Five activations of San Francisco Historical Park in Feb 2016

NPOTA Entity: San Francisco Maritime Historic Park HP40

SOTA summit: N/A

Activation Dates:

  • February 7th, 15th and 23rd  (AlexLoop + 12watts)
  • February 19th and 27th (Buddipole + 45 watts)

Portable operation: Yes

Hike in: Yes

Solo hike: Yes

ATT Coverage: Excellent

Photos: Copyright Paul Gacek 2016

The pier is decaying all around me. Parts are rusted, the concrete is weathered, some of its missing and more looks destined to imminently drop to the depths of the bay. An ugly fence runs almost the length of the north side to stop any of us running afoul of this decay. Occasionally we are teased with openings to step to the edge and glance down to the water. Yet despite all of this, it’s very popular with tourists, runners, fisherman, exercisers, swimmers and me, a radioman. All in all I have activated the San Francisco Maritime Park five times in February. Why so often? Well, beyond radio, it’s a social experience, its photographically interesting, the vistas are great and just plane fun!

During the transition from dark to dawn to day, I’ve found tourists catching a glimpse of the San Francisco Bay. Looking west they see the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, looking north the sinister Alcatraz Island reminds them of how bad people can be and scanning further, Angel Island, Sausalito, Marin Headlands. All beckon and beg to be visited, trying hard to compete with the city of San Francisco. Looking further east you see the first glimpses of the sun, back again as we hope and expect each day silhouetting Coit Tower, the masts of the Balclutha and the single tower of the new Bay Bridge. This is a great place to start the day and is eye candy on steroids!

Sunrise over Coit Tower, TransAmerica building and Balclutha

The magnetic loop captures their eye immediately and many stop by and ask what I’m up to; city residents, young tourists, old tourists, flight attendants and seemingly every walk of life is represented. I’m surprised how many Brits I run into and all seem to be in the same awe of San Francisco that I know I was years ago when I first visited. One worked for Cisco, another a bio environmental scientist. Sometimes I hail someone to take a snap of me and all seem so eager. San Francisco can make you feel good.

Early morning exercisers

I’m quick to tell the story of radio starting with our collective community service; supporting a race or supporting critical services when infrastructure is down. Talking about the fun part is easy; contesting, experimenting, SOTA and the list needs to be bounded otherwise I’ll lose my audience. An entree into something good/better offered; for me radio was partly a gateway into a technology career that has been rewarding and so I say “maybe your children would like radio as it could lead to….”. Last but not least is the NPOTA event and talking about the 450+ entities including the one we are in at this instant. Smiles abound and we part as new friends.

One time when tearing down my station I struck up a conversation with Vivek, a CNN videographer, who was shooting video to complete a story on Kim Chambers who swam from the Farralon Islands, that anchors one corner of the white shark breeding ground, to San Francisco. Everything about that swim is amazing; 17 hours, 30+ miles and one of only 3-4 persons to accomplish this. Another time a local Chinese fisherman nabbed my spot as soon as my Buddipole was down. Within a minute or so he had caught a 12″ fish that he proudly showed me before it joined other family members in a cooler.

All in all the pier is a very social place.

Each morning the light is different. A moonset one morning with the Golden Gate Bridge resting to its right, another day a sunrise over the water enclosed by the pier, a similar view another time but subtly different, Alcatraz Island oddly haloed in pink light and with each I wished I had brought a “real” camera versus my iPhone 6 which actually does a pretty amazing job.

Moonset over Golden Gate
TransAmerica building, Ghiradelli Square

Operating has been fun and split between the AlexLoop operating 12 watts and a Buddipole vertical at about 45 watts. The later was somewhat a must, as verticals perform so well over salt water and clearly I’m surrounded by lots. I had my first HF SSB contact eight months ago at Field 2015 so my DX is limited, well virtually non existent. Needless to say, having a contact 6,000+ miles out with Steve Redmond MW0ZZK in Wales was quite thrilling. We tried my KX3 at 3 watts, amp off  and all was really audible for him. For me this is the magic of radio; 3 watts SSB for a back and forth QSO on 17M isn’t an everyday occurrence! With almost 5,000 chasers involved in NPOTA, activators (as in me) who number 400 or so can be quite popular to connect with which results in what is called a “pile up” in radio lingua franca. My pile ups are never too deep as 12 watts is somewhat self throttling. Nevertheless they are real and fun and I’ve noticed a transition in my handling in that at the end of the month I was occasionally holding two callsigns from the cacophony in my head and able to follow up with each back to back. That must be an improvement!!

Hardrock 50 amp and a Buddipole vertical – the concrete is uncomfortable to sit on!!

I’ve enjoyed the pier and the mixture of people, contacts and the occasional radio magic and look forward to more operating in the future. Maybe I can complete my 20m or 17m single band WAS from this pier after watching dawns early light paint the sky and surroundings.

Screen Shot 2016-03-05 at 1.03.24 PM
Golden Gate just left, Alcatraz and Angel Islands just above…great views all over







  1. Paul,
    I like your posts as you really are able to put the viewer “where you were” with the maps and photographs. Very enjoyable!
    Thanks for talking to all the “visitors” to your set up and explaining amateur radio to them. You may have influenced a few people to take it up.
    Terry K6MA


  2. Paul , having been to SFO many times I would never had known the park was NPOTA. Last time I was there I was QRV at the Gugliemo Marconi Memorial at Signal Hill. I have been very happy with a Packtenna mini with my FT817


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