This year I decided to rent some accommodation in a rural area for a portable operation, away from the urban QRN and with some space to erect proper antennas. I booked a property at Hoddles Creek, about an hour’s drive east of Melbourne. The QTH is on a hill about 475m ASL and has a low angle to the horizon (less than 3 degrees) in all directions. Most importantly, it has some tall trees about 50m distance from the accommodation that can be used to support wire antennas.
I nearly had to abandon the operation due to wild bush fires that had been burning out of control in an area about 5 km south of the QTH. There was a risk the QTH would have to be evacuated if the fires flared up again and there was a wind change from the south. Fortunately, this did not happen, and I only had to contend with some rather smoky air 😊
My original plan was to erect a quarter wave vertical with two elevated radials for 80M, and a pair of orthogonal multi-band dipole antennas for the higher bands. Unfortunately, I ran out of time on the Saturday afternoon to complete this plan and ended up having to make do with a single multiband dipole at the start of the contest. However, I did take a break during the slower hours on Sunday afternoon to install the 80M vertical, and also haul up the dipole a little higher to an overall height of around 20m AGL.
The absence of manmade QRN was amazing. Compared to my city QTH, there was up to a 30 dB reduction in background noise on 80M and 40M. It was so quiet that I initially thought there had to be a fault in the antenna or receiver! I had not heard the bands this quiet since the days of operating at the rural ZL6QH super-station. Of course, the downside of having such a low level of background noise is that many stations were Q5 copy with me but I could not even raise a ‘QRZ?’ from them.
I was reasonably happy with the transmit performance of the antennas, but the 80M vertical and higher dipole definitely made a noticeable improvement on the Sunday evening.
I thought conditions on 40M were pretty good. 80M was hard work due to the severe lightning QRN from nearby storms. 20M was patchy with no sign of the usual LP opening to UK on Sunday afternoon. I only worked two stations on 15M (VK6LW and VK3YE). I could hear John VK4CT on 15M but he was not hearing me. Nothing was heard on 10M.
I ended up making a total of 209 valid QSOs and a raw score of 3,605 points. This is a significant improvement over the 109 QSOs and score of 2,195 points that I achieved in the 2018 contest from our city QTH. The extra effort of setting up a portable station in a rural area seems to have paid off so I’ll probably do something similar again next year.
Here is the breakdown of the score:
Band QSOs Points
80M 44 935
40M 111 1660
20M 48 985
15M 2 25
10M 0 0
Total 205 3605
Category: Restricted – Single Operator Unassisted
Operating time: 20 hours
Radio: Flex-6300 100W + WriteLog
Antennas: Saturday night – dipole @ 15mh, Sunday night – dipole @ 20mh + 80M ¼ wave vertical
Thanks again to everyone for the QSOs, and especially those who activated the VK HQ stations!
73, Brian VK3MI