Five modes

For some reason I have developed a weird obsession with doing five different modes on one band in one activation. Don’t ask me why, I don’t know. I wasn’t going to go down the line of doing a series of datamodes either, because the SOTA Database doesn’t recognise them as distinct. In any case, I currently only have the capability to do PSK31 and PSK63 with my portable set-up, although it would be feasible to add RTTY to that, something I hope to develop before next February.

Anyway, more of that later. The obsession was achieved today, but there are other activation reports to catch up on first.

Tuesday 4th November 2014 - The Cloud G/SP-015

This was the penultimate RSGB 2m activity contest of the year. I decided to give the new SOTAbeams SB2 antenna a try, to see how it compared with my usual SB5 5 element beam. This is the antenna:

I would also be using the new rotating guying system from the same supplier, that I have been using successfully with the SB6 6m beam:

Upon arrival at the Cloudside parking spot, the first thing I noticed after switching on the headtorch, was that the midges were down - and bothering. Two hours after sunset. In November. The most overused phrase on telly over the past month - “unseasonably warm” - probably explained this. I hastily got my gear sorted and got on with the ascent, to get away from them.

Thankfully it was colder and breezier at the summit, so there was no midge problem there. Hang on, did I just suggest that I was PLEASED that it was cold and windy on the summit on a November night? Good grief.

In the contest I worked 92 stations in 18 multiplier squares. Together with another station worked before the contest while testing the station set up, the QSO total for the activation was 93. I found that the SB2 was much quicker and lighter to rotate than the SB5, but yet my overall results were comparable to what I would normally achieve with the much larger SB5. It certainly gave me much to ponder regarding my antenna of choice for the 2015 series of events.

Here is a map of my contest QSOs:

Saturday 8th November 2014 was the day I intended to do the five mode thing. The idea was to activate on 28MHz using my FT-817 and homemade 10m groundplane, and hopefully achieve QSOs on each on CW, SSB, PSK31, AM and FM. I parked at Cloudside, fished out my 10m GP antenna to chuck in my rucksack, and set off for the summit.

I arrived at the summit and started to set up. I then found a red antenna bag that felt quite light. It said “20m GP” on it in permanent marker. So I had found the 10m GP in the boot of my car, but I hadn’t actually swapped it into my rucksack! Briefly, I considered going back down for the missing aerial, but in the end I decided I would just do some 14MHz operating!

I ended up making 41 contacts, which was 25 on CW, 2 on PSK31 and 14 on SSB. Just one S2S contact was bagged, this one with Inigo EA2CQ/P on Pizte EA2/VI-016. It had been quite an enjoyable activation despite the annoyance of being without the intended 10m antenna. In other news, the “unseasonable warmth” of a few days earlier was very much a thing of the past.

Or was it? My ascent of Sunday 9th November 2014 passed close by several midge clouds. Hmm. Better news was that this time I did actually manage to put the 10m GP in my pack.

42 QSOs were made on this activation, distributed as follows:

10m CW: 10
10m SSB: 17
10m PSK31: 4
10m AM: 4
10m FM: 5
2m FM: 2

The best DX on 29MHz FM was Pat KI4SVM in South Carolina. The best on 29MHz AM was Mark G0VOF in Blackburn! It was then back home for a home-cooked Sunday dinner and an afternoon and evening of televised sport - Premier League and FA Cup football, NFL from Wembley (which only kept my interest for 10 minutes) and the Brazilian Grand Prix. All this was because my long-running Blackpool Sunday gig finally ended last week. As such, there should be some more opportunities for weekend SOTA for me once again now.

Being half an S point down in a contest isn’t much of an issue, so I would definitely go with the SB2 for ease of set up…Most contesters are going to be either on a reasonable site or have kit to offset the disadvantages of their QTH. These are the serious core that will make up your log month by month. What are required in a contest are quick accurate contacts. It is not worth spending time fishing in the noise for points from the few that are QRV for a bit of fun or to see what they can achieve with their minimal set up. These are the ones most likely to present marginal signals.

For 2m SOTA activity the approach is entirely different. I have always tried get every fraction of a decibel of RF out to give the chasers the best chance of making a contact. To that end, an antenna such as the SB5 just might give me the edge where both the chaser and myself are trying their best to make the QSO and relative to a contest, there are no time constraints. Having said that, I was very pleased with the performance of the Moxon from Beinn Dubh Airigh GM/SS-188, which I used in preference to the SB5 to ease setting up in poor weather conditions.

Well done on the five modes on 10m. When are you adding the slow scan to your set up? :wink:

73, Gerald G4OIG

Analog and digital SSTV - two more modes?

More seriously, the SB2 looks interesting, how long does it take to assemble? I suspect that the claimed headline gain might be difficult to achieve in action, depending on ground conditions, but as its the compactness of the antenna that looks attractive this is trivial.


Those modes would still be grouped together under Data in the SOTA db Brian so it doesn’t matter. One datamode is enough although the idea of sstv activating does appeal.

I can’t remember what the headline figure is for setting up the SB2 although 90 seconds rings a bell. I’m probably not that quick myself but it certainly takes less than three minutes.

I’ll probably stick with the SB5 for 2m contesting but the SB2 is probably a better option in windy wx.

One thing that I didn’t mention in my previous post - the SB5 of course will give you better rejection of unwanted signals coming from the side and rear. I don’t know how you find yours, but mine is quite sharp, surprisingly so for just 5 elements.

This is true but I was rather surprised with how sharp the SB2 appeared to be in practice. I got the impression that I would have broken through pile-ups for “desirable” locator squares easier/earlier with the SB5 but the SB2 was so light, quick and easy to handle. It’s always difficult to tell of course, especially from just one Tuesday night contest. The condx were unusual with low noise levels, good propagation to the South and South West, yet hardly any propagation to the North!

Is this an advert for sotabeams .I thought this was not allowed on Sota

No it isn’t Geoff.

“Is this an advert for sotabeams .I thought this was not allowed on Sota”

Hello Geoff, yes it is a advert but it happens at every opportunity that is given.
You just have to live with the clumsy obvious of it I think. I wonder if this and yours will be deleted :wink:
Night night.

It was me that wrote it Mike, and I’ve just said “No it isn’t”.

We are allowed to mention products we have used on our activations are we not? If not, I plead guilty to “advertising” for Yaesu, Palm, DroidPSK, MLS, Wolphilink, Tracer, Berghaus, Leki, Exped, Bridgedale, Meindl, Rite in the Rain, Lymm Truck Stop, Westmorland Farm Shops, the Youth Hostel Association, Baxters and the Weston Balti Raj.

And not just mention but comment about use, like many do about the KX3 and the FT817 e.t.c. e,t,c …

Hi Tom,

what radio/power output did you use on the 2m contest?
I need to get/build a decent antenna for my Kenwood TH22E 2m HT.

“No comment” on the 5 modes…

73 Angel

If this thread was just about Sotabeams antennas then its proper place would be under “Equipment” and it would be a legitimate topic, but primarily it is an activation report and this is the proper place for it.

As Moderator I could no more stop hams talking about their gear than the Moderator of a photography site could stop the participants talking about cameras - nor do I wish to!


Hi Angel,

Yaesu FT-817 running 5 watts.


yes the Likes of Yaesu and Icom are mentioned but they don`t usually have direct links to their websites

What, do you mean like these ‘helpful’ posts with the company avatar :wink: eg from the Kitt Hill thread:

This may be helpful. It’s an article full of tips about using lightweight masts.


As it happens, that link no longer works, but as I remember it, it did indeed give useful tips, so why not give it as a reference at the time? As for the earlier point about no direct links to the “likes of Yaesu and Icom” such links would be acceptable if relevant - as and when a replacement for the FT817 comes out I have no doubt that there will be links to the on-line copy of the sales leaflet and a long thread discussing the product.

Guys, I think you are being fractious about nothing.


I agree. It is not as though anyone was forced to click on the link… I didn’t!

Anyway, Tom referred to the pros and cons of the SB2 as against the SB5, the latter product having been out of production for several years. Indeed it is so rare nowadays, I am thinking of starting an SB5 preservation society. :wink:

73, Gerald G4OIG