Over the last few years I have developed a keen interest in building kits and home brewing. I built quite a number of kits but I had a problem, most of the kits that were affordable were for CW rigs - although I had passed the 12 WPM Morse test back on Valentines Day, 1999, I had only a handful of CW QSOs under my belt (literally less than 5 QSOs). After talking to Tom, M1EYP and some others, I decided that it would be a great challenge to qualify a SOTA summit using only CW. On August 24th 2011, encouraged by Tom, M1EYP, I activated Great Whernside G/NP-008 purely using HF CW. What a great feeling it was, I ended up working 20 stations, easily qualifying the summit. My CW was very slow and shakey, but that didn’t matter at all!
My interest in kit building and QRP led me to attend the G-QRP convention at Rishworth in October last year. I was at the bar when I was approached by Kjell, LA1KHA, and he asked me to join him and his friends, Aage, LA1ENA, and Halvard LA1DNA. We soon started talking about all things QRP and kits. I decided that I should take up Kjell’s PP3 SOTA challenge.
I built myself a Manhattan style home brew RockMite 30 to take part in Kjell’s challenge, the circuit was specially tweaked to run from low voltage. I aimed to start my activations for Kjell’s challenge at the start of the Winter bonus period in December 2011. My main reasons for taking part in the challenge was to push myself to improve my CW skills and also have fun using home brew equipment, the QRPp power level also attracted me - I love minimalist radio.
For various reasons, I was unable to start my challenge activations until late December, but on my first activation on Whernside, G/NP-004, using a RockMite 30 which I built for Tom M1EYP (I had to make sure it worked!) I was off to a flying start - again my CW was rough around the edges, but I survived!
Throughout the Winter bonus period, I qualified all of my SOTA activations using PP3 powered QRPp CW.
Pleased to see Tom, M1EYP, making great progress with Kjell’s challenge using the RockMite 30, I was chatting to him one day and we talked about the possibility of a PP3 challenge rig for 20m. Tom was convinced that there were more contacts to be had on 20m, rather than 30m. Well, I had to go ahead and test the idea!
I ordered a RockMite 20 from Dave at Small Wonder Labs and a couple of weeks later the package landed on my doormat. The kit went together without any problems, except the RX/TX shift wasn’t correct. A substitution of a zener diode soon brought the shift to a more favourable 700Hz - I tested the shift using equipment at work. I measured the RF power of the rig whilst it was powered by an old PP3 battery, with a terminal voltage of 8.2V unloaded. The RF power came out at 130mW.
With the new rig built, but not tried out on air, I needed to organise a SOTA expedition Negotation with the XYL granted me the permission to play out on Saturday 11th August. I thought back to my first CW activation last year on Great Whernside, G/NP-008 and I thought it would be great to celebrate my year using CW to activate the summit once again.
I woke up early on the date of the activation, my 1 month old son, Samuel, born on 4th July, was requiring a feed. I decided to let my wife have some more sleep, so I offered to feed Sam his bottle. Getting up so early allowed me more time to prepare for my outing. All the family had been invited out to a BBQ, but I declined due to my SOTA activation, this bought me even more summit time
My journey to the parking place at Park Rash was uneventful, even though Kettlewell was getting rather busy due to the Scarecrow festival being held. I was at the summit, set up, and on the air about 15 mins before my alerted time. I feared 40m would be unusable due to the EU CW contest, but somehow the fixed frequency of my PP3 powered RockMite 40 seemed to fit in a clear-ish gap between stations. An SMS spot brought in 7 QSO’s, all inter-G except for Karel, ON4FI.
30m brought just 2 chasers - Bert DF5WA and Dieter, DJ8WO.
Now it was time to try out the new 20m RockMite. I sent an SMS spot after checking the frequency was clear and started my CQ call. Almost immediately, Barry, N1EU, answered! My first ever contact on my new rig and it was a record breaker for me. My previous best contact was also using a RockMite 20, but at much more power (!) when I worked N1WPU in Stockton Springs, Maine, last September with 330mW. Four other stations joined N1EU in the PP3 challenge log, making a total 14 QSO’s across the 3 bands - a great addition to my challenge log There were no takers yet again on 17m.
Next was a sked on 2m SSB with my friend John, M0PLN, at Silsden. John reduced his power down to 5W to his roof mounted (vertical) collinear antenna. I was using my FT817 powered by a new LiPo battery and my 3 element SB270 beam mounted vertically. Me and John ragchewed for about an hour, during which time we were joined on air by Kevin M0XLT from Gargave, who was very surprised to find stations at such strength chatting on 2 SSB! Due to recent discussions on SOTAwatch, I decided to leave to antenna in the vertical configuration and after I signed off with John and Kevin, I sent an SMS spot. 8 more stations made it into the log including Don, G0NES, in Hollywood, south of Birmingham and Rod M0JLA/P on Shobdon Hill, G/WB-017.
A change to 2m FM brought in 17 QSO’s including Tom M0TOC/P on Great Gable G/LD-005, Liz MO6EPW/P on WOTA LDW136, MW0TYM/P and MW0YDH/P on Arenig Fawr GW/NW-011.
Next was a change to 2m CW, still using the vertical antenna configuration. 3 stations made it into the log - Roy,G4SSH, Roger G4OWG and Ken, G3XQE in Coventry. The contact with Ken was quite difficult, I later remembered that I’d been running the FT817 at 2.5W!
I had intended to go back on to 40m CW using my KD1JV MTR, but I decided to have some fun on 20m instead to finish off my brilliant day. I hooked up 8 fresh rechargeable AA’S to my MTR - about 3.5watts - and set about calling CQ on 14.062 after sending an SMS spot. The response is amazing running such QRO (!) - the reply to a CQ is just a wall of sound! A handful of stations were worked until my time ran out. It was nice to work into VE for the first time, working Jean, VE2JCW. Other notable contacts were Rich, N4EX, Paul, OE8SPW and Mike, DJ5AV, the latter two stations having been in the log for my first CW activation of Great Whernside on 24th August 2011.
A fantastic day out with many interesting QSO’s. I spent over 6 hours at the summit and I tried to offer as many bands/modes as I could.
Thanks to all chasers - you were all great and much appreciated.