POTA (Parks On The Air) #12 at Galveston Island State Park, arguably was one of our best for different reasons. Terry N5LOW, David KG5URA, David KG5PGY, Dan KG5PVP, and David W5OC were the activators on this Saturday. Joe K5KUA stopped by, as the local beach area resident ham friend.
Before starting, let’s comment on the awesome park rangers at Galveston. After sending them courtesy email earlier in the week announcing our planned POTA event, we learned that the message was disseminated to the whole ranger staff and they were all well informed of our visit. During our early morning setup, they warmly greeted us and not only gave us good advice about potential crowds, they even extended a special offer to let us setup in an adjacent overflow parking area- to give us more room and avoidance from the traffic. We opted to use the main parking lot, though. One of the park ranger staff even took a photo of our setup for their park facebook page. Henry Rosales, the Assistant Office Manager, dropped by and chatted with us after we were all setup. He’s working on his Technican license and was particularly interested to see our operational radio setup. Hopefully, he’ll get licensed soon and we’ll have another ham cohort whenever visiting at Galveston. We offered to let him make a few QSOs in with us the future. Overall, the GISP staff are top notch and their accomodation for amateur operators is extraordinary!
Terry N5LOW was the first to arrive at the park around 0730, towing the club’s portable trailer/crankup tower (trailer/tower courtesy of donation from Tanner W9TWJ).
With a cool 70 degree morning, a gentle breeze, and an occasional collision with pockets of voracious blood ladened mosquitos(note to all: always bring OFF repellent) , we quickly assembled W5OC’s Hexbeam and fit it ontop of the tower.
Terry had modified the winch to fit either a ratchet wench or power drill, so the raising and lowering of the antenna tower was much better than using the previous hand crank. Actually, the power drill didn’t have enough torque to raise the tower, but it worked *great* during lowering ops. Terry’s NASA flag hung at the top along with the odd looking “upsidedown umbrella” antenna served as a magnet for visitors stopping by and asking “what the heck are your doing?!!”
Terry set up his ICOM 7300 to feed the hexbeam ontop of the crankup.
We found a good spot in the parking lot by the water side of the park, and took special care to avoid parking under the power lines above which enabled unpredictable flocks of birds to dangerously poop onto innocents below. There already was clear evidence of this potential danger by the massive fresh white “paint” immediate below the lines.
David KG5URA arrived early in the morning as well and setup his ICOM IC-705 QRP radio and Precise RF magnetic loop antenna.
If you look at the photo, he’s using a unique tripod stand whose legs splay down to serve an ergonomic swivel stand for the radio. David decided to setup in the parking lot right next to us and as far as I know, we didn’t have any significant RFI problems even though we were on the same band (CW and SSB). The quality of a radio’s front end design usually makes a big difference in handling adjacent strong signal RFI and the IC-705 is well known for design quality.
After scanning the bands, it was quickly evident that the band condidtions were abnormally lousy. We learned from Joe, K5KUA, who came down to visit us from his nextdoor QTH at Jamaica Beach, that there was a solar event which wiped out most of the HF bands. 20m was the only band with practical activity, so we ended up exclusively using this band. David continued with this mag loop on 20m CW but with no luck; Terry’s IC-7300 logged a few SSB contacts, but the band conditions were still unexpectedly bad.
…. so imagine our surprise when we found out that Dave KB5PGY, operating on the bay side of the park, had been working FT8 QSO’s like shooting fish in a barrel! At around 9:00am, only after operating about an hour, Dave had already logged 60 FT8 QSO!
Dave operating his Kenwood TS-2000X at 50W driving a ground mounted Wolf River vertical antenna. He was deployed by our mainstay operating location, called “Horseshoe Pond”. Unlike the rest of us, Dave was enjoying terrific results on FT8 while the rest of us struggled to get CW and SSB contacts.
Dan KG5PVP was setup at an picnic table next to David KB5PGY. Dan was operating a QRP Xiegu 6100 radio at 10W and a ground mounted SuperAntenna MP1. Photo of Jamaica Beach Joe, K5KUA and Dan KG5PVP.
As expected with any two station operating closely together, there’s alway the risk of Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) overloading a receiver. This was the case on Dan’s radio receiver which couldn’t tolerate the RF coming from David KB5PGY’s nearby FT8 tranmissions on the same 20m band. The interference effects on Dan’s Xiegu radio produced a repetitive spectrum of noise clusters every few KHz across the CW band. Dan smartly elected to join the others on the beach side to find a better environment for operatations, while David continued to operate like a DX station with his terrific performance on FT8.
As mid morning approached, the 20m band (at least for the rest of us), seemed to get harder. David KG5URA still had little luck with his IC-705 10W QRP into his Mag Loop antenna. Terry N5LOW, had a great idea to offer the HexBeam to be plugged into David’s radio. A directional antenna up 35′ will beat a ground mounted loop any day of the week, and it was proven so.
After David was transmitting through the Hexbeam, he quickly logged 10 QSOs on CW and then kindly passed the coax to Dan. Dan hooked up his Xiegu 6100 and began to make CW QSO’s with his 10W as well. For Dan, this actually was his 3rd relocation setup, since after leaving the bayside Horseshoe Pond location, he went closer to the beach under a shaded cabana but continued his bad luck, until coming back to the parking lot by the tower mounted Hexbeam.
By 12:00pm it was getting pretty hot and we called it quits. David KB5PBY ended up with about 120 QSOs, David KG5URA has 10, and Dan KG5PVP has 6. N5LOW and W5OC were support staff this time 😉
Overall, we had a great time, being very much humbled by the gods of propagation. Also, under the poor conditions, it further gave us appreciation how tough QRP (10W) power can be, compared to many 100W rigs. The “519” RST CW QSO report from N8JY in Michigan was the epitome of how difficult QRP can be.
But the Hexbeam and the crankup tower sure did serve as a difference maker and helped out intrepid QRPers on this day.
We had quite a bunch of visitors come by to see the tower and Hex. David KB5PGY had found a great POTA flyer https://docs.pota.app/assets/documents/brochure.pdf which we’ll need to bring to pass outs next time. Terry’s NASA flag was flown ontop of the tower also added great attraction and curiosity to the passerby visitors. We considered telling the folks that were were trying to communicate with Mars. One guy in a truck yelled out, “are you doing Field Day?”. Another visitor was KI5CRF, Paul, who saw our setup to chat. We extended him an invitation to visit us during Field Day, which he gladly said he would try. Another couple come by and chatted with Terry for a bit and agreed to have a photo taken for our website blog.
Overall, this was fun. It was also a stark reminder how these POTA events are incredible opportunities to promote our hobby and club by interacting with the public. Special thanks to Terry Moore, N5LOW, who is our champion of promotion by going the extra mile to bring the trailer crankup tower as well as all of his efforts to fix it up for use. And also thanks to David KB5PGY for not only his demonstration of awesome digital operating skills, but for kindly integrating the logs and submission to the POTA registry. Both Terry and David served as our ambassadors to the public who surrounded them at times throughout the day.