Flirting with Radiation at Wasaga Beach Provincial Park

The first of November 2022 was an unusually warm day in Southern Ontario so the urge to go and activate a new-to-me park was irresistible. Wasaga Beach Provincial Park (POTA entity VE-0426) is about a one hour drive from my home in Owen Sound but it’s a very pleasant drive along the south shore of Georgian Bay.

Wasaga Beach is the world’s longest freshwater beach – a 14km long spur of land between the Nottawasaga River and Georgian Bay. The Nottawasaga River runs parallel to the lake before making a sharp turn to empty into Georgian Bay.

Wasaga Beach Provincial Park is situated at the eastern end of the town between the river mouth and the fashionable Beach Area 1 which is popular with teenage sunbathers during the summer months.

The park was closed for the season on November 1st but I had checked with Ontario Parks who had confirmed that it was perfectly alright to enter the park, free-of-charge. Under POTA rules it was therefore quite okay to go ahead with an activation.

I set up just behind the sand dunes at the farthest point in the park. I was experimenting with a new kit arrangement in which my vertical antenna (an MFJ-1979 17ft telescopic whip for 20m) was directly mounted on my pack. This meant that I was sitting in the near-field radiation zone. Was I worried?

Well, I was a little concerned. I had set my power to 20 watts. Would the RF field strength 3 feet away from the base of the antenna be dangerous? I have a bachelors degree in Physics so I tend to have an analytical mind about these situations. Here is what I thought about the risk.

A vertical antenna is omnidirectional so its radiated energy is distributed over 360 degrees. For every degree the actual radiated energy is 20 divided by 360 which is 0.06 watts. Three feet away from the antenna the circumference of an imaginary circle is 2*pi*R where R=3ft. My shoulder width is about 2 feet, so I was occupying about one tenth of the circle’s circumference. Still with me?

One tenth of 360 degrees is 36 degrees so I was subjected to approximately 2 watts of RF energy. That’s less exposure than holding a 5-watt handheld transceiver to the side of the head. I figured I was safe. Of course, if I were to touch the antenna while transmitting …

Actually, the math gets more complicated when you consider the duty cycle of a CW transmission. The average power transmitted is actually even lower. But enough of the scientific gobbledegook. I survived and I had a successful activation!

Fortunately there is good cell service at Wasaga so I self-spotted on the POTA website, started calling CQ and within a few seconds was immersed in a pile-up of eager POTA hunters. Just nine minutes later I had logged the minimum 10 QSOs for a valid activation but my day was not over.

After 29 minutes I had 29 QSOs in the log. My aging fingers seem to have a will of their own, so when I get tired they carry on without me. But, my fingers don’t know Morse Code, so without my old grey noggin controlling them they send gibberish. Well that’s my excuse for making keying errors anyway. Hey, maybe it was all that RF disrupting my synapses … ?

At that point there was a pause in the pile-up so I sent QRT and switched off the radio. The cool breeze off the lake was beginning to make me feel cold. My wife had already packed up her chair and retreated to the truck. I wish I could have gone on longer but I don’t have the stamina any more – but I keep on trying.

Equipment Summary

Radio: Yaesu FT-891 running 20 watts CW

Antenna: MFJ 1979 17ft telescopic whip

Ground: 4x10ft radials laying on the leaf-covered sand

Key: Chinese dual-lever paddle (Amazon)

Battery: Bioenno 12AH LiFePO4

Backpack: World Famous #190-OD NATO Rucksack Olive

Backpack frame: DIY

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