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Monthly Archives: March 2014

First Day at Little Harbour Cay

What a fun day! I got set up and QRV at about 0830 local when 10m was just warming up and worked Gordon, G3USR before he goes off the the big DX Meeting in Visalia.

Unfortunately the IOTA frequency was QRMed by some noisy radar so I had to go down the band and ended up working Europe (mostly) on simplex and even then had to QSY a bit to get some space.

Here’s a picture of the QTH on Little Harbour Cay

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And here’s a picture of my position from Hamsquare so you can see that I am where I say I am. I.e. In the Berry Islands, NA-054

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What a great day! In the morning session I got to work some 280 or so QSOs and in the afternoon, the total grew to nearly 500 including ZL, HS and a few other notables such as ON4UN, the author of Low Band DX. I felt honoured!

After, lunch, laundry and battery charging I have to admit I took some time out to work TX6G, and what an excellent demonstration of pileup management it was just listening to them – a truly first-class op! Got them first call on 12m and 5th on 10m. It’s good to know at they are not so focused on numbers that they can enjoy some banter with the callers too!

Anyway, the good news is that the weather is set fair here until at least next Monday so I expect to be on he air between about 0800 EDT and 1600 with breaks for eating and the like. I may take 1/2 a day off later in the week since I saw some nice looking palm trees on the way up here that look like they might take a dipole for 40/15m so well see!

In the mean time, lonely as it is out here on my own, it’s good to be working lots of good DX.

73 de John, 9H5G/C6A

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Arrived At Devils Cay – Waiting for the Tide

Well, I got here this morning just before lunch after 8 hours across the Northwest Providence Channel from Nassau. I’m currently waiting for the tide to rise so I can get into a (slightly) more sheltered area. However there is a cold front forecast and the wind is already blowing more than 20kts from the south. By morning, I’m told, it will be in the West with thunderstorms to 40-50 kts – joy! Then it will turn to the north and moderate.

The result of this is that I’m unlikely to be QRV before Monday when the wind moderates. If it is feasible I’ll work west of here if there is time on the high bands tomorrow. I suspect Europe and points east will not be till Monday.

73 de John

Berry Islands Activation NA-054

The weather is looking good for a departure from Nassau on Saturday March 29th, for the 7 hour crossing to Little Harbour Cay.

I don’t expect to be QRV until sometime on Sunday. Since the satellite mapping of the area is quite poor, I have not been able to decide which QTHs might be the best and consequently, I shall have to just get on my legs and look when I get there! I have a number of potential QTHs lined up depending on the weather. Little Harbour Cay is my first choice based on the weather which is going to be pretty windy for the first few days (25 mph+). However, don’t be surprised if I announce another QTH from time to time. I shall update the island name and grid here where possible.

I will work the best bands according to the prevailing conditions. 10, 17 and 12m are the most likely although if there are suitable support structures available, I may try some lower bands. Modes – SSB, RTTY, PSK.

Working conditions are a TS-480HX, 200w into a vertical dipole waterside.

If you really need this one, drop a comment below or follow me on Twitter (@kk4oyj) and send me a message and I’ll see if we can set up a sked. Make sure you include a list of all your available dates and times and I’ll do my best.

I’ll be active for about 10 days but operating sessions will be limited by battery power and recharging times.

73 de John

IOTA Submissions

I’ve sent off the reports for my activations of Stocking Island, NA-001 and Acklins Island, NA-113, to Roger, the RSGB IOTA manager. I’m hoping to hear back from him favourably.

Since we are travelling around by boat, I am required to submit details of the activations including supporting photos, gps positions and, if possible pictures of signs that can be used to verify that the operation was from land and in the place I said it was. (It would seem there has been some skulduggery in the past).

There’s plenty of technology these days that allows us to do that. My camera tells me that it encodes the GPS position into the photos, my iPad has Hamsquare on it, a great app for the traveller who needs to confirm his locator code precisely before operating the station.

However, there are also problems with the technology or more exactly how different software writers deal with it. As an example, it thought I would be a simple matter to import my photos from the camera into the iPad and then write my Activation Report. It seems not, the GPS information was stripped from my photos when they were imported.

We sailed for 30 hours to get to Acklins Island and then had a bit of a glitch with the data. With that in mind, I would urge anyone using these tools to provide evidence of operations to test them end-to-end before you go. And then take another method of providing the evidence.

73 de 9H5G/C6A

Simplification

The weather hasn’t been very kind this week and we’ve been moving around a bit as well a dealing with the freezer failure where we nearly lost all of our frozen supplies.

Nevertheless, I have been taking the time to look at what has been achieved so far.

In just over 2000 QSOs from C6 land, I’ve worked only 95 DXCC of which 50 have been confirmed by LOTW. Some more have been confirmed by card which is really nice. Buzz, NI5DX is doing a fine job.

Then I took al look at eqsl.cc. There are a bunch of confirmations there but I have to go through every QSO and many of them are duplicates of those already in LOTW. To be very honest this a tedious task so I have come to the conclusion that I will only QSL direct – via Buzz or using LOTW from now on. The bottom line is that I prefer spending my time operating or building antennas and experimenting rather than doing ‘admin’.

The result is a much more streamlined operation where I can upload to LOTW and Clublog and there will be one simple path to checking if you are in the log – Clublog. For operations in C6 land the link is here

I hope to figure out how to put this on as a widget on the sidebar of this blog shortly 🙂

In the mean time 73 and good DX!

Preparing for Berry Islands – NA-054

Preparations are well under way for the activation of the Berry Islands at the end of March and beginning of April.

I have built a new 12m dipole and will also have a 12m vertical dipole available by then as well. Thus I should be able to operate 10m, 12m and 17m with resonant verticals – one band at a time.

It will be only one band at a time since I shall be alone! Sadly no one else was able to make the trip. In order to extend my operating sessions, I am looking into getting more batteries or borrowing a generator that I can have on shore. Currently I can operate for about 2 hours or so before stopping to recharge. A generator would significantly improve matters!

I hope to operate SSB, RTTY and PSK during the period.

One potential QTH has been identified that should allow good takeoff for both Europe and the USA and Asia simultaneously – if it works out, it could significantly reduce the workload of changing QTHs as the band moves west every day. I really hope it turns out well since moving antennas every few hours is very tiresome on your own.

Looking forward to working a whole bunch of new DXCC on this one.

73 de 9H5G/C6A

5000 QSOs

I was licensed back in February 2013 but although I listened and learned to many QSOs over the following weeks, I didn’t really have the guts to actually speak to anyone.

It wasn’t until the end of April that I logged any QSOs. Today, I logged my 5000th QSO with KF5WCPin Arkansas on 10m phone. It was in the middle of a pileup with Asiatic Russia, west coast USA and Japan so I didn’t take too long to consider it but now, over the next few posts I shall consider the journey that has led to this.

It’s an astonishingly complex but very simple hobby. The apparently simple can turn out to be very challenging when you start to dig – and I’ve discovered that it’s important to ignore much of the ‘depth’ otherwise I’d never get on the air at all.

One of the most attractive things I adopted is that you can have success with home made stuff. Yes, I bought my rig, the very fine TS-480 from Kenwood. It gives me 200 W to play with and it means that i can be heard (except when competing with the ‘Kilowatt Club’ with beams at 200ft – lol). All my antennas are wire – from a roll of 14 swg THHN from Home Depot or from coax of one form or another.

I’ve worked 150+ DXCC with these antennas from 2 main QTHs. One of the sites I work from is the roof of our apartment in Gozo. It’s about 500ft above sea level on the top of a hill and has a fairly clear view out over the Mediterranean in most directions. Gozo is only 6 miles by 3 miles so effectively I am surrounded by the sea. It seems this is a good QTH even although the near field is natural stone and concrete.

The other places I have been operating “beach style” and it’s here that I’ve really noticed the importance of clear takeoff and good ground. In the Bahamas, many of the islands are rough limestone – very rough and razor-sharp! I have sought out sites with unrestricted takeoff over the water to Europe where the near field is rock and to be honest it didn’t work terribly well even although it was only one or 2 wavelengths to the water. That said, it was better than working beach side with a small hill between me and Europe. To get really consistent performance, I have had to wait for the prevailing easterly wind to drop so that I can get the vertical truly vertical – then it works well for Europe.

I should say at this point that my choice of antennas has been limited by my QTH and my experience. Living on the top floor of an apartment block build on rock, there is little chance of having a good RF ground. I can’t put out radials on the roof since it is a shared area used for drying washing and it would be too hazardous to have radials – not to mention anti-social! So I made an early decision to use only balanced antenna designs and all of my antennas (with the exception of the A-99 – eBay £5) are dipoles – either horizontally or vertically polarized.

The largest wire I can get on the roof is resonant on 40m and it seems likely that will be the biggest for some time – at least until I can learn more about antenna matching. ( I have my eye on 2 palm trees across the road that might allow a full wave loop in the future 🙂

Anyway, that’s all for now – thanks for reading my prattle – you really should be on the radio calling CQ rather than reading about how not to do it!

73 till next time!