Category Archives: Trip

GP6UW: IOTA contest from Guernsey

GP6UW certificate

William Eustace M0WJE and Dan McGraw M0WUT entered the 2018 RSGB IOTA Contest from Guernsey. This was no cushy operation, however; the excitement began with the journey from the South Coast, made in a 24′ sailing yacht Aphrodite.

I had brought the boat to Poole to allow a better slant on the anticipated SW winds; Dan and the non-radio operator (but keen sailor) Hugo Cheema-Grubb appeared on the quayside at varying times on the evening of 25 July, and all hands turned in—after figuring out how to stow themselves, a tent, a trestle table, two radios, four or five SOTA poles, power supplies, laptops, camping stools, Morse keys and all the other equipment required for a multi-two station in a very small space!

View of Old Harry Rocks, from the outbound Channel crossing.

Under sail off Old Harry Rocks at sunrise, shortly after leaving Poole.

We slipped lines at 0330 and found ourselves off Old Harry Rocks by dawn. The crossing was in beautiful weather but much of it with remarkably little wind, so the deafening roar of the 4hp 2 stroke outboard featured for some hours, and those sitting in the cockpit donned their ear defenders. That evening, Aphrodite arrived at Braye, Alderney—thanks to a tidal miscalculation, just after sunset. After a leisurely breakfast the next morning, the tide was just turning in “the Swinge”, the mildly terrifying gap between Alderney and the off-lying islets, as we set sail once again. The wind was more obliging today, though predictably on the nose, and, helped by the notoriously rapid Channel Islands tides, we reached Guernsey largely under sail.

Beaucette Marina’s boatyard was the operating location chosen, and, when the skipper had recovered from the excitement of the very narrow entrance, the QTH was surveyed: a majestic spot on the cliffs of Guernsey, looking out towards Herm and Alderney. The take-off to Europe was undeniably good, and proximity to salt water combined with ample space for antennas and the operating tent appeared promising. The weather forecast for the contest weekend, with winds  frequently up to gale force and the occasional bit of heavy rain on Sunday, filled us with less enthusiasm—though at least it assured us that the conditions would not risk our feeling unadventurous.

Starting at 0700 on contest day 1, Saturday 28th, we began pushing the gear in trolleys up the steep pontoon ramp and then heaving it up the mud bank onto the cliff. This seemed minimal in difficulty then; by the next morning it was to assume quite a different complexion. The tent was erected in the rising winds, and well guyed; with the help of Paul GU4YBW and Adam MU0WLV, we raised our 20m and 15m antennas, set up the trestle table and equipment within the tent, and, at 1300 (the start of the contest) were [almost!] ready to begin operating.

At the start of the contest exactly, Dan, the CW op, began sending the first of many “CQ TEST”s; as the SSB op, I tried to ensure that the frequency and mode were logged correctly (attempts to get the FT890 to speak to DXLog had failed), then began bellowing into the aether, with spectacularly little result. The “statistics” window grew progressively more depressing from my side, as the CW QSO count mounted rapidly in the marginal conditions. After some time, the SSB rate needle lethargically levered itself away from the stop, but not by much. Dan meanwhile was running at a fine rate, occasionally clasping his hands over his earphones in an attempt to resolve an indistinct number or callsign—and perhaps in the hope of reducing the audio frequency power output of his fellow contester across the tent. Hugo had spent the day exploring the island, and helpfully provided a much-needed and delightful dinner. We abandoned the cliffs for an hour or so to eat, washing down the food with the local Roquette cider that Adam (MU0WLV) had thoughtfully delivered as “contest juice”—or Roquette fuel, as he termed it! Dan, complaining that there were “lots of dots and dashes going round and round in my head, and they all hurt”, made the sensible decisions to retire until 0600 the next morning, given the entry appeared to stand little chance of being competitive; I, being more foolhardy, returned to my three-legged stool and continued shouting into the void. Special thanks to the cheering QSOs with Bernie, W3UR, who worked us on SSB on a couple of band slots—the latter at roughly 0400 LT, in which he presciently asked how the tent was coping with the gale force winds. As it banged, flapped and slatted around my ears, I assured him all was well; as the sun began to stain the sky I made a foray outside to re-erect a partly collapsed antenna, but was pleased to note there were no other casualties. Despite running for at least six hours more, conditions (between local QRM from boat battery chargers, QRN, and generally poor propagation) were hard and 100W of voice went nowhere—I was now, finally, creeping up on Dan’s QSO count from the previous day. At about 0430 it began to rain outside, which presented little bother; unfortunately by 0530 it had begun to rain inside the tent as well, and operating became somewhat more challenging. By 0555 the situation had worsened to the point of being hazardous, and, covering all the equipment with oilskins, I QRX-d just as Dan arrived for the morning shift. Fetching more oilskins and packing away the most valuable equipment, operating resumed for a time, now on one rig only; I was pleased to note that Dan grimaced at the conditions on SSB, suggesting it wasn’t only my inadequacy causing such a pathetic rate, and, as the leaks intensified and a lake on the groundsheet developed alarmingly close to the mains wiring, we decided to go QRT for the contest (at risk of going QRT for good!), on 742 QSOs, mostly on 40, 20, and 15m, with a few on 80m—though I had not bothered to erect the 80m dipole, the FT890’s tuner was quite able to cope with the 40m vertical on 80m, though of course the antenna was doubtless rather inefficient.

M0WUT operating under a tarpaulin in the leaking tent

As the rain poured into the tent, equipment was covered with oilskins and we scaled back to one SSB station.

What, one might ask, of the other crew? Hugo had intended to explore the island that morning. A first hand account from Dan reveals that he rolled over at 0600, silenced his alarm, heard the rain on the cabin roof, remarked “No” and went back to sleep! All hands were soon rallied, though, and the equipment was vacated first to the (mercifully dry) campsite laundry room, then to the boat. After a refreshing few hundred yards’ stroll to admire a cliff fort and pass the time to 0900, we repaired to the restaurant, which had just opened, and had a well-earned Full English breakfast; that evening, the rain having abated, we were treated to a tour of a few of Guernsey’s highlights as unearthed by Hugo’s exploration, before patronising an excellent curry house in St Sampson—virtually the only restaurant in the area open on a Sunday evening.

The accursed tent was stowed in the marina skip, and we set off for Alderney. From here, passage back to the UK was smooth and thankfully uneventful, though crossing the shipping lanes mid-Channel—likened by one watcher of an online AIS display to crawling across the M25—proved entertaining as always. I dozed down below for a while, and in my absence a log entry reports “Playing Frogger with container ships.” We dropped anchor off Sandown, Isle of Wight at 0330 on 1 August, and pottered into Aphrodite‘s home port in Chichester Harbour later that morning, after some much needed sleep!

Rigs were a Yaesu FT890 (kindly loaned by G3ZAY), and Dan’s Elecraft K3, used with paddle and Winkeyer.

Photo of the crew exploring Alderney.

The crew had an afternoon ashore in Alderney to walk round some of the island. From left, M0WUT, Hugo Cheema-Grubb, M0WJE.

2018 GP6UW QSL Card

2018 GP6UW QSL Card

 

William Eustace, 23/9/18

 

Snowdonia SOTA Trip 2017

Between the 24th and 26 March 2017, five CUWS members activated two SOTAs in Snowdonia. Jonathan GW2HFR, Dom M0BLF, Nige M0HZR , Rob M0VFC and William M0ZXA climbed Y Garn (GW/NW-004) on the 25th and Moel Eilio (GW/NW-022) on the Sunday. Unlike some previous CUWS SOTA trips, the weather was remarkably pleasant (other than a slightly chilly first night) resulting in good views from the top. The bands were very active – favourable conditions and the coinciding CQWW WPX contest made it very easy for all operators to exceed the minimum required contacts and enjoy a couple of hours playing radio on the summits.

View from Y Garn

View from Y Garn

In true CUWS fashion, the campsite chosen featured an on-site pub – although this year’s also featured a micro-brewery which together provided exactly what we all needed after a long day’s walk!

Iceland (TF): 2016

Six CUWS members (Jens DK2AB, Martin G3ZAY, Dom M0BLF, Rob M0VFC, Dan M0WUT, and William M0ZXA) visited Iceland between the 11th and 18th September 2016.

Three days (20th – 22nd) were spent operating from the Westman Islands (“Vestmannaejar” – EU-071) and the others were spent exploring the country – locations visited include Reykajvík, Ϸingvellir, Geysir, Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss, Landmannalaugar, Skaftafell, Jökulsárlón and Skógarfos – quite the whistle-stop tour! Our APRS track is shown below.

Despite all this travelling, some extra time allowed us to opportunistically activate an Icelandic SOTA, Hjörleifshöfði (TF/SL-216.) This was the first time it had been activated, as the Icelandic SOTA association was commenced two weeks earlier on September 1st.

For QSL information see QRZ.com entries for home callsigns.

CUWS Lake District SOTA Trip 2015

From the 10th to the 12th of April 2015, a handful of CUWS members embarked on a long and arduous SOTA mission to the Lake District. Along the way, we’d face such dangers as the British motorway system, a stiff breeze, and campsite badgers.

Present on the expedition were Rob Chipperfield (M0VFC), Dom Smith (M0BLF), David Turner (M0TNR), Dan McGraw (M0WUT) and me, then the proud owner of M6IKY.

Day 1

Most of dream-team departed from Cambridge Friday in a couple of cars, picking up Dan from a train station. A long drive and several service stations later, we arrived at the campsite. We were duly warned about the campsite badgers (dangerous, hungry creatures apparently), then proceeded to make camp as the wind built.

Day 2

Campsite on the morning of Day 2.

We woke to wind, snow on the mountains, and rain in the foothills, but we were all keen to get going, so we started up the first hill, Stony Cove Pike (2503’, LD-018). The ascent went well and in no time we were setting up various antennae on the summit. Due to solar activity, the HF bands were inaccessible at best, but some local VHF contacts were made.

M0BLF and M0TNR working from Stoney Cove Pike with M6IKY functioning as antenna support.

After a quick lunch, we decided that the next planned summit was going to take too long in the adverse weather conditions, so two smaller peaks were found: Little Mell Fell (1657’, LD-037) and Great Mell Fell (1762’, LD-035).

SOTA selfie. Much wind. Wow.

More contacts were had at the top of both summits, most interestingly with another pair of radio amateurs (both called Victor, G4ONL and G4TDM) from Ireland who we proceeded to swap summits with.

In the evening, the dubious decision to enter a pub quiz was made,
which we narrowly lost after a series of questions about golf and celebrities which were not our specialist subjects!

Day 3

Initially the plan for the final day was to find some more peaks, but we found that the pass was blocked with snow when we got up. Rob bravely tried to get over, but the intrepid Škoda was defeated by a particularly steep section.

Mildly discouraged, we decided that going to the Blackpool amateur radio rally was a better idea. Some members spoke to friends of theirs, some got signed up to the RSGB, others bought suspiciously-large toroids for an unspecified project involving a band-pass filter; a fairly typical mix, we felt. Having spent a couple of hours bumbling around and bumping into the two Victors from the previous day we called it a day with some bacon sandwiches and headed for home.

David really loves bacon.

Ascension Island (ZD8): 2013

From Monday 2nd – Friday 6th December 2013, G3VFC, G3ZAY, M0BLF, M0VFC and M1BXF will be operating as ZD8UW from Green Mountain, Ascension Island.

We’ll be active on 40m-10m, mainly SSB and CW. (Being equatorial, there’s little point in taking the extra weight for 80m, I’m afraid.) There may also be some WSPR operation overnight. The best time for the path to the UK is likely to be in the mid-mornings on 17m and 15m, or the mid-afternoons on 12m and 15m. We’ll be operating with Elecraft K3s.

We won’t have internet access at the QTH, but logs should be uploaded roughly daily to Clublog. The logs will also go on LoTW once we’re back, but we can’t apply for the LoTW certificate in advance as we won’t be collecting the radio licence until we get to Ascension. QSL will be via M0OXO.

See also: Ascension Island (ZD8): 2009

Faroe Islands (OY): 2013

Five CUWS members (Martin G3ZAY, Michael M0GXM, Greg MD0IGD, William M0ZXA and Gavin M1BXF) went to the Faroe Islands from the 17th to 24th June 2013.

We stayed in three youth hostels – for the first four nights we were in the Faroese capital Torshavn, then one night in Gjov and two in Sandavagur. The equipment was two Elecraft K3’s, one Yaesu FT100 and a Yaesu FT-817, plus a Spectrum transverter for 4m. Antennas included vertical antennas, vertical dipoles, slanted dipoles and a quad antenna for 6m.

QSL info:

QSL for OY/G3ZAY, OY/M1BXF and OY/M0ZXA via G3ZAY.

QSL for OY/M0GXM via M0GXM.

QSL for OY/MD0IGD via MD0IGD.

(Details correct on QRZ.com 2013-10-02)

For more information about the islands, see the Wikipedia entry

Miquelon Island (FP): 2011

In September 2011, 6 CUWS members (G3ZAY, G4EAG, M0BLF, M0VFC, M0TOC and M1BXF) went to Miquelon Island. Miquelon is the largest island in St Pierre et Miquelon, which is a French-owned territory just off the coast of Newfoundland.

We stayed in the Motel de Miquelon, a very ham-friendly establishment right on the coast of Miquelon.

QSL info:

QSL via home calls – for cards from multiple operators, QSL via G3ZAY.

Log analysis

A total of 17920 contacts were made with 124 DXCC entities using RTTY, SSB and CW, on 10m – 80m.

The log contained 9272 unique callsigns, with 74 people who worked all 6 operators.

For more information about the island, see the Wikipedia entry

For more information about the DXpedition, see http://dx.camb-hams.com/dx-peditions/cuws-in-fp/

DXpedition to St Pierre et Miquelon

From 23rd to 30th September 2011, six members of the Cambridge University Wireless Society are active from St Pierre et Miquelon, a couple of French-owned islands off the south coast of Newfoundland.

On the trip are G3ZAY, G4EAG, M0BLF, M0TOC, M0VFC and M1BXF.

We’re active on 80m-10m in SSB, CW and RTTY.

As of 27th September, we’ve made over 10,00 QSOs already.

For more information, see dx.camb-hams.com If you like our DXpedition, please ‘Like’ our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/CUWSinFP or follow us on Twitter @CUWSinFP

Ascension Island (ZD8): 2009

Six CUWS members (Martin G3ZAY, Michael G7VJR, Tom M0TJH, Gordon G3USR, Simon G4EAG and Hugo M0HSW) were on the air as ZD8UW from Ascension Island (AF-003) between 1 January and 9 January 2009. We were active on all HF bands, both SSB and CW.

We were on Green Mountain, with a clear view to the horizon from about 210 degrees to 45 degrees. Other paths were totally blocked by the mountain.

QSL info:

We don’t need your card if you don’t need ours! If you are happy with an LoTW confirmation then please save the planet.

Log search
All QSOS are also in LOTW

Log analysis:

We were spotted 2110 times.

Best DX: ZL taking into account our QTH! Also KH6 (even on 80M), KL7, UA0 on 160M, various exotica such as PY0, YS, HK, EP, JY, XW, OD, EL, OA, ST, HS.

Weirdest DX: TN on 160M (Republic of Congo). Not far away, but truly rare. Other African DX included Cameroon and Angola.

Band	CW	SSB	DXCCs
160	1452	0	70
80	1181	521	58
40	1133	1825	80
30	1661	0	61
20	1170	3139	100
17	1051	2286	87
15	765	1240	80
12	193	297	27
Total QSOs	17914		
Total DXCCs	125		
CW	48.05%		
SSB	51.95%		

For more information about the island, see the Wikipedia entry