Savannah – After work on Saturday morning, I drove to Savannah and headed out to the Fort Pulaski National Monument to attend a National Parks on the Air (NPOTA) activation by the Coastal Amateur Radio Society (CARS). I haven’t been to a CARS event (or an amateur radio event for that matter) so it was good to see the guys from CARS for a few hours, hear a few NPOTA runs, and catch up on what’s been going on. Bill, K4WP was heading up the operation and we used his callsign for the event. Before we got on the air, Melissa Memory, Fort Pulaski’s Superintendent dropped by and talked with us; it was great to see we had good support and a warm welcome from the monument staff!
For those unaware, NPOTA is a year long event coordinated by the ARRL to help recognize the National Park Service‘s 100th Anniversary. The primary objectives are to promote the National Park Service and showcase Amateur Radio to park visitors, but the ARRL has also issued a set of regulations to organize the event and give it a contest aspect.
When I arrived around 0915, Bill and a few others had already set up the antenna and were in the process of setting up the radio. The antenna was a Spiderbeam NPOTA Activation Kit consisting of a 69ft asymmetrical dipole for 6-40 Meters, a 40 ft fiberglass pole, and the necessary hardware, guy rope, and pegs. It’s essentially everything you need to set up a portable antenna for an NPOTA activation. It sells through Spiderbeam for $269 and based on it’s performance it was well worth it. The radio in use was Bill’s Elecraft K3 with an LDG Z-11 tuner in a homemade go-kit box. There was rain and storms in the area through the previous night with the possibility of some showers during the day, so the station was set up under the park’s picnic shelter so the shelter’s commercial power was used instead of battery power.
By shortly after 0930, the activation was on the air on 40 Meters with a moderate level of success. As I mentioned above, there were storms that had moved through the area overnight and they were still offshore when we got on the air. There were some strong signals on 40 Meters but the problem was that the lightning/static crashes from the storms were stronger; Bill, K4WP was operating and even with his experience it was quite hard at times to pull out callsigns and information, even when asking for multiple repeats. After a short run, it was determined that 40 Meters was simply untenable. Since 40 Meters was being difficult we moved to 20 Meters. Kevin, KW4B almost immediately put on about an hour run including stations in Montana and California (not bad for around 1030 in the morning!) and a DX contact to Spain. Underneath the photos below of Bill, Kevin, and Bob, N5GNA operating are some short videos of QSOs that I posted to Instagram during the activation. I also posted our active frequencies on Twitter while I was there. Some spots also helped draw attention to the operation.
After working the midnight shift, I wasn’t able to stay for the entire activation but I enjoyed the portion I was there for. As I was leaving, they were getting ready to set up a CW station augment’s Bill’s SSB station. It also looked like a shower was brewing up but later in the afternoon conditions definitely improved. I truly enjoyed my morning at the Fort Pulaski activation and look forward to being involved in more before the year is over. Unfortunately, my FT-857D is at Yaesu for repairs so I wasn’t able to make a contact with the activation but I’m looking forward to getting it back so I can put some NPOTA QSOs in my log.