SOTA: Activating Mt McDonald VK1/AC-048 - including a Snake!

2 summits in 2 days, starting to get regular SOTA contacts now

Turning around right on the heels of Activating Mt Majura yesterday, I thought I would give Mt McDonald a try. This trail was a different type to Mt Majura with less shade. I am also learning that I am hitting the trail as well as the airwaves too late in the day - noon local. Not only from a safety perspective but from a band conditions point of view.

This activation was a "just get it done" one for me. It was hot, dry and exposed. I only made 1 HF contact this trip. But 4 contacts is 4 contacts!

On the way back I even came across a small snake crossing the path. I think it was an Inland Taipan. Nothing to worry about, only the worlds' number 1 snake.

 

Log:

Time    Call    Band    Mode        Notes
01:34z  VK1MA   144MHz  FM      Matt S57 R59+
02:07z  VK7CW   7MHz    SSB     S52 R33
02:13z  VK1DI   144MHz  FM      S59 R59
03:00z  VK1XX   144MHz  FM      S59 R59+

Longest range contact on 5w again 700km: 

Gear:

HF:

Radio: Yaesu FT-817ND running on 5w using internal battery

Antenna: PAC12 QRP loaded vertical with ground radials

2m:

Radio: Baofeng UV5R, using SMA to BNC antenna connection

Antenna: 2m BNC antenna that came with the Yaesu FT-817ND

SOTA: Activating Mt Majura VK1/AC-03

Right in the heart of the Bush Capital

This was my first 'real' SOTA activation, where I walked up Mt Majura and operated my radio and made SOTA contacts.  

This was my single most successful day operating my radio as well as my longest range VK (Australia) contact to VK7CW in North Tasmania - 700kms, and my first summit to summit contacts - 400kms all on 5 Watts.

It was a warm day in Canberra and the operating position is right next to the Canberra Airport as well as a shooting range is below which made for interesting exchanges on the radio..

 

Log:

Chasing stations:

Time    Call    Band    Mode    Notes
02:06z  VK1AD/P 144MHz  FM  Andrew S59 R55
02:56z  VK3ANL/P    7MHz    SSB S51 R43
02:59z  VK7CW   7MHz    SSB Steve S59+ R55
03:02z  VK3LED  7MHz    SSB S59+ R44
03:04z  VK5IS       7MHz    SSB S52 R53
03:09z  VK1MA/P     144MHz  FM  S59+ R57
03:25z  VK1AD/P     7MHz    SSB S58 R57
03:32z  VK3FCMC     7MHz    SSB S57 R54
03:35z  VK1MA       7MHz    SSB S59 R57
03:37z  VK3PF       7MHz    SSB Peter S57 R43
03:38z  VK3FOTO     7MHz    SSB Mike S53 R53
03:58z  VK1ATP/M    144MHz  FM  S59 R55
04:00z  VK1MH       144MHz  FM  S59 R59
04:15z  VK3MRG      7MHz    SSB S53 R41
04:22z  VK2UH       144MHz  FM  S51 R32

Summit to Summit contacts:

Date    Time    My Callsign Station Worked  Chased Summit   Chased Summit Name  Activated Summit    Activated Summit Name   Band    Mode    Distance (km)   Chaser Points   Activator Points    Total   Notes
11/3/17 02:06:00    VK1FWBD/P   VK1AD/P VK1/AC-008  Mt Ginini   VK1/AC-034  Mt Majura   144MHz  FM  49  8   1   9   Andrew S59 R55
11/3/17 02:56:00    VK1FWBD/P   VK3ANL/P    VK3/VS-009  Ben Nevis   VK1/AC-034  Mt Majura   7MHz    SSB 580 4   0   13  S51 R43
11/3/17 03:25:00    VK1FWBD/P   VK1AD/P VK1/AC-008  Mt Ginini   VK1/AC-034  Mt Majura   7MHz    SSB 49  0   0   13  S58 R57

Gear:

HF:

Radio: Yaesu FT-817ND running on 5w using internal battery

Antenna: PAC12 QRP loaded vertical with ground radials

2m:

Radio: Baofeng UV5R, using SMA to BNC antenna connection

Antenna: 2m BNC antenna that came with the Yaesu FT-817ND

Summits on the Air (SOTA) activation of Mt Stromo, Canberra VK1/AC-43

My First Solo SOTA Activation!

Those of you that follow me on Instagram know that I undertook my 2-day face to face lessons and testing in mid-January 2017 to become a licensed amateur radio operator (AKA HAM Operator). In mid-February I received the much-awaited email from Australia's national regulator ACMA that told me I am now a licensed amateur being designated VK1FWBD. In Australia (AKA VK in the AR world) Foundation License holders - the first step, are designated a "F" following the Country (VK) and region (1) parts of our call sign. So all ACT callsigns are VK1...

A few Tuesdays ago  I was fortunate enough to be shown a section of the AR world that greatly interests me - Summits On The Air (SOTA). I was shown the ropes by the legendary VK1AD, Andrew who was kind enough to let me dive straight in after he made enough contacts.

SOTA is a points based AR "game" that requires AR operators to climb designated hill or mountains and transmit, often on low power in an attempt to be heard by "chasers" - home based receivers or other SOTA operators - this is called Sumit to Sumit (S2). 4 such contacts are required before a hill or mountain is considered 'activated'.

Andrew was able to get me well placed to start receiving overseas stations (DX stations) on low power. Once the DX stations started rolling in my first calls and first on HF frequencies I knew I was hooked!

I was immensely lucky to have 3 DX stations 2 NZ Stations (ZL) and 1 Japanese station (JA). All while overlooking our gorgeous capital from VK1/AC-040 Mt Ainslie

Andrew's Yaesu radio (I can't remember which one) was pumping out a reduced 10w - to comply with my license requirements, on his linked dipole antenna, were a great match (gotta love an antenna pun).

The following day (Wednesday) my new (preloved) FT817ND radio turned up in the mail and I was keen to get on the air - I booked a day off that Friday and thought I would be a keen bean and try a Friday daytime SOTA activation.  

Activating Mt Stromo VK1/AC-043

This time on another 1 pointer, (easy access mountain) with basically a walk of only a few hundred metres.

On Friday after hours of calling, I was not successful in reaching my needed 4 contacts. I was switching between my newly assembled PAC12 antenna on my DJI OSMO MOBILE base as a tripod and a long wire with a matching box from Nelson Antennas (on EBAY) up my 10m Squid pole and no joy. Only sunburn! (Note to self.. maybe you might want to make sure the spotters aren't all at work....)

Log:

Time    Call        Band    Mode    Notes
04:23z  VK1MA       7MHz    SSB Matt S54 R43
04:27z  VK1AD       7MHz    SSB Andrew S59+ R58
04:40z  VK1NAM      7MHz    SSB Andrew S59 R55
04:47z  VK8GMT/P    7MHz    SSB Matt S59 R55
05:00z  VK3LED      7MHz    SSB Col S59 R55
07:10z  VK5AW       7MHz    SSB Adrian S58 R55
07:12z  VK5PAS      7MHz    SSB Paul S58 R47
 

Not to be deterred, I wanted to strike while the iron was hot, so headed back out the next afternoon (Saturday) to a second operating position on the western side of the peak as seen on VK1DI's blog.  2 hours and only local VK1 contacts - but enough to activate (THANK GOD) before moving to a new position as described by the 2m Simplex contacts I was talking to (again thanks to VK1AD and VK1MA who provided radio overwatch for my first solo SOTA session). From this new location, the PAC12 picked up 2 booming VK5 (South Australia) stations.

Wade

VK1FWBD

Gear:

HF:

Radio: Yaesu FT-817ND running on 5w using internal battery

Antenna: PAC12 QRP loaded vertical with ground radials

2m:

Radio: Baofeng UV5R, using SMA to BNC antenna connection

Antenna: 2m BNC antenna that came with the Yaesu FT-817ND

First dive of 2017

 

“Oh god I needed that, I was starting to think I was drying out”

 

Those were the words that ran through my mind as I broke the surface of the warm water on one of the first days of 2017.

Ascending from one of the 2 shallow photography dives planned for the day into the bright warm sunshine of Bawley Point NSW, I knew that it was going to be a good day.

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Planned over a Christmas BBQ a few weeks earlier, the double shore photography dive was chosen as when you are the buddy with the camera, you often are the slowest one of the pair. This can lead to your non camera toting buddy already looking at the next aquatic marvel while you are still taking your 900th photo of the tiny Nudibranch you spotted, trying to get the light just right.

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The day had no particular aim other than to increase comfort and practice skills. It so happened to be one of the warmest dives I had done at Bawley Point - 21degrees.  In August during my rescue course the temp did not get about 13 degrees. The warm bath-water like temp made for an even more enjoyable dive.

Amongst the small group we were able to practice our photography and camera handling while snapping pictures of one of the countless octopus who live in the rock crevices, or the bottom sleeping Port Jackson sharks soaking up a few zzzzz. The regular appearance now of a large cuttlefish is also a highlight.  To round out the cephalopod team, a school of small squid remained in the warm current for both dives. 

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All in all it was a perfect day and was much needed to get the 'gills' wet again.

In the below video you will also see the preparation that goes into getting ready for a dive when you have to travel 1.5 hours to a dive site.

Ever bathed an Elephant ?

Have you ever bathed an elephant?

Heading west from Chiang Mai, Thailand we met up with the amazing team from Elephant Discovery Chiang Mai who introduced us to their 3 female elephants and one cheeky young male

The location is home to a Karen ethic tribe in western Thailand and their village Elephants. 

The village have opened up their community to the eco tourism trade in an effort to save their elephants, particularly the young male elephants. Our guide was particularly worried about their young male who was starting to grow tusks. He said (the guide, not the elephant) he is constantly worries and has heard that forest elephants near by are poached and their bodies found by the road. Truely heard breaking stuff.

 

 

Check out a quick video about the day!

Ep01. Starting the journey to PADI DiveMaster in Indonesia

A view from my classroom

A view from my classroom

As a first in the of a new YouTube series I am hoping to share the process and excitement of not only moving and living on Gili Air as well as becoming a PADI DiveMaster.  

The count down is on for May 2017.

Subscribe to keep up to date with the process! 

 In coming weeks there will be episodes covering what I am packing, where I am staying (and living) as well as the study side of a Dive Master course 

 

Review: HearFuse 'True Wireless Earbuds' bluetooth wire-free headphone

In ear pods with 2 headed charging cable

In ear pods with 2 headed charging cable

Overview

I saw an online ad for the Hear Fuse Bluetooth in ear wire free headphones (that's a mouthful. I'll call them hear fuse from now on) and liked the small look of them. I have been on an almost perennial search for a small pair of Bluetooth headphones I can fall asleep wearing and not wake up looking like some S&M participant all tangled up. While doing some googling into the Hear Fuses I found a distinct lack of original information rather than just regurgitating the company's website. I want to add to remedying this issue.

IMG_0335.JPG

After the Hear Fuses arrived I was a little dismayed to see they use a 2 headed proprietary pin charging cable for USB charging and they are slightly larger than I expected.

You pair each ear piece separately and they magically sync up to give stereo listening, at least that's the theory. I am achieving 60-80% success with dual connection and have required the delinking and relinking by Bluetooth at least 4 times so far this weekend.

IMG_0332.JPG

 

The Good

  • I like that I can just use one if I want, such as laying down or while driving.
  • They seem to have decent (multi-hour) battery life with their overall combined charge showing on my iPhones screen.

The Bad

  • The proprietary charger - ugh how annoying - seriously its 2016. I don't want another cable!
  • They are a bit bigger than I imagined.
  • The website - seriously minimum information provided.

3/5 *

     
    EDIT: Feb 2017. I have been using the earphones for a while now. I realised that you just Bluetooth pair one headphone and then turn the other on. They talk to each other. Also - side note. The charger is the same as the Nokia small pin plugs.  I lost the "Y" cable after a few weeks. I purchased USB micro to Nokia pin converter plugs on eBay - haven't looked back.   Upgrade to 4/5.  

TRAVEL: Our taster cruise for 3 days on P&O

Frankie convinced me to try a cruise up the east coast of Australia for 3 days departing from Sydney. 

I have to say the good (apart from the on board 5 start booked restaurant) the food left a lot to be desired. 

Anyway. Check out the video. Let me know what you think  

 

DIVE: July 2016 Gear update

DIVING: Scuba Gear Update

I was just washing and putting my gear away from his weekends dive and wanted to give you a look at some of my gear updates

After our trip earlier this year in Asia I really got to put my gear through a number of dives as a full system and got pretty comfortable with the whole thing.

 

Product details below:

Camera Set up

 

Olympus TG 4

Olympus PT-056 dive housing

GoPro 3 black

Knog light

BCD:

 

Oceanic Biolite

 

Reg mouth piece:

Custom moulded mouth piece

 

 

 

TRAVEL: Labuan Bajo, Indonesia

 

Flying east from Bali, Indonesia across tiny islands ringed in gold and turquoise, over fishing villages and mountains you come in to land over yet another cluster of islands into Labuan Bajo airport, new, white and shiny. Soak it in. It's the newest building in 'Bajo! 

 

Straight away I noticed the striking difference in the faces of the Flores people compared to the Balinese and Javanese. They look almost exactly like the Timorese - Big wide smiles. Slightly curly hair. It felt so comforting. Reminding me of my time in East Timor in 2008. 

'Bajo is a growing port town and also the gateway to the Komodo National Park. The national park is a magnet for divers and adventurers alike. 

We specifically went to Bajo to do two things. See the famed Komodo dragons and to dive. We spent 7 days in Bajo, diving almost every second day.  A boat trip to most dive sites is around 1-2 hours. Our longest day included a guided walk within the National Park on the island of Rinka, a neighbour to Komodo. On the small island is a ranger station where the rangers live and base from - they have two main roles. Act as walking guides and to show the dragons The Rinka dragons are about 1/3 smaller than Komodo's due to evolution. Rinka's giant lizards are still 2-3m long. Our guide cheerfully informed us that they climb trees until they are too big then just hunt on the ground for small deer, birds and other Frankie sized prey. 

A day trip to Rinka can still fit in two dives later in the day however a trip to Komodo is about 5 hours one way from 'Bajo. With time not on our side as well as a hunger to dive in one of Asia's greatest sites - Rinka it was. 

Diving:

I can't talk about 'Bajo without talking about the diving. The best way I can describe the life around the national park - Prolific and Jurassic Park-like. Every fish, every Turtle, every Nudi was bigger, brighter and totally amazing.

We stayed with Blue Marlin in Komodo - can not recommend them as a dive company and lodging more highly. Loved it. 5 stars for me.

Check out my other travel posts : Here