QRP by the Bay is a twice-yearly afternoon of QRP portable operating and eyeball QSOing at Victory Park on Chelsea Beach, Melbourne. The location has been made famous in QRP circles as the beach locale for many of Peter VK3YE’s Aussie beach-themed videos. The banner image on Peter’s YouTube channel is of the Chelsea pier a few hundred meters further down the beach. Peter has become a visible ambassador for minimal QRP, pedestrian mobile operating, wade-tennas and the gentleman’s art of making sophisticated amateur radios work with ridiculously few parts. He founded and hosts Melbourne QRP by the Bay and it was with some expectation that I attended my first meet-up last Saturday.
The event is billed as ‘for those who like homebrew portable radio equipment, outdoors transmitting and QRP operating’. The venue is a hundred meters from the Chelsea Surf Life Saving Club (somewhat ironic name, I did not notice much surf on Port Philip Bay on the day) and is a foreshore recreation area with a large roofed picnic tables, toilets, electric BBQs and neat landscaping. The bay is visible down the sandy access path. About 20 amateurs and friends attended, some bringing QRP projects, as well as Peter’s FT817 and Jose VK3UYS’ KX-3.
Anthony VK3JIA turned up with two boxes from the Frankston And Peninsula Radio Club stores, a box of what looked like consumer electronics oddments, and more interestingly, a box of valves, inviting us to lucky-dip for a bottle or two. I was sorely tempted by some Philips transmitting tubes but even entertaining the thought of QRO seemed somehow sacrilegious on this day at this place.
Peter and I both hoisted our squid poles, Peter’s flying a hastily marked-up QRP by the Bay flag. From a short distance away it must have looked like a piece of the Sea Shepherd had washed up on Chelsea foreshore. A SOTAbeam linked dipole went up nearby, as well as several 2-meter antennas. On air, we worked VK3ER in the VHF/UHF field day on 2 meters SSB, while 40 and 20 meter QSOs were monitored all along the picnic tables. The face to face and on-air chatter made for a festive field day atmosphere.
Earlier at home I had carefully picked up my TCF transceiver project (above) from the shack bench, a jumble of clip leads and wires all ready to pick up stray RF and hum, and lowered it into a large shoe box for the trip. Once there, I fired it up. After nearly blowing up each other’s NE602’s, Peter and I both wound back the gain, Peter donned headphones on his MDT, and we had a brief QSO — the first on my TCF. Our antennas were about 5 meters apart. Someone in the background was heard to say ‘is that what you call short path?’.
QRP by the Bay was a fun afternoon and is recommended for anyone who wants to poke around in other people’s low power radios and portable antennas, in a delightful setting by the bay. Attendees included Peter VK3YPG, Dave VK3ASE, Phil VK3BAL (with his lo-fi SDR prototype board), Nigel VK3DZ, Anthony VK3JIA, Lee VK3GK, Josh VK3FJOS, Mark VK3BES, Peter VK3APZ, Paul VK3DBP, and Ian VK???. Apologies if I’ve missed anyone — drop me a comment below. Thanks to Peter for organising and promoting this ongoing series of meet-ups. The next one is likely to be in February 2016. Watch the facebook page for details.