POTA Activation: Red River State Recreation Area, K-7146 (2023-07-15)

I didn’t take any photos at all yesterday, so here’s a bullet-point review of the activation:

  • It was a beautiful day! Low 70s F, good air quality, partly cloudy, not much breeze. Cookout in the shelter 20m away was putting off some good smells.
  • Set up at my normal picnic table at the “River Heights” area.
  • Used my newly constructed Tufteln 40m EFHW antenna tossed over/through the tree east of the picnic table.
    • Although the antenna showed good SWR testing in the front yard in the morning, I think I had to tune it to work on 20m for this arrangement. I think this is because of the cargo bike (see next point).
    • Anchored the antenna winder to the handlebars of the cargo bike using the supplied clip, but I think passing over/near the big aluminum cargo bike may have affected the SWR.
  • Got set up about 21:41 UTC (4:41 PM CDT), finished up about 22:32 UTC (5:32 PM CDT), time OTA ~51 minutes.
  • Used my Xiegu X6100, which seems to be working fine again now that I realized I had the RF gain turned way down while in VT. With headphones, some stations were really loud even though the signal wasn’t showing S9 (but I gave these stations 599 anyway).
  • At QTH, 40m isn’t very clean and so I have a hard time hearing stations. So I started on 40m to see how it would do and got two stations. Switched to 20m and got the remainder.
  • Using CW with my CW Morse “Pocket Double Paddle Morse Code Key” paddles. I modified these by gluing magnets to the base, and gluing steel washers to my field clipboard.
    • I’m still not sure how much I like this setup, because I think I’m too timid on the amount of force needed because I don’t want the paddles to slide around. Mostly this manifests as me dropping dits and having to correct. It’s annoying. I should just buy paddles with a solid base and not worry about it. The quality of the paddles might also be blamed, because there are times where the contact just isn’t made.
    • I just don’t want to pick stuff up and put it down a lot. Maybe if I try it, it won’t be that bad.
  • It was fun to operate! Made 21 contacts all over the continent, including a P2P with WP4TZ in Puerto Rico! WI, MI, NH, ID, TX, MO, IN, IL, NY, NJ, NM, MD, VA, AR, KY!
    • Worked through the problems when they came up, but probably should have slowed down slightly to ask for clarification a bit more.
    • Although I’m still inexperienced at CW, I tend to assume everyone else is an old hand at it. I can’t be alone in this. It becomes apparent whenever I send something that the other person just doesn’t understand because it’s outside the normal POTA exchange (“P2P” is one I’ve experienced). But then again, I’m not great at understanding everything sent to me, either. I guess a lot of us are learning together, which is fun.
    • Got a kind comment from WS9J on a POTA spot: “nice speed tu.”
  • Things to improve:
    • Avoid high SWR on this antenna by setting it up right. The X6100 can match a lot of things, but I’d like to be able to use the FT-818ND without a tuner sometimes if possible.
    • Figure out a better paddle setup so I can focus on sending and not worrying about the paddle moving.
    • Practice sending more non-formulaic code. Muscle memory is getting in the way sometimes, especially since W1 and PO start with the same dih-dah-dah-dit-dah-dah-dah and I can forget whether I’m sending “CQ POTA” or “CQ W1CDN.”

Thanks for reading! Catch you on the air.

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