Give a Hoot? How NOT to Avoid Mosquito Bites!!

The Hoot Owl Sprint sponsored by the QRP-ARCI requires one to operate from 2000-2359 local time. The objective (?) is to test our ability to operate QRP Portable in the night hours, portable if possible. I chose a secret location with TALL pine trees next to an alligator occupied lake in the SE suburbs of Orlando for my site. Knowing the place is prone to giant mosquitos, I planned to use my screen house enclosure. Weather was HOT and WINDY with gusts of over 25mph so that killed option to hide from the critters inside my screen house. SHUCKS.  But, the good news was the wind also blew the mosquitos out of the air so I settled in for operating from my portable table in the middle of the tall trees.

Wind did blow Ole’ Murphy in and added a couple hours to getting my 88 ft doublet up into the pines as my 1 oz sinkers hung in mid-air. The tension on the line with all that wind equaled the weight of the sinker and once it got up over the 60 ft limb it merely hung in space and didn’t descend no matter how many things I tried. Very frustrating! Eventually my Scottish and Irish nature won out over nature and I settled for a 45 ft high perch for my antenna in a slight horizontal vee config favoring NNW direction. From FL this is not a bad direction to point as it covers the better part of the USA! So with my jeans and a light jacket to break the wind, I began my contest effort, missing the first hour due to delay in getting the antenna up, so it was really dark by the time I made my first contact which was my good friend and fellow Polar Bear QRP group member the Hill Billy Bear, AF4O in Tennessee.

What a mess, I had just turned the rig on and had not even setup my BLT+ tuner but heard a quick CQ from AF4O and wanted to make the contact. I didn’t notice until afterwards that I was still in SWR position and not in operate, so the contact I made with him was thru the LED SWR Bridge which must have reduced my 2+ watt output to the lowish milliwatt range. How’s that for QRPp? Amazing that we even connected and my keying was so poor as the wind was blowing so hard the tuner was getting airborne during our brief exchange! Finally settled down and taped it to the table for the rest of the evening. Thanks for hanging in there with me Chuck! Operating in a strange place, in the middle of nowhere in the dark was a bit unsettling I was to learn.

The night effort was fun and I got to work several Polar Bear friends, Larry W2LJ, Hank WQ8RP using his club call,  and Martin VA3SIE/VE2/P  (what fun to send that call each time, eh?) Sure worth the effort to get out and experience the wierd band conditions. 20m was open until midnite but was pipelining to various parts of the country with STRONG sigs until it shifted to another region without much warning. It was either good or bad like that all evening but much more reliable than 40m here in the FL area.

Achilles HEAD shot

The lesson of the night was an itchy one. I was well covered from potential mosquitos and the wind was in my favor. BUT, they found my Achilles heel (or should I say Achilles HEAD?) They managed to bite my head without my noticing in the upside down U-shaped area where the cap adjuster is in the back. I am sporting about a dozen (almost the same as my 3 hr QSO total of 13) bites that itch like crazy in that small area that was not well covered by clothing or insect repellent. So next time I go out contesting in the night, I’ll be prepared… Look out, I’m ready for ya skeeters. Grrrrrrrr!


  1. says

    Still, It’s amazing what us radio guys will do for an enjoyable evening isn’t it? Only portable operators can understand this, but it’s like a dog sticking his head out of an open truck window at 50 mph. Only a biker can understand it. I think only portable radio operators can understand setting up and operating around a campfire. The thing that would worry me the most are those gators….they eat at night. Hihi

  2. says

    Reminds me of a time that I sat on a chair with slats for an evening. The itching didn’t start right away so I didn’t realize… but I ended up with strips of bites on my butt(!) It was great to complete a QSO with you in the Hoot Owl Sprint, Kelly. Signals were STRONG. You’re right about VA3SIE/VE2/P … quite a challenge. But I wanted to offer up the rarer VE2 multiplier and I’m glad that I did since Bob VA3RKM was on from VE3 land :-)

    My writeup for the same event is here:

  3. Alex says

    ‘Gators, Rock Pythons, Burmese Pythons and Skeeters all make for interesting and vigilant Qrp under a palm tree near the water.
    I am Happy for you that you make the consistant contacts and primarily are having Fun with your Ops.
    MAYBE we will connect during the Bee-day operating event at the end of July, I keep listening for you and so far Nada!!! I may decide to hit the field, now that I have the doc’s permission, and try a couple of antennas out long beforethe Bee-thingie and if I do I’ll announce it on the PB email group.
    73 Alex K5UNY PB 105

  4. kmack says

    Grrrrrr! Gud to hear from a fellow PB that’s back in the saddle after the doc cut on ya!

    I work all kinds of TX stations… why we never hear one another is a mystery to me too. I’ll be playin this weekend if the wx is gud. Glad you are mending and gettin’ back in action.

    Kelly K4UPG
    PB #173

  5. Chuck AF4O da Hillbilly Bear says

    Skitters and heat. Thats why i like the bicycle, i can out run the skitters and get a breeze. Great to work you. I was a sick bear for field day and had to pack it up so having bad withdrawals for lack of enough (is there ever enough?) outdoor qrp. Getting the shakes! PBSPE and FOBB to far off….thinks maybe a nightime operation for the fourth. Even if its in the backyard. Not going to the cemetery at night. Those pesky ghosts and all. 72, Hillbilly Chuck Bear AF4O

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