Tuesday, 9 August 2011

2011 IOTA Contest - QRP Expedition to Isle of Wight (EU-120)

For this year’s RSGB IOTA contest (islands on the air), I decided to try a lightweight backpack DXpedition to the Isle of Wight (IOTA Ref: EU-120). (http://www.isle-of-wight.world-guides.com/isle_of_wight_maps.html)
Isle of Wight IOTA Ref: EU-120
I travelled by Southwest Trains to Portsmouth Harbour then by Wightlink ferry to Fishbourne. It was then about a 30 minute hike to my (Secret) operating spot. I did not have time to go to the island beforehand to check this place out so I had a couple of backup locations that fortunately I did not need.
M0BGR/P on Isle of Wight
The set up was my Yaesu FT-817 with a 7AH lead-acid battery pack. The antenna was a aged fibre glass pole with the dipoles I had built earlier (See April 20th 2011 Posting). I arrived at site about an hour before contest start and proceeded to set up. Now, I knew the pole was past its best and had a few cracks around some of the joints so I was very careful, but as I was raising the pole, the antenna caught on a bush and the pole snapped about 2/3 the way up. ‘Oh, what a nuisance’ I said (or words to that effect). I had some insulating tape so with that, and some twigs as a splints, fixed the pole; not pretty but OK for the IOTA contest.
(By the way, be VERY careful with broke fibre glass poles. A couple of years ago I go a splinter I my hand and they are very painful and impossible to remove. I had to visit the hospital who also insisted on administering a Tetanus jab that was more painful than the splinter!).
The SFI index on the day of the IOTA contest was well over 100. The earth bound CME had not materialised and I was operating only in the afternoon so I decided to bet the farm on 15m. Bad idea! Conditions were very poor and I struggled to make 30 QSOs (though these did include Asiatic Russia and USA mid-west). 20m sounded very active but I thought a QRP (low power) station like mine would never be heard and the broken pole made me reluctant to change bands. However by my last half hour (1700 UTC/ Sat), I decided I had nothing to loose so (carefully!) changed antennas to 20m.  I had no difficulty being heard and my run-rate immediate shot up to a respectable level, both on CW and SSB. This may have been because I was the ‘new kid on the block’ and with a rarer EU-120 locator may have helped. The other stations on EU-120 did not seem to be around on 20m as several stations thanked me for the multiplier.
It was tempting to stay a bit longer, but at 1730UTC I had to pack up to get the WightLink ferry and train to back home without getting stranded. On the walk back I called CQ a few times on 4m with my Wouxun KG-699E, but did not work anyone. Is anyone active on 4m on the Isle of Wight?
Lessons for the day:
·         Don’t take equipment I know to be faulty, it will fail under field operational conditions.
·         If my game plan isn’t working, change it. I should have switched to 20m as soon as it became clear conditions were poor on 15m
·         Has anyone ever worked out the average speed of South West Trains? It took 2 hours from Portsmouth to London (no refreshment facilities) and at that rate, I think Stephenson’s Rocket could have given us a run for our money.

73 Dave.
ps - when I submitted my log, there was only one other station listed as a QRP-Expedition - where are all the back packers?

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