I was recently asked by an amateur who has been bitten by the ‘portable bug’ as to how they could ‘spot’ themselves for parks activity & thus attract callers. And listening on air in the past couple of days, it has been evident that it has been a little bit of a struggle during a weekday for some ops to pick up the required number of 10 QSO’s for the WorldWide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program. I know that in the past there have been a few unsuccessful SOTA & Parks activations here in VK5. Not many, but enough to perhaps discourage activators.
So I thought I would point out the various websites & spotting / alert facilities which should help you in filling up your logbook. And I’ve also included a few tips I’ve found when operating QRP from a summit or a park myself.
I would welcome all of the other regular SOTA & Parks Activators / Chasers / Hunters to comment with their own tips & suggestions.
If you are a SOTA Chaser, or Parks Hunter, please do your best to advertise that the Activator is out there. Don’t just work them and leave it at that. If they are not already on there, place them on SOTAwatch, parksnpeaks, etc. Your contribution as a Chaser / Hunter may help the Activator qualify a SOTA peak or a WWFF Park. It may also help another keen Summit or Parks Chaser / Hunter, to add another summit / park under their belt.
Summits on the Air…..
The first point of call for SOTA is SOTAwatch2 of course. Here you can view the ‘Latest Spots’ and ‘Upcoming Activations’.
As a Chaser, you can ‘spot’ an Activator. Many keen SOTA Chasers keep a watchful eye on the SOTAwatch2 site. And even if they are not near their computer, and viewing SOTAwatch, the introduction of various phone apps such as SOTAGoat and Rucksack radio will alert the keen Chaser to the ‘spot’.
And of course you can post an intended activation as an activator. For the vast majority of activators, SOTAWatch is used to very good effect. Some activators find that adding an alert for a planned summit, places pressure on them regarding arrival time on the top of the summit. But nowadays the vast majority of SOTA Chasers are well aware of the various anomalies that come in to play when reaching a summit on time.
There is also the SOTAwatch 2 reflector.
The SOTAwatch Reflector is an extension of the SOTAwatch facility. Recently the SOTAwatch reflector has been put to very good use when advertising planned activations involving Europe – Australia contacts.
And there is the SOTA Australia Yahoo Group.
Many SOTA activators place their intended activations onto this site which has numerous members all around Australia. If you place your intentions here, it is exposing your intended activation to a wider audience.
And why not also try the DX cluster. Remember the ‘DX Code of Conduct’. It is impolite to self spot (spot your own call sign) unless you are desperately trying to drum up activity on an open but quiet band. But as a SOTA Chaser, why not spot the Activator you just worked, on the DX Cluster. The bigger the audience the better !
VK5 National & Conservation Parks Award…..
With the VK5 National & Conservation Parks Award there are a number of different options open to you to ‘advertise’ your intended activation. Sadly, at this time, there are no phone apps to alert you of activators being on a particular frequency in a South Australian National or Conservation park. But this is being worked on. To help you achieve success and lots of QSO’s in the log, try adding your intentions to the following sources.
There is the SANPCPA Yahoo Group. This has members from all across Australia, and Activators are encouraged to place their intended activation/s on the Yahoo Group as a message. Hunters have also placed messages on the group, announcing that they have just worked an Activator. This is welcomed.
Allen VK3HRA has developed a magnificent site called parksnpeaks. On the parksnpeaks site you can view VK Spots and VK Alerts. Registration to the site is free. You can add either a Spot (new VK Spot – Current Activity) or An Alert (new VK Alert – Proposed Activity) for a VK5 Park, QRP operation, Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award (KRMNPA), VK WWFF. For a SOTA spot/alert it is recommended that SOAwatch be used.
As mentioned above, consider using the DX Cluster. If you hear an Activator out in a park, help him/her fill up their logbook, and place a spot on the DX cluster, so everyone around the world can see.
Why not consider setting up an SMS group on your mobile telephone. I do this and use to to great effect. It contains a list of amateurs I know that are keen Parks Hunters, who receive an SMS message each time I work a parks activator.
Try sending out an e-mail to your mates in the local radio club or other interested amateurs to notify them of your intended activation.
Use the local repeater to your advantage. Although repeater contacts are not allowed for SOTA, VK5 Parks Award, WWFF, etc, there is nothing stopping you jumping on the local repeater before an activation, and advising people that you are sitting in a park and looking for contacts.
WorldWide Flora & Fauna…..
The World Wide Flora & Fauna program (WWFF) does not have a spotting & alert facility like SOTAwatch. But Activators are encouraged to place their intended activations on the WWFF Forum.
The Australian (VKFF) branch of WWFF has a Yahoo Group. Australian activators are encouraged to place any intended activations on the Yahoo Group.
Another option is the WWFF Facebook site.
And you can also follow WWFF on Twitter.
As mentioned above, the parksnpeaks site has a facility to either spot or alert. It is a great tool, so please use it.
And as mentioned above, consider utilising the vast audience at the DX cluster.
Some general portable operation / QRP tips…..
Below are just a few general tips to help you fill up your logbook. It is by no means an exhaustive list. But it contains a few things that I have found through trial & error.
The secret is in the antenna
We have all heard this, but it is true. It has been said that antennas compose one third of your QRP station. The other two thirds are your operating equipment and your operating skills.
Try different bands
Propagation is not always kind on 40m for the longer hauls around VK, and certainly for DX if you are running QRP. So if possible, try operating on a selection of bands. This may not always be possible I know, due to restrictions with licences, and lack of appropriate antennas. But the give the people further afield the chance to get in the action as well. The vast majority of portable activity here in Australia seems to be on 40m SSB, which often excludes the guys & girls in Western Australia (VK6).
Place your intentions on as many forums as possible
The more people who know you are out there the better. So post your intentions on as many forums as possible.
Consider the time of day / know when bands are open
Who is your targeted audience ? There is no point going out at midday if you want to work Europeans on 20m long path. So try to time your activations for those who you would like to get in the log.
Look at the solar figures / propagation conditions
Propagation conditions are extremely important with any QRP operation. If the solar figures are lousy, then maybe consider putting off an activation until another day.
Operating skills / practice
This is just a suggested practice I try to adopt. If you do call for DX, you might be surprised who comes back to you.
– call for any SOTA/parks activators
– call for QRP stations
– call for portable or mobile stations
– call for any DX
– call for stations who can hear you, but with difficulty (there is nothing worse as a Chaser/Hunter listening to an activator who is weak, but then disappears down below the noise floor due to a change in the band.)
– call for anybody else (now the fun starts).