After Action: First POTA Activation

Now finally with a full portable operational radio setup I got the opportunity to head out to one of the local registered POTA parks to do my first activation.

When I initially got my FT-991A I had purchased an Alinco 30A switching power supply which required me to have AC power and while my vehicle has an invertor I really didn’t like the idea of relying on it for POTA work so I stuck to hunting from the QTH. During yet another unsupervised trip to the local HRO recently I was able to pick up a Bioenno LiFePO4 battery and charger. I’ve had multiple hams mention Bioenno batteries so I felt confident in the brand and just needed some discussion and debate on how many Amp hours I really needed. Thanks to the Alinco I was able to take some really good records running different bands and different power settings to base estimated runtime so theoritically I should have enough power for a decent amount for a POTA activation.

This weekend lined up to be a perfect chance for me to finally get a chance to go out and actually test the setup doing an activation. I had already worked out a lot of the issues with the antenna setup and had good power settings in mind to be able to work. I have been able to solidly dial in 10m, 17m, 40m and 80m with the antenna while 20m has been a bit hit or miss with the SWR. Given I was planning to get out around sunrise when the park I picked was available I didn’t think 40m or 80m was going to be the best bands to work so I planned to attempt 10m and/or 17m, with the option of 20m if the antenna gods blessed me with a good SWR. I picked Split Oak WEA (K-6324) as it was relatively close to my QTH, just under 12 miles away. It also had the added bonus of also having the Florida Trail NST (K-4559) included offering a two-fer activation as I found out by speaking with a fellow ham who had previously activated both.

So I loaded up the gear in the vehicle and made my way to the park this morning. I had spoken with a couple hams at the recent club meeting about going so didn’t know if they would be treking out as well or not, but either way it was time for me to get my first activation in the bag. I have been doing digital modes primarily at this point running FT8 and FT4 over Field Day and had purchased a Lenova ThinkPad Yoga 11e 2-in-1 laptop tablet to use for my radio work. It has been proving more than capable to run WSJT-X, GridTracker and N3FJP Amateur Contact Log along with a web browser to check my signal on PSKReporter. I also have a USB GPS antenna that I run GPS2Time to sync my clock in the field and acquire the grid.

Setup did not take long as I have been practicing setting up and tearing down at the QTH thanks to the HOA not allowing me a permanent antenna. I also have gotten good at taking it down quickly at the first sound of the landscapers equipment after having to replace the counterpoise wire kit after their zero turn fed on the initial one. I still had everything on the radio set for 10m which was what I had last worked so I got on the air and after a bit of struggle worked a QSO with a station in Germany. Taking that as a sign I opted to go ahead and QSY to 17m and had quickly collected enough QSOs to have sucessfully activate the park. I kept the outing short and after almost double the necessary QSOs had been made and a lull in the contacts I called it a success and packed up to head home but not before taking a couple photos to have on hand.

While on the drive home I received the first email QSL card from one of the hunters even before I had a chance to upload my logs. I quickly got the logs uploaded to QRZ and LotW along with uploading them to the POTA website. After uploading the logs to POTA, I quickly found most of them had also managed to count as Early Activator contacts. Even more exiting was taking a look through the QRZ awards after seeing two thirds of the contacts had already been confirmed that I now managed to add the 17m Digital endorsement to my World Continents Award upgrading it from merely Mixed Digital. I stil have a couple continents to work on 40m and 20m to get the endorsements for those bands. I still need Africa and Asia for 20m and Oceania and South America for 40m.

Overall, I had a great time and the weather was perfect to operate in. I know several other locations that K-4559 is available to be worked, though not as part of a two-fer. I also have designs on several other parks within a few hours drive of the QTH that I’m going to start trying to plan trips to. Life has been a bit crazy lately so schedule has been tight but being able to get out and enjoy time on the air is a great way to try and slow down the everyday hustle and bustle. As soon as I get a custom QSL card image for the park finished I will send those out to all that have confirmed via QRZ or LotW.

Until the next time, 73.

May 30, 2024 Oct 8, 2023
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