After many years as an SWL I gained by Foundation licence last year and it was not long until I gained an interest in SOTA. Having grown up on the Isle of Wight and being a regular visitor it seemed like a good idea to try and activate the Island’s two SOTA summits. First attempt at St Boniface Down in January using a Baufeng handheld found just Peter, G0RUD on the mainland but I had the bug!
Having now upgraded to an FT-817, Jo and I set off on the short walk to the summit of Brighstone Down. It was a beautiful day without a cloud in the sky and we found a spot close to the trig point but out of the breeze and set up a simple homemade dipole for 2m on a 7meter SOTA pole. Several calls on 144.300 SSB produced no response but a call on 145.500 FM found Chris, M0VP operating Portable on Swyre Head in Dorset, a SOTA summit although Chris was not on an activation.
I was keen to try HF and set up a long wire with a small portable tuner for 20m. The band was crowded and I found it difficult to find a clear space. After calling I soon realised that the replies I heard were for someone else and not me so I thought I’d give 17m a try. 17m was quieter but seemed to be open only to the US, my 5 watts SSB did manage to get me any contacts. The same was true on 6m where the band was completely dead and no replies came.
I was about to try 10m when I heard Bob G4ADK in Sandown calling on 2m FM. I replied on the handheld and just made contact. I then reset my antenna for 2m and found Bob again and had a good chat, followed by calls from Mark, 2E0ZMX on the mainland and Kevin, 2E1KJB on his farm near Cowes. Swapping to sideband (but keeping the vertical antenna) found Mike G4XRR near Weymouth, also using vertical polarisation. My final QSO before packing up was with Tony, G7OGT in Sway near Lymington.
Although no contacts on HF this time, it was fantastic to get 6 contacts on 2m. Thank you to everyone who came back to my call. With the new setup I will be giving St Boniface Down another try soon along with a few other SOTA summits in the South and West. Best 73s
Good to hear that you got the contacts you needed in the end.
Yes, HF phone can be tough with QRP. I also called on 17m SSB yesterday and got no response, although, as you say the band was open to the US. A self spot on SOTAwatch helps a lot, but with these modern smartphones and high cell density, it seems very difficult to get a data signal on a summit these days.
There are times when QRP SSB works a treat, so don’t give up! I worked VK several times last month with 5W SSB.
I’ll place the obvious statement in closing - if you can activate on CW, it vastly increases your potential to make contacts.
73, Colin M1BUU
found Chris, M0VP operating Portable on Swyre Head in Dorset, a SOTA summit although Chris was not on an activation.
To actually get “on” Swyre Head, you need to walk, and then Chris would have been a SOTA-qualifying activation (unless he carried a generator up there), even if it wasn’t his intention. It’s not a long walk by any means, but if he was in his car at the nearest road, I wouldn’t have said he was “on” Swyre Head. I suspect there’s a typo in his callsign as well!
Congratulations on the licence and the SOTA debut.
It is worth knowing that there are TWO Swyre Heads, the SOTA summit, and one a few miles away just inland of Bat’s Head at SY796805, I suppose a casual operator could be on either.
Thank you - yes I will keep going with HF and hopefully makes some contacts next time around. Out of interest, what is your antenna set up for HF?
Next goal is to get my intermediate and then possibly learn CW!
Thanks for the encouragement
Thank you - yes Chris is m0vpn. He was on the SOTA summit and on a handy so would have been on battery power so would that count as an s2s?
Thank you for the encouragement
Yes, that sounds like a good S2S contact.
I would strongly recommend that you try a more balanced antenna than a long wire on HF qrp SSB.
Something like a linked dipole for the bands in use, or a doublet (about 10M per leg) via your ATU would probably radiate better with less loss. Antenna performance on CW activations is more forgiving, but QRP SSB on crowded bands requires all of your 5W to be radiated.
I looked for you on 2m ssb but heard nothing.
73, Frank, G3RMD
I use (resonant) dipole antennas, I’m not a fan of tuners. I usually use a 7m pole and set up the dipole inverted vee style.
I’m convinced that the inverted vee dipole is the best antenna for SOTA.
Other popular antennas are end fed half waves (EFHW) and quarter wave verticals. The subject of best antenna is controversial, some people regard a vertical antenna as the best for DX, in my view, this is certainly true if you have a very good ground (on a beach at the edge of the sea for example; use a vertical here for sure!), but on hills, the ground is likely to be poor. An inverted vee over poor ground works a treat, you get a lower feed impedance than a horizontal dipole, the radiation pattern is more omni directional and the angle of radiation is lower - what could more could you ask for?
I agree with Frank, a resonant antenna, especially when you only have a handful of watts to play with is the way to go. An EFHW would probably be effective as usually very little feeder is used, although there will probably be some loss in the low to high z transformation (tuner).
Just have fun and learn as you go, don’t be afraid to try stuff out, if something works - great!
Congratulations on becoming licensed, the fun starts here!
Here I am in my garden with 6 watts from my home brew 20m SSB rig - QRP works just fine!
Thank you - will try out a few designs in the garden and see how I get on. All the best and hope to work you on the bands