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Hoot Owl Sprint - I

QRP With K3WWP - Column # 69 - I did something in ham radio recently that I had never done before, and I'd like to tell you about it.

Although I have operated portable from an apartment I had in Pittsburgh when I worked there, and also from my cousin's house here in Kittanning for the CQWW DX test a couple years ago, I had never really set up and operated a true portable station. All that changed Memorial Day weekend. A few weeks ago Tom, KB3LFC asked me if I wanted to set up a portable station with him for the ARCI Hoot Owl sprint. It sounded like something different to do, so I agreed.

A couple of days before the sprint, Tom's wife JoAnne drove us out to the site that was located on Tom's property. The operation was to take place from a remote location, and we both agreed this was definitely remote. The grass was quite grown up to around 18-24 inches, and we took along a mower to cut out an area to set up our operating tent. Once Tom used his voodoo magic to help JoAnne get the old mower started, I cut out an area about 20' X 20' in a small clearing in the woods. And hey, I only stalled the mower once in that tall grass.

We went ahead and erected the random wire we would use for 80M. I tied a rock to the end of the wire and tried throwing it up into a tree, but the wire got caught in the still high grass where I was throwing from, the rock came off, and the wire fell short on the first throw. We then found a short length of a heavy tree branch and tied that to the end of the wire. That made a more secure connection than the rock, and Tom held the wire free from the tall grass as I tried again. A couple more throws and the end of the wire was up in the tree and fastened off. We temporarily tied off the other end near the operating site, and proceeded to pound in our 4-foot ground rod. That went without incident. That concluded our setup for that day. The other antennas we would put up on the day of the sprint itself.

Around 5 PM on the Sunday of the contest, we packed all the stuff in the car, and JoAnne drove us back to the site. Tom, JoAnne, their two sons Ariel and Ethan, and I carried the equipment a couple hundred yards to the clearing and started setting up.

The first step proved to be a real challenge. Our tent came in approximately 3 dozen pieces of aluminum tubing, a half dozen plastic angle brackets, the large covering that went over the frame, and worst of all - an instruction manual whose pages had become stuck together and now resembled a piece of stiff cardboard. It was impossible to get the pages apart, so we had to proceed by guesswork what piece went where. After quite a while figuring out all the possible combinations we finally found one that worked, put the covering on the frame, and raised it into position. By the way, a week after the event Tom told me he had just gotten another copy of the manual and he said we weren't even close to setting up the tent correctly. But gee it worked for us so I guess that was the bottom line.

After that ordeal, we had about an hour until the contest got started, and still had to get our 20M and 40M antennas erected. Both were dipoles, so we looked for two properly spaced trees for each. When we found a likely combination, we tied a rope to an old claw hammer that would be the throwing weight this time. After a few attempts, I got the rope up over a suitable branch, and we pulled the 20M antenna into position. That procedure was repeated for the other end of the 20M dipole.

We hooked up the ground wire to our tuners and set up the rest of our two stations. I used my friend KB3BFQ's QRP+ and an old homebrew tuner and SWR meter I built years ago. Tom used his HW-9 and MFJ tuner and SWR meter.

The CQWW WPX contest was still going on and I wanted to see if I could catch some 20M DX to see how the station was working. That's when the problem surfaced. Although the QRP+ was showing 5 watts output on its meter, my SWR/Power meter on the tuner was only showing less than two watts. I could get the SWR down to near 1:1, but the stations I was calling were not hearing me at all, and they were just booming in. I knew I should be able to work them easily, but I wasn't.

It was getting close to contest time now, and we still had to get the 40M dipole up. After a few unsuccessful attempts and relocations, we achieved that goal.

Just about then, JoAnne came back with our supper. Thanks JoAnne. We ate our hamburger, potato salad, and vegetable salad, then got into the contest. That part of the story will have to wait till next issue as I hate to ramble on and use up too much of the space in the Keynote. Remember to visit my web site for much more QRP/CW info as well as info on the North American QRP CW Club. Till part 2 of this story next issue, 73. -30-