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Monthly Archives: February 2015

Fish Cay – NA-113

I was QRV from Fish Cay today on 15m. What a beautiful place!

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I had a sked with Gordon, G3USR, and managed to work some Russian stations who needed NA–113 as well.

To be honest it was a difficult day. The band was very sporadic with some patchy openings but I made the best of it. I wasn’t helped by my vertical dipole having an

SWR of 1.7:1 up from its usual 1.1:1 😩. I suspect also helped distort my audio later in the session as the battery ran down. Must fiddle with it and see what’s wrong.

Anyway, here are the picture of the working conditions – K3, vertical dipole, 100W from a 35Ah battery. Oh, and the obligatory GPS coordinates to prove I was there πŸ˜ƒ

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So that’s NA-113 for another year! I had a blast even though the weather held us hostage for over 1/2 our stay!

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February 24th and 25th

These will be our last days here in NA-113. I will be going out this morning to work Europe on 10m or maybe 15m but the sun has been active overnight so who knows what the bands will be like.

Later today we will set off for Fish Cay http://goo.gl/maps/6UgTc. Hopefully we will be QRV from there on Wednesday for a while. There is no internet there so it will be a case of working the best band I can find in the prevailing conditions. I realise that’s a bit of a lottery but equally it’s the way we used to work before the Internet existed πŸ˜„

73 for now!

QRV Jamaica Cay NA-113

So, a quick update. Firstly, the skull issue. It seems, according to the local police that the skull and other bones are from a grave. It was/is the custom hereabouts to have graveyards on islands separate from the main island and this may be the case here. Also, the prevailing wind is from the east and it it the eastern shore of the Cay that has eroded, revealing the skeleton. So, no CSI – happily.

So, having put that matter to bed, so to speak, it was time for a little radio. 10m and 350 QSOs in just over 2 hours including VK, JA, H44, VP8 and quite a few others…

Working conditions were K3, barefoot from a 35Ah battery into a vertical dipole with its feet in the water. Apparently I was 5/9 in Japan but propagation (or my antenna) was such that there were only a few very brief opportunities to work JA. That said, VOACAP said I had no chance for working JA but a good chance of working VK which is what I was hoping for since there are a few stations there that really wanted a QSO. Strange the way that works!

Here’s a few pictures of the station as I was setting up – well, I did a video of it too but it seems the iPad app doesn’t allow me to upload it 😭

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Here’s a link to the location on Google Maps. Dropped pin – http://goo.gl/maps/0s8qz
I really enjoyed this session with some interesting stations and a really well-behaved pileup. Thank you everyone – I got really sunburned and dehydrated since I forgot my hat! Nevertheless, I hope to be back on 10m in the morning to work Europe from about 1300 UTC.

CSI – Jamaica Cay

So, if you’ve been following along you’ll know that we’ve been in Acklins Island for nearly a week and, to be honest, I’ve not achieved a lot. You’ll also know that the last 3 or 4 days have been net sheltering from the weather.

That’s the challenging thing about activating islands when you are on your own boat. You are firstly the captain and responsible for your own safety as well as those who are with you. It would also be nice to be able to sleep well and use the boat year after year, so keeping it safe is first and foremost. Amateur Radio comes a distant 3rd or 4th after keeping the XYL happy and other trivia like making sure we have food to eat and complying with local and national administration requirements.

So, if you have google maps or a marine chart to hand, we’ve been to Spring Point, Snug Corner and finally, Jamaica Cay to hide from the
latest round of wind, this time from the east, forecast for 25kt. The forecast was almost right, in fact, it exceeded 30kt at one time.

Now those of you who know the sea will also know that wind acts on water more than just to create waves. The friction actually drives the water downwind. And so it was here too. The Bight of Acklins, where we are, FL22wi, is shallow, very shallow being only up to 5m deep over a vast area.

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So when the wind blows from the east as it has been, the water begins to empty out. We were lucky – over the 2 days of bad easterlies, we only lost 30cm of water but I have a friend that spent 4 days sitting on the bottom at low time since the water left and didn’t come back!

Anyway, things have moderated now so we could actually lower the dinghy safely so it was time to explore Jamaica Cay. We went with our friends Bruce and Val who are accompanying us on this trip. We walked round the island looking for places that might be suitable to plant an antenna and do some IOTA tomorrow. So we find this….

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Yes, it is (or at least seems to be) a human skull. With a hole in it, that seems to have been caused by an impact. There are a few other bones around too! Some leg bones and what looks like part of a pelvis. The police have been called so we will see what happens tomorrow.

To be honest, with the history of the Bahamas, we understand this isn’t that uncommon. We speak to a lot of people, here in the Family Islands. The history is fascinating, the modern history I mean…. There is another Jamaica Cay about 100 mile east of here – it has 2 abandoned tanker lorries on the island – it was a refuelling station for high speed drug smuggling boats I the past.

Maybe catch you on the air this week – band conditions permitting.

73

Winter

Typically, I spend the winter on our boat, Amazing Grace. It’s a 42ft catamaran made by Broadblue in the UK. It’s our winter home and we enjoy the outdoors, the space and the companionship of other cruisers.

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We crossed the Atlantic Ocean in this boat in 2009 and have been in the Carribbean, Bahamas or on the east coast of the USA. We like to cruise around the Bahamas and sometimes visit Cuba and other islands.

With so many islands, the Bahamas offers excellent opportunities for IOTA activations and general radio fun. The islands are grouped into 6 IOTA groups and that provides plenty of variety. There are some really beautiful QTHs for beachside operations too. The Bahamas is one of the places that seems to have the most abandoned ‘projects’ and these abandoned buildings can make excellent places to operate from.

At Stocking Island, there is an abandoned beach bar and until this last summer there was a bar and shelter with its feet in the water!

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Imagine the convenience of lashing your vertical dipole to the leg nearest the water and then sitting inside in the shade to run the pileup? The only downside was that the bar was indeed closed!

Anyway, you get the picture. However, it can get a bit tedious carrying the ‘shack’ including a small car battery to every QTH. I’m looking forward to having a decent capacity LiFePo battery sometime in the future – it really would make life a bit easier.

The attraction of the seawater is immense! It allows me to operate with the simplest of vertical dipoles which I prefer since I can get the station QRV in about 20 minutes from leaving the boat. More complex antennas I reserve for when I am at a remote location that I’m going to be at for several days and there are few other people around that might wanted into it.

However, I’m getting carried away with radio stuff again. This page was meant to satisfy the curiosity of those who have written to me asking for more details of our wanderings. Of course, you can get some of the radios stuff here but we also have a page on Facebook called Adventures with Amazing Grace where you can follow more of life on board. (I hope this does not sound in any way ‘boastful’ – I’m astonished that anyone is interested to be honest and I’m just trying to satisfy the curiosity of others).

So we have 2 engines, a water maker and a fridge and freezer. We prefer to sail whenever we can – out typical expenditure on fuel for the winter is about $900. We like to fish and we buy our fresh provisions wherever we can in the Bahamas. At any one time we have sufficient food and toilet paper on board for about 3-4 months without visiting any shops. That said, we prefer fresh fruit and vegetables and buy them wherever we can. Our water maker allows us complete independence of movement so we can stay as long as we want in any particular location, weather permitting.

This makes it possible to visit places like Acklins Island (NA-113) where there are 600 inhabitants who get all their supplies on a mailboat that comes 3 times a month. We can also go to places like Hog Cay, North of Ragged Island (pop 56) and stay till the food runs out!

Here’s a picture of the Silver Spirit at Spring Point, Acklins Island this morning.

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IOTA, The Weather and other mutterings

We had another short session here at the Regatta Park, Spring Point, Acklins Island, yesterday morning.

I started early, when VOAcap said 15m would open to the EU and Russia. I’d had some email from Russian stations requesting a 12 UTC start so I decided to give it a go even although the sun was only just up.

Early, it might have been but I’d been awake for hours since the wind dropped and the boat had been invaded by ‘no-see ums’ which were biting the XYL and I. Consequently I wasn’t feeling that sharp.

I found myself a clear QRG but of course if the band isn’t open all the frequencies are clear Hi! So after a few minutes of calling CQ I was informed the frequency was in use and found another one. A bit of finger trouble then ensued somehow since it became apparent there was a pileup on my QRG and the only person that didn’t know about it was me! I usually use the 2nd Rx in the K3 to monitor the TX frequency every few minutes and it paid off. A few button pushes later and I had a bunch of callers. Sorry folks!

The band was a bit up and down which was helpful in a way since I was typing through a cloud of Mosquitos and I needed the space created by the slower pace to spray myself with insect repellent!

An hour later it was time to pack up but at least we had worked a few of the Russians who needed an ATNO and some mates from the UK as well as a bunch of other countries. 80 QSOs in all – not so bad considering the conditions and lack of sleep!

The reason we had to pack up was we had to visit the island administrator. We had permission to stay in the Bahamas until the 24th of Feb but we needed to extend that and the administrator is the only person on the island who can grant an extension – and, she’s only part time shared with another island! So we had to be at her office before 10am and it was quite a few miles away. Fortunately, it’s a really friendly island and the 500 inhabitants (on an island almost 100 miles long) are happy to give anyone a lift. The problem is, you might see on car every 30 minutes! To cut a long story short, we got our extension for a month!

Oh, the weather! Well, I guess I won’t be QRV this weekend. Here’s the weather map for Saturday and here’s a picture of how it is today!

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25kts is a bit stressful for any Spiderpole not to mention trying to hear the traffic with the howling wind. That said, if I went to the Regatta Park at Spring Point, I could sit in the almost completed toilets but I’m not that desperate to operate besides which, getting the station onto land through the 4 FT waves might be a bit of a problem.

So I think I’m going to hunker down on the boat for a few days. Maybe I’ll cut a dipole for 30 and 40m so that the higher band conditions improve πŸ˜‰.

I also have plenty of Morse practice to do – maybe one day I will QSO with LA5HE on 30m!

QRV NA-113 Acklins Island

We crossed from Hog Cay at the bottom of the Ragged Islands and have worked our way up to Spring Point (FL32ak).

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Here is a view of the QTH at the community Regatta site (held each August) from the sea. You can just see my 15m vertical set up on the beach. There’s been quite a lot of development here since last year and there now seems to be power at the site. It would be quite a good QTH for a larger expedition since there are some new shelters and even toilets. The beach access with great takeoff from South through North to East over the water makes it a very good site for verticals and VDAs.

I erected my 17m vertical to start with. I last used it a month ago but when I tested it with the analyser the SWR was very high – I suspect the plug has gone bad – so I had to take it all down again and put the 15m vertical up in its place.

Nevertheless, despite pretty poor band conditions, I managed to log 238 QSOs in less than the 2 hours the battery lasted. Some good openings to Europe on and off during the period too, with 8P and PJ4 stations supplementing the U.S. Stations. (Some YY calls with terrible audio too). It all made for an interesting session.

I made it back to the boat leaving the antenna up overnight and we had a great sunset.

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Logs uploaded – more on Wednesday I hope although we have to go and visit the island administrator to get our immigration status extended – it’s hard to believe we’ve been here 3 months already!

There’s some rough weather coming on Thursday and it doesn’t let up till Monday so I might miss most of the weekend as we will be moving around to find shelter for the boat in the 30+ knot winds that are forecast and I can’t imagine keeping my 12m Spiderpole up in that!

Anyway, 73 from Acklins and hope to catch you on the air…