Hi - longtime lurker finally coming out of the closet…
The (reasonably) short version of how I got here is this:
I have been an interested reader for some time since I find portable operation interesting and this is one of the best sources of information on the subject. In April I was on a sailing vacation and visited the harbour on the island of Zlarin. In May I was looking at the SOTA summits database and discovered that the 9A/DH-172 Klepac o. Zlarin hill right above the Zlarin harbour is a SOTA peak, with a road going straight up to it. Having decided to come back for another week in the same area I started considering bringing gear for activating this and any other tops that I might pass on that trip. I already had a FT897D and a compact laptop running Winlink2000 and WSPR. Since I’m more of an experimenter than a communicator I have been playing around with amateuer radio for some years without actually having my first actual QSO. This might sound insane, but so far my fascination have been about different nonconversation digital modes and just getting them to work. So far I have played with:
- APRS using ISS as a digipeater
- Sending and receiving email through APRS over ISS
- Winlink 2000
To activate a summit I needed to be reasonably conversant in a “normal” QSO mode and from the background mentioned above I thought I should try out PSK31. Starting in July I began having PSK 31 QSOs on the 20m and 40m bands. So far im only up to 30, but I think I have the basics down now.
For portable operation, and especially portable operation at the end of a plane flight with another main objective I needed something different than my existing combination of a FT897D, a 20 AH LiPo battery and a surplus Harris Dipole kit. Since I knew that it would resemble my existing rig a lot and that it would be compatible with my Rigblaster PnP interface I opted for ordering a FT817ND. Since I wanted something really lightweight/compact and self-supporting so it could work on a treeless Croatian hilltop (without a tuner) I ordered an ATX Walkabout antenna at the same time.
After trying to tune it I realized that the suggested counterpoise was actually mandatory, at least for the HF bands, so I made an adjustable counterpoise from a tape measure.
Working long hours I mostly operate in the evening. Living in a noisy environment combined with my working hours have given me a preference for the 40 m band since the noise is manageable (as opposed to lower bands) and the bands “opening hours” is more suitable for my working schedule (as opposed to higher bands). Following my old habit of using 40 m I tried in vain to establish contacts on 40 m on several occasions.
I realised that I might have been a bit to optimistic about what the walkabout could do for me on 40 m and decided to try it out on 20 m. (I might have to do a shootout between my walkabout and my dummyload on 80 m sometime in the future to find the better antenna) One of the reasons for trying 20 m was that the walkabouts whip would be almost fully extended when operating on this band which should help with the efficiency.
Two days before my vacation started I finally found the time to leave work while the sun (and the 20 m band) was up. I was going to the “peak” closest to my normal QTH which is the OZ/OZ-009. I guess that for many the first activation is a goal in itself. In my case the first activation was it was the final test run to verify that I had a functioning setup before committing to bringing radio gear on my current trip to Croatia. Considering the limited space in my luggage I wanted to be sure that I could get a positive result from my operating setup before dragging it to the other end of Europe.
Arriving with the sun already low on the horizon I was setting up and opened my laptop. To my horror I discovered that Windows 10 had decided to install its anniversary update starting at precisely the same time that I wanted to use it for my activation. I chose to continue with the setting up process thinking that I could wait a little. To fill the time while waiting for the pc to be ready I took my first steps in SSB operation trying to answer some CQ’s. Unfortunately I wasn’t answered with the sun disappearing behind the horizon and the laptop seemingly nowhere near ready I packed up my gear and started downhill, carrying my still updating PC. This seemingly scared the laptop into action since it started rebooting while I approached the parking lot beneath the hill. I decided to give the project another chance and got back up hill an set up the equipment once again. Arriving on the top and setting the radio and antenna up the laptop neared the end of its update process. In increasing darkness I got hold of IU2CAB Stefano, my first contact on the walkabout. I had now actually achieved what I came for: I knew that I could make a contact on the walkabout on 20 m. I decided to try to make the four contacts to qualify for activation point. (Notice the singular form - we only have low hills in Denmark.) After getting hold of IZ6CLN and UA4HHA the battery indicator was empty and my fingers getting cold. Only lacking one more contact I opted to call a friend (OZ3MK) asking him to try to catch me on 14070. Being less than 16 km away it is probably one of the shortest PSK31 contacts on 20 M logged in SOTA, but I had what I came for and could now return to my long overdue dinner.
I am now in a boat in Dalmatia. In the coming week I will be sailing around the Dalmatian islands. I am sailing with a flotilla, so I don’t decide myself which Islands I go to, but if I get to one of the islands with a qualitying hill I will try to climb it together with a friend of mine. The likely candidates are:
- The previously mentioned 9A/DH-172 which seems accessible by road/track.
- 9A/DH-159 which seems to be right over a restaurant on Otok Kornat. There is no indication of tracks going there, but if mooring at the restaurant it might be possible to get there.
- 9A/DH-150 is close to Ugljan which is a harbour previously used by the company I sail with. There is no access road so I will have to find out if it is reachable if I get there.
Other possibles are 9A/DH-154 and 9A/DH-138.
Lying in my 3 square meter cabin at 2.53 AM at Google Maps that was a (long) summary of the preparations for my current project. I hope to get back with one or more activation reports.