Forget clam bakes — it’s a NE SOTA party!

The view from Putney Mountain in Vermont, with Stratton Mountain on the horizon to the northwest.

The view from the summit of Putney Mountain, our operating site for New England’s SOTA Day. Stratton Mountain sits on the distant horizon to the northwest.

NE stands for New England, SOTA for Summits on the Air, and it all began with Nick Maslin, K1MAZ, a 22-year-old student and SOTA Jerk who apparently has nothing better to do during the summer than organize mass assaults on New England summits.

This particular assault, set for Aug. 10, 2013, would be code-named New England SOTA Day. Stormin’ Norman Schwarzkopf,  heck, maybe even Old Blood and Guts Patton himself, would have been proud!

I first read of the impending assault Aug. 2. A friend and newly minted ham, Charles Piso, N1CAI, earlier had asked about teaming up sometime for a summit “activation,” as operating from a moutaintop is known in SOTA-speak. Charles knows Vermont well. So this seemed to be the time to go for it.

We picked Putney Mountain as our site. It’s modest by any measure — especially SOTA’s. At 513 meters above sea level, it is worth one point for activators like Charles and me or for the ops who “chased” us. By the way, that’s on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the SOTA equivalent to the nosebleed seats at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.

The morning of the assault, I left my home in Franklin, MA, for a drive that — after the requisite stops at the bank, Dunkin’ Donuts, plus encounters with slow weekend traffic outbound on the Massachusetts Turnpike — put me in Putney a little after 10 a.m.

Charles, who came south to rendezvous at the Putney Food Co-op, was waiting as I pulled up.  Not long after, we were at the trailhead for the short hike to the summit.

Sir Charles, N1CAI, ready for the stroll to the summit.

Sir Charles, N1CAI, ready for the stroll to the summit.

One phenomenon I suspect many SOTA operators have experienced when teaming up with an activation companion: Lively conversations make any hike seem shorter than it is.

In this case, the conversation included tales related to the upcoming World Radiosport Team Championship next July in New England. Charles, who has retired from law enforcement, is serving as the liaison between the event organizers and local law enforcement agencies

In addition, we had sights to see along the way. Tiny salmon-colored salamanders were skirting across the trail, to the delight of kids who were on a scavenger hunt. Volunteers with the Putney Mountain Association Nature Reserve run the event.

Salmon is the color of my salamander's skin in the mornin' when we rise, in the mornin' when we rise...

Salmon is the color of my salamander’s skin in the mornin’ when we rise, in the mornin’ when we rise…

And who wants to miss the locally famous “Elephant Tree,” a white ash — or maybe two — more than 200 years old?

The "Elephant tree," which had locals puzzling over how it formed.

The “Elephant tree,” which had locals puzzling over how it formed.

At the summit, one of the mavens of the association sat regally in camp chair, complete with metal water bottle in the chair’s cup  holder and neatly netted gaiters to ward off ticks. She was the scavenger-hunt verifier and award patch hander-outer for youngsters who successfully completed the hunt.

Yes, this is a family friendly summit.

Of dogs and operating spots

Once on the summit, it was time to pick an operating position.

Have you ever watched a dog circle a spot, maybe a favorite sleeping pad, over and over again until you want to scream: “Hey dawg! That pad’s only three feet across. Pick a spot and set a spell!”

Well, that’s how I went about picking my operating location. I must have walked slowly back and forth across the broad, overgrown summit three or four times, pausing to consider, then reject, one spot after another.

I can’t speak for Charles, but one mother whose family was enjoying the summit noted later that she watched my meanderings and wondered what the heck I was up to.

Once the antennas started going up, it all became clear, and a small crowd gathered to ask questions about ham radio. The aforementioned association maven, whose name escapes me (sorry, ma’am), allowed that had she known we’d be there, she would have posted an item about our activation on the association website. Help me remember that for next time, Charles.

This, of course, is half the fun of an activation, especially on a heavily trafficked summit — talking to people and watching their eyes widen when they hear about ham-radio activities. This time, unfortunately, no hot young women looking at a keyer in an Altoids tin and exclaiming: “Is that electronics in an Altoids tin?? My husband would *love* that!”

At the end of the day, another family paused to chat with Charles, who had packed up. I was striking my station when I heard that one of the family members lived in Santa Monica, Calif. That brought me out of my shady spot to chat as well.  I lived in Santa Monica from 1956 to 1966, during those formative years, six to 16. It was like old-home week.

My station

My gear included my FT-817ND, a pair of 9.8 Ah lithium-ion battery packs, each about the size of a cigarette pack. I used an end-fed, half-wave antenna cut for 40 meters. It went straight up from my tuner about 20 or 30 feet, over a treetop, and out to a four-foot-high marker post about 40 or 50 feet away. The antenna had a slight slope to it. One radial went off in the other direction to round out the arrangement.

I’m working up another wire antenna, designed by a friend of mine, Carl Achin, WA1ZCQ, for the next outing, which looks to be Chowdercon in September.

My humble rock beneath the pines...or was it a maple? Oh well, I was focusing on contacts!

My humble rock beneath the pines…or was it a maple? Oh well, I was focusing on contacts! (Click on the image to enlarge it, if you dare.)

In the end, I logged 32 contacts for about three hours of on-and-off CW operation. C’mon, those rock ledges are hard; you have to get up and take a break every once in a while.

Charles ran sideband with his FT-817ND and used a handheld for 2m FM direct. These netted him enough contacts to claim his first activation.

Among my contacts: seven summit-to-summit QSOs — five among the New England operators, one in southwestern Virginia, a 10-pointer, and another in California’s northern Sierra Nevada, an eight-pointer. Sounds a bit like deer or elk hunting, doesn’t it?

Charles and I topped off the day with an early dinner at The Marina, a restaurant in Brattleboro on the West River,  where it joins the Connecticut River. All in all a delightful day.

Charles scans the menu after a hard day of operating -- those rock ledges are hard seats, they really are.

Charles scans the menu after a hard day of operating — those rock ledges are hard seats, they really are.

As for the SOTA Jerks who took part, the cast of this show also included:

NE1SJ  Yes, that’s New England 1 SOTA  Jerks, the club call, used this day by N1FJ, Frandy Johnson

KK1W, Jim Mullen

K1MAZ, Nick “the organizer” Maslon

NT1K, Jeff Ball

WN1E, Dave Cayen

KB1RMA, Chris Snyder

N1EU, Barry Gross

N1AW, Al Woodhull

And, of course, yours truly and Bro Charles, N1CAI.

Here’s a map showing the range of my contacts — from California and Oregon to Portugal and Germany. Zoom out one level for the full view.

Thanks again, Nick! The idea for a New England SOTA Day? In the immortal words of John Cleese: “Brilliant! Brilliant!”

About these ads

4 Responses to “Forget clam bakes — it’s a NE SOTA party!”

  1. Says:

    Hi Pete

    Just got this email today Tuesday August 13 2013 I think I’m 3 days later for this event….Is the date right on ur post…Bob

  2. […] Please read pete’s write up on his blog! […]

  3. Charles P Says:

    Peter what fun SOTA is great and so was your write up. sorry first post was on FOBB lets try another assault this fall before the snow flies. Charles

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 455 other followers

%d bloggers like this: