Part 1 – Saturday
Having flown early to Perth to catch up with friends and family before the rest of the family arrived I had a chance for some activations.
I knew John 6NU was headed to VK6/SW-60 early on Saturday morning to catch s2s and given the jet lag, an simultaneous activation of Mt Dale turned out to be feasible. Easy drive to the summit From East Perth via Tonkin, Albany and Brookton Highways. Road condition was excellent except for the corrugations in parts. Only a few potholes, none to be too worried about.
A walk back down the entrance road to the hair pin seem sufficient by my GPS to be out of the activation zone.
Due to the traditional cool humid change, usually with thunderstorms, I was not too optimistic about conditions on the lower bands and 40m was almost unusable with almost continuous s9+ static crashes, 20m they were around s7. What I didn’t know was that there was also a X1.8 flare right before I arrived. Running on internal batteries only, I worked John VK6NU for a S2S and Anthony VK6MAC on 40 and that was it. Tried the higher bands 20, 17, 15 with zero luck, including 2m fm.
Vodafone has 3G coverage, even to reasonable signal level of 2 or 3 bars, however I did lose it on regular occasions, presumably from network congestion from what someone was telling me recently.
Given I had a lunch to make, my son occupied on the ipad in the car and rising temperatures, I called it quits after an hour.
Woke up Sunday morning to having a feeling something was on my neck only to find a dead tick. Oh.
Part 2 – Sunday
Having failed to activate the previous day, I was determined to head back and finish the job. Since I’d worked VK6 from VK3 around 0800 utc before, I figured I’d give that time a try.
Leaving my son with his Grandmother, I set off from York only slightly late for a straightforward drive via Mundairing and the Weir, turning onto Ashendon Road.
Again, an easy stroll down to the hairpin and back and I setup on 40m. Unfortunately discovered the tap on the loading coil of my 40m vertical had been ripped off destroying that part of the coil Some tap and wire stripping lead to a solution. Much lower noise levels on 40 and I could easily heard a number of stations such as John 6NU at 58 and 6FMTG at 52, plus later 6AXB? Unfortunately none could hear me. At this point I turned to the key and worked John on cw, although it was a interrupted qso as I stopped to answer questions from an onlooker and provide navigation advice. Having kids around does seem to help with coping with distractions.
I however did not do so well with managing the distraction of the local population of bullants wanting to have a piece of me. Calling them ants is not really appropriate as that implies they’re small and insignificant. A couple of bees also joined in on the fun. Ahh fond memories of Western Australia.
Noting that Paul VK1ATP was on 20, I qsy’d but couldn’t hear him. After spotting and calling 15k lower, he responded and we completed a S2S (VK1/AC-034), initially with 51 reports bothway, but I upped his to 55 later. I find this quite impressive with only 5W on my end. Right after worked Paul 5PAS portable in the Mt Magnificent conservation park with heavy QSB. Andrew 2UH then called and I finally qualified the summit. He was an easy 59 to me.
QSYing to 17m cw lead to a contact with Tony VK1CAT with easy copy though not moving the meter. At this point I heard Ron VK3AFW several times but couldn’t complete the contact, with Ron totally disappearing mid over. Then worked Andrew 2UH again on CW with nice sigs each way.
Tried on 15m to no avail, then turned my attention back to 40m for another shot at the locals. Worked John 6NU again as conditions had improved to allow SSB down south. Nothing heard from any other VK6s, though Ron VK3AFW came up with nice signals but clearly could not hear me. I called him on CW with no response.
Then tried 2m SSB with two elements beaming southish for John and North West for Perth. No contacts.
I suspect my problems with local 40m contacts is lack of overhead radiation from the vertical. I was easily able to work John several hundred km away and that’s the impression I’ve got from this antenna – it’s sweet spot is a few hundred km out which is generally fine in VK3 because I’ve either got LOS or am trying to work into far flung parts of the state/vk2 etc. I didn’t have the fallback of a random endfed wire this time. I do have a dipole but would struggle to get it up high enough with only 5m pole.
However the newly cut 20, 17, 15 dipole seems to do a reasonable job on the 5m pole. Very convenient.
Propagation wise, VK6 seems a difficult one for the QRPer, either it’s got to be very early in the morning (20m was wide open to even the US East Coast at 7am and I worked VK2AFA on cw) or you probably need to choose between higher bands mid afternoon or wait later for 40 to open up. At 5pm a bit more power on my end could have made a contact on 40m, I would imagine later would be even better with the grey line moving in. This also matches the rise in static crashes between 4pm and 5pm and my ability to work John on SSB.
So it’s possible to activate with just 5W here, but I can’t recommend it unless you use cw. I am most impressed with the contacts into VK1 and 2 on SSB. VK5 being I believe a single hop was much more likely (as shown by voacap) though still very satisfying. Nothing heard from Europe though all the spots were coming in as I was packing up.
Thanks to all the chasers.
Saw half a dozen roos on the drive out. No new ticks but I suspect I’ll be covered in red marks tomorrow from the ants. Someone recently coined a phrase along the lines of “you know when you’re ready to activate again when the bite marks from the previous one have gone away”.