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Ok – well, we’re all ready to go! The boat is ready and all the equipment assembled. The current plan is to leave Nassau very early on Friday morning, only a few hours after @M1ACB and @M0VFC arrive, in order to make the most of the weather. A look below and you’ll see what I mean.
So we have a little challenging weather and a few ‘Plans B’ – either way, if we can keep an antenna up in the air, we’ll be QRV!
Ok, the weather looks like it’s going to cooperate! That said we have rerouted to take account of strong winds expected at Cay Sal on Thursday to Saturday. So we now intend to follow the route below leaving on Thursday morning aiming to arrive at Cay Sal itself on Saturday morning.
On arrival, we aim to anchor on the west side of the island. We believe this is where there is a building that was once used as a radio room but I haven’t been able to locate it on the satellite photos.
It would be fun to use it as a qth but I want to place the antennas on the thin sand bar 2/3 of the way down the west coast to take advantage of the salt pond to work Europe and further east so I suspect I won’t have the luxury of a building for shelter.
So when we arrive, I will do a quick survey and see what will work and maybe get an antenna up while it’s still daylight. However, itching as I might be to get on the air, I might have to take a nap since the trip to get there is fully 48 hours, I know that the pileup is liable to be intense and I don’t want to disappoint! So maybe QRV on Saturday but almost certainly on Sunday and then for as long as possible. With that in mind, I’m aiming to work Europe and Russia on 15m first if the band is working and work west as it closes so I’d ask for your patience. It’s liable to be a wide split so spread out would be my advice, I’ll be looking to pick out the individuals who are really listening. I’m really looking forward to getting as many in the log as I can so I’ll do my best, please do yours by following the Dx code of conduct 😀
So that’s the latest update. It was nice to get a comment from Daniel, DL5YWM (Op. @ C6ARI Cay Sal Bank 2007). He has a video of his activation of Elbow Cay back in 2008 which is worth a watch. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xvjVuM2PDW8).
In the mean time, 73 and GL!
Vastly, R7AL sent me an email asking me about when I might activate NA-219, the Cay Sal Bank group. It’s been on my list since I was able to do any activations in the Bahamas but, it’s very difficult to activate as I have written before.
This year, however, might present a better opportunity than there has been for a while. Alternatively, the timing may not work out. El Niño has been playing havoc with the weather here in the Bahamas as well as all over North America (and beyond) this winter. We have seen some extremes of weather such as the derecho of two weeks ago when we had sudden winds (at night – of course) of up to 107kt! When you live on a small boat, things like this cause, in no particular order, stress, damage and expense. I was lucky, I had chosen a very sheltered spot to anchor in and only saw 48kt! Many others were not so lucky but only one boat was lost although there were some injuries and a small dog was blown off the deck of a local boat and seen again.
Anyway, back to NA-219. There is a window of opportunity, in the last two weeks of February to activate this group and I’m going to do my best to do so. I will pass a message to my qsl manager, Charles, M0OXO when I leave. He will give notice through all the usual channels. If we are able to get there and it’s safe to leave the boat at anchor, then I’ll be on the air as much as possible for as long as possible – battery life, sleep and weather permitting. How long we stay will depend on the weather and local conditions.
QSL. This is IMPORTANT. Since I’m travelling on my own boat, I have to meet special requirements to validate the activation. I will send the evidence to Roger, G3KMA and, he will let me know if my activation is approved. No qsl cards will be issued before this approval is received.
Logs. Cay Sal is uninhabited. There is no internet access. I will upload the logs to LOTW and Clublog as soon as I get internet access. This is likely to be when I reach either the Bimini Group our the USA.
Plan B. If the weather will not permit landing and activation, I will attempt to reach the Bimini Group (NA-048) and activate it. I’ll look to do some 40m for the guys in W4 who have asked for this.
Plan C. If it really doesn’t look like an activation will be possible, I’ll head for NA-054 and hang four there for a couple of days and activate that group again instead.
So there it is. That’s the plan. I really hope it works out. If it doesn’t, please bear with me, this is my XYL and myself on a 42 ft sailing boat rather than a multi–op, big-budget production, team effort on the Braveheart! Whatever the outcome, there will be some ‘less worked’ iotas to log!
73 and GL!
I had a very nice note today from the Bahamian licensing authorities.
Dear Mr. Macrae,
We are pleased to enclose herewith an electronic copy of your amateur radio licence.
Please note that the original will be sent via post.
Wishing you a most enjoyable time when you visit the Bahamas.
With kind regards,
Linda S. Francis
(I’m going to recommend she goes on secondment to OFCOM to help them brush up their PR skills). 😉
Anyway that means we can go off and pollute the airwaves in C6 for a while. So don’t forget you can still take part in the Band Survey. I’m hoping to be there by mid-November probably bypassing NA-048 initially, but checking in at Gt Harbour Cay in the Berry Islands group (NA-054).
As usual, I’ll tweet (@itinerantham) when I’m going to be active with an indication of band. Charles (@charlesM0OXO) will be sending out QSLs via his excellent OQRS service. Logs shall be uploaded to LOTW as soon as possible (usually same day). This year, rather than using an expensive, metered, Internet connection, I’m going to be sending logs via Winlink which is a very effective and efficient way of sending email with attachments.I’m hoping to add a few more islands to the groups in the Bahamas this year. So stand-by for some names that may not be on the official IOTA list (yet). Hopefully I’ll be able to blog in a timely way and give you a flavour for the islands I’ve managed to activate. And, when Roger, G3KMA, approves each activation (he has to since we travel by boat) I’ll post the news here too.
Lastly, and I know that most of you will be super compliant with the DX Code of Conduct, but just in case you’re not aware of it – it’s a very good read and will likely get you your QSO faster. (Slightly) more importantly, it’ll help me run more effectively.
Please bear in that:
- I will probably need to listen over a reasonable bandwidth (where available).(hint)
- I will QSY if I get too much QRM.
- I will announce when I’m QRT.
- I’m working on my own, on a battery – I need to eat, drink and answer the call of nature 😀
- If you call persistently and out of cadence, I will not answer you and will QSY.
- If you copy my call from the cluster – there were no less than 6 variants in 2014! GL!
- This is a hobby and we’ll all enjoy it more if we behave like we’re in the same room together.
So with that out the way, I have to say, I’m looking forward to working a lot of stations, old and new. I’m hoping to be in the Bahamas from mid-November until the beginning of March so I won’t be QRV every day but I hope to be active as often as possible.
Lastly, take a look at Voacap. If you have a particularly difficult path or timing constraints, I’m happy to try a sked – just get in touch by email (QRZ.com).
I activated this cay again this year from the. Shelter on top of the hill. It has good takeoff for both NA and Europe. Unfortunately, after the first day of our activity, the sun decided to let go a huge magnetic storm and the K9 conditions wiped out all of one day and much of the next. However, we got on and made the QSOs that we could.
Here are a few pictures of the QTH and the station.
I was QRV from Fish Cay today on 15m. What a beautiful place!
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 😃
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!
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 😭
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.