The following was posted to the hawaiihamradio mailing list, in response to a question from Mike (WA7YET) on doing QRP (low power, long distance contacts) in the Aloha State. Veteran ham Kimo Chun (KH7U) answered, and allowed HawaiiHam.com to republish his advice.
Doing QRP from Hawaii is challenging at best. You won’t be having lots of QSO’s in a hurry, but if you are patient and use best practices, you can still have fun.
CW is the mode of choice for QRP. You should also try to operate at the seashore with your vertical antenna as close to the water as you can with the ocean between you and the direction you want to beam.
Your best bet will be to operate before, during, and after “gray-line” (at sunrise and sunset) locally and, to a lesser degree, sunrise or sunset at the location you may be trying to reach.
Use the most efficient vertical antennas system that you can. Preferably a resonant antenna without an antenna tuner. Or, if you do use a tuner, don’t situate yourself far from the tuner and use the best coax you can (low loss) or some sort of parallel wire feed line between the tuner and the antenna (if the antenna design is such). Or forgo the tuner and use a resonant antenna fed with parallel wire line (a.k.a. window, ladder type).
Actually, don’t use long lengths of coax at all.
A few of us (at the Koolau Amateur Radio Club) are building a special antenna tuner (high impedance) to feed Half-square or Bobtail Curtain antennas at their base, versus the 50 Ohm point a quarter wave up. This method is championed by KH6MB, locally.
You can also forgo the tuner and feed these antennas directly at the elevated point, but additional supports are needed for the coax to allow it to extend away from the feed point at a right angle (horizontally) to decouple it from the antenna. Using fiberglass fishing poles, DK9SQ branded poles, Spider Poles or trees, you can set up gain wire antennas by the water that will perform well.
You can also construct arrays of vertical dipoles to simulate vertically oriented yagis, again near the seawater that will also greatly enhance your results. This method is increasingly being used on DXpeditions that operate ocean-side.
If you cannot do the above, then you will likely need to use a yagi at least a half wavelength high for the frequency involved along with the shortest low loss coax you can afford. Minimum RG-213 type.
Of course, even a simple end-fed vertical operated near the seawater will work, but to a lesser degree and require more effort and patience. There was an article in a recent QST magazine of a visiting ham from the U.S. mainland who did just that at beaches here on Oahu.
I am primarily a “contester.” A visiting friend tried using my good yagi antenna on a tall tower during the day (near the sunspot peak) on SSB (I think) in a contest QRP and gave up after a few hours. Granted, he was frustrated because achieving any kind of “rate” did not happen.
Depending on the time of day and propagation, people on the West Coast have their yagis pointing away from Hawaii, so they will not hear a QRP station calling. As the West Coast is the closest and most easily reached location for contacts, you need to use some knowledge of their operating habits to increase your odds of success. The same goes for any destination you are trying to reach.
QRP can be fun. It just depends on what you consider fun. It’s just that we are 2,500 hundred miles from the nearest stations (other than in state) so you are starting at a big disadvantage. You need to accept the obvious or make the necessary compensations (location, antennas, etc.) to increase your chances and enjoyment.