My maiden voyage for PBMME, Polar Bear Moonlight Madness Event was somewhat of a last minute decision but I had a few days to plan my operation. This was to accomplish my first QRP outing with my Icom 703Plus and also using my Buddipole. I had recently purchased my portable keyer, the Mini Paddle by Palm Radio (photographed on top of my rig). One of the things I had noticed when it arrived was that the cable from the key to the key input on the rig was only a 1/8" plug rather than the standard 1/4" plug. I did not have the time to change out the plug but I did have one adapter (currently in use and I recently ordered a few more that have yet to arrive). With that in mind, I gathered up my equipment which consisted of my radio, keyer, battery, some jumpers and my MFJ-259B. I disassembled my Buddipole which was in my garage and packaged it up in its carrying case. Today was Denali National Park's Winterfest and my wife was going to participate. I was going to find a few places in the "front country" that would give me a good path to the lower 48 and try my first /P.
In checking the temperature it was ranging from -10F to -7F. I knew this would be a challenge with feedline but I wanted to give it a shot. I grabbed my cold weather gear and off we went. I dropped my wife off at the MSLC (Murie Science and Learning Center) and then I headed up to some high ground nearby.
I found my spot and parked my truck. I first opened up my Buddipole and started to put the tripod and mast together. I assembled the rest of the antenna but I started to experience some issues with the mast that came with the Buddipole. The mast expands to roughly 8 feet using telescoping sections that you twist to tighten or loosen. This turned out to be a bit of a challenge in the cold temperatures. This would not be a problem if the mast had an easier way to tighten each section as seen in this photo from the Buddipole website. The small handles shown to the side of each section would allow a heavily gloved hand to loosen or tighten each section and to keep moisture from hands off of the telescoping sections themselves.
The standard mast below is good but this allows moisture from a warm hand or snow (as in my case) to thaw and freeze making the expanding of the mast much more challenging. I'm sure not many operate at -10F but that will be a warm day for me during our Alaskan winters when I operate next year. I ordered a different mast from Buddipole with hopes that will work a bit better.
After getting the Buddipole set up out of the wind and as high as I could get it, I went to work getting my IC-703 set up. I removed it from the carrying case along with the A123 battery. I hooked up the rig and it came to life. I hooked up the antenna from the Buddipole to the Icom. The band sounded pretty good! I was hearing QRP signals from the lower 48 on or around 14.060. I thought to myself, this is gonna be fun! It was also very quiet where I was located with very little notice of QRN.
Next I removed my key from the box and hooked the cable up to the key. As I went to hook the key into the back of my Icom, it was then that I realized I did not have my adapter!!! The rig takes a 1/4" plug and of course, my key has the 1/8". I dug deep into my case but as I feared, I totally spaced the adapter. I did not even have a microphone (I don't operate SSB very often so I did not feel the need to take it). There I was, a quiet band and hearing CW signals so I was as helpless as a fish on shore at low tide. What was a bear to do...Grrrrrrrrrrrr
After making a few comments under my breath and speaking a language only spoken from my dark side, I admitted defeat and began to tear down my equipment. I did listen for a bit longer to see what signals I could hear. Something so small and simple left me silent and unable to communicate.
The Buddipole handled well at the low temperatures and I was really impressed how flexible the mini banana plug leads remained! They were totally flexible and if only I could say the same for the coax. I had to gently collect the coax as there was no flex to it at all. I tore all down and returned to my truck. My expedition ended before it began.
My unsuccessful excursion is a reminder to check and recheck all of your equipment prior to leaving. My house was on the other side of the mountain that I was operating from so it was not worth my time to travel there and back for the adapter. But rest assured, I will either have one or more adapters in my case or I will be changing out the plug to one that's 1/4" in size.
I ventured to my office where I put a few hours behind my desk until my wife was ready to leave for home. After picking her up, I explained my failure but in the end, I found a few good places for future operations. Rest assured, you will hearing KL8DX/p in future PBMME's but this one showed my lack of portable experience. Back to the den I went for another month.