Summer Camping at Papoose Pond

A New Summer Camping Tradition

Every year (for me it’s 4-5 years, but for my XYL it’s about 33 years) in July, my XYL and I go camping for a week at Papoose Pond in North Waterford, Maine. It’s not the camping I’m used to from my younger, more ruggedly handsome days. Some will, in fact, call it a shade of glamping. For those of you who aren’t hip, that stands for glamorous camping. You will not have the opportunity to don your newest compact North Face tent or showcase your portable propane stove. Instead, you’ll find families with RV’s, large tents housing inflatable mattresses, a spigot, electrical outlet, and pretty much whatever other comforts of home that you wish to lug up with you. It’s family camping at a family campground. There are activities galore, especially for kids. So why not indulge, and bring a radio?

I have wanted to try out a Buddipole for a long while now. As I don’t own one, I asked Fred AB1OC and Anita AB1QB if I could borrow theirs. After explaining I wanted to work 40 and 20m, they hooked me up with the proper accouterments, a copy of Scott Anderson’s NE1RD book, and well-wishes for a fun trip.

The plan was simple. Bring up an IC-7300, Buddipole, analyzer, power supply (since I would have electricity), and a paper log book that my XYL got me for Xmas this past year. She started laughing when I told her the plan and was excited for me to have some fun and make some QSOs.

The Buddipole went up lickety-split fast. In fact, here is one artistic (if I do say so myself) photo of it deployed in the field.

Deployed Buddipole
Deployed Buddipole

It looks pretty sick being on the water with my neon green kayaks lingering in the picturesque background, eh?

Cue the antenna analyzer. I started out trying to work 40m and my SWR…well…it sucked. There really is no better way of saying it. And it kept getting worse no matter what I tried. I know that Scott’s book was dropping knowledge bombs on me, but it wasn’t coming together for me. (Clarification: It is no fault of Scott’s, but of the author of this post) At many points, the analyzer was saturated at 10:1. If the analyzer could have spoken, I imagined it would choose to sound like a snarky Brit, politely but decidedly insulting my intelligence. AB1ZO’s patience was running thin.

And then…I literally hear someone say “knock, knock” and a fellow I did not recognize emerged on my camp site. He said to me, “Hey, I’m Mike, NU1H” and mentioned he saw me setting up the Buddipole from the beach and it was like a beacon (perhaps more like a siren’s sweet, sweet call), beckoning him over to my location. He brought a 7300 and Buddipole too, which he just set up over at his site a few hours earlier and wanted to give me a hand! Alleluia, Sweet Jesus, Amen — I found religion for a moment.

Mike worked with me for what I think was close to two hours giving me lots of helpful tips and showing me checks I could perform to make sure I had everything tuned up properly. (He must have had the magic touch because his very presence lessened the SWR on 40/20 m to under 1.5:1.) For instance, he recommended that to ensure I found the right tap point on the coils, get the rig powered up and centered on a loud station. Then, one-by-one, change the tap point to see what happens to the quality of the sound. If you hear it rise and then fall, then you know you passed the sweet-spot.

We exchanged stories about our HAM adventures, the equipment we purchased (some pics below), and I told him about the Nashua ARC and my own station at my QTH. We just had a great time.

Recommended LDG Antenna Tuner; ad in June issue of QST
Recommended LDG Antenna Tuner; ad in June issue of QST
Alternative to guying Buddipole; Mike (NU1H) uses an angle clamp hammered into the ground with some U-bolts attached to the base.
An alternative to guying Buddipole; Mike (NU1H) uses an angle clamp hammered into the ground with some U-bolts attached to the base.
Mike (NU1H) has handles for his 7300 which makes travel much easier, and conveniently fits into his pelican case.
Mike (NU1H) has handles for his 7300 which makes travel much easier, and conveniently fits into his Pelican case.

Finally, once everything was up and running, I snapped a quick pic of my portable station.

Portable station at the camp site
Portable station at the camp site

During my camping trip, in between kayaking, catching up on some reading, and honestly — being able to take a nap at 1 pm, I made 3 QSOs. I was in a bit of a valley and when I did receive a few signal reports, they informed me that my signal was a bit weak. That coupled to the QRN due to thunderstorms on the horizon, I’m not too surprised I wasn’t getting picked out of the noise.

Some people would call my QSO count a fail. I don’t. It was the experience. I was able to make a new friend and learn a ton of things. Indeed, a very valuable lesson is that I will be doing this again the next year — and the next, and the next…

Brian, AB1ZO

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