Operating Practice

A few days ago I saw a few posts on the Summits on the Air (SOTA) Australian Yahoo group about “SOTA activators pile up process“.  I assume these comments were a spin off to last weekend’s SOTA Spring activation weekend.  Personally, I did note a few SOTA activators not listening for QRP and mobile portable, etc, and just working the big guns.  However the majority of activators are very good.

What was more noticeable over the weekend was that there was at times some poor operating practice by SOTA chasers and park hunters.  The good operators were fortunately by far in the main, but netherless the occasional poor operating practice by some was annoying.

Here are some of my thoughts.  I am not professing to be the world’s best operator.  Far from it.

A few stations have got into the habit of calling between overs.  In other words I am in contact with VK5AA and putting it back to them for their final over, and a cheeky station calls in between overs with their call sign.  Not wanting to wait for the QSO to finish and join the other paitently waiting chasers and hunters.  I have now decided to ignore those stations.  They are simply queue jumpers.  I was questioned by a senior ham over the weekend as to why I had not acknowledged him when he did exactly this.  So please, if you are reading this and are guilty of queue jumping, please cease this practice.  Please WAIT until the QSO is completely finished.

And there are still those out there, that come up on frequency, without asking if the frequency is in use, and take over a frequency.  This happened to me a few times over the weekend.  Clearly they couldn’t hear me.  I understand that.  But to come up on frequency without asking if the frequency is in use, is just rude.  And those operators were quickly told by the chasers and hunters that I was working.


As for activating, this is what I TRY to do:-

  • call for any SOTA/park activators first
  • THEN…..QRP stations
  • THEN…..portable or mobile stations
  • THEN…..DX
  • THEN…..stations who can hear me, but with difficulty
  • THEN…..anybody/everybody else (now the fun starts)

Now that doesn’t always work out in practice.  Because I often find that when I ask if a frequency is in use, there is already a large crowd waiting for me, and I invariably hear, ‘no the frequency is all yours Paul‘, and then it is ‘swing into action’ time.  However, I always break from the crowd, every 10 minutes or so and call for the S2S and park to park contacts, then QRP, then portable and mobile.  If you do, it is amazing who you get in the log.

When I activated Newland Head Conservation Park earlier in the year as part of the VK5 Parks anniversary weekend, I was operating right on the beachfront, with the Southern Ocean spray on my face.  When I returned home a day or two later, and was checking my emails, I read with interest that some of my mates in Europe had written that they could hear me on 40m ssb in Europe, but couldn’t get through the VK pile up.  What I learnt from this, is that you never know who is listening.  So call for DX, you might be surprised.  Certainly if you get onto 20m from a WWFF park, there won’t be any shortage of DX callers.

And when I mention above, ‘stations who can hear me, but with difficulty’, I am sure you have heard SOTA & park activators who drift in and out with the QSB.  It is incredibly frustrating as a chaser/hunter, when the signals of these stations come up out of the noise, but they are only listening for the big guns.  So if you are an activator, please try calling for these stations as well.  I am sure those chasers and hunters will be pleased if you do.

I also tell the callers to spread out their calls, rather than calling all at once, over the top of each other.  I jot down the calls I hear and acknowledge that I have received them, and then bring them in and work them in, in the order I hear them.  It seems to work well.

Suggestions for DX Pile-ups………… by Uncle DX

1. The DX station operators are in charge of any pile-up.

2. The DX station should make and adhere to their operating rules quietly and respectfully.

3. The DX station should use, when appropriate, call areas and areas of the world for better accuracy, rate and order.

4. The DX station should use split operation and spread stations out, keeping in mind others not in the pile-ups. A must.

5. The DX station should give their call sign at least every 10 minutes and maintain a pattern especially when ending a QSO.

6. The DX station should create a rhythm or timing which maintains a good rate and allows the pile-up to call at the right time.

7. The operators in the pile-up, if not sure of a QSO, should dupe and the DX operator continue not wasting time commenting.

8. The DX station should work those who will create the fastest rate, at least at first, then make an effort to work the weaker stations.

9. No one should lecture on the air.

10. Everyone should always require and give full calls.

11. Know and practice the gray line.

12. Know the equipment being operated such as the split button, audio levels, keying wave form, etc.

13. NEVER be a “KC Cop”….never.

14. Operators giving spots on a DX Cluster should insure their accuracy!

15. Keep away from personal, political, and religious comment any time on the air and/or the DX Cluster. Keep all comments in the true spirit of ham radio whereby ALL ARE EQUAL.

16. Don’t rush when giving your call when the DX station is standing by, especially on CW. Time will be lost trying to obtain ALL of the call sign.

17. Don’t call the DX station constantly. Get in the rhythm.

18. Let the last station complete his QSO.

19. Use only the power it takes and figure out what that is!

20. Figure out the DX operator’s operating practice for greater success.


Please refer to the DX Code of Conduct for some very good information…..


And finally, for a bit of a laugh…..




2014 ‘Welcome to Amateur radio’ symposium

Yesterday (Sunday 24th November, 2014), a ‘Welcome to amateur radio’ symposium was held at the Blackwood Community Centre.  The event was sponsored by the Adelaide Hills Amateur Radio Society (AHARS).  Eighty (80) people attended the event which commenced at 8.45 a.m. and concluded in the afternoon at around 4.00 p.m.

Those attending ranged from 9 Foundation calls all the way through to some very senior amateurs.  It was great to see a good blend of experience.

The cost of attendance on the day was just $5.00.  I chaired the day, which commenced with a welcome by Tony VK5KAT, the AHARS President, and then a short introduction by yours truly.  There were 16 presentations during the day on a variety of topics.  Below is the program…..

0830 – 0845                      Doors open

0845 – 0850                       Welcome – Tony VK5KAT

0850 – 0855                      Introduction – Paul VK5PAS

0855 – 0915                      History of ham radio – Trevor VK5ATQ

0915 – 0935                      Operating legally & the ‘model’ QSO – John VK5BJE

0935 – 0955                      DX Code of Conduct – David VK5LSB

0955 – 1015                      ham jargon – Nigel VK5NIG 

1015 – 1035                      QRZ.com – Stuart VK5STU

1035 – 1050                     Morning tea

1050 – 1110                     APRS – Larry VK5LY

1110 – 1130                     DX cluster – Brian VK5BC

 1130-1150                       Contesting & Chasing Awards – Andy VK5AKH

 1150-1210                       QSL cards – John VK5EMI

 1210 – 1300                    Lunch

 1300 – 1320                    Electronic logging programs – Stuart VK5STU

1320- 1340                       Antenna basics – John VK5BJE 

1340 – 1400                     Blogs/Wordpress/You Tube – Paul VK5PAS 

1400 – 1420                     Demystifying the learning of Morse Code – Doc VK5BUG

 1420 – 1440                    Afternoon tea

 1440 – 1500                    Summits on the Air (SOTA) – Ian VK5CZ

 1500 – 1520                    Operating QRP – David VK5KC

 1520- 1540                      VK5 Nat & Cons Parks Award & WWFF program – Larry VK5LY

 1540 – 1600                     General questions to the group

 1600 – 1605                     Closure – Paul VK5PAS

Morning and afternoon tea consisted of tea, coffee, biscuits, and various cakes.

Lunch consisted of sandwich platters provided by Subway at Blackwood, and pizzas from the Little Caesars pizza shop at Eden Hills.

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Thanks to the following people (not in any particular order):

  • all the guest speakers (particularly Larry VK5LY who travelled from The Riverland, and Ian VK5CZ who travelled from the Clare Valley)
  • David VK5KC (for helping to set up on the morning & organising the pizza)
  • Barry VK5BW (for helping set up on the morning)
  • Roy VK5NRG (for taking the $$$ at the door)
  • Kim VK5FJ (for helping set up)
  • John VK5BJE (for helping set up)
  • my wife Marija (for organsing the morning & afternoon tea)
  • and all the attendees

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I plan to run another day in mid 2015, covering different topics including home brew, EMR, satellites, fox hunting, digital modes, Dxpeditions,etc.

Mount Clay, VK3/ VS-051

After activating Lower Glenelg National Park and Cobboboonee National Park, it was time for some action in the Summits on the Air (SOTA) program.  After all, this was also the 2014 SOTA Spring Activation Weekend.  So I headed to Mount Clay, VK3/ VS-051, which is located about 30 km north east of Portland.

Screenshot 2014-10-10 10.29.14

Map courtesy of mapcarta.com

Mount Clay is 186 metres above sea level, and is worth just 1 SOTA point.  It was first activated by VK3DEE in August, 2013, and has been activated a total of 5 times.  Surprising really, because it is a very easy summit to access.  The summit is a digital TV broadcast site, so there is a road leading all the way to the summit.

I called in to the Narrawong General Store for directions.  Thanks to the very friendly people there, I found my way to the summit quite easily, via Mount Clay Road, then Tower Road, and then Angelino Road.

As the gate at the end of Angelino Road, has got a plethora of padlocks on it, I didn’t want to venture all the way to the trig point which was visible from the gate.  Although there were no signs restricting access, I wasn’t 100 % sure, so I played it safe and set up at the gate.  This is well inside the activation zone.

I tuned to 7.095 and started calling CQ SOTA and was greeted by Brian VK5FMID in Mount Gambier with a beautiful 5/9 signal.  This was followed by Nev VK5WG in Cyrtsal Brook who was also 5/9, Ian VK5IS in the Beetaloo Valley, again 5/9, and then Tom VK5EE at Mount Gambier.  I was pleased.  I had my 4 qualifying SOTA contacts.

My 5th contact was with Tim VK3MTB who was portable in the Baw Baw National Park VKFF-020, as part of the 2014 KRMNPA Activation Weekend.  And soon after this I was also called by another park activator.  This time, Nick VK3ANL who was portable in the Point Nepean National Park, VKFF-628.

A steady flow of callers followed from VK2, VK3, VK5, & VK7.  All had good signals and generally my signal with just the 5 watts appeared to making the journey to most parts of eastern and southern Australia.

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My first Summit to Summit (S2S) contact was with Rob VK3EK who was portable on VK3/ VG-133.  About 6 contacts later, I had my 2nd S2S with Tony VK3CAT who was portable on Mount Strickland, VK3/ VN-030.

After traffic had slowed on 7.095, I tuned down to 7.090 and found John VK2YW who was portable on Granite Mountain VK2/ SW-015.  I gave John a call who was a good 5/7 signal to Mount Clay (5/7 received in return).

It was starting to get very dark, with rain threatening, and thunder & lightning nearby, so it was time for me to qickly lower the antenna and remove the links for 20m.  I put out a CQ call on 14.310 and this was responded to by Mike VK6MB and then John VK6NU who had a very strong 5/9 plus signal coming in from Western Australia.

The rain was alomst here, so I quickly took down the gear and ran back down the road to car.  Making it just in time, before the heavens opened up.  I had a total of 34 contacts in the log.

Just as I had got back to the car I heard Rob VK2QR calling CQ from the top of SOTA peak, The Twins, VK3/ VE-017.  I had just missed another S2S.  But I did manage to make contact with Rob from the car (5/9 both ways).

I then worked Andrew VK1NAM/2 from the car.  Andrew was on SOTA summit VK2/ SM-053, and then Peter VK3PF who was portable on SOTA summit, Monkeytop, VK3/ VE-041, which was also in the Snowy River National Park, VKFF-455.  A new park for me.  Yeeehhaa!

More information on Peter’s activation can be found on his WordPress site at…..


The following stations were worked whilst on the summit:-

Screenshot 2014-11-27 20.08.04

Below is a video of the activation…..

Cobbobonee National Park, VKFF-728

My second park activation for Saturday 15th November, 2014 was the Cobboboonee National Park, VKFF-728, which is located about 360 km west of Melbourne

Screenshot 2014-11-29 18.16.35

Map courtesy of mapcarta

Screenshot 2014-11-29 18.16.18

Map courtesy of mapcarta

Cobboboonee is abut 18,510 hectares in size (45,700 acres) and was proclaimed as a National Park in November, 2008.  Prior to this the area was formerly the Cobboboonee State Forest.  The park has lowland forests, heathlands and wetlands.  The Lower Glenelg National Park is located just to the west of Cobboboonee.  There are a number of walking tracks in the park, including the spectacular 250 km long Great South West Walk.  There is also the Great Cobboboonee Horse Trail.

The Gunditjmara aboriginal people are the Traditional Owners of this land.  I presume that Cobboboonee is aboriginal for something, but I haven’t been able to find out what?

The forest within the park is home to a variety of plants and animals including towering Blackwoods, tree ferns and many small fungi.  Endangered Powerful Owls, Yellow bellied fliders and Kingfishers can be seen.  The park provided habitat for the endangered Long-nosed Potoroo.

Prior to calling CQ, I tuned around the 40m band and found Andrew VK1NAM on 7.090 who was portable on Blackfellows Hill VK2/ SM-033.  More information on Andrew’s activation can be found on his WordPress site at…..


I then found Johnno VK3FMPB calling CQ on 7.095 from the Grampians National Park.  Johnno was my first KRMNPA contact whilst in Lower Glenelg.

After finishing up with Johnno, I tuned up a little higher to 7.105 and located John VK2AWJ who was portable in the Warby Ovens National Park.

I then decided to prop on 7.110 and call CQ.  It wasn’t long before I had a mini pile up going.  First caller was the ever reliable Larry VK5LY from The Riverland, with a booming 5/9 plus signal.  This was followed by Tom VK5FTRG in Mount Gambier, Rod VK5VRB at Meadows, and then Mike VK3XL who was operating portable in the Churchill National Park, VKFF-621.  Mike had a very strong 5/9 signal.  A few contacts later, I was called by Terry VK3UP who was portable in the Brisbane Ranges National Park.

About half a dozen contacts down the track, and Phil VK3BHR called in, on the top of Mount Alexander, VK3/ VN-016 (5/9 both ways).

It was starting to get very dark and I could hear the sound of thunder in the background.  Greg VK5ZGY then called in.  He was mobile at Penola in the South East, not all that far away, and advised that there was lightning at Penola.  No doubt that was what I could hear, heading my way.  But fortunately, there was no rain at Cobboboonee for the time being.

A few QSOs later, Ron VK3AFW called in, whilst portable on Arthurs Seat, VK3/ VC-031.  Apparently Ron had bumped in to Nick VK3ANL a little earlier, who had been on the same summit.

And speak of the devil, just 4 QSOs down the log, Nick VK3ANL called in, whilst portable in the Mornington Peninsula National Park, VKFF-333.

I then had a lengthy char with Rob VK2QR who was portable on Mount Lock, VK3/ VE-005, in the Alpine National Park.  Rob was very interested in the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program, which I explained to him.

I remained on 7.110 for another 25 minutes, before QSYing and having a tune around the 40m band.  I found Amanda VK3FQSO calling CQ from SOTA summit, West of England Fire Tower, VK3/ VW-016 in the Kara Kara National Park.

I then spoke with Bernard VK2IB who was portable on Mumbulla Mountain VK2/ SC-025.  Bernard’s signal was very weak and he was being clobbered by the static crashes from the thunder storm.  But we managed to make it (3/1 sent and 5/1 received)

I then found Peter VK3PF calling CQ from Mount Ellery VK3/ VG-153, which is located in the Errinundra National Park.  This was one of the last three Victorian National Parks I required to qualify for the Worked all 45 Victorian National Parks certificate for the KRMNPA.  So it was with a fair degree of excitement, when Peter came back to my call.  Some details on Peter’s activation can be found at his WordPress site at…..


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I then went to 7.100 and started calling CQ and was called by Bernard VK3AV at King Lake.  Bernard is a keen SOTA & Parks chaser/hunter.  John VK2AWJ/3 then called in, portable in the Warby Ovens National Park, and this was followed by Hiro VK3EHG who was portable in the Yarra Ranges National Park VKFF-556, and then Tony VK3CAT who was portable on Mount Vinegar VK3/ VC-005.

I went on to work a few more stations, but the rain starting coming down quite heavy and it was time to head back to the warmth of the car.

I had a total of 53 contacts in the log.  I was very pleased, as the meant I had again qualified the park for the local and global World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) programs.

The following stations were worked:-

  1. Andrew VK1NAM/2
  2. Johnno VK3FMPB/p
  3. John VK2AWJ/3
  4. Larry VK5LY
  5. Tom VK5FTRG
  6. Rod VK5VRB
  7. Mike VK3XL/p
  8. Tom VK5EE
  9. John VK5BJE
  10. Mick VK3FAFK
  11. Jenny VK3WQ
  12. Terry VK3UP/p
  13. Frank VK2HFS
  14. Roy VK5NRG
  15. Gerhardt VK3HQ
  16. Andrew VK2UH
  17. Ivan VK5HS
  18. Phil VK3BHR/p
  19. Hans VK5YX
  20. Ron VK3JP
  21. Greg VK5ZGY/m
  22. Matt VK1MA
  23. Daniel VK5DF
  24. Brian VK5FMID
  25. Derek VK3XY
  26. Ron VK3AFW/p
  27.  Lesley VK5LOL
  28. John VK3FAVI/m
  29. Ian VK3FD
  30. Nick VK3ANL/p
  31. Rob VK2QR/p
  32. Ian VK3VIN
  33. Peter VK3CFA
  34. Ray VK3NBL
  35. Steve VK7PSJ/m
  36. Charles VK5FBAC
  37. Tim VK5AV
  38. John VK3PXJ/m
  39. Amanda VK3FQSO/p
  40. Bernard VK2IB/p
  41. Peter Vk3PF/p
  42. Bernard VK3AV
  43. John VK2AWJ/3
  44. Hiro VK3EHG/p
  45. Peter VK3TKK
  46. Terry VK3UP/p
  47. VK3CAT/p
  48. Nev VK5WG
  49. VK3FCAT
  50. Barry VK5BW
  51. VK3OB
  52. Winston VK7WH
  53. Owen VK5HOS

After getting back to the car, I worked Terry VK3UP who was portable in the Brisbane Ranges National Park.

Below is a video of the activation at Cobboboonee National Park…..



Parks Victoria, June 2014, ‘Cobbboboone National Park Visitor Guide’.

Wikipedia, 2014, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cobboboonee_National_Park&gt;, viewed 29th November 2014