On Learning Humility; a POTA Evening with Bugs in Florida

Monday April 30 I set up at Hobe Sound Nature Preserve, KFF-0220180418_160217.jpg41, to activate on 40 and 20 meters.  I waited till late in the day, arriving on site about 5:30pm EDT to set up and get ready for 40m to wake up as the sun goes down.  Took my time walking the entire area to scout a good spot.  Was previously here two weeks ago in a

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time-pressured situation and hastily set up at the first thing I found, a simple park bench.  Not that much from which to choose here as this is principally a minimally-developed natural resource area, appealing to fishermen, hikers and nature-lovers, and not as well furnished with picnic areas like a State Park.

Got a eleven or twelve qso’s that day with the Link Dipole arranged up only a dozen feet in the beloved inverted vee style.  Not the best operating position, but sufficient.

Below, in the orange shirt, I am posing for the original activation, looking brave despite the ominous smoke on the horizon (see next pic; just a controlled burn, actually).

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After Sunday’s outrageously successful activation of Jonathan Dickinson State Park, only a few miles from here, I just knew I could return to Hobe Sound Preserve and easily catch many more Q’s.  To earn the coveted WWFF recognition you must have a total of  forty-four to get credit for a valid activation.  These can be on different days, even with the same stations.  One can also work the same station the same day, if on different bands or modes.  The World Wide Flora and Fauna site is wwff.com and the US site is http://wwff-kff.org/.  At JD (Editor’s Note: Jonathan Dickinson’s friends often called him JD in 1696), I got 23 qso’s Saturday but still a few short of 44 so went back Sunday and got 49 more in under an hour!  Figured I could readily to do that again at nearby Hobe Sound Monday.

Confidently, I left the house 5pm to head to the site.  Sorry I don’t have a picture of me confidently walking out the door or confidently driving my car but just look how confident I’m look upon arrival; who wouldn’t want to work a ham in a blue shirt like this one? (Editor’s note: thousands, it turns out).

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Took my time to better scout the best location to set up and found this tranquil spot; looks idyllic, doesn’t it?

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No cooperating trees in vicinity, so let’s set up a tower.  Below’s the view from the picnic table, opening to the North by Northwest (Editor’s Note: a great movie), dandy for Southeast coast of Florida and the same orientation as yesterday – good omens, thought I.

 

 

 

I’ve learned how to erect a tower alone; step one is to lay out the antenna (EndFedz in this case) to judge where to place the tower and its guy lines.  Lay the tower down, tie on the guy lines and provisionally place your tent stakes.  Remember to attach the antenna and attach your coax to said antenna (Editor’s Note: the voice of experience is speaking) before pushing up the tower.  This is the dicey part, when having an assistant would be helpful, but in the spirit of self reliance, you can do this if you’ve guessed well where to place the tent stakes.  Something I’ve started to say to curious Muggles, especially when the Muggle is a Park Ranger, is “I’m setting up a radio station for a simulated emergency situation.”  They will eat this up.  (Editor’s note: good thing this was not a real emergency situation with the pitiful performance that followed).

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After some fumbling, your tower will finally look like this:

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This tower tip is at 22-23 feet; yesterday, same time, same antenna, and same band, I was up 35′ thanks to a handy tree.  But still, this looked really good so I expected similar if not better results, qso-wise.  Here’s the low end of the EndFedz on a photographer’s lighting tripod, up ten feet and guyed.  I’ll explain the round disc in another blog post.

Bodacious good SWR as you can see in image below.  All’s well, it seems (Editor’s Note: false confidence).

Eager and self-assured, about 6:30 I begin calling CQ, ready for the inevitable pileups. Quickly I stumbled onto a net and was invited to check in, so I did.  Not POTA, but

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a start.  A next contact happened 2-3 minutes later.  These always start slow, right?  Twenty-seven minutes pass, my confidence dwindling, before getting another contact, AA5UZ, whom I worked yesterday.  I’m going, “what’s wrong?”  This same setup yesterday was causing pileups; I could hardly write down the call signs fast enough.  I fiddled with the antenna, getting it higher, but no improvement in qso rate.

So what is it?  Is it Monday versus Sunday, are the bands that different one day to the next, is it that I the antenna location is that much different to limit results?  I kept at it, watching the sun go down and aware I failed to pack a table lamp or a decent flashlight but wanting the darkness to come and boost results.  Had a few small stretch when I got 4-5 contacts in quick succession, and heard others trying me that I just not quite could make out, but nothing like yesterday’s results.

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I dunno; packed up at 8:17 (end of civil twilight), and it was pretty dark when I finally departed, rather deflated.  From the time I left the house to when I returned, it was over four hours invested.  This was a lot of work for eleven qso’s, and I’m still only half way to the magic forty four.  As an experiment, I shall return (Hatlo Hat Tip to General MacArthur) to that happy spot at JD State Park where I got the 49 in an hour, and try again there to see if similar results occur at the same time, same band, same antenna setup.  Surely lightning can strike twice!  Please stay tuned.

But now, it’s time for ice cream; that usually makes me feel better.  Thanks for listening; you’re in the log.  De k4wk, Wayne, http://www.hamdom.com

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