Today was another day in the park… but not quite as usual… Bob VA3QV and myself headed this afternoon to one of our preferred spots for “playing radio”: Brewer Park in SE Central Ottawa (FN25dj). Except that this time we knew that we were going to “activate an island”, and not any island, but the one an only Rideau Island ON297, the largest island within the National Capital. As Kristen Gagnon – its “discoverer” and the one who gave it its name – said in her original article in Spacing Magazine (October 2013):
“Toronto has Ward’s Island, Vancouver’s got Granville, and Montreal has, well, the Island of Montreal. So it is about time that Ottawa took a look at itself to see that it too is a great Canadian city with claims to a water-locked piece of land.”
Bob brought with him his “legendary” FT-817 and I had with me the KX3 and the LDG/PAR EndFedZ “Trail Friendly” Tribander. Since we both were going to be using near vertical antennas, we decided to operate at a certain distance from each other (in the previous picture Bob can be seen far in the distance, between two of the trees on the left half of the picture). I sat under a large maple tree, not far from the car since the antenna was being held by the S9 telescopic mast (14-meter long) inside a pipe attached to the hitch of the Jeep:
The Par endfed was fed via a very short coax with a toroidal choke directly into the PAR transformer. The wind was gusty and caused the mast to bend at the top, so I rigged a small bungee cord to take the pull of the antenna off the KX3:
Missing from the picture are the P-Box battery, the earphones and the Palm Single Paddle attached to the slate with the paper log.
Propagation today was not much better than it has been the latest weeks (the Bz component of the Interplanetary Magnetic Field is still reverse-oriented respect to the geomagnetic field lines). First I tried calling CQ at or near the QRP frequencis in 40 and 20m. Most of were lost in the ionosphere and only the two first contacts in 40m were in reply to my CQ. Then I decided to try S&P with the few stations that were being heard, but most did not acknowledge my calls. The 20m band had an intense QSB and no signals were heard in 17m and above. Two stations actually replied “Sri too weak to wrk 73 SK”.
Some of my contacts this afternoon were with members of the Straight Key Century Club. To the first one I took care of indicating that I was not operating a Straight Key or a Bug. That was SKCC fellow member Bert F6HKA calling from Limoges, France. However, as soon as we finished our very nice QSO I realized that one of the features of the Palm Single is that it can be easily converted into a “cootie” (I almost called back on Bert to redo the entire QSO, but he was already busy with other stations. Toutes mes excuses, Bert!).
Here is the note to this effect in the manual of the Palm Single:
“The factory setting for the Palm Single is the normal paddle mode. To select the sidesweeper/cootie key mode, turn the inner hex key one half turn counterclockwise. This will connect the DIT / DAH sides electrically.”
Switching the Palm Single from normal paddle mode to “cootie” can be easily achieved. However, doing the same inside the brain of this operator is far from evident… Nevertheless, I tried it, and after a few hesitations the swing was back on the wrist. In fact, it was a bit more challenging switching back from sidesweeper to paddle and keyer than the other way around.
Here is my harvest from the island:
Bob beat me this time… He made 13 contacts, but you will have to check his blog to find out more… Even so, I am pleased with my result: Eight QRP CW QSOs, four in the US and four in Europe, with the very last being ISLAND-TO-ISLAND (with Francesco IS0HQJ in Sardinia – IOTA EU-024 – TU Frank!).