What an absolutely gorgeous day at Galveston Island State Park for the JSCARC POTA activation #8, K-3013 on Sat Jan 7 0800-1200 CT!
Our Saturday intrepid morning trekers included Terry N5LOW (who got there 1st!), Jayant KG5LJZ, George AD5CQ, John AB5SS and Dave W5OC. Along the way, we also bumped into a couple of hams that were operating down there as well, including Joe K5KUA who is a resident at Jamaica Beach just across the street. Joe actually heard us on the air and decided to come by and say hello to N5LOW who was operating on the CW station.
Most of us caught the awesome rising sun as we made the 50 minute trek from the Clear Lake area. 2 SSB stations were camped by a nice roadside picnic area, while the CW station was further up north and housed in N5LOW’s Casita travel trailer.
Jayant KG5LJZ immediately jumped onto 20m SSB and quickly fulfilled up his activation log with great signal coverage across the country. Jayant was using W5OC’s setup. The antenna was a Sotabeam 20/40 linked dipole with one end draped over the porta-potty (worked great since it was plastic, not metal), and the other end secured right by the adjacent pond.
We hoisted it’s middle section using a lightweight telescoping mast anchored with a survey’s tripod that I got from the Pasadena fleamarket. The radio was an Yaesu FT-897 100W rig powered by a Bioenno 20Ah LiFePO4 lithium battery.
Terry N5LOW has greater challenges setting up the CW station, at least initially. A collapsable 25′ painter’s pole mast was mounted at the trailer hitch, but unfortunately when the heavy 10-80m endfed antenna was raised, the stress load cracked it. To remedy the issue, we used a much less stressing 20m endfed (shorter, and weighs less) and a drive-on mast mount which had a longer mounting sleeve. W5OC had brought that along “just in case”, and the “case” was needed. Ultimately, it worked out great. Also, by using the 20m smaller end fed, we were able to constrain it’s overall footprint area within the parking lot vs draping the much longer 10-80m version across the active roadway.
Earlier in the SSB area, a GISP ranger come by and lectured us about extensive guy wires and his frustration of hams endangering others…
Terry’s setup included his IC7300, Kent Key, IT100 LDG autotuner. We logged using an old Dell Lattitude PC and N3FJP configured for POTA.
George AD5CQ spent time with us, taking notes as he’s planning to lauch his activations soon. He was taking pro photos of our setups, so maybe we can enlist him to be our official photographer in the future ;-). George’s XYL accompanied him; she was bird watching while George was radio watching.
John AB5SS followed into the site a few minutes after we got started and fired up this configuration along the adjacent picnic table by Jayant’s SSB 20m station. Our well known nemisis of Mr. QRM was an issue as John found high levels of RFI (RF Interference). In hindsight, we knew proximity was way too close and RFI energy will swamp any semblance of multi ops. A good note, for upcoming Winter and Summer Field Day and other POTA events. After Jayant filled his log, his station QRT which allowed John to continue operating w/o issue.
Here’s John’s comments:
“Setup was my IC-7300 & PAC-12 portable vertical, home brew LiFePO4 16Ah battery. Running 75-100W and barely put a dent in the battery capacity as it was still reading 13.0V when I called it for the day.
First got setup ~9:45am and was just messing around trying to make contacts with KA5TBB, KI5LQT, N5LOW & W5RRR (Jayant was on the W5RRR remote rig). At ~10:45 only had 13 QSO’s and decided to start calling CQ on 20m. It didn’t take long to get spotted and then I had a pileup until I quit at 11:45am, made another 80 QSO’s in one hour! 93 total QSO’s.
When I first setup, I was just estimating on the antenna tuning and letting the rigs internal tuner make the radio happy. Not being resonant really hurt my performance and I was getting poor signal reports (53, 44, etc) running 100W. Before I started my CQ run, I got out the VNA and tuned the vertical to ~1.3:1 at 14.200 MHz. After that, I was hearing much better and getting solid 59 reports across the country, and into Canada & Mexico. Also worked HI8AM in the Dominican Republic. So lesson learned was a resonant antenna beats the internal tuner every time! Also, I was only using 5 radials with the vertical and still getting good performance. I really like this PAC-12 (available on eBay for $150 and tunes 40m-6m. It will do 80m if you build/add a loading coil (DIY instructions on the web).”
A few other attempts to QSO with KA5TBB and KG5URA, were mostly unsuccessful, for the rest of us. HF is quite dismissive of “local” path communications.
We bumped into a young man (I didn’t get his call) who was a student @ TAMU. He unfortunately didn’t bring any portable battery and when he found an AC outlet, he has still had issues with SWR and his setup for FT8. We briefly chatted with him and hoped to bump into him again in the future. He was visiting his parents and tried to conduct an activation along the way.
We also had a terrific rag chew with K5KUA, who was a buddy of N5LOW. K5KUA, reflected on all type of topics as AD5CQ, N5LOW, K5KUA and W5OC decided to chat instead of work the airwaves. The conversation was lively, funny, and well hearted to end a fun day at the park.
Overall, GISP is a terrific POTA site and seemed very friendly for antenna radiation/propagation based on our strong signal reports. I think there’s also an image of Galverston Island being on a patch of land in the water, so that imagery adds to the exotic allure of others wanting to QSO with us.