As Andrew VK1AD planned to go out, I decided to make an activation in Germany to coincide with his activation in Australia as well as Mike 2E0YYY’s in the UK. Mike had also tipped off a chaser on Adelaide Island in the Antarctic, so this could be a good variety of contacts. I had planned to perform the activation of Auerberg that had failed because of weather the previous Saturday, it wasn’t to be. The plan was to activate Weichberg for the Long Path contacts and then head on to Auerberg (about 10 minutes drive away) for a second activation.
Equipment to be used would be the FT-817ND plus amplifier and the 6m portable mast along with the J-Pole antennas for 20, 17 & 15m.
Weichberg is just about 35 minutes drive from my home QTH – so a local “one pointer” it does have a nice take-off being the site of the regions radio broadcast transmitter tower (which causes no QRM – at least not on HF).
Well that was fun – NOT.
The weather wasn’t bad but the morning mist soaked everything (including me). Set-up was fairly quick with the J-Pole strapped to the holy cross and the table and bench seats at Weichberg are always better than sitting on the floor. At this point I received an email from Andrew saying the weather in Australia was terrible and he would not be heading out. I decided to stay in any case as I had already set everything up.
Band conditions started off very strange, the 20m band was so quiet that I thought the receiver (or the new antenna) wasn’t working – I had to do a full reset on the 817 after wide-banding the 817 for 60 metres, so I wondered if that has affected receiver sensitivity. With a K Index of 4, I was expecting a high noise level, which I wasn’t getting. After tuning around though, I found a station in Africa talking back to his old mate in Germany, so the receiver certainly WAS working. I then heard VK4YS and various VK stations on some kind of evening meet-up on 14.210. There was a net in Scandinavia (I think Finland) that was ridiculously strong but not moving the S-meter as far as I expected.
I called several stations with no response, I put out several CQs and spotted myself on various frequencies on 20m to avoid any chance that QRM from a station I couldn’t hear. NOTHING! I was about to rip down the antenna and put up the old Inverted-V when I heard and called Z35A and got a 5-9+ report from him. So I WAS getting out but just couldn’t pick up any contacts. Very disheartening. I switched the base connections on the antenna and tried 15m – although the noise level was higher, there was absolutely no one on the band!
In desperation I tried 40m using the 15m antenna and although Terry G0VWP called me, he got stomped on by some Italian stations who simply came up without checking (as usual). So nothing on 40m either. By this time I was getting very cold so decided to throw in the towel and also cancel my planned 2nd. activation – Auerberg as with either propagation conditions or my equipment, like this – I wasn’t going to get anywhere from Auerberg either.
After the LIPO alarm going off and not being able to easily stop it on the last activation, I have now run the leads from the internal LIPO in the amplifier outside and attached a LCD display which shows overall and individual cell voltages and percentages. I monitored this during the activation and all cells were discharging at about the same rate (last time cell 1 & 2 appeared to empty when 3 & 4 still had 30% charge). Only when I was shutting down did the display make a noise (which I guess was low battery) and when I got home all 4 cells were down to 0% charge – so it looks like this battery runs fine to a point and the “falls off a cliff”. Thankfully the battery was fully recharged without any problems when I got home, so it still is strange how it appears to discharge so quickly after being fine for so long.
J-Pole antenna (20/17/15m).
LambdaHalbe 6m Mini-mast.
Modified QAMP amplifier (25W on 20m, 15W on 15m).
Thick plastic painters sheet
Lots to learn from this activation, but I don’t know if the J-Pole is working reasonably or not and the LIPO in the amplifier appears to be acting strangely. I missed out on activating two summits with winter bonuses, so I might get out to them again before the end of the month. This time probably later in the day when it is warmer and not with the J-pole, rather the old reliable Inverted-V.
73 ’til the next Summit!