You would think I might have learned from experience. Never rush out to do a POTA activation without first checking that all the necessary parts of my portable kit are packed.
The last time I made this mistake it was the power cable that was missing. This time I arrived on site without an antenna!
My local library has Ontario Parks day passes that can be borrowed at no charge. I had just picked mine up and was excited to get out and use it.
It was about a 45-minute drive from home to Craigleith Provincial Park on the south shore of Georgian Bay. Shortly after arriving I unpacked my radio, battery, CW paddle and earbud phones. I grabbed the modified aluminum ski pole that I use to support my portable vertical antenna and drove it into the hard ground with a rock that was lying nearby.
Then, suddenly, I had one of those “oh no!” moments when I reached for the antenna and realized I had left it at home!
“What the heck am I going to do now?” I thought. My first reaction was to shrug my shoulders and forget about the activation. But then I thought, “what would MacGyver do in this situation?”
My mind was processing all kinds of ideas for saving the day. None seemed practical until I remembered the 33ft counterpoise wire in my pack. “Hey, maybe I could make a dipole”. But I had no means for connecting a dipole to my coax feedline.
I used to know a guy who claimed to be a purveyor of the hardest organ in your body – he was a dentist. I am sure he would not have approved of the way I stripped the insulation off my Macgyver-inspired dipole after I cut that 33ft wire in half.
Next problem: how to connect the two wires to the coax. One wire had a big alligator clip on one end that I clipped to the coax shield. The other wire was wrapped around the centre pin of the PL-259 plug on the coax.
The centre of the dipole was only about 4ft above ground. I threw the ends of the wires into nearby trees but they were only 8 to 10 feet above ground. There was no way I was going to be heard with an antenna like this!
Well I was wrong! I keyed up and saw the SWR was less than 1.5:1 and felt a surge of hope. After self-spotting on the POTA website I started calling CQ. The responses came thick and fast. I logged stations from the US west and several in Texas and Florida.
Then, with mild astonishment I logged a station in Sweden, followed shortly afterwards by another station in Belgium!
So, the moral of the story is never give up and never underestimate a simple makeshift antenna. Use whatever you have and think positive!
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