During the late summer, the Mid Island group planned to begin experimenting with Parks On The Air – both Hunting and Activating. Once you register with the POTA web site and give it time to process your status, it turns out that you probably have quite a few hunter records already, given that every time you make a QSO with a POTA Activator, that record will have your call sign included in the logged activation, and you will get credit for answering that CQ call.

Once signed up with the service (it’s free), you can look at the parks maps on line and find parks in your local area, or in a place you intend to visit, make note of it’s ID number and general map location and start to plan your Activation. Unlike SOTA (Summits On The Air), most parks can be accessed by car or truck and typically don’t require a long walk packing all your radio gear with you. Even so, most people will be aiming to use a “portable” or at least “luggable” radio station, so there will be a close connection between the POTA topic and our other interest – QRP, or low power equipment. We will just talk about the POTA topic here and the equipment in the other pages.

In early October, we planned a visit to a very popular Mid Vancouver Island Park, at the south of Parksville – Rathtrevor, ID = VE-4012. Five of us attended and only one had any previous experience of POTA Activations – he has successfully activated many parks, using SSB and CW. We setup 4 stations with various configurations and attempts at keeping well away from each other, by location, band and mode. I started with my TruSDX QRP rig and my 40m linked dipole, using SSB on 40, 30 and 20m. I could hear some conversations, but could not raise a connection. I changed position and antenna direction 3 times, then tried a 4th location using a 40m EFHW as an inverted V. There didn’t seem much point in “Spotting” an Activation “attempt” on the POTA app site, until I had proven I could make some kind of contact (I have managed a couple of SSB QSOs into Central USA from home, but they report that I have “no signal report”, my signal was so low, so this POTA was simply a practice and test for me). There were other learning experiences in the group, so we counted it as a good day out and a successful milestone.

By the time I got home, I was pretty worn out and deflated, but determined to finish the day on a high. There is a very large “Park” across the East central island area, called The Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Reserve VE-0060, and almost everyone in the area “lives in it”, therefore I would try to activate it, from home (in the garden) using FT8 and my battery powered laptop, and given that I know that works, I would setup a Spot on the POTA site and monitor it on my phone. I logged my contacts in the usual way, but also wrote them down on a POTA logging sheet. In 1 hours, between 8 and 9pm I managed to record 17 QSOs on 20m with some interesting signal reports between +00 and -24 (typical of my reports) but also a +07 and +13, with several giving my signal a higher value than the contact report (I’m unlikely to Tx higher than 4w).

My first successful Activation now had to be reported and I wanted to make sure I had a clean and valid ADIF log file. I had already decided to try the HAMRS program to create the file. It took a little while to work out the various processes and use of the timer and ability to repeat or copy paste information from one entry to the next, but once understood, the data entry was very quick and easy and the file uploaded successfully. (There are some older POTA instructions that tell you to email the file to a special rep for your park location and that it might take a few days to be processed – but this appears to be superseded by the direct upload and auto-process function).

With a proven process, albeit completed at home, I decided to head back to VE-4012 Rathtrevor, two weeks later. I was able to take control of one side of a Shelter and setup under the roof overhang. I had my Panasonic Toughbook and home brew 16v battery pack to keep it running, my phone to get connected to POTA.app for Spotting, and my recently configured painters pole with wooden dowell extension on the top, holding the linked dipole and 1:1 choke. Everything went very well and two hours later I had 27 QSOs including two from Japan and four regions of Canada (3,4,5 and 6). It was nice talk to people in the park, showing interest in what I was up to. The group is looking forward to activating more parks in our part of Vancouver Island. (John JEY)