CQWW 2007 ED5ON/6
Duncan Lindsay (GM7CXM)
November 6, 2007
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It is 9 am on Friday morning and I am sitting on the ferry “Bahía de Málaga” in the port of Denia, waiting to sail for the island of Ibiza. My final destination is the small island of Formentera, to the south of Ibiza. With this, I am finally embarking, after many months of preparation, on this year's CQWW phone contest.
It started back in January, when I sat down with my wife to plan the year's holidays. Where I work, it's a requirement to tell the company in January the holidays we plan to take, and this year it just so happened that after planning the main holidays, I had a couple of days left over. My first thought was using them to go somewhere for CQWW. Last year I operated in less than perfect conditions at my country QTH, managing a third place in SOSB15HP. The previous year I didn't participate, since that weekend we were moving house. The plan was approved!
The first thing I did was to look at possible locations. It had to be somewhere close by, not necessarily a rare DX country but somewhere that might be a difficult or rare multiplier for the contest. The first place that sprung to mind that fitted the bill was Gibraltar, ZB2. According to the information I was able to find on the web, it looked like it should be easy for a british national with a british ham licence to obtain a reciprocal licence. I also started looking at how to operate. Would a hotel be best? Could I operate from the radio club? Or would a camping style trip to Europa point lighthouse be more appropriate? Whilst looking at all of this, I sent a mail to the ZB2 authorities, requesting information about obtaining a licence. They replied, stating that the reciprocal licencing was under revision and that they would get me to me in due course. A couple of months later and not having received a reply, I sent another mail, whereupon I received a reply that they had concluded their revision and attached an application form for me to fill in. I opened the file, only to read in disbelief that reciprocal licences were only to be issued now for 2m and 6m operation! I double checked, and had it reconfirmed: Gibraltar had recently had trouble with reciprocal licencing and had therefore adopted this restricted reciprocal licence. I spoke with Alan Guerrero, ZB2IF and president of the GARS, to ask whether this had anything to do with the recent operation by some Spanish operators who had applied for a licence using a Montenegro callsign. (For those of you who are unaware, Gibraltar is a british protectorate on mainland Spain, and subject since it's annexation of a territorial dispute between the two countries). He said that that was just the last in a long list of stories but I checked and have found very little information about other recent reciprocal operations.
Be that as it may, the fact of the matter was that I couldn't do the contest from there. I started looking at other alternatives. First was EA9, just across the water from ZB2 but a nice 3 point location since it is now Africa. I contacted Juanjo, EA9IE, veteran contester and DXer, for his advice. He told me that the best place in Ceuta to contest was the Parador hotel, a luxury hotel on the waterfront from where multi multi contest had taken place in the past, but that this was not now an option. The hotel lies right next to the military headquarters of the region, and after 9/11 they had specifically prohibited any radio operation from the parador. There were a few other places I might be able to operate from, but I was really looking for a place where I could use verticals on the beach and none were suitable. Juanjo suggested I look at neighbouring Morocco, CN, which I did. The best thing about Morocco was the transport: a direct flight early Friday morning and back on Monday afternoon. However finding a place to stay or a station to operate did not prove so easy and in the end I desisted. EA1BP Miguel, who had originally planned on coming with me, started checking out popular holiday spots like Malta, but the further away we got from Spain, the more difficult it was to get there and back with time to spare. I looked at GD, where I knew at least I would have no licencing problems, but in spite of the large number of flights which go there from a number of different UK airports, it still proved impossible to manage to get connecting flights organised. Later, in a chance call with Luis EA5KY, he mentioned that he was going to EA9 for the national CW contest in September. EA9 is comprised of two cities, Ceuta and Melilla, some 400km apart alon g the north African coast. I had looked at Ceuta, Luis was going to Melilla, closer to Tunisia. The team had managed to get permission to operate from Fuerte Rostrgordo, an imposing fortress on the top of the city, and asked if I would be interested in going there for CQWW. I considered the possibility. They would be there at the end of September, and if there were any problems, it would not leave me enough time to organise an alternative. Also, the location for them was great, they could mount low dipoles which would make for easy contacts with the rest of EA, the object of the CNCW contest. I on the other hand was looking for somewhere where I could put up antennas principally for DX.
It was while I was mulling over all of these considerations that the September issue of CQ came, with the results of the 2006 contest. It was while looking through the results that I realised that there was another entity which had not previously occurred to me: EA6. EA6 is by no means a rare DX country. There are lots of hams that live there but, as I found out, not very many of them are active contesters. It is also the nearest DXCC entity to where I live and several of the islands are reachable by plane and boat. I started to put out the feelers, first to EA6DD who I knew from the Spanish contest reflector. He was enthusiastic about the idea, the only think he mentioned was that this year he would be entering 20m SOSB and considered that if I were to do a monoband entry, it would be nice to spread the EA6 mult around a bit. I.E., for me not to do 20m, which was fine by me. I considered the options, none of them being perfect, and ended up choosing 80m simply because propagation this year should be good on 80 and also it's not a band I get to operate a lot. I am antenna resticted at my home QTH and only operate 20-10.
I then started to look for a QTH. I started looking in Formentera, since this is a nice flat island which also has an area of salt flats (thinking of my vertical antennas). Internet is a wonderful thing and I was quick to find a small independent company letting out seaside villas in secluded areas. They reckoned that in spite of the villas between the beach and the salt flats being MY best option, they recommended some villas on the south side, since they are more secluded and less likely to have any problems. It was so nice to receive a message from Ben Astbury saying, yes, we'll be happy to accommodate you and your contest, and reassuring that he didn't see any problem about setting up antennas on the beach and that there'd probably be nobody there. The villa was booked and paid for and this was probably the easiest part of the whole operation.
Next stop transport. Formentera does not have an airport so ferry is the only way to get there. I looked at flying to Ibiza and getting the ferry to Formentera, but in the end the luggage situation dictated that a ferry from Denia (about an hour's drive from my home QTH in Valencia) with the car was the most sensible option. If I were doing QRP on a higher band, OK, but the 80m antenna kit is not light to carry around. In the end booking the ferry was a nightmare since CQWW falls right in the period of timetable changes and in the end I only managed to get my final tickets ten days ago. Instead of the two hour summer service, I had to take a four hour ferry to San Antonio, drive across Ibiza, and then get another ferry from Ibiza to Formentera. My plans to have 5 hours to set up the antennas were dashed, current ETA is about 5.45 pm and I will have about one hour of sunlight to set up the verticals. I have two phased quarterwaves in the car but I am really doubtful about how that'll come about. We'll see when I get there.
And last but not least, the callsign. If when you read this you worked me, you'll be wondering why on earth I chose such a difficult call. ED5ON/6 is not the worst call I've ever had (GM7CXM/C6A takes that dubious honour) but it's not really what you want for a contest. The funny thing is that Spain's new rules and regs published last year noted in the preamble that they recognise the ITU recommendation to increase flexibility on callsign issuing, but let's face it, their interpretation of the rules leaves a lot to be desired. The up side is that both the Valencia and the Balearic telecoms functionaries were a delight to deal with and went out of their way to make sure I got all the paperwork on time.
So, I'm now in Ibiza and the boat is due to leave in an hour. Let's hope when I come back to this text I'm able to say that it was all worthwhile!
It's now Monday morning and the contest is over. In a mail exchange with EA4KR a couple of months ago he told me he thought it was important to set a goal. I did, the goal being 750 QSOs, 70 countries, and 20 zones. I only managed to make it on one of three counts: my QSOs way down at 440, countries fine at 71, and zones a meagre 16.
First off and as I had thought, in the end I was only able to operate with one vertical. As a frequent user of fishing rods to support antennas, I am used to being able to put up antennas for the higher bands in a jiffy. Even the 12m spiderpoles for the 40m antennas are doable, although they are already starting to get pretty heavy and unwieldy to manage on your own. But an 18m long spiderpole is a pretty tough number to put up on your own if you don't know what you're doing and, I must confess, I didn't! I arrived as planned with little time to spare, and as soon as I arrived, went on a quick reconnaissance tour. The plan after seeing the photos on the internet was to set up one antenna right on the beach, using a wooden fence to support the base while guying it on the rocks on one side and palm trees on the other. The other antenna would be placed at the appropriate phasing distance and use a palm tree to hold it up if I couldn't find a friendly tourist on the beach to help me. I started preparing the spiderpole, first extending it on the ground, then installing the clamps to avoid the sections falling in on each other (the clamps having been prepared previously at home). I then attached 20m of wire to the pole, with a soft helical winding in order to fit on the 18m length of the pole. I then tried to put the pole in the air. Up, up, and…. Up flipped the base, and the whole thing came down again with a thud, the end of the pole dipping into the sea. On the second attempt, I jammed the base under part of the walkway which goes between the apartments and the sea, and this time managed to get the antenna up in the air. I quickly tied the base to the pole with Kevlar rope, and then set off to stay the guys. While moving to put up the second set, the whole thing started teetering and… once again the antenna came crashing to the ground.
At this stage the sun was heading towards the horizon and I needed to take a decision. I had noticed that close to the apartments was a children's play park, with some swings hanging from a hefty wooden frame. It would be a much better base, so I decided that in spite of it being 50 metres from the sea, it would have to do. I managed to extract the antenna from the walkway, disentangle the guy wires, and drag it up to the swings. Third time lucky they say, and in this case it was. The antenna went up, and stayed up while I tied the guys to convenient pine and palm trees. Out came the radial wires, then I cut the coax and prepared the base. The sun was just heading over the horizon and the mosquitoes were now out in full force. I just about went crazy while screwing everything together at the base, and still have the bites to show for it.
The moment of truth: would it work? Well, the answer is yes. Perfect SWR straight off the bat, although a bit low in the band for my taste. Raising the radials a couple of feet soon cured that. The band was quiet but I managed to work a few Europeans so all seemed well. I could try again with the second vertical on the Saturday. The contest started, and I started to make contacts. Not at all easy to start with, I might add. 80 metres is 80 metres, and it doesn't matter if you have a full size vertical near the beach, if you are running 100w its tough going. I plodded along, doing SnP all the time since my CQ calls got no reply. As a mobile contester, I'm used to it and not unduly concerned! Finally stateside started coming through and I was able to work a few stations on split, even managing to get some to answer my CQ. Also at that time I guess someone must have put me on the cluster since all of a sudden I started getting a lot of calls. I finished up the night with a few Caribbean multipliers and tried to get some sleep. Impossible. I was as wound up as could be, having spent a hectic week at work (Tuesday I had gone to Lisbon) and with the last minute preparations. Also I had the annual AGM of the local radio club on the night before leaving so I had had precious little sleep. But, instead of making me tired, it made me nervous, so no sleep was to be had. So, I thought about the second vertical. However the weather had a better idea. As I stepped out the door all I could see was a mass a black cloud approaching and in ten minutes time a huge downpour accompanied by lightning. I hastily pulled the plugs and waited. And waited. And waited. Even now, although there's no lightning nearby, it's still raining and the static is 59plus20 constant with crashes up to 40. So, in the end I did the whole contest with just the one vertical, not on the beach, and I am sure that had things worked out better on the antenna front, I'd have had a better chance to achieve my goal. I was lucky late Sunday night that it stopped raining so since the static was so high, I decided I had to take advantage and take down the antenna. Halfway through the operation, and after getting bitten again by the mosquitoes and taking the antenna apart in the pitch dark with a torch between my teeth, it started raining again. The bad part of this is that when the spiderpole hits dry sand, the sand falls off with a shake. When it hits wet sand, it sticks to the pole and you can't telescope it down. Took me a while, but in the end I got it dry and clean (wish I could say the same for the operator).
A few hours sleep and then it's up again to catch the ferry. Lighting is still flashing and crashing all around us and the half hour trip across to Ibiza is rough to say the least. However the rest of the trip back was calmer and now here I am home again finishing this.
What did I learn from the effort? A few things:
80m is a tough band, especially LP. It appears there are no short cuts.
I should have included a low dipole in my antenna bag. I'm sure I would have done a lot better for the more local QSOs. I was able to work the few JA s and Ws I heard first or second call with the vertical. It took a lot longer for many EU stations on apparently clear frequencies to get the call straight.
Talking of which, a “stroke” whatever call is a QSO loser.
Travelling can be expensive and take longer than you might think.
Next time I have to include MOSQUITO REPELLENT!
I really should try to sleep and relax more before the contest, although that's easier said than done.
Fun anecdote (there always is one): On Saturday I was napping next to the rig with the coax unplugged and lying on the floor. All of a sudden I started hearing a noise which sounded like sparks. I hastily unplugged everything from the power but the sound continued. I looked over at the coax and the PL259 was occasionally sparking away. It wasn't connected to anything so must have been a huge buildup of static electricity. First time I've ever seen anything like it!
So, 2007 is over and I already have an email waiting for me from EB5ALB entitled CQWW 2008!
Thanks are due to a large number of people who made this happen: first the people at Astbury Formentera who not only didn't mind what I was doing but showed a keen interest. To Julio EA4KR for his very helpful emails. To Salva EA5DY for all his help with the verticals. To EA6DD for his offer of help, maybe next year Biel? To the guys at URE Paterna for your support. And last but not least, once again to my wife and kids who not only put up with me, but even tried this year to listen for me from the rig at home!
PS: Sorry no photos. The ONLY kit which went south was the camera….
CQWW 2007 ED5ON/6
by oe5oho on November 9, 2007
Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for sharing your story and for standing firm in the heat of the battle ;-)
73 es 55 for your next trip, de Oliver OE5OHO.
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