5LOL/4 who were in Moorrinyah National Park in the middle of nowhere in QLD. Also a quick SOTA with VK3GRK as well.

No DX, but, I was hearing US dx on 40m. not that they could hear me. All in all, had a good activation and enjoyed the couple of hours out portable.

Operating Position: -27.290364, 152.893480

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Setup on top of a hill.

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Nice RF quiet location, the only QRM was from the traffic on the main road.

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DO NO ENTER. Ohhh do not cross the velvet rope or bad things might happen.

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Gave the new CW key mount a go from this park and it worked a treat. Almost makes the most horrible key in the world usable.

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Esk National Park Activation

Esk NP is a small un-signposted remnant wetland park just west of Brisbane. There are no walking track, no facilities, no nothing. So i found some space just off the side of the road and setup my gear. 10m was a bust when i tried at 3pm, but would later provide the surprise of the activation.

So, 15m was next and it started off great, Hawaii, Russia, VK6, Sth Korea, VK5, Japan, Vk4 all in the log in very short order and New zealand added a little latter on, then a whole lot of calling where i could not buy a contact. I then went and played 2m ssb and cw with Rick VK4RF and made my first 2m contacts with a chaser 100km away.

Jumped on 40m next and made a bunch of contacts, vk1,2,3,4,5. 40m was its usual horrid noise and the FT897 is not the nicest receiver to have in any conditions other than perfect, I am so lucky to have an IC-7410 at home with modern DSP filtering that does wonders to noise and close by stations. Hope to upgrade the 897 soon to an IC7300 once i know what the price is like.
Anyways, i digress, from 40 i flipped over to 10m to play with rick, and while we were sitting there gas bagging about stuff, cause calling cq with no takers was getting boring, we had Jonathan VK6JON and Ted VK6NTE call in and get in the log. Being on a 10m tuned up 40m dipole made for tough going to vk6, but we made the exchange and then qsy’d to 15m and had a nice QSO at 57 or better. After this i started calling cq and well 15mins of calling later and nothing, i could not buy a contact. So off i went playing search and pounce, adding a couple more dx contacts to my tally.

A quick trip back to 40m for a few calls while the last of the daylight faded away behind the mountains and I was done. Packed up, went to a friends place who live near by and had a beer and some dinner.

CW, i did call on 10m and 15m cw and did not go very well at all, like most of this activation, i could not buy a contact, but i did make some CW contacts with John 6NU, Rick 4RF/HA, Gerard 2IO, Steve 3MEG and Ben 6FBLJ. All in all, 58 QSO or there abouts from 35 calls, not sure if bands and modes matter in making the 44, but making 44 is not a high priority for me, having fun is, and to be honest, even though i started to lose my voice and today my throat feels like gravel today, I had a bunch of fun this activation, and for me, that is everything.

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VKFF Honor Roll 150

VK4FFAB VKFF Hunter Honour Roll 150

 

This is the latest award i have received for VKFF/WWFF programs for working 150 different parks. Which for a Queensland based F-Call is a fair achievement. To add a little perspective, at the time i writing i am ranked 30th in VK all time rankings, 3th highest Qld’er behind big gun Rick VK4RF and Rob VK4AAC who is portable in VK5, and 3rd highest ranked F-Call behind Amanda VK3FQSO and Adrian VK5FANA, both of whom are much closer to the action than I am. So i am certainly punching above my weight here when it comes to VKFF.

Thanks as always goes to all the park activators for without whom there is no program and to Paul Simmons for his tireless work as national co-ordinator and passionate activator extraordinary. Thanks guys. 73 and 44.

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WWFF Great Sandy, Noosa, Mt Coolum

So in 2015 I started my first full year in the VKFF/WWFF program with an activation of The Great Sandy and an over night camping trip at Lake Cootharabra, in a tent and a 3x3m shelter we nick named the Taj Mahal. The antenna was a home brewed linked dipole, the radio was an IC-718, my home radio, it was 40 deg C and we almost died of heat exhaustion, I made 30+ contacts and it was a bit of a struggle.

This was my first camping trip in about 8 years, and the first for my partner in over 25 years, who had some bad experiences camping as a kid and refused to ever go camping again. I talked her into this trip and we have not looked back since.

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Fast forward 12 months, we are again back at The Great Sandy, but the tent has been upgraded to a camper trailer, the antenna is now a Sotabeams 20,30,40,80m linked dipole, the radio is an FT-897, i now know enough morse to get by and make some contacts, I still struggle for contacts, but now im less worried about making 44, and more concerned in having fun and enjoying time with my partner and doing outdoors things, Oh and playing radio too.

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My partner is into craft, sewing and all sorts of non radio things, but, being supportive of my pursuits as she is, there are some benefits and spin-offs, like this table mat with my call sign and other bits embroidered on to it so i do not forget who I am. I will have personalised shirts coming soon too.

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Spur of the moment CW session while out portable. Was profitable with a number of contacts being made, I was not really prepared, its been a while since i had done any practice, had no cheat sheet, was hand holding my key because i had no double sided tickety tape to gaff it to my radio. Poor ZL1 and JA6 stations got all the “IM A NOOB GET ME OUT OF HERE”

ZL1DCO i could not for the life of me key a bloody Z –.. yeah super easy, but i was sending ..– and or -..- until i got it right had to listen 3 times to him repeating his call before it sunk into my brain and my brain make my hand do the right things.

JA6BGA hehe G was the next letter, and –. and like a real spaz i was sending .– W eventually i got why he was sending his call 3 times, over and over to my replies, 5 mins later i got my error a quick SRY and the correct call and all was done.

Worked VK3, 4, 7 ZL, JA and S5 (Slovenia) on 15m CW, and Dom in New Caledonia, ZL and some VK’s on 40m , not bad for a spur of the moment idea to get the key out. VK7SM was first, as you can see in the photo on my phone decoder. Decoder Bad Yeah, no contacts worse LOL.

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Audio from the FT-897 is crap on a stick pretty much, I need to add in a good set of headphones to fix some of that, something on the todo list now. If you ever wonder how I operate in the dark, its pretty much as per the pic below, I dont look at the front of the radio, i lock the vfo and use my ears for all reports, the way it should be done, this is the only way to hear weak signals in the noise because the speaker is not front facing. The light is an LED Bat Light, the clock is in UTC, and the beer is always XXXX and cold. And since i had a tablet explode, logging is now paper and pencil.

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So the results for each of the parks is as follows:

The Great Sandy: Vk2,3,4,5,6,7,8 New Zealand, Japan (33 Contacts)

Noosa: Vk1,2,3,4,5 (22 contacts)

Mt Coolum: Vk2,3,4,5, New Zealand, New Caledonia, Slovenia (36 contacts)

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Finally, after 2 miserable, wet and windy days, sunrise over  Lake Cootharabra. Its a lovely location, well worth the visit and camp out. It did not last long, we got rained on when we were 80% packed up, meaning setting up the camper at home to dry and clean it. Just about every camping trip we have done in the last 8 months has rained. LOL

 

 

 

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Solar Panels for Portable

One thing i have found on the 3 day camping trips is that my battery gets pretty much hammered. Sure its 100ah, but after you have taken 40 to 50ah out of it, its pretty much done all it can do for the high current demands of a FT-897. When you see the voltage on TX get into the 11 and 10v range, you know you are not far away from hurting your battery permanently.
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Maximum cycles and ultimately life of a deep cycle battery, can only be had if you do not discharge much more than 50% of the total battery capacity. Sure a deep cycle can be deeply cycled, but doing it often will lead to sulphation of the plates and poor holding capacity. Being the tight arse that I am HIHI, I wish for my cheap Chinese import battery to last for as many cycles as possible and with that in mind, i bought a solar charge kit.
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So the kit i bought is a MaxRay 80w folding solar kit off Ebay. Total cost $140 delivered. Which comes with a 10A charge controller, 9m lead with 50A Anderson plug, carry bag and Anderson plug with battery clips.

 

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Build quality seems ok, one small issue is the wiring to the charge controller was not done correctly, this is something i will rectify before i use it. Other than that, it seems like a nice enough unit. I will put it in the sun tomorrow and measure its voltage and current delivery to see just how close to spec it really is. That will be the real rest for this. But, if it keeps both our deep cycles charged for camping, it will mean i can take other high power devices and not have to worry about hurting the batteries. A fridge will be next and I think the boss wants a fan in the camper as well. HIHI.

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WWFF VKFF Mass Activation Weekend

On the weekend of the 27-29th of November, Australia had its first mass activation weekend for the WWFF/VKFF programs. Over the course of the weekend, some 80 something national parks were activated, many for the very first time. Being a WWFF/VKFF nut myself, I did my part and activated 5 parks. I was planning on activating a 6th park, but ran out of time and more importantly I was running out of battery. A 100Ah can only do so much before even it has been hit too hard and needs time on a charger.

Park Name Number of QSO First time Activation
1 Lockyer National Park 20 Yes
2 Lockyer Recovery National Park 17 Yes
3 Crows Nest National Park 63 Yes
4 Hampton National Park 26 Yes
5 Geham National Park 31 Yes

 

Lockyer NP and Recovery NP

On the Friday while heading out to Crows Nest, I activated these 2 parks. Lockyer is a rather nice national park and one i wish i had more time on the day to explore. With plenty of fire trails and dirt roads to hike on as well as some awesome scenery. Sadly i had exactly 1 hour in each location as we were on a tight schedule to get to Crows Nest to set up camp for the night. Qualified both parks for VKFF which is nice. Contacts made on 40 and 15m.

Crows Nest NP

Crows Nest was the base camp for all my weekend activities, we camped here Friday and Saturday nights having the whole camp ground pretty much to ourselves all weekend with the only other campers arriving about 4pm on Sat afternoon. The park itself is actually worth the visit, there are a number of walks that can be undertaking to some rather impressive water falls and to a lookout. The camp ground is basic, with well defined sites each with its own small fire pit and BBQ, toilets are long drops and there are cold showers as well.

This was going to be my night time radio operating location, but the weather gods had different ideas. With storm cells all around us both nights, 40m was a right off with 40db over storm static. Thankfully 15m came to the rescue here with a number of dx contacts being made, to bump up the numbers in my log and qualify the park for both WWFF and VKFF. Contacts were made in Denmark, Germany, Guam, New Zealand, Japan, Sri Lanka, Belgium as well as most states of VK, 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. All in all i was pleased with how things went from this park under some very trying conditions.

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Friday afternoon, Crows Nest NP Base Camp, radioing even before we have camp fully setup HIH.

 

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This picture is representative of the open woodland scrub that is typical around the Crows Nest region.

Hampton NP

This is a tiny little park in the middle of Hampton township, it is not much to look at. Setup the radio gear near a pile of Lantana and looked at the road near by. I spent about an hour here, making 26 qso’s and a few park to park contacts. Contacts made on 40 and 15m.

Geham NP

Like Hampton, Geham is a tiny little park near Geham township, It was much more pleasant on the eyes, Being mostly native remnant vegetation and tall timbers. I spent about 90mins here active on the radio, making 31 qso and a few park to parks. Contacts made on 40 and 15m.

Noise: I took this short video just to show how bad the storm static was on 40m both nights, 15m was somewhat better, but still loud crashes rather than the constant noise that 40m was.

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