We all piled into the van, with Paul driving, and went to the Monserrat Volcano Observatory yesterday. We wanted to do two things: get a group picture with the volcano in the background and work some DX from that location. The group pictures began with Bob setting his camera on a tripod, setting the self-timer, and then running into formation with the rest of us holding our banners and flags. We were quite the entertainment for the group of tourists looking down at us from the observatory's observation deck. Being the shy and retiring soul I am, I shouted up to the group that one of them should come down and trip the shutter release for us. Sure enough, a young man trundled down the stairs and to our aid. You can see the results on the on-line log web pages.
As for working DX with that magnificent view in the background, we had the best asset we could wish for right in our midst. It wasn't any tool or antenna we brought with us; it was Budd Drummond, W3FF/VP2MFF. The group began referring to this as The Budd-Factor and so on. It seemed as though every time he would get on a frequency, folks would come out of the woodwork to talk with him. So, naturally, he was the ideal choice to start warming things up on 18.1575, the HFPack frequency. After working one or two fellas, another famous call, W5SAN, Joe, came on as bicycle mobile. Budd was beside himself. It was immediately obvious what should happen next: We would work Joe in succession, one after another. I was last, giving Joe a clean-sweep for all of us. Just was we closed with Joe, the band closed as well. It was almost as though the band stayed open just a little long for us!
Chris and Budd were out most every day, either at the beach, or Budd on his bicycle if Chris went scuba diving. Budd had begun taking his bicycle about 300 feet up a hill near the villa to operate. He was just barely within ear-shot if you were to stand in the drive way. Station-after-station wanted to talk to Budd. After doing some antenna work one afternoon, I returned to see both operating positions at the villa manned by operators leaning back in their chairs, arms folded, with the cans on. They stopped operating and just started listening to Budd work DX. Seeing this, I reached over and pressed RECORD on the iPod recorder to capture the spectacle. I'm sure some of that audio will make its way into my DVD mix.
Seven guys meant lots of peanut butter and jelly for lunch. That's OK. Lunch was just the "hold over" until dinner. Also, we ate like kings at breakfast most mornings. Mike (VP2MVG) made amazing eggs with fried potatoes that were soul-restoring. Just another example of how everybody pitched in and did their part.
During the shake-out of the antenna situation early in the week, I had decided I would erect an antenna out in front of the villa, well away from everything else. It began its life on 20m, but quickly moved to 17m. Except for a couple of moments where it had been cannibalized for an experiment, that antenna stood there being the workhorse of this DXpedition. I alone made 615 QSOs on that antenna, one quarter of all QSOs made by the DXpedition!
What kind of antenna does this? It was a simple Buddipole Deluxe Package with a longer (12 foot) whip on it. It was configured as a vertical antenna with the TEE, then two 22-inch aluminum arms on top of that, then the red coil with just a few turns tapped, then the whip. Just a single elevated radial sloped down from the feed point. It did have the TRSB on it, a must-have accessory in my opinion, so much so I often forget to mention it!
Simple works. Easy works. This antenna stood there in heavy rain and wicked wind. Nice and simple did the job very well.
The other antennas that I had a ball with were the fishing pole antennas I created on the top of the villa. A 20-foot pole held up my 40/15m antenna; my 33-foot pole held up my 75/80m antenna. Amazingly simple: feed point near ground level with two elevated radials and the radiator going up to the end of the fishing pole. I worked 168 contacts on 15m (at the bottom of the cycle!) with the first antenna, and worked 172 QSOs on the other. It was very gratifying to see these two extremely simple antennas work so well.
Tom picked out a quiet spot off between the main area and his bedroom, a little nook filed with old paperbacks and knick-knacks. His 706 and LDG tuner along with some home-brew Buddipole stuff where nestled in there for the first couple of days while Tom hung out and watched the festivities. Again, we should have planned this better (this is partially my fault). Once I saw that he was somewhat stranded in this position with no good antennas and no prospect of finding a place to put one, I ran a short length of coax over to his station and made it possible to patch into the other main antennas as they became available. Tom soon thereafter hit his stride and was putting QSOs into the log quickly and efficiently. Even with this late start, Tom ended up with over 250 QSOs for the trip.
Bob was our resident photographer. Content with taking fabulous pictures, he didn't operate as much the rest of us. Then again, we're all looking forward to the CDs filled with pictures he's promised us!
Paul worked amazingly hard on the digital modes when he was there at the villa. Fortunately for us, but unfortunately for him, he's an excellent driver with experience driving on the left-side of the road. So, one of our best operators, and only digital mode operator, would often need to leave a nice run on 20m to retrieve the guys down at the beach, or grocery store, of volcano observatory. Twisty roads, steep inclines, and hairpin turns never seemed to bother him. Again, guys pitched in to make things work.
I could go on: more about Chris frantically trying to make sure Budd had all he needed, Mike making big runs on an open station, Paul's singular humor, or Budd's unquenchable enthusiasm for getting on the air. I could go on, but it would just be more of the same at this point. When it was time to part company first in San Juan and then again in Orlando, there was a genuine feeling of disappointment that it was over. But, I believe we all feel good about what we did, and how we did it.
I'm closing now. Again, it is after midnight. Wake-up call at 6:30 AM so I can catch some breakfast. Thanks for reading. I hope you've found this recounting interesting. 73!