We had tremendous fun this weekend as usual at Manyane campground in the Pilanesberg National Park. I took my homebrew rig (still on a piece of particle board) on it's first field trip. I deployed my EFHW up in a tree about 6 meters. This was not without incident. I managed to get the antenna well enough over a tree that was a bit close to the operating position. I then tangled the launch rope in another tree in a vain attempt to get the end of the wire up higher. The result was I had to break the wire in order to get it down from the tree. The lesson learnt here is that the knot where the wire joins the rope needs to be smaller so that it can slide through branch forks easier.
I tried to make contact with om Daryl ZS6DLL in Centurion for his first CW QSO but unfortunately conditions were not good and Daryl also had some local QRM to deal with so no QSO was confirmed. I then checked into the AWA net at 2pm which was being run by John ZS6JBJ in Witbank. John gave me a 559 report. Dave ZS6AZP also checked in and gave me a 559 from Centurion area. I also copied Dave 559. John ZS5JON in the Durban area was unable to copy my 1.44watt signal although I could copy him about a 449. Conditions were definitely worse than usual for sure. It is also clear the 1.4 watts is not really enough power for net work.
I was able to enjoy a good QSO with om Monk about an hour before the AWA net and he gave me a 589 with the signal strength increasing. I also QSOd with om Mo ZS5BBW at about 5pm who gave me a 589. I concluded that band condx were unusual and that the band was very long. DX could clearly be heard.
On Sunday morning I was QRV in the rain, having had a tremendous thunderstorm the night before and a dramatic drop in temperature. By Sunday morning it was drizzling. I moved the rig onto the verandah with a resultant dog's leg in the antenna wire. I was unable to load the antenna properly. When I touched the rig there was a noticeable effect on the antenna performance. I was also unable to dim the SWR LED completely. I am not sure if this was due to a wet wire or the bent antenna wire. Nevertheless I could clearly hear the ZS0BOT beacon and also DX coming through from W Land.
My first field trial of the rig was a success. The rig performed according to expectation with the semi-break-in keying being a pleasure. I noticed some drift on warm up of the Rx and also some tweaking was needed as the temperature changes in the outdoor environment caused some small changes but entirely manageable.