POTA Activation #35: 6 Bands, 149 contacts, and DX Aplenty at Seabranch Preserve State Park (FL) (12/26/2022)

The day after Christmas I had some time in the early part of the day and I decided to get in a solid activation of a new park. Unlike the earlier activations this week, I didn't have to rush things, so I decided to spend some time on as many of the bands as I could on both CW and SSB. Before leaving our rental, I looked at the Maximum Usable Frequency (MUF) map and saw that 10m should be open, so I hoped to work 10 on down. My park for the day was Seabranch Preserve State Park just South of Port Salerno in Florida. There was a trailhead right off Dixie Highway where I parked, as far away from the power lines as I could.

From what could see that was the only part of the park that allowed motorized vehicles, but there were extensive trails on offer that I would very much like to visit on another day when the weather is more cooperative. The temperatures were on the cool side for Florida, due to the unseasonable cold snap that Florida (and much of the rest of the United States) was experiencing. Fortunately for me, I was running my mobile setup, so I kept comfortable as I got my radio ready for an activation.

I started on 10m on SSB in the Technician part of the band and got a quick response after I spotted myself from Nebraska. The going was slow, but I got another a few minutes later from Colorado, and after a few more minutes Maine. There was a fair amount of calling between contacts,and most of them were pretty light on the s-meter. Next came Massachusetts and Vermont. As things were slow going I decided to migrate to the CW portion of the band and then I got my first DX of the day from Germany blasting in at 599. Next I got a response from Colorado, then another German station, followed by a French station, followed by another French station (this time portable), followed by a station from Belgium. Next I got a station in New Mexico, followed by a French station, and a station in Croatia! Next up was a station from Arizona, followed by a station in Spain. The amount of DX I was getting off the back of my car with a "compromised" vertical antenna was blowing my mind. The band was definitely acting a bit weird, but it was working. It reminded me of some of the magic I experienced on the band when I got my Novice and Technician licenses all those years ago.

Since the stated plan was to get on as many bands as I could muster, I decided to hop on down to the 12m band (and announced that intention on frequency as I went QSY). Much to my surprise, the last Spanish station I worked on 10m was the first I worked on 12. On CW, that was followed by Maine and Illinois. I called CQ for a while, but wasn't getting a lot of responses on 12m, so I decided to call QSY again and hop on down to the 15m band.

Right away, it was clear that 15 was going to be more productive. Maine, Ohio (x2), Wisconsin, Michigan, Texas, New Jersey, Ohio, Kansas, New York, California, Illinois, New Jersey, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and New York followed. One of the stations I worked on 15 was fellow Long Island CW Club member, Drew, N2AKJ. Was nice to get him in the log.

As things slowed down on 15, It was time to make the jump to 17m. I made contact with stations in Indiana, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Louisiana, Ohio, Minnesota, Tennessee, Idaho, and New Hampshire. Once again, things slowed down and it was time for yet another band change -- this time to one of the meat and potatoes bands for POTA -- 20m.

I knew it was likely that the pace would quicken once I got on 20m, and that likelihood was proven to be 100%. The first response came quickly from Virginia, followed by Oregon, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Wisconsin, New York, Idaho (a second band for a previous caller on 17m), Louisiana, Indiana, New Jersey, Colorado, Tennessee, Georgia, Illinois, some DX from the Azores, New Jersey, Indiana, Arizona, another Indiana, Florida, New Jersey, Kansas, New Jersey, North Carolina, Michigan, New Jersey, Indiana, Rhode Island, Georgia, New York, Indiana, Texas, Illinois, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Washington State, some DX from the South of Spain, and Indiana.

Once again I was treated to a contact with Thomas, K4SWL in North Carolina. As usual I took some time to slow things down and say hello. Then it was back to this amazing pileup with stations in Alabama, Louisiana, Missouri, Kansas, Maine, Pennsylvania, California, Illinois, South Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, New Brunswick (Canada), Virginia, North Carolina, Connecticut, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Michigan, Wisconsin, Texas, Ohio, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Texas, Quebec (Canada), Kentucky, and finally Wisconsin. Things had been going fast and furious for the last 91 minutes, and finally there was a bit of a break. So, I figured it was now or never if I wanted to move down to another band, so I took the leap down to the 30m band.

On 30m I got calls from South Carolina, Florida, South Carolina again, Indiana, Alabama, and Tennessee before things stalled once again. So I thought time to jump down to the 40m band and get another band in the logs ... but alas it was not to be. I tried for 15 minutes, but go no callers back on 40m CW. I could see myself getting out on the Reverse Beacon Network, and I was spotted on POTA with that, but never heard any responses to my CQs. So with my ATAS 120A fresh out of unworked bands (save 6m, which the MUF indicated would not work). I decided to shift modes again, this time to SSB, and bands again, once again to the 20m band which had been on-fire just minutes before.

It was not long until I got callers back form Missouri, Florida, Texas, North Carolina, Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, and South Carolina. I decided to band hop again, this time up to the 17m band where I made contact with Minnesota, Virginia, West Virginia, Virginia again, New York, Michigan, Ohio, and Virginia once more. Then I was treated to a contact from none other than my buddy Bill from the Mount Vernon Amateur Radio Club, WB4KFO. He had seen me on the DX spots and we had a quick chat on the air. It was great to talk with him -- I usually get to catch up on the weekend Cherry Tree Net with him, but since I don't have an antenna that can do 80m down here in Florida, I wasn't able to check-in this week. I was delighted to have a QSO with him. Once we said 73, it was back to the activation with contacts on 17m with Missouri, New York, Missouri again, Texas, and finally a DX contact that looked like it was from Iran ... but the call doesn't resolve on QRZ, so may not have been what it appeared to have been.

It was one heck of a run on the bands and so much fun. The activation had run longer than expected and I needed to call it day, so after 4 hours and 20 minutes I called QRT after making 149 contacts in the United States, Canada, Azores, Spain, France, Belgium, Germany, and Croatia on both CW (121 QSOs) and SSB (28 QSOs). I also had the pleasure of making contact with some friends along the way. Since the map is a bit more densely packed than usual, I gave two renderings below. The first shows all contacts, and the second shows the US and Canada a bit closer so you can see things a bit more clearly. The FT-891/ATAS 120A combo has really shown it can perform across the bands and give some fun DX. Definitely looking forward to whatever park is next.

Activation QSO Map (International): Green Pins = CW, Red Pins = SSB/ Orange Lines = 30m, Blue Lines = 20m, Purple Lines = 17m, Cyan Lines = 15m, Pink Lines = 12m, Yellow Lines = 10m

Activation QSO Map (US Detail): Green Pins = CW, Red Pins = SSB/ Orange Lines = 30m, Blue Lines = 20m, Purple Lines = 17m, Cyan Lines = 15m, Pink Lines = 12m, Yellow Lines = 10m

Gear used in this activation
  • Yaesu FT-891
  • Yaesu ATAS 120A Antenna
  • CW Morse SP4 POTA/SOTA Mini Morse Code Magnetic Paddle (N0SA Designed)
  • 2006 Honda Accord EX V6
  • Samsung Galaxy S10+
  • HAMRS Logging App