Today I had between three and four hours to kill between dropping my eldest son at his exam venue at Olympic Park and picking him back up again. Looking at SOTA summits near Melbourne I chose to head south west and activate Flinders Peak, VK3/VC-030 within the You Yangs Regional Park. Marshall VK3MRG and Allen VK3HRA had previously activated this summit so I read their blog posts and had a good idea what I was in for.
I had calculated the time to drive there, climb up and down the hill and drive back and, allowing 30 minutes for activating, it would fit nicely. I posted an alert on sotawatch and the SOTAVK3 Yahoo group advising it would be a short activation and I would be using only 144 MHz SSB or 146 MHz FM.
My antenna for the activation would be a halfwave vertical coaxial dipole based on a design by Mark VK3ZR. I have used this antenna a number of times before with good results.
I arrived at The Turntable car park a little after 9 am and was on my way up by 9:10 am. It took me 25 minutes from the car to the peak, stopping a couple of times to admire the view. the track is constructed with about 480 granite steps from bottom to top.
Once on top I took some photos of the surrounding valley and, of particular interest, the approaching rain. I estimated the rain was about 30 minutes away which would make for a tight, but achievable, activation. I tied the base of my 9 metre squid pole to part of the viewing platform and pushed the dipole up to full height.
My first call on 146.500 was met with silence. I looked at the FT817 display while transmitting and noticed it was showing HISWR in the display. It was also showing R indicating the rear antenna connector was selected. I changed this setting to the front, where the antenna was connected, and the radio worked much better.
I looked back toward the incoming storm and decided there was a good chance I was not going to complete the activation before the rain came so I set out my small tarpaulin under the radio box ready to pull it up over the radio should it start to rain. I also put on my rain jacket. This was a good thing to do as I’d made two QSOs when the rain hit, gently at first but getting heavier quickly. I pulled the tarp up over the radio and my legs and persevered.
I made four more QSOs, while sheltering under the tarp, and then decided to end the activation. I switched the radio off, disconnected the antenna cable and closed the box. I placed my logging tablet in a water proof bag and put it under the tarp.
I then sat in my rain coat with my legs and radio under the tarp, but my back pack out in the rain and waited five minutes for the rain to stop. I then packed up, took a few photos and headed back down to the car. On the way down some more rain fell.
Back at the car I changed my wet tee-shirt for a dry one, posted an email to the SOTAVK3 Yahoo group apologising for the very short activation, and headed back to the city. I was about two kilometres away when my son called to say he was ready to be collected. Near perfect timing.73