QRP By The Bay was held again at Chelsea Beach on Saturday 2nd November 2019. A crowd of QRP, homebrew enthusiasts, and amateur radio knockabouts gathered on a wet and windy day, some with show-and-tell items, some obviously shy of bringing a full scale portable station on account of what the unpredictable weather might do.
This event has been running long enough now to not shrink from a bit of weather. But the forecast had been fairly dire, and a lot of rain had fallen in the preceding 24 hours. I set out wearing waterproof gear top to bottom as if I were about to spend a week hitchhiking the length of the Wild West Atlantic Coast of Ireland, but the rain became spots, then the grey-ness lifted, and it progressively cleared to a not unpleasant afternoon/ evening, in typical Melbourne Spring fashion.
There’s no structure to this event, people come, chat, some set up rigs, squid poles, multiple radios can be heard at any time. We wander from conversation to conversation, and the conversations wander moreso.
Peter Parker walks off down the RF drenched sands of Chelsea Beach with a flea power 1970s vintage 27MHz handheld CB in hand, testing its range. No wade-tenna today, the inclement weather has put a damper on plans for over-water operations.
I set up Summit Prowler IV (homebrew QRP SSB/CW rig) and my SOTA linked dipole, and 40 meter east coast voices roll in. People gather around, they look, say admiring comments and wonder how many hours might have been spent in its construction. I tell them I don’t count hours. I do it as a craft. I do it to do it – radio making. It’s my knitting, my Sudoku.
As I wander around the groups I can’t help noticing that there’s a particularly high quality of reminiscing going on today. Maybe it’s the rain, it brings the reflective side of people out. More likely, a few good story tellers have arrived, and they are enjoying each other’s company and a willing audience.
Someone mentions the closing of a local electronics store after 40 years (Truscotts). That causes us to reminisce about the days when our city had a dozen such treasure troves. That then gets us onto the first transistors we bought as kids. OC71s, AF117s. When did the MPF102 arrive to our Antipodeian shores?
Another group is reminiscing about the best solar maxima of our lifetimes. I claim 1979 as the gold star year. One of our group tells a story. In that year he listened to a convoy of US truckers as they drove on the I5 California. As he followed their banter various ones would announce they were peeling off on a particular town or region. ‘Hey good buddy, we’re off to Fresno, watch out for ’em Bears…’. My friend went and got an Atlas and found the California page, locating the truckers against their landmarks. This went on for an hour. The fact that the story-teller was in a small regional town out of Sydney, with a short CB whip mounted on the house gutter, made the point powerfully — 1979, a good year for the ionosphere.
I photographed a few fine homebrew projects, as these are always a highlight for me.
Thanks to Peter Parker VK3YE for anchoring and promoting this continuing series of meetups. Long live QRP and the spirit of doing things the simplest of ways. And may the memories grow sweeter with each meet-up.