I don’t tend to operate in CW NFD every year – other things sometimes get in the way. The last time I combined HF NFD with SOTA was when I carried a 13 AH and a 7 AH SLAB up Buckden Pike from the pub at Cray in NFD 2008. Not something I would repeat! This year I operated for the Travelling Wave Contest Group. Our group was started by John GW4BVE and consists mostly of SOTA Activators and Chasers and amateurs who like operating in the outdoors. The group does not yet have a club callsign so I just used my own.
This year I decided to do another solo effort but a more comfortable one. I booked my site with the RSGB HF Committee as SE 812559 on Garrowby Hill – otherwise known as the easiest summit on which to activate SOTA in England - TW-004 Bishop Wilton Wold. The circumference of the activation zone is almost 17 miles long and there are many places from where a SOTA station can be set up a short distance away from your vehicle.
After lunch I set off to TW-004 which is my local summit – a short drive of 21 miles from Pickering across the Yorkshire Wolds. Within a few miles of leaving Malton I drove into a heavy storm near Leavening. The land in that area carries a lot of chalk and soft limestone and the rain was so heavy the road soon became full of it as it washed off the fields after the long dry spell. It was like driving on a gravel road on my way home later in the evening! Lucky for me the storm was much localised and did not affect the contest site which was just off a fairly quiet country lane off the main A166 York – Bridlington road.
I set my station up away from my vehicle and ran it on a mixture of SLABS and LiPo batteries. I had a “fully charged” 13 AH one circa 2006. This barely lasted 30 minutes and is now going the local council recycling depot. The two 7 AH ones were good (2007 & 2008 vintage) giving me least 90 minutes operating time apiece and I also had a 3S1P 4 AH (11.1v) and a 4S1P 5 AH (14.8v – with bridge rectifier dropper – tnx Frank G3RMD) to keep me going for the full 8 hours at a power level of between 40-75 watts.
My station is pictured here:
It was a very comfortable activation indeed, with no one to bother me, unlike on Buckden Pike in 2008 when up until late afternoon I was constantly spoken to by walkers curious as to what I was doing.
My Highlander Beach Shelter (Cost £13.65) proved very worthwhile and was erected and pegged out in under 5 minutes, once I had trampled down all the nettles etc. I must remember to take a pair of secateurs and gloves next time. I’m still getting the odd thorn out of my hands today.
The sun had come out by now and I was back on to it in the open entrance, luckily I had applied some factor 15 to the back of my neck before I left home and didn’t get burnt. It was hot for a few hours after the storm passed and then it cooled off to a comfortable 17-20c until the end. I set up the shelter in an ungated opening to a field that was on a public footpath. The 7m fishing pole was bungeed to a wooden public footpath fingerpost in the hedgerow and a 66 foot doublet fed with 300 ohm ribbon was used as the main antenna for 6m-80m. This gave me quick band changing without the need to change links on the antenna. It’s not as efficient though and I could tell the antenna was down on what I would expect from my link dipole set up. The feeder was strapped briefly later for a short period of activity on 80m with a 132’ radial being used as a single counterpoise wire. I ran between 40 and 75 watts throughout the event. Later as it went dark I took this antenna down and erected a heavier duty 10m fishing pole and 132 feet inverted L tuned against the counterpoise. The antennas were tuned with a Vectronics ATU on all bands except 10m where the ATU would not play. Fortunately I had packed a 10m wire dipole fed with RG58 coax and it worked very well indeed on that band.
My activity was mixed between SOTA and the Contest and I operated in SSB and CW outside and inside of the main event. I started on 2m FM with my rucksack special which I also bungeed to the fingerpost. I worked Paul G4JNN and then had 9 more on 2m FM as far away as Mansfield before going over to 40m CW to pull in as many chasers as I could before the contest QRM made things more difficult for the SOTA chasers. EI2CL Mike was the first station logged on 40m. The HF conditions were poor on 40m but 10m was lively with Sporadic Es, so once the contest got going I went there to get my double points in the contest. Roy G4SSH was quick to find and spot me and this helped to bring a few more SOTA stations to the frequencies used who would otherwise not have found me due to the 100s of other contest stations calling CQ. Thank you Roy and to the others who helped by spotting me.
There was no point trying to be competitive with the setup I had so I took things leisurely breaking off occasional ly to work other bands for SOTA or to just ensure there was activity from TW-004 on as many bands as possible. I wanted to use all the bands I could but completely forgot about 17m, and I could not of course work on 4m with the gear I had, but I did my best on all bands from 2m down to 160m. Maybe I ought to buy a Wouxin? Notable contacts outside the contest were on 6m where I had one contact with G7RIS/P near Doncaster, and an S2S contact with Eddy DM5JBN/P on 30m on DM/SX-001. I worked plenty of SOTA chasers during the contest on 10m thanks to the spotters. At 1755z on 40m I worked Peter G3TJE who was operating G4WSM/P for The Weston Super Mare RS who were formed in 1924. The best DX on 10m was a QSO with RU9CZ/P near Ekaterinburg. I broke off the contest and went on to 12m to try to work Roy G4SSH who has still not made a SOTA contact on that band. We didn’t manage it – no copy. I did however work three chasers there: SM4CTT Gus on CW and HA7UG Laci and OZ7DK Brian on SSB. A look at 60m with 50 watts of power at 1700z for ten minutes proved that the band was in poor shape and only local station Graham G3OHC and Dave G6LKB in Ulverston was worked on SSB. I then concentrated on the contest for the rest of the evening with 20m coming into its own with plenty of contacts into the UA9 area and one contact into USA - AA3B in PA.
After 2000z as twilight approached I ran out a long counterpoise and strapped the feeder on the 300 ohm ribbon and went on 80m. First station worked was the Scarborough Radio Society station of G4BP/P. I was heartened to give them a serial of 599-168 to be returned with 599-104 back! This spurred me on when I was flagging a little, my food supply of a pork pie and sandwich having run out some hours previously. The poor 80m antenna still produced 12 QSOs, before I went QRT for 30 minutes for a comfort break and an antenna change. The doublet and 7m pole was removed and replaced with a 10m DK9SQ fibreglass pole (over 10 years old and used on several overseas DXpeditions) and a 132 foot inverted L. The first contact on top band was at 2055z with Roy G4SSH who soon alerted chasers via SOTAWatch and were calling amongst the contest stations. Mark G0VOF in Blackburn who had been hunting me down all day (thank’s for your posts Mark) who I heard very well. I know Mark is always keen to make top band contacts against the odds as I worked him on 160m from GD-001 last year. He was followed up by Pete M0COP in Church Stretton - probably about the same distance away as Mark. I worked a few continentals on the top band as well. The best part though was to finally hear the many UK Field Day stations that were inaudible throughout the previous 7 hours on the other HF bands. I worked 32 stations on 160m before my last SLAB was down to 10 volts and the midges and moths that were dive bombing my head due to the LED headlight I was wearing, became too much to bear. I packed up in the dark at 2145z and was off the site by just after 2200z.
Total QSO count was 262, 211 in the contest and 51 outside of it, which I reckon puts me into Vlado’s (Z35M) QSO table in third place, which is far more important to me than my overall position in NFD!
73 Phil G4OBK