POTA 10 @ Galveston – Report

POTA #10 @ Galveston Island Park

This blog post is dedicated to David Kimbrell KG5URA, who got up early in the morning, packed and ready to activate at the Galveston Island State Park… but his truck battery was dead due to a faulty alternator.  Luckily it happened in his driveway.

Who would have thought we’d have held our 10th Parks On The Air (POTA) event already?!

Who would have thought w’ed have gone to Galveston 3 times in a row in spite of the 1hr drive?!

POTA seems to bring out the fun of testing and improving our experimental and setups, and assuring our field readiness in case of an emergency– which are really a core pieces of the ham radio hobby.

N5LOW captures it here:

“The POTA activations I divide into two parts:  trying to get what I have working,  and trying at least one new item or technique. My suggestions is to plan on trying a different antenna, deployment method or accessory including a coils, traps, batteries, The GO-BOX idea , what items  make this the most efficient. You can challenge yourself with  less power less equipment less antenna. Some members might be reluctant to explore these area,  nobody wants to seem un-informed, but that is the magic of it all ,  ask what if ?   I can tell you , it is ok to fail,  Failing on your experiment has value,  and automatically has a test for the next POTA.   I can not wait to see where the next location is so I can design my next configuration”

On Saturday March 11, N5LOW, AD5CQ, AB5SS, K5RG, KG5PVP, WA5WOD, and W5OC POTA activated Galveston Island State Park (GISP).

Terry N5LOW flew another amazing kite antenna.  He reports that the lift/drag ratio was still too low for hoisting his end fed antenna reliably under the lower wind conditions.  Nonetheless, John AB5SS assisted him to make a couple of QSO before time ran out.  Terry also had his famous painter’s pole twin towers assembled with one in front of his truck and another behind his Casita camper.  Terry reported logging 12 QSO in spite of all the time he spent configuring, testing, deploying, and needing to leave early.

“Needed more wind.  It struggled with the weight and that kite was hard to handle.  I hope to see KG5URA fly his kite.  My zeppelin kite is not a good kite for antennas.  It’s oo heavy and probably needs 24 gauge wire for the end fed antenna and a lighter 49:1 balun.”

N5LOW’s T-Shirt reads, “Easily Distracted by Radio Technology” (above)

The familiar “twin towers” painters’ pole configuration of N5LOW’s setup (above)

N5LOW kite was a beauty! (above)

John AB5SS brought his telescoping Spyderbeam mast installed on the rear of his vehicle, utilizing his home brew end fed multiband antenna.  Here’s his report:

“One of the things I tried on this POTA activation was to swap-out the wire on my homebrew End Fed Half Wave EFHW (which was a rock star performer during the Feb POTA event).  I was using some thin (~24 ga) wire but I bought some 14 ga Flex-weave (46 strands) wire to replace it.  Well, I should have tested it at the house before bringing it out into the field.  First, this wire was MUCH heavier than I expected and the 40′ SpyderBeam was flexing over A LOT.  Second, although I cut it right at 66.4′ (for a 40m EFHW), it was showing resonance much lower than expected on all bands.  The Elecraft KX3’s tuner could fix the SWR problem, but the antenna wasn’t resonant and I was receiving poor signal reports from my first two contacts in CA & FL.  Switched to the vertical and was getting 55 & 59’s again.  So…more work to do on the EFHW.

While supporting Terry (N5LOW), he was wrangling the kite, John (WA5WOD) was wrangling the antenna, and I was trying to make a few contacts (KX3 running 10W). Initially, the antenna was squirrely…strong sigs, then weak, tuned fine then 99:1 SWR.  Found out that Terry forgot to tighten down the connections from the balun to the antenna twin-lead.  After we fixed that, I did make a couple contacts with good reports.  We proved it worked but I think Terry’s arms were getting a workout, so we called it and he started reeling the kite in.  And I went back to making Q’s on the PAC-12 vertical.

On Sunday, I setup the KX3 & PAC-12 vertical antenna in the backyard. Checked the POTA.app website & I saw you were spotted operating in the Huntsville park.  I heard you way down in the noise but didn’t try to call you as I was only running 10W.  <Editor’s note: I was operating 3W but with dipole> However, with just 10W, I was making Q’s with pretty much everyone I called.  CW QSO’s were easy and getting 5NN’s, SSB was doing well too.  Some weaker stations took some patience, but I did finally get through. “

John AB5SS and John WA5WOD setup the EndFed Half Wave from AB5SS’ SUV mounted Spydermast. (above)

John WA5WOD managing the antenna, John AB5SS in the car making QSOs, while Terry N5LOW mans the kite. (above)

George AD5CQ parked at the main meeting location (Horse Pond) along with Ken K5RG.  They both utilized their Buddipole antennas in the horizontal dipole configuration.  A short time later, Dan KG5PVP, arrived and I believe he setup also in this location as well.  FYI Horse Pond has multiple picnic tables under skeletal wooden frames, close parking, an outhouse, low sand/dirt ratio, and overlooking a calm protected pond, so it’s a really nice place for setup. 

Here’s George’s soapbox:

March 11, 2023. Today was my first POTA (Parks On The Air) event in which I participated as an Activator. This POTA activation was at the Galveston, Texas state park. I was with the JSC ARC (W5RRR) but using my own callsign. The weather probably could not have been better. It was breezy, overcast, some sun and a bit windy. The air temperature was cool in the morning and became not hot enough to break a sweat. My BuddyPole antenna was guyed and had no problem with the wind. The battery in the laptop computer operated for a full 3+ hours with maybe 1 hour of capacity to spare. This was also a test to know how long the laptop could operate before needing a recharge. My main power source was a 100Ah LiFePo battery of which I ended up using 17.6% (17.6 Ah) of the battery capacity. I was running 75 watts most of the time using the FT8 digital mode on the 15m band. Most of my contacts were in the Con USA along with a few DX stations. It was a joy to see mini “pile-ups” of 4-5 responses to each of my “CQ POTA” calls. A total of 55 contacts were made in 3 hours. Some of that time was spent visiting the other operators and stations setup near me.

My station consisted of an Elecraft K3 transceiver, Signalink interface from the computer, laptop computer running WSJT-X in the FT8 digital mode, 100 Ah LiFePo battery, 30A marine fuse, battery booster (to keep 13.8 VDC at the rear of the transceiver), BuddyPole antenna system and 50’ of RG8x coax. All logging was accomplished on the computer.

Here’s George AD5CQ activating at Galveston with his Buddiepole and Elecraft K3. (above)

George AD5CQ operating under the wooden shelter at Horse Pond (above)

Ken’s K5RG quick soapbox:

Ken used his new LiFePO4 battery box from Mountain West with a Epic Powergate controller that handles all of the charging algorithms including his 60 watt solar panel. The controller’s output goes to a powerpole + USB distribution panel hooked to a laptop and an IC-705 for FT8.  Tried FT4 for qrm reduction; contacted Scotland.

Ken using the Buddipole that traveled with him to Nepal (above)

Dan KG5PVP observes Ken K5RG showing the power pole connections within his new Bioenno-powered battery + Epic Powergate. (above)

Closeup of the nice portable power box (above)

Comments I received from Dan KG5PVP, as he experimented with a homebrew mag loop and also his Chameleon vertical:

“I had a great time during the POTA on GISP yesterday morning. I spent a lot of time fooling around with a home built mag loop antenna, which was receiving very well, but didn’t seem to be getting out much on transmit (I’ll have to do some more experimenting with that to determine what was going on).  I finally changed to a portable vertical Chameleon antenna, and things improved. I called CQ on 15 meters (21.051) for a while with no response (see RBN report below), so I know I was finally transmitting. I was surprised at the distance covered with just 10 watts, and very low antenna on a short tripod.  I did manage to make 2 contacts later on, one CW (my first ever live CW contact!) and one SSB.”

Dan KG5PVP and Ken K5RG (above)

For myself, W5OC, I setup again on the beach side.  I was planning to attach my portable telescoping mast onto the water stem that I used at last month’s GISP POTA, but a large fire ant colony had decided to camp there.  So I ended up attaching my mast to a picnic table using those “flexy rope” thingies, which really worked out well.  I learned about these from other POTA and SOTA (Summits On the Air) activators.  I hoisted up my experimental random doublet antenna with ladder line but unfortunately, when I applied 100W with a 15m CW CQ transmission into my Dentron Jr tuner (Known to have a problem, but I was hoping it would still work), it literally started to billow out smoke.  Ironically, I could hear another station responding to my CQ but I had to shut the radio off while watching the smoke continue to wisp out of the tuner.  I’m sure the internal balun was cooking pretty hot.  Yes, that ugly smell of burnt material was pretty rancid.

Flexy plastic rope saves that day to secure the telescoping mast (above)
The setup by the water side of the park (above)
This is a picture just before I powered on the radio, called CQ and the Dentron Jr tuner started to smoke (above)

Luckily, I also brought my trusty Sotabeams Bandhopper II (20m/40m) linked dipole and hoisted that one up to make about 20 QSOs before needing to depart early for a family camping trip at Huntsville.  BTW, I used a Yaesu FT897 100W rig with Bioenno battery, all fitting into my Osprey backpack.

Looking forward to next month’s POTA outing.  Maybe Sheldon Lake State Park K-3056?

73 de W5OC

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