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Rent a Pileup - PJ4P by DF7ZS

Helmut Mueller (DF7ZS) on April 26, 2004
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Rent a Pileup – PJ4P by DF7ZS !

Late summer last year my wife and I discussed the idea, to fall back to our old passion of a “holiday on a Caribbean island” ! I was searching the internet for a way to combine a superb Caribbean holiday together with some real contest action. The website offers tons of information from all around the world. Nearly everything from ham friendly hotels up to real plug and play stations can be found there. As we disliked the idea to travel with luggage 100 pounds overweight, the decision was a quick one: Rent a station.

our favorite beach at Bonaire

We selected a nice house on Bonaire Island in the Netherlands Antilles and got in touch with the owner, Noah (K2NG). The island Bonaire is just 50 miles away from Curacao. The group of islands including Aruba is very far south, just before the Venezuelan coastline. The climate is very mild and constant with temperatures around 85 F at daytime and 72 F at night. The average water temperature is around 80F. When we mentioned Bonaire to our scuba diving friends, they instantly got this magic glaze in their eyes. The island is one of the most beautiful scuba diving locations around the world and even for snorklers it is unbelievable what can be seen just in front of your mask. Don’t forget your gear ! The far south position of the island makes the beam heading for most multipliers with little turning direction. With a wide beamwidth antenna (like a 2el 40M beam), you can point 330 and work the United States, Europe and Central Asia will be workable with the beam to 45.

The house itself is located on the northern part of the island on a 400 ft high mountain that gives you a very nice low angle takeoff in almost every direction. The antennas are visible on the skyline from most parts of the island. The setup consists of a Force 12 240N two element 40m beam on a 90ft tower and a Force 12 C31XR on a 60ft tower. Between the towers there is a dipole for 75m and you can also install antennas for top band with a pulley system on the 90ft tower. There are three 10ft tower sections to support a 350ft NW and beverage and a temporary NE beverage is also possible. The setup inside the house is completed by an Icom IC-756 Pro with computer control interface and a Ameriton AL1200 amp delivering 1500W. A new Dell 400SC 2.8GHz PC with 15” LCD flat screen and optional internet access is also available. The PC has Writelog 10.42 and a Writelog Multikeyer. Just for backup reasons I brought my own little Yaesu FT-857, but it’s only duty was working as an fm radio all the time.

The force 12 C31XR @ 60ft

I think with a proper set of filters and a second transceiver, the location would be good for Multi/Single or Multi/2 as well. An additional rotateable tribander such as a C3 is planned for the near future. The house has two bedrooms with queen sized beds and air-conditioning and bathroom and a third bedroom with a double bed and air-conditioning.  The biggest room is the living room which has a cathedral ceiling  and integrated kitchen and radio shack. Apart from that, there is a terrace and an island style garden which is the home of many geckos and some iguanas.  A rental car is absolutely necessary and the best choice would be a pickup truck to be prepared for some off road adventures.  Speeding on these roads can cause some serious trouble as the island is populated by many donkeys and goats.

Noah’s house before sundown

The main operating position

Force 12 240N @ 90ft and A3S

For personal reasons, our trip started at the 20th of March from Frankfurt, via Amsterdam to Curacao. Unfortunately KLM was not very cooperative with our overweight luggage. Checking in with three persons they wanted to have more than $300 extra for 8 kilos overweight. That is less than 3 kilos per person. It is unbelievable how fast you can move 8 kilos into the hand luggage.

close to the habour

After 1 week of rest in Curacao we flew from Curacao to Bonaire and arrived on the Friday afternoon of the contest. Noah, who knew our tight schedule before the contest, left the station installed when he left a week before. This way it was a real plug and play. After the antenna cables, power supply and headset were plugged in, I turned the beam towards Europe and logged 100 QSO’s to get familiar with the station. Everything seemed to be ready for the contest. The excitement of competing for the first time in such an environment erased all chances of finding some hours of sleep before the contest started.

... working the pileup

At 8 o’clock  local time the contest started – “CQ contest this is PJ4P” ... After the first hour an amazing 170 QSO’s were in the log. The pileups were much stronger than expected and the mults seemed to come to me automatically.  The US stations were very disciplined, unfortunately rates dropped by 20% when I tried to work Europe. I think I lost 500 QSO’s partly because I spent too much time trying to work Europe on 40M. Stations were calling, calling and calling CQ from Europe with very good signals, but because of the huge QRM were not able to copy my signals. With every call the desire got stronger to use the CW portion of the band. As this is a very hot topic in recent years after every major contest – I didn’t. The rest of the week I got very nice runs going on 40m and signal reports were outstanding all the time. Anyhow, I was too hard headed in trying to make this work and spent way too much time on it just because I love the 40m chaos so much. 

After 35 hours I had 3900 QSO’s and more than 1000 mults in the log. This should be good for around 12MEG and a place in the top 10 single op stations. Afterwards I wished I could delete the 200 40m QSO’s and apply for the number 1 seat in the TB/Wire class, but maybe next year.

Life Support

My congratulations go to all the great competitors out there and especially to D4B (4L5A) who made more than 6300 QSO’s in the single op class. That is more than 170 QSO’s per hour throughout the whole contest ! My rate was way lower but nevertheless I was hearing calls and reports still a few days after the contest. In any foreign language that I did not understand properly, whether it was on the Bonarian Dutch radio station or on the neighbours table in the restaurant, there were call signs and numbers anywhere.

The view from the house - what a low angle takeoff !

After the contest, the main focus was back on the beautiful island and the hundreds of different tropical fish. Between beach, dinner and bedtime I was able to add another 1500 QSO’s into the log. Overall I am very pleased with the whole event. The station performed really great and it was a real adventure to be on the other side of the pileup for the very first time. I think this virus of a “contest from a Caribbean island” has infected me too. I would like to give anybody who is interested my encouragement to try this out. It is a great experience and by far not as “unreachable” as you might think. The “rent a station” approach makes it so easy to try it out for your self and leaves less room for excuses why not to do it. I would also like to encourage the fast finger people, sitting behind the DX cluster and writing comments such as “no ears” and so on…… just do it and let’s see how good your ears are.

Special thanks goes to my wife Annette (life support), who provided me all the time with food and coffee. Noah Gottfried (tech support) who let me use his house and his fantastic station. He wrote tons of emails to answer all my questions weeks in advance.  If you go there, you can see easily how much time and dollars are dedicated to this project. Thanks for all the stations who worked PJ4P and PJ4/DF7ZS.

back from work

Sundown at kralendijk

The usual question at the end: “ ….where do we go next ?”

Pictures from Curacao, Bonaire and the PJ4P station are here !

Member Comments: Add A Comment
Rent a Pileup - PJ4P by DF7ZS Reply
by 4L5A on April 27, 2004 Mail this to a friend!

Hi Helmut
Grear article and very imformative
You do great job
73 Al 4L5A/D4B
great report Reply
by DK2SF on April 28, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
This is an excellent report about your holiday qth! Go on with this good writing. Perhaps I'll do such holidays too. But my girlfriedn has no license and sometimes won't understand when I'm working a contest in our holidays. :-/

Rent a Pileup Reply
by oe5oho on April 30, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Great story. Too bad nowadays laws and restrictions make it hard to erect a top stn in EU :-( Anyway, QSO-rate is NOT in EU ;-) Or why do most top-contesters choose to travel anywhere else than - EUROPE? 73 and Auf Wiederhoeren de Oliver.
Rent a Pileup - PJ4P by DF7ZS Reply
by WW4LL on May 3, 2004 Mail this to a friend!

Thank you very much for the informative article about Noah's place at PJ4. I have it reserved for a single op effort for the ARRL 10 meter contest so your feedback, that of Noah's and KU8E has been most helpful. Will look for you in December on 10 meters.

73'....Fred WW4LL
Rent a Pileup - PJ4P by DF7ZS Reply
by DK9VZ on May 5, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Hi Helmut,

great and informative report on your holiday/contest activities. Maybe it was too early for me this time but after reading your article believe me I´ll be with you next time ...

Rent a Pileup - PJ4P by DF7ZS Reply
by N6KD on May 8, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
I don't know if you are aware, but you can rent a fantastic station on Curacao also - PJ2T - just got back from a week there and had a great time. I have also been to Aruba - and had a great time - 5th in the world on 10 meters in the ARRL DX Phone contest.

I wasn't aware of a rental at Bonaire - but maybe I will have to try it to complete my coverage of the Netherland Antilles. 73 PJ2/N6KD
RE: Rent a Pileup - PJ4P by DF7ZS Reply
by KU8E on May 20, 2004 Mail this to a friend!
Only problem is the PJ2T station is rented for just about every major contest for the next several years.
If you are not looking to operate a contest Geoff has several weeks open for the current year and beyond...
RE: Rent a Pileup - PJ4P by DF7ZS Reply
by DF7ZS on April 29, 2005 Mail this to a friend!
After the last website update some pic are broken ... the full story can be found as well using this link:

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