POTA #14- Another trip to the sea (Galveston Island)
After months of relentless sweltering 100 degree heat, Mother Nature decided to treat our intrepid JSCARC POTA adventurers to a gorgeous day at the beach.
On this Saturday, October 21, 2023, Galveston Island State Park was an accomodating 70-80 degrees throughout our morning outing. Around 0830, a blanket of soothing coastal fog surrounded us to keep the temperature and mood perfect.
Dave KG5URA, Ken K5RG, John AB5SS, and myself W5OC each took the hour long drive from Clear Lake to Galveston. Joe, K5KUA, however is a lucky dog and lives the good life at Jamaica Beach literally right next to the park.
I think I was the early bird this time (usually it’s KG5URA), leaving in the midst of the sunrise
and arriving at the park at 0715.
I was test driving my newly acquired used Elecraft KX2 10W QRP transceiver.
This is one of the smallest and lightest multiband/multimode QRP radios ever produced- which I bought for purpose of having a light load for my planned future adventures with Summits On The Air (SOTA) and of course, more POTA activations.
I bounced between 4 picnic tables near the water, trying to find one with the least amount of mosquitos. To simulate a summit operation, I used my homemade random length wire with 9:1 Unun (a toroid wound ‘UNbalanced to UNbalanced’ RF transformer)
strung up on a Sotabeams Carbon-6 Ultralight collapsible 20′ mast. A 14′ counterpoise was strewn on the ground. 20m CW with 5-10W power resulted in a 20 minute hotspot of strong W2 NY/Pa contacts. Then the band wend dead for about 10 minutes, and popped back to some marginal propagation conditions to the mideast. I got my 10+ QSOs to formally claim a POTA activation, and then bumped into John AB5SS around 0800. He kindly brought his Elecraft KX3 transceiver, the big brother to my KX2, for me to test drive. On almost all accounts except size, the KX3 is a better radio than mine. However, the KX2 was on my bucket list so I wasn’t too envious or having buyers remorse, we’ll..maybe a little bit ;-).
After comparing notes and sharing radio news, John and I then packed up and headed to the bayside of the park (across the 1A freeway) to meet up with the other members around 0830. This inland location, which the club has used repeatedly over past POTAs, is idyllic- right by an absolutely gorgeous sheltered bay pond, with wooden picnic tables underneath a gazebo like shaded frame, and parking directly by the tables.
Upon arrival to the bayside, David and Ken were already busy setting up their Icom IC-705 radios.
David KG5URA was excitedly testing his new Eagle One vertical antenna + Hitch Mount on the tailgate of his Truck. This is an imposing 31 feet of green telescoping fiberglass sections that juts straight vertically upwards.
There’s an internal wire that rides inside the tubes, which act as the radiating vertical element. When we got there, David was puzzling out a problem with his tuner interface with his IC705. We discovered that the internal battery was weak, and he simply rewired the tuner for power from his Jackery 500 power station.
After he got everying in order, he began operating 40m SSB QRP (<10W). Anyone who knows QRP, appreciates how very difficult it is to make contacts over SSB with low power. Unlike CW or FT8, SSB signals must endure the magnified barriers of larger bandwidth noise and QRM in order to be intelligible. It’s simply not fun in my book, unless you are a QRP hard core operator. So hats off to David for working low power SSB on a tough band in the daytime. I think he didn’t get on 20m because he also had a balun/unun problem that needed repair back on his bench. While observing his operations, I did hear him work a K8 in Ohio- an impressive QSO on QRP for 40m in the daytime.
Ken K5RG was situated on the opposite end of the bayside paradise setting improvements to his station. Probably our most systematic engineer in the club, Ken had given thought towards incremental improvement to his Buddipole antenna system- the same one he transported up to Nepal a earlier this year. For today, Ken brought a new concept to guying his Buddipole: a canopy water weight system- plastic containers, fillable with water or sand.
These are typically used for tents, but Ken realized these were perfect for his buddipole guy wires. For those wondering, “why?”, well.. Ken and others of us are aware that many/most park rangers disallow the practice of defacing the ground with stakes. So in the interest of keep ham radio in good graces with the park authority, the weighted containers were a splendid solution.
Ken parked his CW mode on 15m, kindly allow others to operate on the more popular 20m band.
Note his fancy paddle mounted on a masonery brick- his secret for sending rock solid CW.
John AB5SS, brought a bundle of hamsticks he recenly bought from Mike KA5CVH. I loaned John a 3/8″ magnetic mount which I cannibalized from a cheap 2m whip. Unfortunately, the mount had poor magnetic strengh and questionable integrity. It would barely keep the hamstick on John cartop, and when hooked up to his NanoVNA, the SWR was bouncing even as the coax was slightly moved.
Luckily, as a backup, John also brought his trusty Pac-12 Vertical which he assembled and mounted on the ground between David and Ken’s setups.
Joe K5KUA who lives nearby, come by to give us an assist. He and John setup an FT891 with the Pac-12 and blasted a string of QSOs on 20m using a hearty 100W and great conditions. Joe and John rotated operating and logging. Each time I passed their operating station, I kept hearing them working through a pileup of hunters trying to make contacts with them.
Click below to see the Video of their active QSOs on SSB
Arguably, 100W will give you a good signal, and our location was ideal (by the water), but from past other POTA activations, I’ve observed that the Pac-12 is a real performer. I am not a big fan of vertical antennas, but this product really seems to be radiate well.
For me, decided to make a couple of QSO with my KX2 at this bayside location.
I left at 1100 in order to get to the W5RRR ham shack, where Kelvin K5KGH and I were supporting a Jamboree On The Air (JOTA) event with some visiting scouts. But the others continued the fun in the sun at our #14 POTA event for the club.
I had a great time. Not really anything to add. Conditions were good and I got 25 SSB contacts in less than 30 minutes (using your FT891). John AB5SS was logging for me. Hopefully we have another POTA next month.
Thanks, Joe K5KUA
5 CW QSOs on 15 Meter CW; main objective was to a shake down of the portable station (IC-705) with implementation of new antenna safety protocols hinted at by the park rangers (safety tape around perimeter of Buddipole antenna, using a no-ground stake method suggested by George Fletcher, AD5CQ; water jugs designed for portable canopy poles – worked fine except for time spent acquiring 10 gallons of water at Galveston State Park, later told by Park Ranger to use easily accessible water supply at RV clean out station).
15 Meter conditions great, just a little splatter from the nearby (20 feet) club members which didn’t impact me making contacts. Next time set up in a slightly more shaded area, the sun was out on Saturday.
I had some issues with using the ununs trying to run an antenna check. Had to run bare bones because it seemed like the BNC splitter wasn’t working. I was able to get a low enough SWR for 40meters. I’m troubleshooting the unun this week.
The 40m band was noisy but I managed to made a contact in Dallas and Oklahoma on the Eagle One antenna. Setup was very easy. Only problem was the unun connection. Decided to run SSB instead of CW due to lost time. Had brought my HardRock 50 amp to try out but put it aside because my tuner batteries were too low and I needed to connect to my external battery which was to be used for the amp. Next time I’ll have an additional 12vdc connector.
Weather was good. Nice low breeze. I used insect spray so no issues there. All in all was a great time with the gang.
David Kimbrell – KG5URA
After some socializing with Dave on the Surf side of the park, we headed over to the Bay side and I finally got setup about 10:30am. Although I brought a couple other rigs, I wanted to try an FT-891 (borrowed from Dave). Antenna was a PAC-12 portable vertical antenna. After getting acquainted with the FT-891, Joe, K5KUA, made a page full of QSO’s and I made almost 70 Q’s, all in just over an hour. We were getting good signal and audio quality reports from our contacts, and received audio was also very good. It’s no wonder why this is such a popular radio with POTA operators. The only drawback is everything is menu driven and the list of menu items is LONG and sometimes confusing.
Hopefully I can make our POTA #15 event at San Jacinto Battleground next weekend.