2005 INQP Portable Expedition
by K9ZF
Wow!  It just keeps getting  better.  I didn't make quite as many contacts as I wanted, but I done pretty well.  I still need to go over the log, my logging program had issues...  But I ended up with around 200 QSO's, all ssb.  I planned to do the portable expedition solo, but Murphy was my unexpected partner the whole time!
I finished putting together all the gear and packing up the truck Saturday morning and made it to the hilltop about an hour before contest time.  First on the agenda was setting up camp.

I setup the tent, unpacked all the gear and setup the station and still had a few minutes to spare.

 So far so good.  All I had left to do was hang a couple of dipoles in the tree tops:-)  About this time I discovered that I didn't have the nylon twine to tie up the dipoles...  OK, I still have my fishing pole, I'll just use the fishing line...  Well, it seems to be impossible to pull up an 80 meter dipole [14 ga solid cu insulated wire + balun] with 15 lb test line...  After about an hour I gave up on the 80, and started trying to hang the 40 meter version.  That worked a little better.  I managed to get the ends of the 40 up around 60 feet each, with the center [balun and feed line] drooping to around 30 feet.  I decided this would have to be good enough and went back to the 80.  Giving up on the fishing pole and light line, I found an old tree branch and managed to push up the wire into the bottom branches of the trees at around the 10 foot level.   Not great, but I was on top of a hill at around 1000 feet elevation, so I thought it should work OK.

So I completely missed the first 2 1/2 hours.  I hooked up the antennas first and ran the bands to check them out.  The auto tuner in my 746 loaded up all bands pretty well on the 80 meter dipole.  The 40, however, didn't do well.  The SWR was really high on 40, where it should have been resonant.  The tuner would find a match, and then start searching again a few seconds into the transmission.  Not good.  I had a lot of extra feed line on the 40, so I tried moving it around thinking RF on the shield may be bothering the tuner.  Bingo!  The SWR on 40 drops to around 1.4:1 and no more searching.  I still had some trouble on 20 with the tuner searching and pretty poor performance, or maybe the band was just that flat...
So, the equipment is all up and working I flip to 40 meters and get busy.  Wow!  20 seems pretty flat, but 40 is hopping!  I started out by running across the band and pouncing on all the CQ'ing stations.  Most were 1 call and log it, now we're having fun:-)  I then find an open freq and start CQ'ing.  About this time I realize that I didn't configure my voice keyer, and have no computer mic to record a message so I have to CQ the old fashioned way for the whole 'test.  But I still managed to put together a few good runs.  It's still early in the afternoon, so it doesn't take long to 'run out' on 40.  At this point, my usual game plan is to move to the upper bands and try to pick up more states from the New England gang, and the folks out west.  But 20 still seems flat, and 15 and 10 are dead.  On a hunch I drop down to 75 meters.  The band seems quite good, I'm hearing lots of stations, but unfortunately they aren't contesters and CQ'ing nets nothing.  So I keep returning to 40.

I'm sure I would have done better with more power.  My  battery had dropped enough that I was down to about 50 watts out after a couple of hours.  I tried switching to my second battery [yes, I was crazy enough to carry 2 deep cycle batteries to the camp sight!] but the second battery was worse than the first.  Apparently my second battery didn't survive the winter.  Murphy was still with me.

  By the end of the contest I was down to around 30 to 40 watts out which made it tough to get over the static crashes.  I was also exhausted from the effort of putting together the camp, struggling with antennas, and all the hours of white noise and static crashes.  So, as much fun as it had been, I was relieved when the clock struck 11:00pm.
I spent the rest of the night trying to stay warm in my sleeping bag, and periodically getting up to chase the raccoons out of my camp.  Normally I would have ignored them, but several kept trying to get in the tent with me...

The next morning I tear everything down and pack it in.  On the way out, maybe 100 yards from my camp, I discover a little green sign that says "County Line".  Can you believe it?!!  I knew I was close, but hadn't been able to identify exactly where the line was.  Well now I know.   Next year...
Speaking of next year, the planning has already begun.  This report is a big part of the planning.  I learned several years ago writing an "after action report" helps you to identify what went wrong, and what went right during a contest.  Besides, it's a lot of fun to read what everyone else is doing:-)
My first issue for next year is location!  The county line is near so I should be able to move over and activate Scott and Washington county next year.
Second is antennas.  This may change between now and then but I'm planning a heavy focus on 40 meters.  Right now I'm looking at scrapping the dipoles and going with a 40 meter loop.  Probably fed with ladder line and hoisted as high as possible into the trees.  I'll bring lots of twine (!) and I'm building a compressed air spud gun to launch it:-)  I would also like to improve my 20 meter presence.  I'm thinking of either a vertical dipole, or maybe a delta loop.  I'm thinking the lower angle may help with the longer haul stuff on 20.
Next is power.  Ideally a generator would be perfect, but beyond my means for now.  I will need to replace the second battery.  Also, I've been planning a "battery booster" for my Rover setup for some time.  This is basically just a small switching supply to keep the supply voltage up.  This is a real problem with the Icom 746 as it starts dropping output around 13 volts, so it's tough to use on battery power.  But other-wise a wonderful rig with a great tuner.  Or I could just cut the power back to 5 watts and switch to the QRP category, sometimes simple is better:-)
There are a few more minor issues.  I'm pretty sure my logging program didn't score the contest correctly.  It kept wanting to balk at the stations working from multible counties.  Also, the voice keyer thing.  The laptop does a good job as a voice keyer, I just have to remember to set it up ahead of time.
That's it.  The 2005 INQP is history.  I can't wait for the 2006 INQP!  A big thanks to the guys at HDXCC for sponsering such a great contest!

K9ZF /R no budget Rover ***QRP-l #1269
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