POTA Activation #39: Another 2-fer Commute to Work in Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT and Star-Spangled Banner NHT (DC) (1/10/2023)

My new mobile HF setup has really been paying dividends. I've been enjoying listening in on the air to CW QSOs as I am going down the road for great code practice and hearing people talk all around the world. But perhaps the most fun part has been how easy it has become to roll into a park, adjust my antenna, and get on the air for a Parks on the Air activation. There are now all sorts of opportunities to get on the air that were simply impossible before. One situation that has been particularly fun for me is activating in the morning before I get into work on days when I'm driving into the District of Columbia.

It seems like any time I activate DC it is as though I've got an extra 6 dB of gain on my setup. Since it is the Hunted All States wildcard, people go pretty crazy when it is on the air. So even at 7-8AM on CW, you'll get instant pile-ups. If I can get up even earlier, maybe I can get some Early Shift awards, too. I've found a few great spots to activate not far away from my normal commuting route that are 2-fers that are easy to activate and surprisingly quiet for rush hour in one of the busiest metropolitan areas in the country. Watching the sun rise over the Potomac and the world spring to life as daylight banishes the darkness is a wonderful way to start the day.

Today I decided to go back to Hains Point to activate Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT and the Star-Spangled Banner NHT on 30m CW. Hains Point is a beautiful peninsula just across from Washington National Airport that features a loop road that goes along the coastline that is very popular with the cycling community in DC. There are numerous pull-offs along the way where you can park, bathroom facilities, paths, picnic areas, and beautiful views across the Washington Channel to the East and Washington National Airport and Gravelly Point to the West. In its center is a large municipal golf course run by the District of Columbia. In the pre-work hours, a visitor practically has the place to himself, save a few cyclists enjoying the views and getting some miles in on the pancake flat loop.

I had done my last activation at this spot on 40m, and it worked well, as you would expect. But I was eager to give a higher band a try to see what could be done. I elected to give 30m a go to see if I could get some stations a bit farther out this time. I got the ATAS extended to the right length and got a pretty good match, called QRL?, spotted myself on the POTA spotting network, and started calling CQ.

I didn't have to wait long to get a response. The first station I heard was out of Texas with a solid signal. Based on his report to me, he was pulling me out of the noise, but we were able to make the contact, so we were off. Next I had a contact with Tennessee 599 both ways, so I thought to myself, I must be doing alright. Then the pileup came, and I heard from Florida with another strong report, Georgia with a 559 both ways, Kansas with 599 sent and 539 received, and a 599/539 in Illinois. Next up were Kentucky, New York, Brian from QRPARCI in Indiana was next with a very solid 559 on QRP (of course), followed by Marc in MD who is a prolific hunter who always does a great job of getting into my logs (thanks for being out there). Marc was a 559 both ways, even with us being so close, so I was glad to get him in the log. Next up was a booming station in New Hampshire, another in Florida, and another station in NY who I heard loud and clear but who had me in his noise, but all was successful with that QSO.

The contacts kept rolling in with a pair of 559 both ways reports with Florida, followed by a very weak but workable 529 sent and 339 received with Virginia. Next we got some longer distance contacts with a 599 reception from Minnesota with a 479 from him, and a 599 signal from Arizona who was hearing me 339. Not bad at all. I made contact with a frequent hunter in Tennessee 599 both ways, a station in Arkansas 599 both ways, and finally a station in Pennsylvania I heard 529 who heard me 339 -- glad we were able to make the contact. I called CQ a couple times as things slowed down, looked at the time, and decided to call it an activation and call QRT to make my way to the office.

All in all I made 21 QSOs in just over 21 minutes. Definitely a lot of fun and a great way to start the day. This was also the first activation with a new bit of gear I recently picked up, the Flyboys Classic Kneeboard. Although I mostly just used it as a platform for my phone on this activation, it is a neat little item that straps to your leg to allow you to have a surface to write on while you're seated. My understanding is that they're popular with pilots who use them to take notes and to have flight instructions attached to their leg so they don't have to mess with them as they're flying. I teamed it with a spiral notepad that should allow me to easily flip pages if I want to paper log. Having a flat platform to rest my phone on was definitely helpful, and it is nice to not have to worry about stuff falling on the floor.

Until next time, thanks for being out there and 73.

Activation QSO Map: Green Pins = CW / Yellow Lines = 30m

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+
  • Flyboys Classic Kneeboard
  • Gasuuo College Ruled Spiral Notebook
  • Sharpie S-Gel Retractable Pen
  • HAMRS Logging App