Preparing for First SOTA Activation. Murphy abounds.

April 8, 2012 1800Z is my planned first SOTA Activation.  Will go to Clingman’s Dome in Great Smoky Mountains, W4/WM-001, at 6,000 feet elevation and operate on the qrp freqs using Yaesu 817 and homebrew buddistick.  Will also have random wire antenna as a spare.

The buddistick was completed last wk at my home in Atlanta.  I tested it on the back deck on 20m and worked Madeira Island, off the coast of Africa, rt away!  Then was unable to make contacts for a while till I finally worked a ham in Massachusetts.  Not bad for 5 watts.

So, with confidence, I announced my SOTA intentions and proceeded to the Misty Mountain Cabin QTH, in western NC at foot of the Smokies.

Saturday’s radio project was to get ready for Sunday’s radio project, the Activation.

Alas, Murphy has made his presence known (with inadvertent help from me).

Murphy 1: First, I let the Buddistick plans at home.  Not so bad as everything but the radial was ready.  Luckily, I had saved the plans on my laptop and accessed them there and wrote down the radial lengths I would need to know.  Right after that, the (Murphy 2) laptop died.

I have been filming the Buddistick assembly and erection.  All was good until (Murphy 3) the SD card became full and because laptop was dead (Murphy 1, remember?), I couldn’t move the files off the card and onto the computer.

Aha, says I.  There’s a Radio Shack in Sylva so I’ll go get another SD chip.  I can always use another, I rationalized.  Not only that, there’s an internet café in Dillsboro so I can get online and post my SOTA plans on sotawatch.org, twitter, nasota and various list serves.  Problem solved!

In Dillsboro, Murphy 4 struck.  Being the day before Easter, some shops were closed, such as the internet café and Radio Shack.  Ok, so I won’t videotape the activation.  The Jackson County Library was open and it has computers so I’ll go there to use the internet.  Arriving at the library I discovered the Murphy 5 had gotten there before me; a library card was required and I left mine back at the cabin. 😦  Happily, the nice librarian looked up my card # and let me play.

The biggest baddest Murphy of all awaited me back at the cabin; Mean Murphy 5 was messing with my Buddistick SWR’s while I was in town and increased them to >25 on 40m and upper teens on 20m.  Testing the antenna, I couldn’t make any contacts Saturday.  What will happen at Cllingman’s Sunday?

I hooked up my small ant tuner and could achieve a good match on 20m (and recall that it worked fine the previous Tuesday in Atlanta with 1.5 or less SWR and no tuner), but not at all on 40m.   I contacted the helpful Budd Drummond but he was on his way to Montserrat and couldn’t talk.  He said he’d email me when he lands but I am sure he has more impt things to do on a DXpedition that worry about me.  Still, it’d be nice to hear his advice.

Theories: 1) I used 22-ga speaker wire instead of the 20-ga in the instructions because that’s what I had on hand.  Maybe the coils should have more turns.  2) Misty Mountain Cabin is in the Bermuda Triangle of EMF 3) I dropped my antennal analyzer and it is seeking revenge.

Possible Solutions for immediate need: I will try two radials to see if it’ll tune up better; and I will try out the random wire with a tuner.

Stay tuned (as I cannot).

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