SOTA – Christmas Eve operating in the Rain

24 December 2014 Mt Stromlo VK1/AC-043.  Checked SOTAWatch to find Compton VK2HRX had posted an alert for VK7/NE-001 Legges Tor a 10 point summit in Tasmania’s north-east with an activation time at 2330 UTC (10:30 am local).

Chasing VK7 summits from my home QTH has proven to be difficult due to the level of local RF noise (QRM).  To have any chance of working Compton on a new unique VK7 peak, the best option is to operate from a local peak with a low noise floor.  I decided to head up to Mt Stromlo however the local weather forecast is for some rain. I will take a chance it wont rain, if it does I need some means of keeping the radio dry whilst still having access to the radio front panel.  I have a canvas tool bag I purchased some years ago from a supplier in W.A.   The bag has ample room for the FT-817 and microphone, Auto-tuner, batteries and a log book.  I have used the bag before for short-walk or lightweight SOTA activations.  😉

Before leaving home I checked the Wx radar, all clear or so I thought.  15 minutes later I arrived at the site of the former Mt Stromlo Observatory destroyed in the 2003 firestorm, to find the cloud base descending and a little rain. A little rain won’t hurt, push-on to the operating position known locally as the ‘North-Hump’.

Mt Stromlo Observatory in cloud

view from the north hump – Mt Stromlo Observatory in cloud and light misty rain

Set up the SOTA station inside the canvas bag, on air by 2330 UTC listening for Compton VK2HRX on 40m 7.090 MHz.

VK1NAM SOTA station - FT-817

VK1NAM SOTA station on Mt Stromlo – inside the bag left to right, spare 3S LiPo 2.2 Ah battery, Log Book, Auto-tuner, FT817, radio stand, microphone and battery.  The camera case is in the rear left corner.

Intermittent periods of light rain falling

canvas tool bag protecting the radio gear

Canvas ‘Tusker’ tool bag protecting the radio gear.  The bag also provides shade on a hot day, preventing the black radio case from over heating.

After setting up the station the misty rain eased off for 30 minutes or so, I posted a spot using RRT for 7.095 MHz in that time I worked Peter VK3PF/P S2S on VK3/VE-241 unnamed, Andrew VK2UH, Peter VK3FPSR, Fred VK3DAC, Col VK3LED, Gerard VK2IO, Ian VK3TXC/M, Ron VK3AFW/M, Cliff VK3CCJ, Garry VK2GAZ, John VK2YW in Wagga Wagga a difficult contact with deep QSB, Greg VK3EXA, Bernard VK3AV and Matt VK1MA/3 operating portable in the Chilton-Mount Pilot National Park (VKFF-620) near Wodonga.

operating site at Mt Stromlo north hump.  Antenna is a 5 metre centre loaded vertical over a 4 wire ground plane

operating position at Mt Stromlo north hump. Antenna is a home-brew 5 metre center loaded vertical over a 4 wire ground plane.


Raining on Mt Stromlo and I’m wet.   Good news the radio gear is dry

At UTC day change rain started falling, this time it was proper rain although not cold.  😦    Should I wait for Compton or pack up?  I decided to stay and work post UTC chasers Lee VK2LEE, Gerard VK2IO and Peter VK3PF a second time for 6 S2S points.  Not knowing if Compton was on the VK7 peak, I sent him a SMS, he replied ‘5 minutes 7.090’.  Moved to 7.090 MHz to find Peter VK3PF working the last of the chaser group.  A few minutes later Compton called S2S from VK7/NE-001 Legges Tor to join the group with a 5-1 signal report.  Very happy with the SOTA chase and although I was well and truly wet, I know I wouldn’t have received Compton’s radio signal at my QTH.  A new unique peak from Tassie and 22 points for the S2S log.  The sacrifices…. thanks Compton for a new unique.  🙂

tool bag closed with the radio on

tool bag closed, radio on and audio volume up loud waiting for Compton to activate.  The microphone is dry inside the bag.



3 thoughts on “SOTA – Christmas Eve operating in the Rain

  1. I have to go to a peak to get a low noise level too! My home QTH is S5/6 noise except on the higher bands like 15m and up, sometimes they get noisy too.

  2. Been thinking about the rain protection problem too after having to pack up earlier than planned at Mt Livingstone. If you turned that flap upside down and propped up the flap, would that protect your log book as well as the radio? The other item to protect would be the microphone. I wonder how much audio would be reduced by putting the mike in a plastic bag? only a test will provide the answer…

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