POTA Activation #40: 2-fer Commute to Work on 20m in Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT and Star-Spangled Banner NHT (DC) (1/18/2023)

There is nothing like a POTA activation first thing in the morning. I knew I would have to come into the office today, so last night I was already planning to get a pre-work activation in the books from what is fast becoming one of my favorite roll-up activation sites in the District of Columbia. This morning the weather did not disappoint with mild (for Winter) temperatures around 42 degrees F and mostly clear skies. On the drive into DC I was treated with a beautiful sunrise over the Potomac river and fairly light traffic. I also got to chat with my buddy Corey on the local repeater who just upgraded to General (Congratulations Corey! Can't wait to get you in the log for POTA).

While I was having my morning coffee, before heading out for the day, I looked at the solar weather forecast, and saw that the SFI this week is well over 200, so I hatched a plan to give some early morning 20m CW a go to see what I could do. With luck I'd get some of the Eastern half of the States as well as some European DX. On the drive in I didn't hear a lot of activity on 20, but I did hear some, so I had my plan.

When I rolled into the parks I setup in my spot nestled by the water just across from Washington National Airport, found a clear frequency, and gave myself a spot on the POTA network. At first, I didn't have any takers, so I was concerned maybe the propagation magic was not in my favor. I kept at it though, and I saw Reverse Beacon Network spots coming in from Europe and the US with respectable signal-to-noise ratios. When all else fails, perseverance prevails ... so I kept calling CQ.

Finally, after a few minutes I got my first reply from super-hunter Mike, CU3HY, in the Azores. He was a solid 599 on my end and he sent me a 559 from the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Things were starting to look up. Next I got a call back from Florida with 599 both ways and then had a few minutes of calling CQ with no response. The silence was broken by DX in Poland with 559 sent and 599 received. Fantastic! After that the pace quickened and I got responses from Texas, Tennessee, Texas, New York, Tennessee, Florida, Illinois, Georgia, a pair from Illinois, Georgia, Maine, Texas, Iowa, Alabama, Texas, Tennessee, and Massachusetts. On the last few of those calls I was getting some pretty intense QRM. A station with a pretty big signal had set up camp just up the band from me, so I decided to find another frequency and found some quiet 12 kHz up.

Thankfully, I was on CW, so the RBN re-spotted me quickly and I got a call from Kyle, AA0Z of YouTube fame, 599 both ways from Missouri. Next up I heard from Indiana, South Carolina, Florida, North Carolina, and last but not least, Minnesota. I looked at the clock and realized it was time to call QRT and make my way to the office. As I sometimes do, I sent "QRT QRT de N2EC TU (dit) (dit)" which basically means I'm stopping my transmission, thank you. The dit dit is a pleasantry that many CW operators do at the end of their transmissions that comes from the last two parts of "Shave and a Haircut, Two Bits". I don't expect a response, but I got one from my last contact in Minnesota who had been listening to my last CQs after our contact. That put a smile on my face and I sent another "TU (dit) (dit)" and called it an activation. CW operators are the best.

All-in-all I got 27 contacts from 3 countries in the log in 42 minutes -- not quite the rate I usually get from the lower bands in the morning, but very much a success. It was great to get some morning DX in the log, and fun to get some familiar calls on there too. The Polish DX was 4,537 mi (7,301 km) away and Mike in the Azores was 2,649 mi (4.263 km) from me. The farthest US station was 1,314 mi (2,114 km) in Texas. Not bad for a vertical on my trunk! As Sunspot Cycle 25 keeps rising, maybe I can activate even higher bands before work. Could be fun.

Activation QSO Map: Green Pins = CW / Blue Lines = 20m

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