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V26DX 2003 ARRL Phone M2 Low Power

Doug Priest (W3CF) on March 13, 2003
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The dawn of a new Caribbean Fun Station

Photos and story by Doug Priest W3CF / V25C

As some of you know contest DXpeditions on a grand scale are difficult at best and downright hard work if you are serious. Every year its lower antennas and replace rotors. Do this do that. Whatever it takes. It stopped being fun and started being a career. The boys at V26B have the hardware to compete with anyone but too much maintenance is required for this broken old body. I wanted something different. A FUN ONLY station! A place where the final score is NEVER the bottom line. The bottom line is a good time is to be had by all, especially the significant other.

Officials at the hotel where the V26B gang stay have allowed me to install antennas on the 9th story roof for guests to use to play radio. They have agreed to supply a beachfront room for contesting/rag chewing. Besides being a great place to operate from it will also permit emergency communications in the event of natural disaster. Here is the first antenna. A Force 12 C4 at 120' in the center of the photo below.

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I had been contemplating a station here since March 2002 when KD3TB, N2WKS, and I activated the V26B site for ARRL Phone 2002. Planning started soon after a meeting with the general manager of the hotel, Vernon Jeffers. Mr. Jeffers would allow antennas if I would agree to handle the details and insure harmony with other guests. We discussed an outline of what is permissible and agreed to work together to make the experience as rewarding for the operator as it is for the hotel. One reward is the radio room is the best room in the house. Room 801 is the topmost room just to the left of the C4 above. The view from the shack is every bit as impressive as the one from WP2Z.

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This was early one morning as I awoke to 77-degree weather. The body of water to the right is a huge salt pond and the body of water to the left is the Caribbean Sea. The pool with a swim up bar is in the foreground. Cruise ships of all sizes enter St. Johns harbor to dispense hundreds of sailing folks onto Heritage Quay and the duty free stores. Currency is the Eastern Caribbean note. The exchange rate is 2.7 EC to 1 USD. Let me return to the contest. I get carried away

KD3TB and I agreed to return for the ARRL Phone contest and I began assembling a team of operators. Zev, N2WKS, is getting married this year so he was out. K3MQH/W4 was supposed to bring his YL Mary and renew his DXpeditioning. A job change altered his plans and they were out. Finally, I found N2EA and his wife Peggy and Jay, WX0B and his wife Sharon N5CK to round out the Team with my wife Mary and Irwin's wife Sue Ann completing the group. Remember this is supposed to be fun. One caveat to that is be careful giving the YL the credit card while you play radio. Not a good idea. If your wife is like mine you will have no problem finding her. Here is my wife Mary at the hotel casino. Everyone knows where to find Mary. Note the grin.

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We had decided to do a Multi op / two radio LOW POWER effort. We must do tests to insure amplifiers will not interfere with the satellite TV the hotel uses to entertain the guests after a day on the beach. Ninety watts from two radios were no problem. N2EA would bring his 756 Pro and KD3TB brought his 746. Write Log was our weapon of choice and laptops were primed in the days leading up to the test. Antenna choice was narrowed to the Force 12 C4 for 10-40. The C4 fits into a 4' long box that checked in as luggage. Other antennas would have to be shipped due to airline restrictions. Shipping expenses for longer antennas would exceed the national debt. Tom Schiller at Force 12 sleeved a C4 for us to withstand the high winds on the roof of the hotel. It arrived by FedEx 16 hours before I was to leave for the airport. Thanks Tom for the hard work on short notice. The C4 did almost 6000 contacts in a casual effort. The other antenna was a 270' dipole fed with ladder line. It was strung to the mountain behind us and pulled towards the US at 100' over a chasm that runs behind the hotel. It tuned pretty well on all bands from 80m thru 10 meters.

I arrived on Tuesday expecting WX0B to be the next one in that evening so we could start antenna work on Wednesday as we waited for the rest of the group. My 70-year-old mother was on her first ever vacation with us as Miles, a local taxi driver, picked us up at the airport. Total flying time from Philadelphia was 4.5 hours. American Airlines flew a 757 on the first leg and a 737 on the second leg. It was much nicer than the old ATR-72 turbo prop from San Juan to Antigua. WX0B had ice in Dallas and was delayed 24 hours. Next in were KD3TB and Sue Ann with N2EA coming in Thursday.

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Here is the Team of operators and families. From left to right. Jim N2EA and Peggy, WX0B and N5CK Sharon, Sue Ann and better half Irwin KD3TB, W3CF, my mother and finally my better half Mary. We left TWO feet of snow to do this. Temperatures for the 10 days averaged 82F in the daylight and 75F at night. The occasional tropical shower really did not interfere. The trade winds were a delight and we slept with the sliding doors wide open.

Here is Irwin at station 2. The “sun” on the horizon is really not the sun but a perfectly lucky shot of the flash bouncing off the window of the sliding doors. You are looking due north.

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This station had the 270-foot long wire as you can see the tuner on the table. The hotel supplied the 6' table for our use. The other station was used for the Force12 C4. Here is Jim and Jay checking out propagation and setting up Write Log at station 1.

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While waiting for OPs to get into Antigua we were forced to fend for ourselves so we partook of the local delicacies at the Andes restaurant. This restaurant is one of three the hotel has on site and is situated on the water on Deep Bay. A selection of local and international delights is available in a great spot to cool off from your first day on the beach.

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The radio room includes all food and drink for two guests. Here a local troubadour entertains Mom while we wait for our selections. Live entertainment is a daily thing at the hotel with Steel bands and other performers exposing you to the Caribbean sound. May I suggest Conch Fritters as an appetizer? Try new foods while here and you may find a delight or two that strikes your fancy. WX0B delights in the Pumpkin Soup while I enjoy Jerk Chicken and whatever fish happens to adorn the menu. The swordfish is excellent as is the red snapper. Antiguan Fried potatoes are simply perfect. REAL potatoes.

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As you can see this was a very serious effort…. to have fun! The crew of V26DX is under orders. Irwin on 20 hoists a Wadadli the local island libation as Jim runs on 10. Set up time was about 6 hours start to finish. The hotel's banquet manager, Mr. Peters, offered the 6' table to host the second station. Notice the required roll of Duct Tape on top of the TV over Irwin's right shoulder? Final tally was 3 gallons of beer and several Pina Coloda's. Oh! You wanted real numbers? Here they are… About 36 hours of operation.

Band        QSO       Sec Operators
160            44            16 W3CF - Doug Priest
80             380           48 KD3TB - Irwin Darack
40             210           43 N2EA - Jim Jarvis
20          1,990           58 WXOB - Jay Terleski
15          1,726           59 N5CK - Sharon Terleski
10          1,946           58
Total     6,296         282

Score: 5,326,416
Radio's: Icom 746 and 756 Pro 90 w

Antenna's: C4S (10 - 20) and Sloper (40 to 160)

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When we were not running stations on our shift of duty we were forced to spend time with our wives. We could usually find them here or at the pool.

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Antigua lies at 17 degrees north of the equator and one must be very careful how much sun they get. I suggest at LEAST a 30 sunscreen even for the tanned until you understand just how intense the sun is here. Watch the children very carefully. They burn VERY easy! If you wonder off into the bush I also suggest bug spray with Deet as the active ingredient. They have some scary critters on the island but no snakes. The mongoose population has assured that. Back to the contest…

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Here Jay takes a break from the toil of 20m and relaxes on the balcony. And Sharon is in training on 10m below as we take advantage of the “rookie” rule. Next year she programs the DVK.

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Sharon had dabbled for a contact here or there but this time was her first real training and she did really well. She had a 66-hour on a slow Sunday afternoon. Sharon's V2 call is now V26SB. The Island Minister of Communications, Mr. Eustice Phillips shown here signing her license, issued it. You must bring a copy of your station license to get your own call sign or if you wish you may use the hotel club Contest call V26DX. Contest QSO's are via KU9C.

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We invited V26P/W5AJ over for dinner after the contest. He wound up staying the night. Here he checks propagation for his son. The camaraderie experienced in a multi environment down here is half the fun. No attitudes allowed Robert has posted photos on his website

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The party is over Back to reality Be back in October for CQWW

For more photos see


Doug V25C / W3CF

Member Comments: Add A Comment
V26DX 2003 ARRL Phone M2 Low Power Reply
by kn4fc on March 14, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Congratulations on your effort. It was nice to work you on 15m. Appreciate the pictures. It's always cool to see the places you've worked. It's also good to hear that your team was having fun. That's the way all contesters should be.

Well done!

V26DX 2003 ARRL Phone M2 Low Power Reply
by WX0B on March 15, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
As an op for this V26DX M2 low power effort. I can assure anyone that is considering renting this location that it is excellent for spouse and radio.

I puttered around with CW before the test and made a 100 or so qs to mostly EU station, in about an hour. And what a pile-up! I planned to make more qs after the test but the radios had to fly home with the ops that brought them on Monday after the test. So sorry for no more CW guys.

But we will be back with our radio soon.

The long 160m dipole I put up and left for future ops is fed with ladder line. So bring a balanced line tuner. It has great gain on 80-10 and is a dipole on 160m. EU is loud on it and with the C4 now in place you will be loud on all bands. One time I was running at 350+ an hour on 40m with this dipole.

The height of the antennas and the proximity of a salt water path for all of US, PAC, EU, Asia make it ideal. Even low power is extremely fun.

We will add a low band listening antenna in the future too. But 160 and 80 worked very well on this dipole.

A really nice place to operate, relax, and have fun with hardly any work to make the antennas play.

The hotel management is cool about radio and they have a guy who will help you on the roof. There is also a beach guy who sells alloe who will climb the mountain to put the dipole up too!

Call Doug and do it.....or maybe I should keep it a secret.

Jay, WX0B and Sharon, N5CK
V26DX - ANY time! Reply
by wy7i on March 21, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Hey I am ready to sign up right now! Where do I start?
V26DX 2003 ARRL Phone M2 Low Power Reply
by n2ea on July 1, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
We had a blast! But Doug, I think you'll find that operator sign-on wasn't followed. A large chunk of my time was spent on 15 and 20.

Jim, N2EA, V25EA
RE: V26DX 2003 ARRL Phone M2 Low Power Reply
by n4hy on July 30, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Hey Jarvis, quit whining. This could not have been totally about scoring anyway. What a great location! I think I might to try it on without the contest.
You guys did really well, congratulations from the
pea green with envy people who suffered fall, winter, and spring in the lovely northeast megalopolis.

V26DX 2003 ARRL Phone M2 Low Power Reply
by W3CF on August 26, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Yo Jarvis...It was not meant to be a band listing of Ops, just a generalized listing...We all know where you operated....I have the UBN report :-)
Doug W3CF/V25C
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