Monday, July 30, 2007

2007 RSGB IOTA wrap-up

I made it out to Lovells Island this weekend for the RSGB IOTA contest. Lovells is part of the Boston Harbor Island group (NA-148). I operated from Georges Island several times last year, including the 2006 IOTA contest, but had not yet operated from any other islands in the group until this weekend.
The reason for choosing Lovells Island for this contest was simple: they let you camp there. Most of the other islands, including the "main" island Georges, are day-trip-only destinations and the last ferry leaves about 6 PM. In order to put in a full 12-hours, I needed to stay long after the last ferry departed.
Those who know me are probably surprised that I would attempt such a trip. My idea of camping is a hotel room without room service. Still, I do own a small tent and some gear. Recent purchases bolstered my supplies. A quick inventory Friday evening showed I had all I needed except food. I own no camp stoves, have no freeze-dried meals, no portable cooking apparatus, and no wood or fuel to carry. So, I did what any 13 year-old would do under the circumstances: I made myself a big pile of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and declared victory.
Here is the cart with the camping gear and antennas stuffed and ready to go. (Click on the pictures for a better view.)

The weather was threatening Saturday. A strong cold front was to move through and bring with it a series of thunderstorms with the possibility of high winds and hail. Few people met me on the docks for the 9 AM ferry and most of those were rangers destined for work on the islands. We were told that fewer boats would be running that day because of the weather. I begin to doubt the sense of this excursion.

The ride between Boston and Georges Island takes about 30-40 minutes. From Georges, smaller boats shuttle between the other islands like Lovells. The shopping cart, which made it possible to move all this gear from the car to the ferry, was not practical down rough gangways and on-and-off these smaller boats. Luckily, the DCR staff was very helpful hoisting and hauling the large carts, bags, and bundles of the many campers heading for Lovells. It seemed the farther you get off the beaten path, the more friendly and helpful people become.
The weather continued to threaten and I watched the doppler radar on my iPhone. Eventually I had made it all the way to the camp site as thunderstorms crawled across Massachusetts. I sat at the picnic table and thought very hard about scrubbing the mission. I love the IOTA contest. I wanted to do well this year by putting in more time. But, stranding myself on an island with little food, no water (except that which I brought with me), and only the minimum of camping gear during severe weather was probably unwise. I looked at the radar again. It was coming. Even if I left now, I probably wouldn't get back to Boston before it hit. So, I decided to say. I pitched the tent.

It doesn't look like much but it did protect me from the onslaught that was to come. The picnic table provided my operating position. The Pelican case holds my K2. Batteries are charged by the solar panel in the background. The Buddipole as a 20m vertical stands on its tripod in the rear.

The view was magnificent. I set up the 40m/15m vertical on the rocks above the beach with the elevated radials tied off to trees along each side of the path. The Boston gas tanks and Logan airport are in the background.

Conditions were challenging. Some combination of no sunspots and the geography of the island (with a hill between me and Europe) made the first few hours of the contest frustrating. Then, I felt a sudden change of temperature. The cold front had arrived.
Quickly, I packed the radio back into its watertight Pelican case and gathered all the other parts (log, headphones, etc.) and headed for the tent. I made it inside and secured the rain fly just in time.
For the next hour or so it rained hard. The tent shook under the wind. Water came in. Lightning and thunder appeared but luckily no hail. I am feeling pretty stupid at this point.
Then it cleared. The sun came out. I eventually put the station back together and found 20m slightly better than when I left it. I was even able to sustain a couple of runs calling CQ.
I still did not meet even last years QSO count or score. I could hear Europe, but it was like eavesdropping on a conversation being held in another room. I ended the day with 91 QSOs, 9 multipliers, and a score roughly half of last years 6 hour effort from Georges Island. I'll be spending the next few weeks reviewing my performance and making notes for next year. I'm sure there is something to learn from all this.


Blogger Unknown said...

Right on Scott! What an adventure facing down a thunderstorm with radio, antenna, batteries, solar cells and a bag full of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that rated guts, glory and Morse code.

Propagation will improve but the experience you shared is priceless.

I thought about your IOTA expedition this weekend, whether or not, Mother Nature might play the trump card. But, you did it with style, while rain thumped the tent. Dude, awesome!

Thank you for your blogsphere signal, GO NE1RD.

July 30, 2007 11:43 PM  

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