Going Pontoon Portable “APE”

( Link to 2016 )

SERC member Stan Robinson (W9SMR/9) and “up-North” pal Bob Billingsley (KC9UR) “went APE” for the annual Penn-Ohio DX Society (PODXS070) August PSK31 Expedition (APE). The purposes of the APE are to “encourage PSK31 operations in the field and to research and gain practical experience in the portable capabilities of the PSK31 mode”. Our personal goals were to generate excitement and enthusiasm for PSK31 operation, to work as many “070ers” as possible, and to have lots of fun in the process.

We set up two stations on Stan’s pontoon boat on Round Lake in northeast Indiana, and operated two evenings and two days (i.e. from Monday (8/24) evening through Wednesday (8/26) afternoon). To encourage participation, we offered a custom QSL card plus a custom certificate to everyone who worked us on 3 or more bands. The tactic worked, because this year a record 18 operators became certified “APE Hunters”, (8 working us on 3 bands, 7 working us on 4 bands, 1 working us on 5 bands, and 2 working us on 6 bands!).

2015 APE Bob Ans Stan

Bob (KC9UR – left) and Stan (W9SMR/9) inside the pontoon boat shack. The dark plastic shields the sun and protects the equipment in case of rain. The bananas were sustenance for the “APES”.


Map of 2015 KC9UR Pontoon Portable APE Contacts (map by K2DSL web application at www.levinecentral.com/adif2map/)

Other than being unusually cool for late August (i.e. sweatshirt and jacket weather) and a few light showers, weather was not an issue this year (unlike last year when we were chased off the boat several times by thunder storms). Contact-wise, it was a record-setting year, working 222 QSOs in 32 states and 18 countries. The best DX was E50B on South Cook Island on 20 meters (late at night when the band is often closed). We also recorded what we believe to be the first APE 6 meter contact (with N4GBK) during a rare August sporadic-E opening on Tuesday. Adding to the excitement were multiple contacts with fellow APEs Red and Milt (W6QP and N6MG). With the exception of 12 meters, we had QSOs on all bands between 80M – 6M (we called CQ and monitored 12M numerous times, but heard nothing). Solar propagation numbers (i.e. solar flux, SSN, A, and K indices)for Monday and Tuesday were similar to those we had the past two years, however we worked significantly fewer Europeans and significantly more short hop US stations this year. I don’t know whether it was propagation, our antennas, or whether there are just fewer active European PSK31 operators. A solar storm occurred Wednesday (K index = 4), so contacts were few and far between that day.

Kudos go to all 18 certificate winners. Working us on three (3) bands were KA5VZG (20, 30, 40M), KD0FIP (20, 30, 40M), KK4CPS (20, 30, 40M), W0QFW (20, 40, 80M), W6QP (20, 30, 40M), WA4MIT (20, 30, 40M), WA5AMM (30, 40, 80M), and WB3IGR (10, 30, 40M). Working us on four (4) bands were KE4JB (20, 30, 40, 80M), N2RDX (17, 20, 30, 40M), N7WE (17, 20, 30, 40M), NU4C (17, 20, 30, 40M), W2DEN (15, 20, 30, 40M), W3WMU (20, 30, 40, 80M), KB9WHV (15, 20, 40, 80M). Special recognition goes to KD4JS who worked us on five (5) bands (17, 20, 30, 40, 80M) and extra special recognition goes to two (2) who worked us on 6 bands: N4GBK (6, 17, 20, 30, 40, 80M) and WB4MNK (10, 15, 17, 20, 30, 40M)! Finally, an “APE Hunter Special Salute” goes to Jeff Walsh, W3WMU, for earning a certificate three years in a row!   Great job all – your certificates will arrive soon!

Honorable mention goes to sixteen (16) who worked us on two (2) bands: AA4SB (30, 40M), AC0QG (20, 40M), AC9BA (40, 80M), EB3JT (20, 30M), K1CGI (20, 40M), K8TOM (17, 20M), KA1PPV (20, 40M), KC4OBB (20, 40M), KF9KV (40, 80M), KK3AM (15, 20M), KP4DQC (15, 17M), N2MLP (40, 80M), W0PE (20, 30M), W3HF/0 (20, 40M), W5FER (20, 40M), and WS4WW (20, 30M).


The Pontoon Portable shack with the 6m antenna in the foreground and the “Swamp Monster” 31 ft. kayak-mounted vertical in the background.

For those interested in a bit of the technical details, here’s the info:

  • Rigs: Two Kenwood TS-590s
  • Software: Fldigi
  • Antennas:
    • Homebrew Multi-band dipole at 25 ft (80/40/30/20/15M) – plans for next year will be to replace this with something more efficient on the lower bands (particularly 80M).
    • Homebrew 6M Double-Bay antenna at 20 ft.
    • Homebrew kayak-mounted “Swamp Monster” 31 ft. vertical (80 – 15M)
    • Homebrew floating 20M 4-Square phased array mounted on an 8’ x 8’ swim raft; switchable NE, SE, SW or NW

KC9UR setting up the 20M Floating 4-Square swim-raft-mounted antenna

Stan and I would like to thank everyone, especially the SERC members and Floridians, who took time from their busy schedules to work us! For the second year, Den, W2DEN, worked us on 4 bands. This year, Net, N2RDX, joined in the fun with a 4 band effort. We thoroughly enjoyed the “APE” experience and would encourage anyone who is considering an “APE” for next year to go for it! Information on the PODXS070 club can be found at www.podxs070.com.