HF Break on Lake Erie Ice

VE3NCQ Portable in Erie Beach on the ice at Lake Erie. Thick fog blanketed the area on March 14th. First portable HF operation of the 2007 season, using Yaesu FT-757GX, 12 volt gel cell battery, and MFJ-949B tuner on a random wire.

During March Break, we were teased by some warm weather after weeks of deep freeze. This prompted me to put together my portable HF outfit and head out to the beach, where it was still very much winter.

As of March 14, Lake Erie was still covered in ice, with tall ice hills several hundred feet offshore where the sandbar usually is. We had spent the weekend tobogganing down them with the kids, and now I decided to use them to support a random wire antenna. (Photos from the weekend are in the Photo Gallery.)

Having a house full of 5 vacationing kids, I set the station up in a nice quiet spot just off shore where it was still safe. The radio was grounded to a steel seawall, and the tuner was connected to a spool of picture frame wire which I unwound over to one of the ice hills near the shore. The spool was simply placed on the top of a small ice hill with no insulation.

Tuesday night I checked into the 3730 Group in the cold under the stars without too much trouble. Wednesday morning, a thick fog covered everything, and I set back up, using a stick to prop the antenna up this time. I was able to check in to the COMSONT net on 7.153 with VA3ZB in Sault St. Marie, and heard all the other stations too for a change. Then I worked VE3WXL with the ONTARS net on 3.755. I need to find out if conditions were just extra good, whether the random wire over ice pulled in signals better, or maybe the fog played a factor, but there is no question that signals were stronger and noise was lower with this set up.

After my check ins, it was time to get out of the thick fog before it caused any damage. I packed the equipment away, wound up the spool of wire, and put everything away for a warmer day.