POTA Activation #64: 4 Park QRP with Gersohn (VA) (7/23/2023)

On Saturday my local club, the Mount Vernon Amateur Radio Club, had its monthly breakfast and I got to see my buddy Gersohn, KO4IUK. He suggested that we go out into the parks and do an activation. On Saturday I had a lot of chores to attend to so I couldn't get out that day, but I had a window on Sunday after an afternoon meeting. So we decided to give it a go on Sunday at Belle Haven Park in the George Washington Memorial Parkway, one of our favorite activation sites. It is also coincident with the Captain John Smith Chesapeake NHT, the Star-Spangled Banner NHT, and the Potomac Heritage Trail NST, so it is a full-fledged 4-fer on the banks of the Potomac. My meeting ran a bit late, so Gersohn was already set-up at a picnic table as I was driving over, so I tuned him in on my mobile rig and was able to give him his first contact while I was on my way. It was interesting, from a few miles away he was somewhat quiet, but once I was over a ridge that was between us, his signal got significantly stronger as we became line-of-sight.

Gersohn was using his Xiegu X6100 along with his AlexLoop Magnetic Loop antenna and had setup right by the Potomac in a nice shady spot. After I rolled in I brought my Icom IC-705 and Chelegance MC-750 antenna and as I was setting up I decided to try to activate using the internal battery alone on the 705, something I had never tried before. Using the internal battery (the same ones that Icom HTs use) you're limited to 5W output on transmit, usually I do 10 with the 705. I knew this might be a challenge, as earlier in the day solar activity had caused a lot of D-Layer absorption in the ionosphere, so conditions were a bit challenging. But, as ever, when you're doing Parks on the Air as an activator, you are the DX. So I decided to give it the old college try.

I had the Chelegance MC-750 up and running in no-time, this time using the ground spike into the relatively soft soil of the park. That antenna never ceases to amaze me at how quickly and effortlessly it is able to be setup and tuned precisely. I decided to start on the 15m band, in the hope of bypassing some of the problems relating to D-Layer absorption, and using the in-built markings the SWR was pretty much spot-on from the initial setup. I used my antenna analyzer for the first band, but for subsequent tunings I found just by moving it near the markings I had a sufficient match to just use the radio itself. Nice. As has been my recent custom, I put out a notification on the LICW WhatsApp group to let my friends there know I was going on the air and I started calling CQ. After calling CQ for a while, it became clear this might not be an easy one. After a few minutes I heard from Jerry, WB7S, in Wyoming, an LICW member on the WhatsApp group who came in with a very strong signal on my end at 559 and was doing more work to get me with a 339. Was great to get started with an LICW friend. Unfortunately, that would be the only 15m contact I would get.

After about 13 minutes of calling CQ without an answer, I moved on down to the 17m band and heard a familiar call, KJ7DT in Idaho, who gave me my first reply on 17m. Two minutes later I got a call from Florida that came in nice and loud for me but reported me down at 229. Glad they did the work to copy me. After another 5 minutes I got a station in England that similarly was blasting in, but heard me a 339. Always great to get across the pond ... and with 5 Watts, no less. I'll take it.

After another 7 minutes of CQing into the void, I decided to take my chances with the D-Layer absorption and move on down to the 20m band to see if one of the two workhorse bands of POTA could pull me back from the jaws of defeat. Sure enough, I was getting some distance with my 5 W as my first two replies were all the way from Washington state! Next I heard from Texas, Florida, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas (twice), Indiana, and Florida. I had tried to call QRT for a bit, but I kept being called afterward, so I ended up making more than just the activation requirement. Once I got a break in calls I shut down for a while to allow Gerson to get some more operating time in to see if he could finish his activation, too. He was making contacts with the AlexLoop, but things seemed to be going a bit on the slow side, so he decided to hook up to my Chelegance MC-750 and the calls started picking back up. In short order he made his activation and another successful one was in the books. He started to shut down, but I wondered if I could get some of the LICW friends who had been having trouble hearing me on the higher bands.

So I tuned the antenna to 40m and decided to give another go at it to see if I could get some more close-in friends in the log. Right away I heard from Michigan, Virginia, Massachusetts, Ohio, and then I got LICW buddy Chris N8PEM booming in from Ohio! I was very pleased to get him in the log another time. I was coming in 559 for him, but still doing well for 5 W. In fact I was getting great signal reports on 40m, and looking later it looks like the sun started to stop its tantrum of charged particles, so the bands were shaping up. Next I heard from New Jersey, South Carolina, West Virginia, Virginia, Indiana, New Jersey, Arkansas, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and finally New Jersey. Once again I had tried to call QRT so I could pack up and chat more with Gersohn, but once again (actually about 4 times again) after calling QRT I got more callers, and I hate to leave people hanging.

By the time I shut off the radio I had made 30 CW QSOs on 4 bands over the course of 2 hours and 5 minutes. Since I took a break in there while Gersohn was finishing up his SSB activation, actual time on the air was about 60 minutes. Considering I was at 5 W, not bad at all. If I had stuck around later on I probably could have gotten a lot more as the rate seemed to be escalating quickly, but dinner time was calling. I had a great afternoon out with Gersohn in one of our favorite operating spots. As we packed up we discussed some plans for our next rove together. We need to work out the logistics, but if we can pull it of, it will be one to remember. Definitely stay tuned, you won't want to miss this one. Until then, 73.

International Activation QSO Map: Green Pins = CW / Green Lines = 40m, Blue Lines = 20m, Purple Lines = 17m, Cyan = 15m

Domestic Activation QSO Map: Green Pins = CW / Green Lines = 40m, Blue Lines = 20m, Purple Lines = 17m, Cyan = 15m

Gear used in this activation
  • Icom IC-705
  • Chelegance MC-750 Vertical Antenna
  • RigExpert Stick Pro Antenna Analyzer
  • Begali Magnetic Traveler Light Iambic Paddle
  • Icom LC-192
  • Samsung Galaxy S10+
  • HAMRS Logging App