Sunday, February 26, 2023

Atsena Otie Key FL: the island, the pile-ups, the video

Well, that was certainly fun.

I arrived at Cedar Key almost an hour early for meeting my water taxi sked. "No problem - we can go over now."

The boat ride was $16 round trip, staffed by friendly folks. It took less than 15 minutes to land on a sandbar that would be underwater by the time I left the island 3 hours later, thanks to the incoming tide.

For anyone considering an activation of this park, the boat schedules do take into account the tides, as they are quite pronounced in this area. No boat travel within 2 hours either side of low tide.


There were about 25 people on the island while I was there. Most had kayaked over, the rest had arrived via a skiff as I had. They consisted of picnic'ers, hikers and folks just wanting to explore the ghost town aspect of this old settlement. Pencils were made here until 1896 when a hurricane devastated the island and killed 31 people.

It's a pretty little place to spend a day.

My operating position faced directly toward Europe and the antenna was on (and then, in!) the water. I knew it would perform well and it did. Set-up took 15 minutes due to all the POTA practice I've been obtaining for a few years now.

I've had the MFJ-1979 for exactly 5 years this month. It's been all over the US, to Ecuador and now an island beach. Still looks like new. Still retracts and extends smoothly.

The vise-grip base I use with it is much older, and it shows. But it clamps anywhere and on anything. Add a few elevated radials and you have a no-compromise antenna for 10-20 meters.

My future plan is to get to Atsena Otie early some morning and use the same set-up with the addition of my Wolf River coil for operation on 30 and 40 meters. I'm also going to see if it's possible to get a special use permit to camp on the island.

As you'll hear in the video, there is much demand among POTA and WWFF hunters for this park. This was the first activation for WWFF hunters and the first CW activation for POTA. Any local FL hams who read this and want to make a joint activation, just let me know.

Cedar Key is a funky little town with an authentic "Margaritaville" vibe. It's socially acceptable to have a beer or three at 11am, sit on the bar's outdoor area and watch pelicans and gulls while the Stones or Dire Straits play on the juke. February attire is T-shirts and flip-flops.

Passers-by during the activation were numerous, wanting to know what I was doing. A young woman brought me a sand dollar she found to "pay me for the radio tour".

OQ5M (future POTA/WWFF op), PE4BAS (future 30wpm CW op) and K4SWL all went into the log but I was wearing headphones by then and didn't get them on video. Thomas, were you really QRP? You were loud, dude! And I saw the "blowtorch" comment LOL!

Thanks for the contacts, the spots and the awesome level of activity. I'm looking forward to doing it again.




  1. I was just doing the UBA CW contest and your call popped up so I thought I'd give that QRPer a call.
    Little did I know I worked the Bouvet of K-**** POTA!
    I tested the /P setup last week, in the garden. It's ready to go on at least 10+12m. I worked effortlessly into W4, VO1, S01 and a few in the 2000km range.
    But I'm waiting for the WX to be more springish and less winterly.
    Stay errr... tuned?

    1. Bouvet without the penguins - yes, the amount of callers was amazing and I realized that I have no business *ever* being on a real DXpedition. I blame 80% me, 20% FT-891 - very tough to make out single calls at times.

      FB on your 10/12m results. If you're ever going to do POTA, this part of the solar cycle will forge more longevity than if only the lower bands (with their need for larger, less portable, antennas) were the only ones open. It is a thrill to work another continent with portability easily intact.

      I look forward to hearing you when spring comes to your latitude.


    2. PS
      I wasn't QRP, Franki - 100 watts. Well, QRP to some...!

  2. John, sounds like a great activation! I would be interested in a joint activation.

  3. I just got around to watching the actual video.
    You made the classic mistake by landing the gear ashore with a boat. You should have brought a helicopter.
    Furthermore operating with just one 100W radio and a simple antenna was not was was announced before.
    Many people are complaining that they never got a shot at 160m SSTV EME to check another box.
    Other than that: solid show there OM. Quite a crowd chasing you.
    Your retirement plan for us to enjoy!

    1. I'm trying to put together a team so that all modes, bands and satellites can be covered. Care to join us? The antenna for 160m SSTV EME is currently being tested at an undisclosed location - it will be a scaled-down version of the antenna planned for 630m EM(Mars)E.

      And for the next activation, I hope you'll have the courtesy to call me while the video camera is running...!