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2024 NC QSO Party and POTA

Last month we finally got a chance to take the radio for a spin to work the NC QSO party from a few parks.  A ‘few’ parks turned into two parks, but I did learn a few things.  The weather in my area turned out to be perfect for a nice ride to a couple of portable operating areas.  Comfortably cool temps and crystal clear skies.

I decided to approach the trip as an Out-and-Back.  Drove out to the first park with intent on making stops to set up the portable antennas at each location.  Had just barely enough time at the first stop to get set up before the 10am local start.  Then things quickly went sideways.

!st stop, Richmond county, Pota k-08010

The Station

Used a hitch mounted mast receptacle to hold the antenna mast, a 32 foot telescoping fiberglass pole.  The mast supported a 40m/20m trap dipole, which I probably damaged by breaking a partially corroded wire on one of the traps.  Ends were tied up on some of the nearby coniferous biological antenna supports.  The station itself is an Elecraft K3 powered by a 100ah LifePo4 battery, on trickle charge from a 100w solar panel on the vehicle roof rack.  All set up on back seat of the vehicle.  Parked in the shade because comfort is more important than charging the battery.  Location numero uno was at McKinney Lake State Fish Hatchery Pota k-8010, Richmond county NC.  Unfortunately no photos of either the station or other sites due to ‘plan divergence #2-Lost Phone!’.

Diverging from the plan

Maybe a bit over-ambitious.  The first event occurred when the antenna suddenly lost its nice low SWR on 40m.  It is a 40m/20m trap dipole that has been in use for a couple of years.  Made just a handful on 40m to start then moved to 20m.  The antenna was still OK on 20m.  Curious.  After a bit I dropped the antenna to try to debug the 40m issue and noticed the wire coming out of the trap to one 50m leg appeared corroded.  Wasted too much time fiddling with antenna instead of operating.  Wire corrosion plus over-vigorous installation Mistake #1.

1st Stop, Richmond county, Pota K-08010

After burning too much time at the first location, moved on to POTA#2.  Ate my lunch there an could not find phone.  Spot#1 was just 6 miles away, so retraced to POTA#1 to see if I had dropped it there.  No Joy.  Mistake#2

Decided to skip spot#3 and drove directly to spot#4, Lee State Game lands, Pota K-06920 in Lee county.  Set up the 40m EFHW, and had decent runs on both 20m and 40m.  Success!  Neither 10m nor 15m were delivering, so skipped any time there.  This had the sun beginning to fall below tree line, so packed up the kit and moved to spot#5.  No photos taken, still had not found phone.

Spot#5 turned out to be occupied, and no other locations in the pota had been scouted.  Mistake #3.  At this point I mostly bailed.  Parked the car at home in driveway for a handful of Q’s on a hasty 20m vertical(non pota).  Then ditched entirely for food.

W4KAZ 2024 NC QsoParty results

Damaged goods:

The broken antenna is going to be replaced.  A functional backup will also be added to the travel list.  The real downside did not show up until later, when the logging computer quit taking a charge.  Very likely RF damaged.  Bleh.


What was pounded in again is that wasting time during the event is costly.  ALWAYS have a backup.   The “lost phone” was not lost but had slid down between seats inside an invisibility cloak. Found that at home by dialing the number.  Not knowing was rain on the parade.

  • Need to examine the locations as planned to have an alternate site ready.
  • Need a few dry runs setting up to get a hard figure on how much time is needed. Pota practice sessions!
  • Need to research better to determine transit times between sites.
  •  Use the firmer times to budget time on each site.
  • Be more flexible.
  • If something craps out, HAVE A PLAN B
  • If the ANTENNA craps out go DIRECTLY to the backup.  Do NOT fart around with the broken antenna, it can be dealt with later.
  • Plan on more CW.

Taking the time to activate LEE and RIC was worth the effort.  It should be feasible to easily activate four different counties/Potas as a portable in the 10 hour period.  More than that would require more research or an area with a higher concentration of Pota entities.  Travel time is an issue.  Operating from POTA entities was also worthwhile, and the first time scout of the sites was useful for future POTA activations.


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