This was the date chosen for the annual EU-VK (actually UK+EU – VK/ZL/JA) S2S event where we would try to get Summit-to-Summit contacts between the two sides of the Earth. With conditions as they were, we were more likely to be happy with a contact with a Chaser “Down Under” if even that was possible. Several tests and contacts with Chasers in VK & ZL had been made over the previous weeks but more on 40 metres than the usual 20 metres band. In any case About 45 activators were expected to head out and if nothing else some S2S contacts should be possible within the regions if not between them – time would tell.
I had planned to head over to Steig a 2 point summit which I have not activated yet this year but twisting my ankle while taking the dog on her walk through the local fields mid-week put paid to that as it’s a long walk up a rough track to Steig. Instead I decided to take the closer option of Peissenberg with its short walk from the car park to the summit by the church. I would not get any activation points for this action as this would be my third visit to the summit this year. Hopefully I’d come away with a few summit-to-summit points though.
Band conditions on the days before the event had improved so hope was high of some good contacts.
I also had a new antenna to test – a Komunica HF-PRO-2 which is a large vertical whip with an adjustable loading coil at the bottom which is designed to be mounted on a car (either a mag. mount or a boot-lip or similar mount). In my case I would be using it on a small Hama photo-tripod that I have added an SO-239, coax and 4 short non-resonant radial wires to. I tested this configuration just in the garden with the antenna analyser and receiving with the rig but this activation would be its first real test. I would of course still be taking my old faithful linked dipole and 6 metre mast and just in case… my Aerial-51 OCF antenna as well (a choice that paid dividends as it turned out).
I knew the route down to Peissenberg very well and so to be operational by 8:30 local time (0630 UTC), I set my alarm for 6 am with a planned departure time of 7 am. All the gear was packed and ready to go.
Getting to the Location:
Although I know the route very well, what I hadn’t reckoned on when I woke up was a pe-souper fog with visibility down to about 10 metres. As I set off from home, I decided that if it didn’t get any better, I would need to stop and turn around and give up the activation. Luckily as I drove further I found that on the roads between the villages the visibility was a lot better but driving through the villages with their limited street lighting and in some other cases to bright street lighting, the drive down was difficult to say the least. Eventually I reached the summit car park and it had only taken me about 15 minutes more than normal. I was glad to have arrived safely. as I got out of the car the damp cold hit me and I was so happy that I had decided to take my thick winter anorak instead of the lighter jacket!
As I got to the usual set-up point and looked out across the valley all I could see was white. as if the summit was in the middle of a cloud – but this was definitely fog. I decided to set up the new antenna on the tripod first and while I had planned a spot for it to stand on the ground, I decided to simply set it up on the seat bank that I always activate from. It was at this point that mechanical failure number one occurred – the adjusting bolt that is used to make the top pad that has the SO-239 on it level broke where I had repaired it a few weeks earlier from a similar problem. So for the duration of the activation the antenna would be sloping a little off vertical – but it was up and I adjusted the coil close to the setting I had recorded at home for 20m.
OK with that antenna up for 20m, I started to put up the old reliable linked dipole – mechanical failure number two now occurred. I had the mast strapped to the railing corner as usual and started to unwind one of the dipoles elements – all of a sudden I had two wires in my hand when there should only be one! The wire had broken exactly as it went into the 20m link piece. So I took the wire stripped a little insulation off the end with my teeth – re-threaded it into the link plastic and wound it around the metal connector and taped it up. That should be it, that’ll work now until I get home and get it soldered properly…
As I had planned to test the new Komunica antenna, this would be its “baptism of fire”. I tuned to a clear frequency on 20m, switched on the SWR trace function of the Xiegu X108G and fine tuned the antennas coil setting. Once I was happy I spotted my self on the SOTA Cluster and back came two calls – OE9TKH portable in Austria – which could have been ground wave and we exchanged 5-5 reports and then a surprise a call from RW3XZ in Russia who was a booming 5-9 signal and he gave me a 5-9 report as well. The new antenna was working! For a while there were no more calls but then I saw Mike 2E0YYY/P had spotted as being on 40m so I swapped antenna cables and worked Mike.
Unfortunately the contact with Mike showed another problem on the linked dipole. On my last activation, I had a bad connection to the rig from the antenna – I checked the BNC plug on the antenna cable and could not re-produce the break so I replaced the BNC to PL-259 adapter but with the new (known good) adapter, I once again had problems with the connection. This got so bad after just one contact that I declared this as mechanical failure number three and took down and packed away the linked dipole antenna. Do you remember I said I had also packed my Aerial-51 off centre fed antenna “Just in case” – well this was the case, so my wire horizontal antenna now became the Aerial-51 404-UL antenna.
All of this repair and replacement work took time and I was losing the chance to work other summits!
As the Aerial-51 antenna works on 40m & 20m without any switching, I then tuned around 20m and 40m to see what I could hear. what I could hear was a loud background noise that got louder if I moved my hand towards the battery box that has a voltage regulator to drop the up to 16.5v from the 4S LIPO batteries to 13.5v for the rig. Electrical failure number one – the regulator is creating RF noise – this will also have to be looked into.
I then heard a station on 14.298MHz with a loud signal, so I decided this would be a good contact to test that the Aerial-51 OCF antenna was working – plus the call was SU8JOTA, so I thought I might be able to help by speaking with some scouts. Unfortunately there were no scouts there at the time and Yaser was trying to contact other scout stations, so I left him to it, happy that the antenna was working as I got a 5-8 report from him. I thought the “SU” call sign was possibly a special call from Poland or Greece, in fact SU8JOTA was the Scout Centre in Cairo, Egypt. So at least I got one, outside of Europe contact. After a contact with a local chaser who returned to my CQ call on 20 metres, my next contact was another Scout (JOTA) station with the call sign II5BP/J or I-I-Five-Baden-Powell slash JOTA as I referred to it – again no scouts were present or perhaps simply not eager to speak English on the radio?
All of this time I was listening for and checking the cluster for any SOTA stations from VK or ZL but without success. My next two stations I worked on 20m using the dipole were Ralf on a summit in Switzerland and Herbert on a summit in Liechtenstein. As time was getting on, I took down the dipole and mast but then decided to put out one last call on the new loaded vertical and I was rewarded with a call from Santiago in north-west Spain on the atlantic coast.
Xiegu X108G (20w).
Komunica HF-PRO-2 vertical antenna and modified Hama photographic tripod.
SOTABeams Band-Hopper linked dipole.
Aerial-51 Off Centre Fed dipole 404-UL.
6 metre fibreglass “Squid Pole”.
Thick plastic painters sheet
The number of failures that occurred were a challenge but despite this and terrible radio conditions, I believe the activation was a success with 4 x S2S contacts, 2 JOTA contacts (one into Egypt where I don’t think I’ve had a contact before), a new small portable antenna tested as suitable for difficult to get to, or crowded summits and being able to deal with the weather conditions. The weather was something that a lot of the activators in VK2 & VK3 could not fight against and had to cancel as their summits would have been too dangerous in the heavy storms.
I have a lot of repairs to complete before my next activation.
November 3rd sees the annual EU-NA S2S event (now renamed to the Transatlantic SOTA S2S event as there are now South American SOTA countries who will take part). At least in that event, it’s afternoon in Europe, not really early morning!
73 ’til the next Summit!