Wow… I must say that was great fun. Also check out Bob’s blog entry here.
Bob VA3QV and I arranged to meet up at Pig Island this morning with the intention of making a minimum of twenty-five contacts with amateur radio stations in two countries in accordance with the published rules of C.IS.A and by doing so earning ‘Pig Island’ an official designation.
I was planning to walk to the island from home but happily I was offered a ride and therefore I arrived at the island at 9:30am fresh and ready to set up my station.
Bob had already arrived and he had set up a small vertical whip (around 5′) with an 80m hustler resonator and a 66ft wire counterpoise.
I quickly unpacked my station and set up a 40m/80m helically wound 31′ vertical antenna (approximately 46′ of #26AWG silver plated, teflon coated wire wound helically around the full 31′ length of a Jackite telescoping fiberglass pole with a ½″ winding pitch with electrical tape reinforcement at 3 points and clipped to a loading coil at the base, fed against the shield of 16′ of RG-174 coax). The antenna was secured to a small tree with bungee cords and I had brought a small camp chair to sit at the base of the antenna.
This was a compromise antenna choice, selected to accommodate the physical challenges presented by Pig Island. Pig Island is a long oval and approximately 150ft in the long axis and 65ft in the short axis but it is packed with trees and bushes.
A wire antenna would be very difficult to erect on this island and I was fore-warned.
This antenna is designed for 40m and 80m in a space limited or public place. The counterpoise wire is therefore very short (16′) and there’s only one of them and the antenna does not use trees for support.
Thus it is both electrically short and off-center-fed on both bands. Inductive loading is utilized to achieve a match, there is a fixed distributed inductive load provided by the helical winding of the main antenna wire and a variable lumped inductance provided by the base loading coil which in combination provide a 50Ω match at the feed point against the single short counterpoise. The antenna is connected to the radio with two short single wires.
For 40m I use around 5 turns of the base loading coil and for 80m I use around 50 turns. I do not use the KX1′s ATU in the radio with this antenna. Tuning is done by running the crocodile clip along the loading coil and peaking for maximum noise and then fine tuning using the KX1′s SWR indicator.
My QRP station consisted of my Elecraft KX1 transceiver/paddles secured to a clip board and a pair of Radio Shack amplified speakers and powered by 8 energizer lithium primary cells stored inside my fleece for warmth.
The Local Nets
We started out by joining the ‘Pot Hole Net‘ which is a local 80m SSB net which meets on 3.760MHz on Sundays at 10am local time. This was not part of the C.IS.A activation attempt, it was just for fun but also to promote outdoor QRP operating in the local area as well as to provide a talking point for net participants. The net was (as always) lively, interesting and super fun.
Bob joined the net as VA3RCS (VA3‘s in a Really Cold Spot) and I operated under my own callsign, intending to switch over to VA3RCS after the nets.
As an extra bonus Ernie VE3EJJ educated us on how ‘Pig Island’ earned its name. Turns out that in 1875 the City of Ottawa hosted the thirtieth annual Exhibition of the Provincial Agricultural and Arts Association at nearby Landsdowne Park, this island was used as a pig pen.
During the net, we received a visit from an NCC conservation officer on a quad bike and a pair of skateway safety volunteers. The conservation officer recognized us from a previous Ottawa Valley QRP Society field day we held on Bate Island (I was using the same blaze orange jackite pole then too) and so he was quite familiar with this type of activity. I like to be spotted officially during these outings, it serves to re-reinforce a positive public view of field portable ham radio.
I had set up my VX-8r to beacon on APRS and a little human icon was showing up on aprs.fi and allowing others to find us.
I received an APRS message from the Canadian Science & Technology museum station wishing us luck with our activation.
We were also monitoring the VE3MPC repeater on 147.150(+) and 444.4 (+) and we received calls from several amateurs in the area interested in what we were up to.
I posted the net frequencies on http://qrpspots.com in the hope that we might have some extra checkins from out-of-province but if anyone tried I did not hear them.
After the pot hole net, I received a call on the repeater from Ante VA2BBW and then I adjusted the tap point on my loading coil to get a 1.1:1 match on 3.620MHz for the Pot Lid Net. As I was doing that we received a drop-in visit from Russ VE3LOW. Thanks for dropping by Russ!! I almost missed the call for QNI on the Pot Lid Net… got there in the nick of time. As always, a fun net to check in to and a good opportunity to offer congratulations to VA2BBW on his recent Worked All States achievement!
Transition to 40m
After the net I had a quick chat with pioneer and luminary George Roach VE3BNO who lives very close by the canal. George was RST 559 with my antenna unplugged Then I received a call from Ante VA2BBW and we coordinated a change of frequency to the 40m band, I was curious to see how well Ante would hear my signal on 40m. It should have been stronger on that band (where the antenna is closer to a quarter-wave) and indeed that was the case.
Calling CQ for C.IS.A
C.IS.A. stands for the Canadian Islands Award. This program, administered by the Maple Leaf Radio Society, encourages island activity and island hunting in Canada and helps to stimulate operating activity around the world on the shortwave amateur radio bands. When an island is activated for the first time, the operator should make a minimum of twenty-five contacts with amateur radio stations in two countries before a new number can officially be used. That was my planned objective for the afternoon.
The C.IS.A guidelines also say:
02. Atlas maps, federal maps, provincial maps, territorial maps, road maps, navigation maps, topographical maps, and locally produced maps (even for commercial interests, which clearly show colloquially accepted names) will be acceptable for the identification of islands.
Happily, I was able to locate a locally produced map for commercial interest which shows the name ‘Pig Island’, it is here:
It is an island in the Rideau Canal in Ottawa which becomes the Rideau Canal Skateway.
The Rideau Canal Skateway holds the Guinness World Record as the world’s largest Heritage Site and the World’s Largest (no longer Longest) skating rink.
Bob was getting cold, there was a brutal wind chill (-18ºC, 0ºF) and Bob was a little more exposed to it than I was, so he chose (wisely) to pack it in for the day after the local nets. It’s got to be fun, first & foremost. So I decided to switch over to my own callsign VA3SIE and put some CQ calls out there but I had pretty much decided that Pig Island would have to be attempted another time for C.IS.A. Not a bad thing either because we didn’t have enough time to get the word out to C.IS.A chasers around the world.
I started out on 40m calling CQ and I spotted myself on qrpspots.com using twitter via my cell phone’s SMS function. I received a call from Chet K1IQI in Monson, MA. Then I saw the Bearglot WA8REI in Sunny Michigan spotting himself on qrpspots.com using 700 milliwatts. Ken is very active in the Polar Bear QRP club. Ken’s QRPp signal was very strong into Pig Island and we had a good chat.
Guy N7UN called me on Ken’s frequency so we coordinated a frequency change and then we bumped into Jim W1PID as I secured my antenna mast as it had blown over a bit. Both Guy and Ken are adventure radio enthusiasts and are often out portable themselves so these were extremely enjoyable QSOs!!
I received a visit from Ying VA3YH who was out skating with his kids. Ying was kind enough to take some photos of me which have been used in the video presentation. It was great to see you Ying!!
Following those QSOs, I logged contacts with W8KJ, K9UT and W8KYD. Conditions were deteriorating on 40m and had to keep those QSOs shorter than I would have liked so I tore down my loaded wire and replaced it with a simple 28 foot wire. The KX1 ATU can match this wire on 40m, 30m and 20m.
I called CQ on 20m for around 30 minutes with no takers. Then an RTTY station started up right on 14.061MHz – what happened to ‘Is this frequency in use?’. Maybe there was an RTTY contest on.
Finally my phone beeped, K6JSS/1 had been spotted on 40m. Ed Hare W1RFI, the ARRL’s laboratory manager was operating the QRP Amateur Radio Club International‘s club callsign to commemorate a special event – the Golden Jubilee 50th anniversary of the club. So I slid back down to 40m and completed a QRP Special Event ↔ QRP Special Event contact with Ed. Great fun!!
Fariba arrived as I was chatting with Ed and helped me pack up.
It was *GREAT* fun and I will return to Pig Island again. I will post a notice ahead of time so that C.IS.A chasers can find us internationally and plan to stay longer on the island to complete the required 25 QSOs.
Many thanks to Bob VA3QV for inviting me along.