The Hoot Owl Sprint sponsored by the QRP-ARCI requires one to operate from 2000-2359 local time. The objective (?) is to test our ability to operate QRP Portable in the night hours, portable if possible. I chose a secret location with TALL pine trees next to an alligator occupied lake in the SE suburbs of Orlando for my site. Knowing the place is prone to giant mosquitos, I planned to use my screen house enclosure. Weather was HOT and WINDY with gusts of over 25mph so that killed option to hide from the critters inside my screen house. SHUCKS. But, the good news was the wind also blew the mosquitos out of the air so I settled in for operating from my portable table in the middle of the tall trees.
Wind did blow Ole’ Murphy in and added a couple hours to getting my 88 ft doublet up into the pines as my 1 oz sinkers hung in mid-air. The tension on the line with all that wind equaled the weight of the sinker and once it got up over the 60 ft limb it merely hung in space and didn’t descend no matter how many things I tried. Very frustrating! Eventually my Scottish and Irish nature won out over nature and I settled for a 45 ft high perch for my antenna in a slight horizontal vee config favoring NNW direction. From FL this is not a bad direction to point as it covers the better part of the USA! So with my jeans and a light jacket to break the wind, I began my contest effort, missing the first hour due to delay in getting the antenna up, so it was really dark by the time I made my first contact which was my good friend and fellow Polar Bear QRP group member the Hill Billy Bear, AF4O in Tennessee.
What a mess, I had just turned the rig on and had not even setup my BLT+ tuner but heard a quick CQ from AF4O and wanted to make the contact. I didn’t notice until afterwards that I was still in SWR position and not in operate, so the contact I made with him was thru the LED SWR Bridge which must have reduced my 2+ watt output to the lowish milliwatt range. How’s that for QRPp? Amazing that we even connected and my keying was so poor as the wind was blowing so hard the tuner was getting airborne during our brief exchange! Finally settled down and taped it to the table for the rest of the evening. Thanks for hanging in there with me Chuck! Operating in a strange place, in the middle of nowhere in the dark was a bit unsettling I was to learn.
The night effort was fun and I got to work several Polar Bear friends, Larry W2LJ, Hank WQ8RP using his club call, and Martin VA3SIE/VE2/P (what fun to send that call each time, eh?) Sure worth the effort to get out and experience the wierd band conditions. 20m was open until midnite but was pipelining to various parts of the country with STRONG sigs until it shifted to another region without much warning. It was either good or bad like that all evening but much more reliable than 40m here in the FL area.
The lesson of the night was an itchy one. I was well covered from potential mosquitos and the wind was in my favor. BUT, they found my Achilles heel (or should I say Achilles HEAD?) They managed to bite my head without my noticing in the upside down U-shaped area where the cap adjuster is in the back. I am sporting about a dozen (almost the same as my 3 hr QSO total of 13) bites that itch like crazy in that small area that was not well covered by clothing or insect repellent. So next time I go out contesting in the night, I’ll be prepared… Look out, I’m ready for ya skeeters. Grrrrrrrr!