Operating as E7/VK4DX from Bosnia

What a difference a continent makes! 🙂

 

I lived in Australia for the past 21 years and have gotten used to almost everything I hear being a DX, usually 8,000km or more away from here. Having finally operated from Europe again it reminded me that the world of HF looks very, very different from there.

We go to Europe to visit our family and friends every one or two years and this time I have decided to take my radio and a linked dipole with me. The best thing I’ve done in a long time.

With conditions being awful here in VK and almost nothing to work on HF, I was curious as to what I will be able to hear and work from Bosnia.

The first experience was very surprising. I’ve hanged the linked dipole in my mother-in-law’s backyard, one end off the cherry tree about 5m high with the other end going down to another tree just about 2m above the ground. The antenna was right next to the wall almost touching it and had quite a few other houses within meters from it.

This small town (Vogošća) is surrounded with hills ranging from 500 – 800+ m asl, so the location was pretty much terrible.

I hooked the radio to the battery and operated from the car parked in the front yard.

A short CQ on 20m SSB and not long after that I had 30-ish stations in the log.

Over the next couple of weeks I operated portable or mobile from several places and activated three WWFF areas and one SOTA summit.

The experience was unbelievable.

In Australia, if I go out to activate a park I usually operate for 2-3 hours, sometimes even longer, in order to get 44 QSOs in the log. Sometimes I get to the magical number, but sometimes there’s just not enough stations on the band and I end up short. These are almost always only SSB QSOs. If I make 5-6 CW QSOs that’s a big bonus.

From Bosnia, it takes 15-20 minutes to get 44 QSOs in log. The activity is just not possible to compare, hundreds of stations for one in VK. CW to SSB ratio seems to be around 50:50 as well.

From Jahorina (E7FF-0015) I logged about 250 QSOs in 3 hours. The funny thing is that the antenna was 300m above ground. Well, not really, it was stretched between two trees, but if you walk just a few metres from these trees to the north, the ground drops 300m almost instantly. The location I operated from was about 1,900m asl. Most of the reports were “Man, you’ve got a big, big signal here.

My operating position on Trebevic (E7FF-0006) was also very high, some 1,600m asl, but I had to cut the operation short after about two hours and 200 QSOs as I found myself in the middle of a really bad storm, with lightning strikes just a few hundred meters away.

My last activity from Bosnia was from Bijambare (E7FF-0027), I logged 385 QSOs in just under 3 hours of on-air time, all on 40 and 20m, both SSB and CW.

I was quite lucky to operate from there in the first place. A day before I visited the park  with my wife to see the caves.

On the way out I spoke to the security guard who got me in touch with the park manager and after a few calls between him and the state manager for national parks I was given permission to enter the park with my car and operate from a certain spot hidden from visitors.

I wasn’t aware of this, but the Bosnian regional manager E77O later advised that this was a first operation from Bijambare, a new one for everyone – yay!

Here is a video of a few minutes on air from there.

The park is absolutely amazing. If you ever go to Bosnia and don’t visit Bijambare, you’re just … a little bit more than crazy.

Unfortunately, neither of these three parks counted for SOTA as I was operating from the car or was connected directly to the battery in the car, and I was tiny bit short of the -25m summit area.

However, the Hum (E7/BO-066) was a complete SOTA job, operating from the very top and using an old car battery that I had to carry (and almost breaking my back) for the last few hundred meters … and back to the car. It’s incredible what 20w with a low dipole can do when used at high altitude.

I’m back home in Australia now and have finalised all logs. All QSOs from the paper notebook have now been entered into the computer log and submitted to WWFF and SOTA online logs. I will be printing QSLs shortly, so for those of you who would like to have the QSO confirmed on paper – it’s coming soon.

The log will be uploaded to the ClubLog soon as well.

Taking the radio gear with me was a last minute decision, so operating from Bosnia was pretty much unplanned and completely disorganised. For next time (likely in 2020) I’ll have some schedule and definitely have my laptop for logging, entering over 2000 QSOs in the computer log was a real pain.

Thanks everyone for the QSOs, your patience and endless fun. See you in 2020 from E7 and in the meantime from some other places closer to VK.

VKFF-1630 with new Icom IC-7300

Just about two weeks ago I bought a new radio, an Icom IC-7300 and last weekend was time to take it out for some action. I went down to Gold Coast on Saturday and operated for a couple of hours from Pine Ridge Conservation park (WWFF VKFF-1630).

I used FT891 for my portable operations before and I was a little anxious about how the new Icom will fit into my routine, it looked way too big comparing to the little Yaesu, but it turned out to be just right. It’s twice the weight (4kg) and much larger, but it still fits nicely in my back pack and it doesn’t break the back.

To be fair, I didn’t have to carry it too far, just a few minutes into the park, so all good. I also had the camping table and chair and a small laptop in my hands. If I go climbing some peaks for SOTA, I think I’ll opt for the FT891 in any case.

I dind’t know what to expect of the conditions for local contacts, but 40m has delivered in the best way. I was QRV from about 2:30 – 4:30 PM (4:30 – 6:30 UTC) and signals on 40m were excellent from all directions.

I was operating with 50 watts and sloping dipole for 40m and I logged just over 50 QSOs, all VKs and one ZL station.

The day was beautiful and sunny, but from 4 PM it was getting rather cold and I had to pack pretty soon and head back to Brisbane.

I hope to be able to ado one more park activation before heading off for a five week holiday in Europe from mid July. If not, I hope to work you from there, I’ll be QRV from E7, 4O and DL.

VKFF-0129 – D’Aguilar National Park

I was quite excited about this activation. D’Aguilar National Park has a few SOTA peaks, so it was a good opportunity to do WWFF activation and activate my first summit at the same time.

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SOTA Ref # Summit name Altitude Latitude Longitude
VK4/SE-032 Mt Samson 760 152.7705 -27.3033
VK4/SE-039 Kluvers Lookout 683 152.7028 -27.2054
VK4/SE-043 Nth of My Byron 662 152.6627 -27.0888
VK4/SE-045 South of Mt Sim Jue 659 152.6781 -27.2626
VK4/SE-060 Mt Archer 547 152.6666 -27.0087
VK4/SE-116 Mount Samson 690 152.8013 -27.3018
VK4/SE-117 Tenison Woods Mtn 770 152.7512 -27.2953

The choice was to go to Mount Glorious and operate from Tenison Woods Mountain, which is SOTA VK4/SE-117.

The weather wasn’t very promising, it was already raining in Brisbane all morning but I was hoping that it would clear by the time I get to the mountain. I left home around 1 PM and I was at Mount Glorious an hour later.

To reach the psummit you need to park off the main road and walk some 150m through the lush rainforest to get there. At this point the rain was bucketing and I had to give up on the SOTA activation this time.

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I drove a few hundred meters back and parked in the side road. Although Google Earth shows that this spot has nearly the same altitude as the summit, this is incorrect. The summit is significantly higher, much more than 25m higher than the spot I operated from.

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Considering this, and the fact that I operated from the car, means that this is not a SOTA activation, only WWFF.

I had to wait for about 20 minutes for the rain to ease off to erect the antenna, a 7m squid pole and linked dipole (15/20/40m). Once set up I was on the air and the 15m was dead again, but 20m was excellent.

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I did most of the contacts on 20m (35 QSOs). About an hour and a bit later I moved to 40m, but the band was very noisy (S9+ QRN) but I managed to log 30 QSOs in about 90 minutes that I spent on the band.

Before leaving I spent some time listening around on 40m and I could hear quite a few EU stations via long path, but they couldn’t copy me with my 7m high inverted vee.

Because of the rain, most of visitors and hikers had left the mountain by 4 PM. I left just after 6. The drive back home was a bit eery but so beautiful. I drove back relatively slowly with my car windows down (the rain had stopped by now) and I din’t see anyone on the road all the way back to The Gap. Some 45 minutes of driving and not a single person, not a single car on the road. I stopped a couple of times to take some more photos and it felt like I had the entire mountain only for myself. It was truly amazing.

Mount Glorious is exactly that – glorious. It’s an absolute must-do if you are visiting Brisbane. If you live in or around Brisbane and you still haven’t been there, well… seriously???

Below are some photos I took yesterday, I hope you enjoy Mount Glorious despite the weather.

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VKFF-1488 – Buckley’s Hole Park

 

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It was in year 2003 when I last visited and operated from Bribie Island. It was still valid for IOTA program and the pile-ups were huge. I spent a weekend in the caravan park with a very basic 20m vertical and two elevated radials and worked the world twice over.

Bribie Island

Shortly after that, IOTA decided to delete the island from the directory due to its proximity to the main land. The distance from the main land has narrowed to next to nothing at low tide at the northern end of the island.

Interestingly, I still get emails from various hams asking where I was operating from as they still need OC-137 Queensland State South Coast group, which Bribie Island belonged to before its deletion.

So, here I am on the island again, nearly 15 years later. The scenery has changed a lot, what once was a completely uninspiring and run-down waterfront, now looks amazing. Well done local council, this place looks truly worth visiting again. I surely will.

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I chose Buckley’s Hole Conservation Park because I can access the park by a car and also operate from the car. I’ve recently injured my foot and while it’s healing well it needs some more time of minimal movement to get really well. I feel like I’m “running on spare” and this is what has primarily kept me off any SOTA activations, but I hope to get up there soon.

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Access to the park is very easy, there is a dirt road that runs off the Tully Street in Bongaree and takes you straight to the middle of the park. Follow the sign to the Red Beach. At the end of this road there is a car park, but it can be really busy and hard to find a free spot.

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I was lucky, though and found a really nice spot where I could erect the squid pole and the linked dipole. The beach was only 20m farther away, full of dog owners taking their canine babies out for a splash. I wish I had my Benny with me.

I’ve set up the antenna in a few minutes and went straight to 15m but the band was pretty much dead for me. Nothing, not one station.

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The next step was to go to 20m, and that worked really, really well. The band was open, I worked a few JA stations and quite a few VKs. This time VK5s were coming strong and it was also nice to hear Stuie, VK8NSB after many years. Most of the QSOs were made on SSB with just a few on CW.

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Around 5pm there were no more replies to my CQ, so I moved to 40m SSB. The good run continued and I had quite a few callers there as well. I also worked OK1CF and a few JAs. Once the calls dried up I moved to CW, but the band was wide open into EU long-path and the stations working in a CW contest were everywhere, the band was literally full. So I spent about 10 minutes there and returned to SSB. A few more minutes of CQing without anyone replying and I decided to call it a day.

In the end there were 53 QSOs in the log in just about 90 minutes on air.

I’m thinking of coming back here, this time with a 1/4 wave vertical for 40m with a few elevated radials, aiming for NA and long-path Europe. Verticals and salt waterfront just do magic!

 

VKFF-1525 – Daisy Hill Park

The new radio (FT-891) has arrived earlier this week and it was time to give it a go. I have spent some time putting together a linked dipole for 15, 20 and 40 m so this was the antenna of choice for this operation, supported by a 7 m squid pole.

Just before I left home I read that there is a renovation underway in the park so I was a bit nervous about not being able to access it. It turned out that the park was still open and accessible, but many parts were fenced off with obvious works underway to have it ready for the Commonwealth Games.

The park was almost empty, just a few cars parked here and there and about 2-3 couples walking around, otherwise it was a ghost town. I took a drive around the park but the best position for the radio with highest elevation was just about 50 m inside the park.

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I parked there and set up the antenna about 3 m from my car. Any further and we’rd be talking about tangled wires around tree branches and endless scuffle with it … It was OK where it was. The feed point was at 7 m, while the end insulators were about 2 m high.

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The linked dipole worked well, it was a relatively quick job to bring the antenna down and change jumpers to another band, then shoot it up again.

Having said that, getting out of the car and jumping back in it wasn’t the most comfortable job, considering that my “shack” was in my lap, with the radio sitting on the glove-box door.

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The round thing in my lap is the laptop base that I bought at IKEA a few years ago. It has a hard plastic top and the bean bag underneath and it’s perfect for this. See it here.

Conditions were so-so. The 15 m band was dead for me, I just heard one JA station calling YB contest and that was it. On 20 m I could only work into VK3 and one VK7 but my signal was rather weak, S3-S4 most of the time. I also worked KH6PGA, fist mobile and later he called back from home. Out of 46 QSOs only 7 were on 20 m.

The 40 m band was one to go and the log started filling only once I switched to that band. Signals were strong from everywhere and my reports were mostly in the 57-59 range.

I think arriving to the location at 1:30 was way too early, I should have been there at 4 pm and on 40 m only. But hindsight is a beautiful thing.

The afternoon was fun but … Murphy.

Firstly my iPhone earbuds (fake ones, bought on eBay for next to nothing) didn’t work that well with the FT-891, the jack was a bit lose and I had to jiggle it all day long.

The CW paddle had it. I had some issues with it last week, cleaned it and adjusted but it was even worse this time. It would randomly miss a dash or dot and keying on it was incredibly frustrating. VK7CW experienced it first hand where I couldn’t key C for the life of me, it would go VK7K … or VK7Y… so many times, I think Steve must have been giggling quite a bit.

I first thought it was some RF in the cable but it wasn’t, it behaved exactly the same when I switched off vox and keyed without transmitting. It’s a Kent key (paddle) that was bought in 1992, I think it’s time for some shopping.

And finally, the day that started with a beautiful sunshine ended with a bit of a storm and some thunder literally just above me. The last 20 minutes I was just sitting in the car and playing on my phone, being unable to take down the antenna in a heavy rain.

In the end it was an exciting day, 46 QSOs in the log and the WWFF activation of the park is in the bag. Thanks everyone for calling and helping me get over the line 44.

The QSO breakdown is:

  • 20 m 7 QSOs
  • 40 m 39 QSOs
  • CW – 8 QSOs
  • SSB – 38 QSOs
  • VK2 – 14
  • VK3 – 10
  • VK4 – 19
  • VK7 – 1
  • DX – 2 QSOs (KH6 and W6)
  • No VK1, 5, 6 QSOs.

73 and see you again next weekend from somewhere else. Mike VK4DX.

VKFF-1663 – Toohey Forest Park

Yesterday (7 Jan 2018) I did my first WWFF activation;  Toohey Forest Conservation Park – VKFF-1663.

This activity was a case of “let me see what the fuss is all about” and I can say that I found it quite interesting. I managed to log 44 QSOs so I’m quite happy about that.

While waiting for my FT-891, squid pole and some other light stuff delivery I thought I’d give it a go with my home shack gear.

 

The radio I used was FT-DX3000 (10kg), antenna was a multi-band vertical Hustler 6BTV, probably another 10kg, my morse paddle is Kent, with a very heavy base (1.2 kg), coax was a 25m roll of RG213 … The only light things were the batteries, 3 x LiFePO4 4200 mAh, and the hand microphone.

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Yaesu FT-DX3000 with LiFePO4 battery

My multi-band vertical antenna was in pieces for quite some time and with all labeling gone it required a bit of work to figure out which trap is for which band. It took me quite a while to assemble it the right way and even longer to tune it.

This antenna is one of the best multi band verticals but it can be very twitchy to tune it properly. The 40m was still a bit off with SWR around 1:2.5 but I didn’t want to waste any more time.

I ran at 20 watts most of the time, the first battery lasted for about an hour, the other two were somewhat better. Last 15 minutes I ran with about 50 watts, I had the “power to spare” hi.

Conditions were – so-so. Because I had a vertical antenna so the angle of radiation didn’t help much for local work, but it performed okay. I was hoping to work some EU stations on 20 m long-path but there was nothing. I worked one JA station, he was solid S9 and he gave me 59 as well.

Thanks to everyone who called and made this activation a success and also those who helped with spotting me on various DX clusters/lists.

I can’t wait the next opportunity, probably in 2 or 3 weeks time, once my little radio is here.