Mark VA3UMP had a great idea… and so… for the 2010 Radio Amateurs of Canada Winter Contest (RAC), and the December Polar Bear Moonlight Madness (PBMME), a group of qrp polar bears including myself did set up a portable QRP station at the ‘Pines Cabin’ in Gatineau Park, Quebec and then we set up portable stations at Breton Beach on the shore of frozen Lac Phillipe.
We used Ante’s callsign during the RAC contest: VA2BBW/P.
Our emphasis was more on learning the ropes for winter /P operation than operating, but we did manage to work 197 contacts including the following provinces & territories for a total of 36,120 points and 12 RAC special event stations:
- 160m – QC, ON, PE, NS.
- 80m – ON, NS, NB, NL, QC, PE, BC, AB.
- 40m – NB, QC, NS, BC, ON, AB, NL.
- 20m – NL, AB, BC, NS, SK.
- 15m – NL.
Hike & Setup
We hiked in at lunch time and carried the equipment in two pulks. It was tough to keep from overheating while hiking! I should have worn less clothes and packed them in the pulk. Lesson learned Upon arrival at the cabin, we started setting up the antennas and get settled in. Mark placed a tarp to cover his hammock between two trees where he intended to spend the night and we set up the following antennas:
- A 160m carolina windom at around 30ft.
- An 88ft doublet at 30ft.
- A 137ft EFHW*.
- An 84ft longwire fed against a 17ft counterpoise.
- A PAC-12 vertical.
- A mast-mounted 2m roll-up J-pole†.
* I spent a half hour just before dusk trying to get my Fuchs tuner which I had finished constructing the previous evening to work. I was unable to get it working unfortunately, must have made a silly mistake so that one goes back to the drawing board. Eric helped me to substitute my backup antenna (a deconstructed W3EDP – a 84′ long wire fed up at 40ft fed against a 17′ counterpoise running along the snow covered ground).
† We had an extra challenge with the 2m antenna. The coax was too short to reach under the door and into the cabin so the only way to activate 2m was to walk outside and hook up a handheld.
We learned a couple of valuable lessons during this phase or the preparations.
During the antenna setup we were We will be beaconing APRS from VA3SIE-7 and VA2BBW-7. Because of this I received an APRS message from Fred DL9MDI and then shortly thereafter I heard him connect to the VE2REH repeater system however I did not receive any audio on the repeater from Fred and he did not hear me calling him.
The stove had wood burning in it when we arrived and the park has delivered water for us … we added some more from the large woodpile and made dinner using our stoves and cracked open the foil around Scott’s fruitcake. Yum!
Then the contest started… the contest was great fun. I don’t often do SSB so I really enjoyed trying that mode for a change. I was surprised and impressed that we were able to complete SSB contacts to BC on 80m. Eric was using my KX1 to make CW contacts and I was using Marks FT-897 with Ante to make contacts. Sometimes Ante was using his PFR-3. Scott was using his own FT-817 on a 3rd band so we had 3 bands going simultaneously. We heard the PFR-3 and KX1 often on harmonic bands, that was a source of endless amusement. The contest was very enjoyable with contesters stopping often to exchange a few words. Something that is unheard of in the larger contests. I love that about RAC.
I went outside a few times to call CQ on the 2m J-pole and fire off the occasional APRS beacon. I tried to do this at the top of the hour. We were unsuccessful however to complete any 2m or 6m simplex contacts. The stillness and natural beauty outside the cabin was great, especially with the wood smoke drifting around. Lovely.
I went to bed around 2am after sorting the logging sheets and around 5am I heard Eric and then an hour later Ante fire the radios back up and get back on the air. Great dedication thanks guys. Breakfast (for me) was a couple of hours later and consisted of oatmeal then I took a stint operating the radio. Mark came in from his hammock having enjoyed the night sleeping outdoors. We got a visitor in the morning in the form of Michael VE3WMB/VA2NB, he ski’ed over on cross-country skis from his cottage. Michael told us he was heading down to Breton Beach on Lac Phillipe for the Polar Bear Moonlight Madness.
We did tune the radio for the 80m pot hole informal net but there was no one there, maybe everyone was contesting?
Polar Bear Moonlight Madness
Shortly thereafter we packed up all our gear and antennas and pulled the sleds down the path to Breton Beach, to arrive just as Michael was leaving.
We all set up stations along the beach on picnic benches (after clearing some of the snow off… or in my case using Michael’s pre-cleared bench). Mark set up a W3EDP instead of his windom and operated using a Ten Tec R4020 rather than the FT-897 which remained on the sled. Eric used a magmount whip on the bench.
The beach was closed for swimming… for some reason:
(pictures courtesy VE3WMB)
We contacted several fellow polar bear stations out on the trail elsewhere and made some additional RAC winter contest contacts, the bands had shifted slightly and we were able to get a few new multipliers. We were operating without dupe sheets though so we had to endure the scorn of the contesters as they sent “dupe om”
All in all it was tremendous fun and we learned some lessons which we can take away for next year (I definitely want to repeat this next year it was so much fun). Mark suggested that we try the RAC Canada Day contest from an island an canoe our gear in. Hee hee… another adventure awaits!!
73 for now