Friday, October 16, 2009

On Grike with the MFD

It has been a glorious day here in the English Lakes - clear blue sky with the occasional cloud, the temperature around a fresh 12 degrees C, ideal for walking. So I took the opportunity to try out the new Multi Function Dipole from SOTA Beams, which arrived yesterday. (My wife and I have an agreement: I will say nothing about all the shoes she buys if she will be equally circumspect about my antennas.)

I thought I would take the opportunity to do a Wainwrights On The Air (WOTA) activation at the same time. I chose Grike, a minor fell in the western Lake District, as it is a fairly short drive from home and an easy walk to the summit.

It was quite breezy on the top so I was glad that someone had built a stone shelter, though the wind was from the wrong direction and the best place was outside of it. The MFD was very quickly put together and connected to the VX-8E, and I tuned to 145.475, the frequency I had preannounced I would be using on the WOTA activations page.

I was surprised to find what seemed like interference on that frequency at about S3. Turning the dial, the S-meter reading steadily increased and I discovered that there was an enormous signal apparently centred on 145.625, the output of the Isle of Man repeater GB3GD. Wow, I thought, either the MFD is very good or the VX-8E receiver very poor to be de-sensed as much as that by a repeater on an island a few tens of miles away. Subsequently I called through GB3GD and it was not that strong, so the identity of the monster signal remains a mystery.

A call on 145.500 produced a contact with Keith, G0EMM in Workington, who complained that my signal was so strong it would be ruining his S meter if it had a needle. Keith is a WOTA chaser, so that was a good result. However, further calls on the simplex calling frequency and on all of the repeaters I could access from there, which is quite a few of them, only produced one more contact with Clive, GM4FZH, near Whithorn in south-west Scotland. Where has all the 2m activity gone?

My VX-8E APRS channel decoded several APRS packets from stations in Ireland, presumably digipeated from EI2DBP running 25W to an omnidirectional antenna, more than 200 miles distant. I also heard some Irish stations speaking on the calling frequency while I was taking a photograph, but when I put out a call they declined to come back to me.

I wasn't able to try any A/B comparisons between the MFD and the rubber duck supplied by Yaesu - perhaps another day - but the MFD certainly makes a difference. I could access the GB3LD repeater in Lancaster, to the south of the Lakes, using the MFD but not when using the duck. I also appreciated being able to sit on the ground out of the wind while having the antenna up in the clear where it could get the best signal. The MFD weighs next to nothing so even a wimp like me won't find it makes the rucksack too heavy. I think that for WOTA activations this little antenna is a real winner.
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