HI9/EA3BT et HI9/EA3WL

After so many years being active in the world of ham radio, and mainly realising DXpeditions to different parts of the world, many of you already know us and when we have the pleasure to meet you personally, we always receive similar questions: When are you going to make a new operation? Where are you going next?… And our answer is always the same: We don’t know !  I must recognise that sometimes we do not tell the complete truth, as there is always a project in mind, but lately, when we answered that we were not going to start any radio project at least till 2010, when it is expected that the propagation conditions improve a bit, I can assure that we were telling the truth.

 

Our last DXpetition experience in Bangladesh, which took place in January 2007 left some kind of bitterness in us, not because of the human quality of the team, but the reason was because it was a bit disappointing that all the effort that we invested in that project didn’t get a reward with good propagation that could have given a QSO to all those who wanted to contact with that DXCC entity. Because of that, Josep and I decided that we wouldn’t plan anything seriously till the conditions improved.

 

After a hard year of work and after having spent all the summer studying for my competitive exam at my job, December arrived with a good new: I passed the exam. And because we were going to celebrate our 22nd wedding anniversary by the end of January and the 1st of February our “little” child Marc would be 18 years old … we had a lot of things to celebrate and decided that we deserved a good prize: a fantastic journey.  As this winter has been quite crude, we wanted to go to a place with good temperatures where we could relax and disconnect from the outside world. I had to be a place easy to reach, as we didn’t have plenty of time for preparing the trip, and quickly we decided that we wanted to go Dominican Republic, as this was a place where we also wanted to go, but for different reasons we always chose a different option. Decided: we were going to the Caribbean. I started to surf in internet, trying to find a good offer and a nice place where to expand our bones! Originally, this was going to be a relax trip, but as many of you that have taken part in a DXpedition, it is hard to go to a far place and not thinking of bringing the radio with you. So we decided that something of radio should be done during our spare time, and contacted with INDOTEL, the ham radio authority in the Dominican Republic, and got a quick response: there was no problem to obtain the licence, but we had to apply for it with no delay, as Christmas Holidays were close and they couldn’t guarantee them. It is recommended to apply for a licence with a month in advance.

 

We had to take a quick decision. As we were going to do radio, why not operating from an interesting place? . The Dominican Republic is not a very demanded DXCC entity, so we had to find another option, and finally thought that an IOTA reference could be a good option. Those that take part in the IOTA Program will already know that HI has only 2 references: NA-096 for the main island, and NA-122 for all the coastal islands. The second reference had more demand as it was only credited by the 28% of the IOTA participants.

 

We got it: NA-122 was our option. We remembered that many years ago we already have thought to make that operation, and there was a small hotel in Cayo Levantado (Levantado Key), but finally it was rejected as we were told that the conditions were not very good (it didn’t have 24-hours power supply) and the hotel finally closed. That island was our only option, as all the other coastal islands are inhabited and some of them are Natural Reservation, and you can only stay there with official permit and we didn’t have enough time for all that matter.

 

Surfing in internet we had a great surprise: a spanish hotel chain bought the old hotel and built a fantastic luxurious hotel which was already inaugurated in 2007. The place was idyllic … but we quickly had a doubt: would they allow us to install our antennas in a place where it is supposed that people go to relax? We soon got an answer from the Resident Manager of the hotel, Mr. Victor Pérez, saying that before giving us an answer he had to know more about what we were asking, as no other guest had asked those things before. We sent him a picture of the antenna that we were going to bring, a Cushcraft MA5B, and after a pair of days he answered that there was no problem.

 

We had the OK from the hotel and we just needed the licence. If finally arrived before the end of the year, some days in advance of what it was expected. We must say that we always received a great collaboration from Mrs. Patricia Heredia at INDOTEL, who always had a kind answer to all our e-mails.

 

Everything was in its way, and during Xmas holidays, Antonio (EA3AON) helped Josep to prepare the antennas and invented a system that should let us easily raise the beam. We expected to place the mast directly in the ground, as for the pictures that we could see and after consulting it with Mr. Perez, we rejected to place it in the balcony of our room, because of the structure of the buildings. We had to take a mast not shorter than 7 meters high, and we had to bring it from EA, as we didn’t want to repeat the experience that we had in Bangladesh, where we bought some tubes in a local market and they didn’t bear the weight of the beam and doubled nearly 90 degrees the first time that we tried to raise it.

 

They worked hard in the adjustment of the beam and in the special hoisting system, which was a system of pulleys placed in the top end of the mast, which finally worked.

 

But … what about 40 and 80 meters? And digital modes and CW?…. Finally, what it should have been a simple trip of relax was becoming a full DX-pedition … and finally we decided to travel loaded as a donkey once again. We choose to go with the  Butternut HF2V for 40 and 80 meters.  And due to the pernicious conditions of propagation we couldn’t forget the lineal amplifier, an Ameritron ALS-600. Well, finally our luggage was overcoming 100 Kg and we had to go on with the preparations. Jorge (EA8TL/3) and Jaume (EA3JW) help us with the software that we were going to use … and we just had to wait for our plane.

 

Finally the departure date arrive, and on January 20 we started our own marathon: Barcelona, Madrid and finally Santo Domingo. We landed and we just had to wait for our luggage. While we were in front of the luggage belt, we expected that nothing was forgotten in another airport. We smiled when we saw a man coming with our antennas  … we were lucky. Luggage started to appear, hundreds of huge suitcases, but no trace of our damned red suitcase where we carried the lineal amplifier and other material. After half an hour we were unlucky … but there were more people in the same situation so we didn’t lose the hope. The belt stopped and everybody thought that no more luggage was coming. We couldn’t believe it: our damned red suitcase was lost once again. That suitcase is damned as it usually never arrives at its destination … but normally this happen on the way back!!! We were resigned to doing the claim, when one of the keepers went into the hole where the suitcases were supposed to appear and told us that something was obstructing the belt. He fixed it, but after 2 or 3 more the belt stopped again. They tried it several times, but finally decided to change to another belt. Chaos and confusion. Another belt was opened and …. eureka, after a while our wonderful red suitcase appeared.

 

Now, with all the luggage in our hands, we just had to go through the customs. If our luggage had appeared quickly we are sure that we wouldn’t have had any problems because of all the initial confusion, but after having been waiting more than 40 minutes with a skiing bad and a big box … we were not going to cross the customs so easily as the officers had been observing us for a long time. They asked what we were carrying and after a long explanation and showing all the permits, the officer decided that we should leave the antennas and come back in the next morning, as all the offices were already closed (it was 8 pm). Without losing our calm and with good words, we convinced him that that was impossible for us to come back in the morning as our hotel was situated 200 km far away from the capital and we had no way to come back. In the end, he allowed us to pass, not before telling us that although Indotel had told us that we would have no problems with customs, the rules are established by another department and they could decide what to do. So, we recommend that if you want to go to HI land with a radio equipment, you should get in touch with the Custom Department in advance.

 

After flights, links and waits, it took nearly 24 hours to reach our destination, and we already had 3 more hours of bus from Santo Domingo to Samana, without forgetting the boat to the island. It was dark night and all those who have already visited that country will know that roads are not very good and that native drive in a special way. With a lot of patience, we get accommodated in the van with a pair of couples that were going to the same hotel, and looked at us with some surprise at the vision of a skiing bag in the middle of the Caribbean, so we were a bit obliged to break the ice and told them that we didn’t expect to ski in the Caribbean mountains, but we were going to make some radio and that the antennas were in the bags. ‘How interesting!!!’, was their answer, although it didn’t sound very convincing.

 

The journey was quite long, although luckily the Government has constructed a toll motorway connecting Santo Domingo and Samana Peninsula and now the trip last 2 hours less. But that fantastic motorways was just a simple road with 2 rails, one for each way, but with good pavement, considering the average situation of the other roads. And the price is so high for local people that there was few traffic. The journey was easy and after some sleep, we finally arrive at our destination.

 

It was midnight, and we were 2 hours late from our expected arrival time. So there was no trace of the boat that had to take us to the island, and we had to wait for the boat that brought the staff of the hotel that had finished their shift of work, but they were singing and joking. After 15 minutes on the boat, we finally disembarked in the island. We made a quick check-in and took a small electric train (which is the way of transportation for all the guest in the island) to our room. We got a luxurious individual villa, with a TV room, a huge bathroom with jacuzzi, a huge bedroom with another TV and a porch looking to the sea and another external jacuzzi, and we also had 24 hours services. What else could we want?.

 

While I was strolling in the house, Josep looked for a place for the beam… and in the middle of the dark detected that the only possible place was a small clear in front of the house.  Although it was past midnight and we have been more than 30 hours without sleeping, we decided to try how the 24 hours service room worked and ordered a pair of cheese burgers and some drinks, and started to unpack part of the luggage in order to being on air as soon as possible as we only had 6 days for operating.

 

We woke up very early, before 7 am and after checking that, in fact, the clear that Josep had discovered the last night was the only possible spot were to install the beam. After a good breakfast, we immediately started to build up the beam. Personally, I could never see the hoisting system before so I had quite curiosity to see how it would work. At a first glance, the system was simple. We mount the mast, with the pulley and the system of flying ropes and fixed the beam to it. We started to pull up … but it didn’t work: we had tighten the beam to the PVC tube that it had deformed a bit and the tube wasn’t slipping. We slackened and finally, not without effort, we could hoist it. The system worked, but Josep took note of its failures and decided that it should be modified if we wanted to use it in future activities.

 

The beam was well tied, so we could start to be on the air. We connected everything and checked that there were some European station in the 20 meters band. We decided to send our first CQ de HI9/EA3BT on 14.260, the IOTA frequency but… no answer at all. He sent several CQ but no answer at all, so we started to be a bit upset … Was anything wrong? We chose for the easiest solution: calling Antonio for checking if he could hear us. Luckily it was lunchtime and he was at home, so he quickly appeared in the frequency and could checked that we were crossing the ocean and could be hear at EA3 land. But we had a small problem: the switched power supply that was supposed to work with 110 V it didn’t work properly and the equipment couldn’t work with 100 W … so we had to use just 40-50 W and then the lineal amplifier just showed 300 W output. That was a nuisance as the propagation conditions were very poor and we needed as much power as possible if we wanted to reach EU or … even JA where NA-122 is one of the most wanted references as it is nearly in its antipodes.

 

Josep decided that the only easy solution would be trying to find a car battery to connect it between the equipment and the power supply. The equipment would have 12 V from the battery car and this, while connected to the power supply, would get charged without interruption.

 

But we had to get the battery. I left Josep with a good pile-up, organized after Antonio put the first spot in the cluster, and went to the lobby in order to greeting Mr. Perez, the director, for his kindness and for the great emplacement that he gave to us … and also asking him another thing: achieving a battery. His answer was affirmative, but there was a problem: it was holiday in Samana and all the shops were closed so he couldn’t buy it till the next day.

 

Resigned, I went back to the villa and told Josep that we had to wait till the next day, but showing a nice smile he told me that we didn’t need the battery any more. Just when I left, the chief of maintenance came and asked him to tie the ropes in a different place from the lamppost as it was a bit fragile and he couldn’t guarantee that it would resist, and he was also interested in all what we have already installed, as no other ham radio operator had already been in the hotel since it was opened again. Josep explained him the problems that we had and he told him not to worry anymore as he would send an electrician to put us a 220 V direct line to feed the station. We were lucky again … although the electrician didn’t appear till the next day, but we finally achieved full power with our lineal amplifier.

 

Later, I started to operate so Josep could continue mounting the vertical antenna for 40 and 80 meters as we wanted to be on the air in those bands as soon as possible, and so we did that night.

 

We must say that during the six days that the operation lasted, the pile-ups were continuous and the signals in 20 and 17 metres towards Europe were very good, so we could work a great amount of EA stations and from the rest of Europe. Obviously, we could enjoy the best conditions with North America, the Caribbean and some parts of South America, but we must say that every afternoon, just before de sunset, we had very good openings towards Japan, and some of them lasted several hours, so the JA friends could make a QSO with this wanted reference, but only in the 20 meters band.

 

We were active in all bands, from 10 to 80 meters, except 30 meters, mainly in SSB, but Josep also operated in RTTY and CW. Daily, thanks to the collaboration of Xavier, EA3BHK, the logs were available online. We totally made 5.066  QSO, and, although it seems impossible, we had no problem at all during all the operation, except a pair of tropical storms with heavy rain and winds, very common in those places.

 

Unfortunately, good things always arrive at its end and we had to finish with the operation. The disassembly was quick and easy, we packed the antennas and equipment and got ready to start our long way back, which was placid … So we just can wait for our next adventure!!!!

 

We don’t want to finish without thanking all the staff of Gran Bahia Principe Cayo Levantado Hotel for their kindness, and specially to Mr. Victor Pérez (Resident Manager) for allowing us to stay in one of the best places of the island and Mr. Joan Pizá (Subgeneral Manager) and Mr. Ivan (Chief Engineer) for all the facilities. Also Antonio (EA3AON), Jaume (EA3JW), Marcel (EA3IN) and Jorge (EA8TL) who helped us with the technical stuff before our departure, and Xavier (EA3BHK) who took care of our online logs. We also want to thank URE, Clipperton DX Club, DX4DX Team, Lynx DX Group, Consell Terriotorial URE Catalunya, Sección URE Barcelona-Baix Llobregat and Sección Comarcal URE Garraf for trusting in us once again. And, of course, we cannot forget our beloved son Marc, who, during his 18 years old, has always encouraged to do what we like to do: RADIO. TNX to all.

 

Núria Font, EA3WL

(ea3wl@ure.es)

XV4D – Phu Quoc Island

Our journey was supposed to start on November, 2nd to the vietnamese island Phu Quoc, IOTA reference AS-128 southwest in the country. Planned was  an overnight stay in Saigon (Ho-Chi-Minh-city) to pick up our license.
However, before we can start our journey we had to take care of the inevitable formalities. First of all we applied for a visa for the “Socialist Republic of Vietnam”. In addition everybody of us needed a “Harmonized Amateur Radio Examination Certificate” (HAREC)“, an english written formular with stamp and signature of the German Federal Network Agency.

After taking this small barrier the big ones were closer. We planned to take the aircraft from Berlin via Doha in the Emirates of Oatar to Saigon, there we wanted to change to a small aircraft to Phu Quoc. To Doha we planned to travel by “Qatar Airways” but they were really strict with their baggage allowance, exactly 20kg per person and the carry on luggage should not exceed 7kg. In a small expedition group of 5 people, this means 100kg and a small carry on luggage. There was no way to talk to the really nice service personal of Oatar airways, every additional kg is pricy with 31 EUR per kg. Meaning our cash-budget is going to swell, we still don´t know how the “Vietnamese Airline” would react concerning this problem. Now we had to optimize our luggage: “Everything for the technic, but nothing for the operator!” was our new device. After all we need everything for 160m to 10m, to cover all bands and modes, and we have to have three complete stations und amplifiers available. Our final weight was some kilogramm heavier. Included was an 18m and a 15m tower for low band verticals, a Spiderbeam for 20 to 10m, lots of wire and a Butternut HF-9-V as an allround antenna. We had our inevitable K2-transceivers from Elecraft, and an IC-7000 from ICOM for the digimodes. Some netbooks with WinTest, filters and a bunch of coaxcables completed our equipment.

The 2nd of November arrived and we started from Berlin-Tegel. Our luggage was checked through to Phu-Quoc, according the information we got.

We had an relaxed night flight via Doha to Saigon, lasting 16hours. After 16hours, we were really surprised looking to the baggage claim. Our luggage was not on his way to Phu Quoc. However, we had to take care of it and abandoned it for one night at the airport. Hopefully there won´t occur any problems the next morning. Frank and Sigi took care of organizing the licenses and the rest of the team went by taxi to the hotel in the city. My travel guide spent a lot of pages explaining how to cross streets – now I know why. In Saigon the streets are crowded with motor bikes, nobody takes are of any cross light or traffic rules. There are some rules for surviving: walk slowly, never ever turn back and do what the loals do.

2 hours later, Frank and Sigi were back, showing the certificate of our license: XV4D. Next morning our journey continued and again nobody paid attention to our luggage weight restriction. We arrived at the small island airport, outside temperature 34°C and almost 100% humidity. The guy from the “Sea Star Resort” Mr. Wunderbar expected us already. We named him after the only German word he knew and used often for the next two weeks “Wunderbar” (wonderful) – meaning awesome.

Within two days we were QRV on all bands. We focused on the low bands. The demand on 160m and 180m was exceptionally high, therefore we optimized more and more the antennas. Afterwards we got usable signals acknowledged. For the higher bands we got only the Spiderbeam to operate. Whenever another band was open, we used a wire beam adjusted for Europe for 17m and the HF9V as universal antenna. The conditions were as expected on all bands bad. Higher than 20m we had only short openings. The signals were really weak, so we were limited to CW. For SSB the signals didn´t suffice. Therefore we couldn´t fulfill the expectations unfortunately. However, even here the “cluster mentality” appeared. We called for minutes on a most likely dead band, until suddenly we reached the pile up after a cluster spot. Fortunately our shack had a more or less stable internet- and therefore a stable DX_cluster connection via wireless LAN. We even could actualise our online log on our homepage.

We consequently tried to use every short opening to North America. But we couldn´t satisfy everybodies wish for a QSO.

For most of the days the bands opened the earliest in the afternoon, so that we arranged some trips in the closer  surrounding area.

Phu Quoc is the biggest Island of Vietnam and is situated in the gulf of Thailand, 40km in front of the southwest coast. In only 12km distance you can find the mainland of  Cambodia and even only 4km away the Island Kaoh Ses belonging to Cambodia. The highest with rainforest covered elevations north and south of the island reach 600m. The island with 70.000 inhabitants is 48km long and between 3 and 28km wide. Most of the residents live in capital of the island Duon Duong. There is a small airport, some asphalted streets and some more dusty pists, some banks, an hospital, a post-office, a police station and a small lovely market.
The inner island of Phu Quoc harbored palmtrees covered beaches, crystal clear water and an almost deserted jungle. The west-coast was the perfect place to spot the sunset over the sea, a real rarity within Vietnam.

During our expedition we had always a tropical climate with day and night long high temperatures around 30°C. Even in the night we found our glasses foggy, due to the high humidity on Phu Quoc. What else can we do than use some brewed water to balance our fluid loss. The cheap, native, icecold, “Saigon” beer fitted perfectly.

The native people were friendly and open-minded. We always felt save and enjoyed our trips in the closer surrounding area. The best way to move around was to rent a motorbike at the hotel for only 100.000 Dong (3,75 EURO) for the whole day. We spent a mornings at the south and the north tip of the island, visited a pepper plantage, a bead-farm  and some waterfalls in the middle of the rainforest. Always followed by different smells: brackwater in the small sleepy harbors, fishy on places where billions of small fishes were dried in the sun, palmoil-aromatic and chicken when you pass by cookshops. Most interesting was the market in Duong Duong. Here we experienced how lively a small village like this can be. Everybody who is able to walk,  is visiting this place once a day for shopping. Vegetables, chicken, spices, meat and fish, everything is in rich amounts. For West Europeans the mat and fish market was a real adventure. Some of the selled components of the vietnamese cuisine were let´s say- unusually. Here I would count for example frogs and toads alive or nicely gutted and skinned. Luckily we never had to deal with this in our hotel cuisine.

After two weeks of amateur Radio our expedition ended. JN3TRK was the last in our log. Disassembly and the flight back to Berlin on November 17th didn´t make any problems. Our QSL cards are already printed and on their way to their recipients, when this article is in press. You can find some more details and photos to our expedition on our homepage dl7df.com.

After this DXpedition to Asia, I still have a dream: Attend a amateur radio team to Oceania. Hopefully this will happen one day.

Andy, DL5CW

6W & J5 by HA0NAR

« Il faut s’armer de patience pour rejoindre l’île de Carabane » is a common French phrase which means « One must have patience to reach the island of Carabane ». While this adage continues to hold true, it was even more appropriate in the 19th century when, according to one traveller, a 26-hour boat trip from Dakar to Carabane was deemed fairly short, and was credited to a favourable wind.

On_the_way_to_Carabane_island

 

Travelling from Cap Skirring by a motorized pirogue is also possible, but the channels of salt water are not easily navigated. Carabane’s landing is located on a small peninsula on the north-eastern coast of the island, which means that boats need to sail along a significant portion of the coast before being able to land. Carabane, also known as Karabane, is an island and a village with a total area of 57 square kilometres (22 sq mi), Carabane (AF078) is the last major island in the mouth of the Casamance River in the extreme south-west of Senegal. Nearly 60 kilometres (37 mi) away from Ziguinchor, the capital of the region of the same name, and a little over 500 kilometres (310 mi) from Dakar, the country’s capital. Most of the Island is covered in mangroves, forming an impassable jungle that can only be crossed in constructed passages.

Antennas_on_Carabane

On January 22, 1836, the village leader of Kagnout in return for an annual payment of 196 Francs ceded the island to France. After World War II, the population of the island has gradually declined for a variety of reasons. Although Carabane was once a regional capital, the village has since become so politically isolated from the rest of the country that it no longer fits into any category of the administrative structure decreed by the Senegalese government. In 2003, the village of Carabane’s official population count stood at 396 people and 55 households. The literacy rate is approximately 90%. Students attend a primary school on the island. Carabane Island was added to the list of historic sites and monuments of Senegal in 2003.

My radio equipment consisted of a YAESU FT-857D with 100 W and a multi-band DUNAX GP for WARC bands. A 10 m fibreglass mast was used on 20 and 40 meters. During 31 hours of operation 2,180 QSOs were logged (all CW), 69% on each of 17 m CW and 40 m CW, the rest on 30/20 m CW, with 1,824 stations from 112 DXCC on 6 continents.

Laci_operating_from_Carabane

 

I have also made 4737 CW and SSB contacts on 160-10 meters as 6W/HA0NAR from Cap Skirring (Senegal) and 5995 CW and SSB QSOs on 80-10 meters as J5NAR from Varela (Guinea-Bissau). The online logsearch for these operations can be found at:

http://cqafrica.net/hu/radio/online_log/index.html

I am deeply grateful to my xyl: Susan for her strong and continuous support all along. Peter Brucker (HA3AUI, 6W2SC, J5UAP) is graciously thanked for his logistical help in bringing my West-African project to life.  

Peter_and_Laci_setting_up_the_antenna_in_6W
The financial support received from the Island Radio Expedition Foundation (IREF), German DX Foundation (GDXF) and Clipperton DX Club (CDXC) is graciously acknowledged.
HA0DU (Steve) and HA0HV (Sanyi) are gratefully outlined for their enthusiasm, encouragement and significant support.
Special thanks to AD5A, DK8UH, F8BBL, G3KMA, HA0HW. I would also like to thank all those who included some support with their QSL request (see J5NAR page at QRZ.com for the complete list).
by Dr. Laszlo “Laci” Radocz, 6W/HA0NAR, J5NAR