Sunday, August 6, 2017

POTA activation of KFF-3028

KFF-3028 about an hour north of Houston TX
The new Yaesu FT-891 proved its worth today during my POTA activation of Lake Livingston State Park (KFF-3028) about an hour north of my home. With solar conditions as they currently are it was so much more enjoyable having 100 watts to work with than 10, especially on phone.

The Elecraft KX-2's built-in amp-hour meter is a very useful feature not only for determining how much battery life is left during an outting but also for getting a feel of how long a battery of given capacity is likely to last. For this outting with the FT-891 I used an external amp-hour meter in order to see how much capacity would be consumed during a 1-1/2 hour activation using a 100-watt radio that draws 1 amp during receive.

Other portable ops who use similar rigs recommend taking a 20- or 30-AH battery. For this activation
Small, portable and QRO-ish
I used a large deep-cycle RV battery since that is the battery I'll be using when traveling in that mode. The idea was to enjoy the activation and POTA program in their own right but also to get an idea of portable operation at 100 watts and how long it would take my solar panels to recharge the battery. After 40 contacts and an hour and a half, the meter indicated that I'd used 6.4 AH worth of power.

The Z11-Pro has a built-in battery holder
That surprised me (I thought it would be more) but so did something else that shouldn't have -the radio's 100 watt rated output only occurs if supplied with 13.8 VDC. A fully charged deep cycle battery only provides around 12.6V key up. During transmit, battery voltage dropped to 12.3 at the beginning of the activation to 12.1 an hour later. As a result, I was only getting 55 watts to the antenna at full power. If I'd been using the vehicle battery with the engine running, then and only then, would I get 100 watts out.

I arrived at the park about an hour before my schedule/announced activation time and described what I wanted to do to the two friendly women who dealt with check-ins to the park. I showed them a photo of the antenna I planned and asked where I could set up so that I wouldn't disturb anyone. They were amazed with the hobby and asked more than the typical questions. During the operation several other park rangers came by to see what I was doing and to listen in. Everyone was inquisitive, accommodating and friendly.

It took about 10 minutes to raise the telescoping aluminum pole to ~17 feet to act as a 1/4-wave on 20LDG tuner shouldn't have been necessary but I used it anyway to save me the time of having to make minor tweaks to the antenna's height.
Extended to 1/4-wave on 20m
meters. Three radials (33 feet each for if/when I QSY'ed to 40m) were spread out from the antenna roughly 120 degrees from each other. My

About the antenna - I bought it during the 2016 NPOTA event. I was QRP then and often operated from areas where a dipole wouldn't be possible due to lack of supports. I wanted a multi-band full size antenna without the inefficiency of traps, linear loading or other compromises and I wanted it to be quick and easy to deploy while solo and car camping or as a semi-permanent antenna during extended RV trips. I bought the 65-foot telescoping aluminum tubing kit from DX Engineering and couldn't be happier. I've only used 34 feet of it since I've never had a desire to operate on 80m while portable. It is stable at that height when secured at the 6-foot level in the back of my pick-up and is now marked by band with permanent marker so that I know how far to extend each section for a given band.

I ended up operating only on 17 and 20 meters, both phone and CW. Several contacts turned in to more substantial QSO's. Not surprisingly, it seems that phone is more common than CW for this activity and the number of people calling me was directly related to how recently I'd been spotted on the DX cluster. If you work a POTA station, please spot them - they'll appreciate it.

Several people I spoke with asked about the radio. "Is that the $600 radio I heard about" etc. Yes, it is and I love it. I went back and forth between this radio and several other candidates and the versatility:cost ratio of the FT-891was just too high to ignore. Menus, third order this, blocking dynamic that, etc are non-issues in casual operation. Three front panel buttons can be configured to whatever you feel would be most commonly used functions and this worked well for me. Being a new radio, I brought the manual along but never needed it. There is no doubt that this is the ideal radio for a combination of portable POTA ops, mobile and camping.

A lot of the callsigns of those I worked seemed to be fairly new - lengthy 2x3 calls atypical of the DX crowd I'm used to. I was glad to hear this and hope that these folks will enjoy the hobby for many years as I have.

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