Saturday morning, Elrika and young Eduan had left early to get to Hartebeespoort dam for Eduan’s cross country run. Grandad is proud of his young trail runner!
The car had to be packed, the ops equipment already staged in the dining room the night before. It took around an hour to pack everything and I scouted around the house to make sure nothing was left behind. Time was running out, it was already 10:30. The exercise was to start at 12:00 local time. I still had to travel 35 kilometers to the deployment area, tactical name – Molopo.
My biggest concern was whether the Webb FST 400 multi band antenna would work. See http://webb.co.za/pdf/Fst%204004R-25R%20S3.pdf I bought this antenna second hand many years ago and it had not been tested – yet. I had other antennas packed just in case.
The cost of batteries dictated my mode of operation. I chose to go the full 24 hours running QRP only. The FST had to work! My rig, an FT-817ND, LDG z817 ATU and 2 x 7 A/Hr SLAB’s (Another in my backpack).
I decided to use my telescopic “Eskom pole” as the mast. It has a sturdy place at the top where I could bolt the FST’s balun on to. The FST is a very big antenna. I rolled out the wires in two opposite directions in an open space between the trees. There are two wires on each side but are joined at the ends.
By around 12:00 I was ready to use the antenna and set up temporary camp to make my first contact using the FST. All stations worked in a channelised fashion, channel 4 (7.095 MHz) was busy!
At 12:08 I made my first contact with Waterberg and by 12:10 we had both exchanged messages and signed out. The FST antenna worked at least as an NVIS antenna! It was time to set up camp. The wind was already starting to increase in intensity. I unpacked the tent and positioned it so the coax could be routed through the tent doorway even when zipped up. I had to take into consideration the slope of the ground. I didn’t want to sleep on a downhill later in the night!
I had the tent set up by 13:00 and put the table inside, out of the wind. I exchanged further messages with Secunda, Nigel and Spaarwater all in division 6, Hibiscus in division 5 and Tanqua in division 1. The FST was working, even further than normal NVIS distances. At QRP power levels I was impressed with the performance of the FST. Granted, there is a lot of wire in the air!
During the second 3 hour session I wanted to deploy as an on foot RaDAR station and so it was time to pack the rig into the back pack and move out shutting the tent door on my way out.
I went east looking for a place to place my Klaus mast, an abandoned pipeline excavation area. I found a sutable tree trunk and strapped the mast to it using my heavy duty bungi cords. In no time at all I had my “shortened” end fed deployed and ready for comms. My 817 was connected to the 7 A/Hr SLAB in the base of my RaDAR backpack.
The picture below shows the end fed “bungied” at the feed point, the bungi acting as shock absorption protecting the wire from damage. The wind was chilly but not strong. I fed the end fed with 3 meters of RG58cu coax and lay it on the ground as a “counterpoise”, the other end plugged into the 817’s LDG z817 ATU.
The RaDAR flag was flying! I exchanged messages with Spaarwater, Nigel, Secunda and Monateng all in division 6 on channel 4 (7.095 MHz LSB) and another contact with Hibiscus in devision 5 also on channel 4. The end fed was performing well! Hibiscus had a good operator !
I walked back to where I had set up camp and exchanged messages with Honingklip and Tanqua both in division 1 on channel 4 before the end of the second 3 hour session using the FST. The sun was already showing signs of setting.
I took a short walk down to the river. An awesome sunset. The wind had died down. A pleasant evening but a distinct chill in the air as the sun faded over the horizon.
Session 3, Waterberg and Hibiscus again on channel 2 (3.695 MHz LSB). I tuned to channel 1 (1.843 MHz LSB) and called there – Waterberg came back to me and we exchanged a special extra message. That was a bonus point and I worked my first QRP 160m station! The FST isn’t even rated for this frequency but it worked!
Thereafter messages were exchanged with Monateng and Nigel all on channel 2.
Around 21:30 during session 4 I exchanged messages with Hibiscus and and Tanqua on channel 2.
Next session – midnight and a new day.
Continued – Day 2