Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sorting things out

Band conditions improved today and we were able to put some QSOs in the log at a more reasonable pace. The problems we have now are largely self-inflicted. We had not made a comprehensive antenna plan before we came. I've mentioned this before in this blog and knew it was a mistake not to work out more details before we left. There just wasn't time. Unfortunately, if you don't do it at home, you end up doing it while on the island. Island time is limited and precious.
We've got an array of interesting antennas up and working. The problem isn't the antennas; the problem is the spacing. We have a couple of excellent antennas up that are in each other's near field. Some were spaced only a few feet apart (obviously a mistake) making it impossible to use them simultaneously. Paul's Buddipole on the top deck could be used for 20 or 40m (depending on the taps selected); Budd's monstrous 17m Buddipole delta loop is on the patio below Paul's antenna. Both antennas perform beautifully but cannot be used at the same time.
We had used all but 50 feet of the roughly 350 feet of coax I had brought for the trip. Luckily, another ham that had been here earlier this year left some coax behind on his last trip. Our hosts dug out that storage trunk today and we found another few hundred feet of coax inside. We'll use this to get some distance between these antennas. This will make it easier to keep several stations on the air here at the villa.
Budd spent some time out on his bicycle today making contacts. The contraption is quite a sight: FT-857 with tuner on the back. A head separation kit put the radio's display on the handlebars. A Buddistick was connected with a fantastic clamp to the other side of the handlebars to complete the setup. I've got video. Amazing!
My goals for this trip were to make 1000 QSOs while here on the island. I'm far short of that pace right now. Some of this was conditions being a little noisy. Some of this was because of the antenna separation problems discussed above. When I did get a run going, it was fantastic. I hope to be on 17m tomorrow with Paul on 20m RTTY. That's the plan right now.
The list of things that has gone right on this DXpedition is long. The list of things that went wrong is short, but I'm keeping track of them. We've had one antenna take a tumble off a roof, for example. The Caribbean winds are amazingly strong and even a set-up that would easily survive back home gets tussled about here on the islands. The result of that fall was a broken coil. Luckily, Budd and Chris brought extras. At this point, dacron rope guys and stabilizes everything. Even my Buddipole, set up in the front of the house (and well away from all the others, thank you) was seen earlier today spinning like a propeller. That's not something you see every day! I now have rope tied to the arms and guyed to a couple of fence posts to keep it from spinning.
There are many more observations I could make, both positive and negative, about how well our planning (or, occasionally, lack of planning) has turned out. In the end, we'll put lots of QSOs in the log, have fun, and learn many, many things for the next DXpedition. Perhaps our experiences here, and this blog describing them, will help others have a successful DXpedition experience, too.
Paul and I are searching for our alarm clocks. We're hoping to get up early to work Europeans in the morning. 73 from Montserrat!


Blogger jimtwait said...

Way cool bud. hope things get better soon. Sounds like things aren't that bad though.

February 01, 2007 10:00 PM  

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