Dom’s report now published at https://berucontest.wordpress.com/dxpedition-reports-2015/2017-e51kta/
Here’s a photo-report on 3B8/G3TXF in the 80th BERU two weeks ago…
73 – Nigel G3TXF
ZF2CA BERU Report 2017
The BERU traveller has a symbiotic relationship with the rest of our community. In return for being a choice piece of DX, as well as better chance of higher points, is the fun of ten minutes of fame with your own personal pile-up, five times over if you are lucky. Three and a half this year of course, but it comes at the cost of the travelling challenges. Now I have visited Cayman a few times I have learned the ropes, however there are always surprises. No-one ever challenges my bags stuffed full of K3, morse keys, switch boxes, two sets of headphones, two dozen cables and adapters, and neither has there ever proven a need for paperwork. I avoid the aircraft hold at all costs as things always get mysteriously bumped. Not so mysteriously if you get to see the bags being thrown and dropped, or the evidence or bad re-packing: my rig has a deep earth pin shaped dent in it from a previous excursion. Once in San Diego it got a bit more intense when the swab test revealed traces of ‘explosives’. But after 30 minutes of total baggage dissection they put it down to ‘soap perfume’. I always allow time for this, but the poor sods behind me tend to get a bit twitched.
Entry via the US this time was a doddle, bags not even opened at any airport after Heathrow, on the way out at least. My biggest concern is of failing to lift my heavy roll-aboard properly into the overhead. The thought of putting your back out with this lot while alone and overseas is not appealing.
So this year’s surprise was courtesy of Expedia, who caused me to think my room booking had been cancelled, realising this 24 hours before arriving while on a business trip in rural Wisconsin where there is no coverage for UK phones. I went to rebook online and incredibly the room was still available – hmmm, this is high season on Cayman so what kind of room was this going to be? While I was booking I noted warnings on the TV of a big NE US storm due for Monday.
On arrival at Cayman airport I am to be greeted by the condo landlord at the Budget car rental office. I’m later than expected now at 22:00 and, paperwork all done, he’s still not to be seen. So I ring: “Yes, I’ll see you there tomorrow at 8.30 p.m.” Agghhhh; thoughts of sleeping in the car loom large. “No, it’s today – I’m here NOW!” “Oh…. Today?…..I’ll come. Gimme ten minutes”.
Ever accommodating, Andrew Eden the ZF1A club station owner/manager let me into the shack at 23:00 to set up beacon monitoring overnight. I fight COM port allocations for an hour, leave Faros beacon monitoring running and get to bed at 01:30. How is 15m going to be and will 10m happen at all?
Friday prep day the station works fine, some cables to make up and I would have liked one more sparring session with Morse Runner in the station environment as I know my pile-up morse is not up to snuff, but the work phone won’t stop ringing and leaves my head in the wrong place. I’m sure Lewis Hamilton doesn’t have this problem. Alright then, Jenson Button.
I started to doubt that Win-Test would score properly so I resort back to SD which has been updated specially, also for its operating simplicity. I consider a bit of SO2R on the club IC-756 but struggle to get SD to toggle the Winkeyer ports. A quick email question to Paul EI5DI reveals that there had been no demand for this feature so it’s no longer supported. Damn. The 2nd morse key will see action after all. Another cable to make up after a rummage around the shack for the right plug for the Icom.
I went food shopping in preparation, counting out every meal and overdoing it as usual. This year my staple diet became ham and cheese sandwiches with added peanut butter (there was a jar in the shack), ‘Waitrose’ mini pork pies (what is this UK brand doing in a Cayman supermarket?), bananas, tropical fruit juice, and the odd Twix as rewards for good pile-ups. And tea, of course. I had provided the station a kettle and thermos flask a couple of years back and was pleased to see a supply of tea bags already present in the shack. But the shops are expensive here –everything is $3.99, $4.99, or $8.99 for a jar of coffee and since Brexit the Cayman Dollar is the same as the GB pound. I can’t fathom the local economy at these prices as there is plenty of evidence of the less well off. I still can’t get over seeing the Queen’s head on Dollar notes.
Preparing the meals in individual freezer bags I was reminded of the micro-ants that ‘own’ the shack. Don’t get me wrong, the shack is well built with a sealed tile floor. Mostly they mind their own business and just occasionally run around individually over your hand, rig and PC – something to watch while CQing. But if you leave the slightest scrap of food they swarm all over it in a very ant-like way. So you must wash up religiously after every snack, even during the contest, including the mug and teaspoon. There is no safe sanctuary and the plate with a few sandwich crumbs left on a racking shelf well off the floor was soon over-run, appearing out of nowhere. They are tiny and must have a tiny range as they soon disappear if it’s spotless. Incredible examples of distributed intelligence via genetic engineering.
In the Caribbean you start on 80m working VEs, then perhaps to 40m prior to the first G opening on 20m at 11:00 GMT. The pile-up is such that at its peak your scoring rate is slower than when it is quieter as it is impossible to make out any but the canny few that call a little bit off-channel.
15m seemed more open than people realised and I got many of my contacts by QSYing people there, usually without trouble copying. Slowly I am learning to QSY people as a habit, like BUO does and BJ means to.
10m was not totally closed as LUs could be heard contesting, but I never heard any BERU traffic despite trying with several likely stations.
The balance of calling versus S&P is hard to get right. My low count of Far Eastern stations is I’m sure partly due to not spending enough time looking. But watching the rate meter falling like a stone is not good for the spirit either.
I’d been working a steady stream of VK/ZLs and VEs on 20/15 and so arrived late to the party that was the 40m G opening at around 23:00 and paid for it with a mob that slugged my rate to less than 40/hour, I could hardly believe the screen. This was an Aloha system in saturation. So what came to the rescue was decades of G-contesting and recognising snippets of callsigns: Is BK TBK or EBK? Is BU BUO or BUE? WW stands out as do careful senders like WGV. And of course school/college friends ZM4G and G4WGE/P or mates from my first club (Sutton and Cheam RS, joined when I was 9) G4ERW and G0KBL.
I hit the station airbed between 01:30 and 04:00 as I was falling asleep at the wheel, increasingly failing to make it to the end of each QSO still conscious. Apologies if that was you. But it wasn’t an easy choice as the rate was still quite high. I considered the bottle of 5-hour energy on the shelf, but that seemed somehow like an ‘illegal substance’ and not in the spirit of Unassisted.
The LF Grey line opening to ZL/VK was the best I’ve known and stayed open to VK until the end.
The non BERU callers remain a bit pesty. There was one N4 that drove me nuts as he called over and over and 20dB louder than everyone else. For a moment I lost it with the morse key. But I learned a new trick from VE3EJ: politely apologise and send a quick one-way 5NN, and they mostly go away.
During the contest I noticed that the Pro-67 was showing significant heading errors with stations 10-15dB down when on the great circle bearing. I was wondering how I was going to politely explain to Eden (as he is known) that his beam was 60 degrees off. It wasn’t until after the contest that I went back and measured things in the cold light of day to find everything spot on. So both the VE and EU signals were arriving miles off their true bearing at night, G peaking on SSE! In turn the Log Periodic – a monster rebuild of a ham model upgraded to survive hurricanes and that visitors are encouraged not to abuse with frequent turning – was probably never pointed correctly at night either. I expect half the people reading this know of his but it caught me out. Does this explain the Bermuda triangle? Fortunately during this Sunday testing I caught a conversation about the US clock change two weeks earlier than in the UK. Good job, I would not have known and now had the early flight Monday to miss the storm that would surely wreck plane schedules.
This year’s new club station toy was a Shared Apex Loop Array from Array Products. This allows instant switching at 45 degree angles and on LF is a particular godsend as the 80m 2-ele rotation rate is not high. The array is claimed to be good from LF to 20m. Its ultimate noise floor is not as good as a full sized antenna, but in the Caribbean night the limiting factor is the constant S8 QRN so its directionality is the key. However I discovered its benefits too late as it required mastering the K3 second receiver diversity function and internal headphone switching during the contest and via the config menu tree. A headphone mixing box is overdue. These loop arrays are claimed by some to be as good as a Beverage. I can’t comment, but the switching speed and apparent polar plot if properly assembled are impressive and it certainly helped weak signals on 80m. Christmas is coming…
Departing back into the US for my next leg to Denver was made slightly more complex as my ESTA had just run out. I duly arrived at 05:15 for the 06:53 flight giving time to fix things. Frantic phone calls to my UK office (there 9:15 am) reveal that my replacement ESTA had been applied to my old but still valid passport number – agghh. Standing at the counter using cranky airport wi-fi made applying for a new one very hard work, with repeated crashes and multiple repeated page entries. It must have taken fortyfive nerve racking minutes working on the new one as boarding time rapidly approached and I was not through security yet, though the counter assistant was very chilled. Finally made it into the departure lounge and noticed a similarly chilled approach to boarding too. Very, very chilled. Then someone I was chatting with said “You know they don’t change the clocks on Cayman – right?”
80m 126, 33
40m 190, 61
20m 273, 55
15m 107, 54
Claimed score: 7515
73 Colin G4CWH/ZF2CA
Mike G7TWC’s recent BERU (sorry, Commonwealth Contest) report has persuaded me that its not too late to do the same…..
Although it isn’t in anything like the same league as the real BERU Travellers' entries, I decided to do a micro DXpedition to the Isle of Wight to operate from a known good site, right on top of the (rather crumbly) cliffs on the South West facing coast of the island. In fact two birds were killed with one stone…..my son and granddaughter came over with me so that they could visit their mother / grandmother who lives in Ryde, and worked their passage by helping me with antenna erection. More accurately I should say that my son Guy (who has no interest in the hobby – which shows that he has made at least one good life choice – but has been around amateurs long enough to know exactly what to do) was very helpful, but my granddaughter Moo, at two and a half years, was enthusiastic but unfocussed – but start ’em young…..
After ferry delays due to fog in the Solent, we set up the antenna (a Gap Titan inherited unused from my late chum Dave G3JJZ) on Friday afternoon in fog and drizzle. This proved to be a rather complex exercise, and it is fortunate that we had done a dummy run setting it up the weekend before at home under more benign conditions. I had decided to do the Restricted – SOU section to minimise the amount of stuff that had to be taken (as it was, the Volvo estate was all but bulging at the sides) so the station was fairly minimal with just the K3 and an elderly laptop running N1MM+ for logging. As a result setup was quick and straightforward, so after a cursory SWR check (no measurable reflected on 20m and tolerable on the other bands – although I used the internal ATU to protect the PA devices) we retired to the local pub for drinks and a meal (the former purely to avoid dehydration you understand…).
Saturday dawned brighter. Things got off to a rather slow start (first QSO not till 1027) but perked up after that with QSOs with 9G5X and 3B8/G3TXF within 5 minutes of each other and my confidence rose somewhat. After that it was the usual ducking and diving between bands looking for QSOs. 10m was seriously dead – only heard one signal and that was a G calling CQ with no takers. 15m was not in good shape (single VK, a handful of Caribbean/East Coast Canadians plus a few exotica), but 20m was in moderately good form with a couple of dozen VEs – nearly all East Coast – plus 4 VK/ZL. Conversely the LF bands seemed in quite good shape, with a dozen or so VEs (all East Coast) plus a dozen VK/ZL on 40m and a handful of VEs plus 3B8 on 80m. I may well have lost out significantly as I think my “off hours” were not optimised, compounded by the fact that I was on for 12hours 58 minutes…..with a bit more trimmming I could have netered the 12 hour section, Hum ho – a lesson there for next year. Finally it was all over, and we came back to Blighty on Monday.
Final results were:BAND QSOs
40m 4420m 5115m 16
This included one duplicate – a VK – and it’s the first time THAT has happened to me….
Two final comments:* I was interested to read all the other reports – but particularly the one from Brian C4Z……Brian has traditionally been one of the first, if not the first, station worked and I wondered where he had got to this time….well, his tale explains that for sure. Good show Brian!
* the presence of the multi Gx80CC stations, rather against my expectation, was a worhwhile improvement.
In summary, BERU is always enjoyable, but despite the indifferent conditions and the high number of repeats, I think this was, for me, the most enjoyable so far. Roll on 2018….
73, Quin G3WRR
Another year and I was looking forward to my favourite contest.
I was planning to operate from G3ZVW but he was in ZD8 for work and only due back during the contest. Plan B didn’t pan out either (GB2BP). Plan C was at home with a new delta loop and inverted L. Plan D it was then, whatever that was – make do.
My aim was to work the 9G, V3, 8P and for bonus points 3B8 stations. All achieved in at least 1 band.
I started about 5 hours late after moving the contents of my shack to the relatively newly installed log cabin, drilling holes for feeders, building an inverted L, sorting out radials and hooking up the SGC230, moving the doublet and its feeder from the other side of the house to the garden side, building (multiple times) a rickety IKEA desk that kept collapsing, and various other DIY jobs while also trying to stop the little person from getting too close to tools in “daddy’s shed”.
In the end I put in around 8.5h of operating according to N1MM+. I had long periods of not much going on overnight, and worked some other stations (but not the DXpeditions in TU or 5U, and haven’t heard 9N or S2) and hit the hay at around 0400 for “1.5h” which ended up being around 5h. Missed all the dawn fun but was okay with that given I worked ZL last year on 80m so wouldn’t have been a new slot.
No VK or ZLs worked as I missed the early parts of both days, no 9J, V5 or ZSes either despite having posted on the ZS1CT Facebook group to drum up support. That’s not to say they didn’t come on, I just didn’t hear any but that wasn’t the aim.
79Qs, which is not close to my best effort but fun and worthwhile for the getting the shack up and running and a new antenna to show for it.
C4Z wasn’t loud but judging by the tale of woe there now I understand why. C4I wasn’t loud either. No-one was really. 9G5X was though, and that’s about all.
Thanks again to the travellers and those who worked my puny signal.
Till next year!
Call: ZM2B Operator(s): ZL2BR Station: ZL2BR Class: Open-24 HP QTH: Taranaki Operating Time (hrs): 18 Summary: Band QSOs ------------ 80: 42 40: 111 20: 65 15: 20 10: ------------ Total: 238 Total Score = 4,050 Club: Comments: Extremely poor propagation, plus a severe rain storm with lots of lightning and long periods of rain static on all bands on all antennas equated to a contest that I didn't really enjoy. Signals from beyond the Oceania region seemed to be much weaker than is usual in this contest. The usual and expected LF/HF short path opening to UK didn't happen, the long path opening towards the end of the contest was much better. Worked 50 G stations, my lowest number since 1987. VE's were also scarce, just two 20m contacts. Stations not worked - anyone in Cyprus or Gibraltar, 9G5X and the rest of Africa. Re the Caribbean, only ZF2CA and V3 are in my log, 8P9IF isn't. 3B8/G3TXF was a struggle via long path, but made it into my log a couple of times. Unexpected but welcome contacts included H40FN and VK8DX. Rig: IC-7600, AL80B, 800w, C3SS yagi, 40m GP @ 6m, 80m dipole 73, Frank
Call: VO1HP Operator(s): VO1HP Station: VO1HP Class: Open-12 HP QTH: Operating Time (hrs): Summary: Band QSOs ------------ 80: 18 40: 36 20: 251 15: 16 10: 0 ------------ Total: 321 Total Score = 3,045 Club: East Coast Canada Contest Club Comments: I was on a role and feeling good until the lights went out...literally!....The power failed at 2pm Sat during a violet and frightening wind storm here...gusts to 160kmph....I had planned for only 12 hrs this year but that was cut short. On Friday I had cranked down my tower to about 40ft based on the forecasts but had to bring it all the way down sat morning as it was clear that this was going to be a bad day....power wasgone for us 30 hours came back last night 2100 local.....still windy....during the powererless period the wind chill was about -20C . We are used to wind and wild weather but even for here this storm was extreme and violent.... My VHF tower and InnovAntennas for VO1FN transAtlantic beacon rx at my remote site are destroyed...on the ground in pieces.....while falling it took out my 160 Inv L and my 80/40 antennas. Some how my flimsy HF6V is still standing.
Call: G3YBY Operator(s): G3YBY Station: G3RZP Class: Open-24 HP QTH: N. Witshire Operating Time (hrs): 13h48m Summary: Band QSOs ------------ 80: 36 40: 62 20: 110 15: 29 10: 0 ------------ Total: 237 Total Score = 4,605 Club: Chiltern DX Club Comments: This year due to the lack of LF antennas at the home QTH, I operated from the QTH of Peter G3RZP about 2 miles North-West of me in the north Wiltshire sticks (thanks Peter). I entered the SOU 24 hr section using the IC7300 as a further contest try out. Like everyone else I found condx poor - zilch on 10m and not great on 15m. Also like others found fewer VEs on 40m than in previous years. Had a nice opening to ZL on 80m just on and after our sunrise and bagged 5 ZLs. The IC7300 performed well with just one instance of overload on 20m due to some very strong broadcast stations around 13.8 MHz but that was easily resolved by a small tweak on the RF gain control otherwise no complaints. Had a break from 0100 - 0400, and a stop for Boeuf Bourguignon with a cheeky Cote du Rhone from master-chef Peter Saturday evening.
Sadly very little time for radio these days but wanted to enter as a reaction to all the negativity and committee bashing which seems to be the norm at times. It’s reflectors like this that keep me in touch with the hobby, I love to read contest reports and how operators squeeze the very last db out of their full size top band four squares!
Had a couple of hours at the weekend so dragged the Hustler 5BTV from under the caravan,stuck it in the ground and laid out six 10m radials. Fed with 20m of RG58 and could only run 20w maximum as anything more wiped out the satellite box. Amazingly worked VKs, VEs, 9G, 8P and V31 on 40m. Fewer Qs on 20m working 9G, VE, V31
Used the highly contentious SSC GM1J, when you have a call like MM0BQI why would you not? GM1J is as much a part of me as MM0BQI possibly more as it spells my name backwards………. Despite comments about operators having difficulty understanding short contest calls everyone I worked had no problem getting the call right. Happily no one sent me odd ball Q codes about it either! Maybe these Commonwealth guys have gasped one of the basic rules about logging what is sent rather than what you think it should be.
Last contest I entered was an 80m UKICC event. Made a few Qs but lost all my points on a dodgy Q with a 9A station. Will it stop me entering in future or discourage me, no. Will it sharpen me up and make me a better contester, certainly hope so!
Good fun the few hours I was active. Thanks to everyone who traveled or operated the special CC calls.
Thanks to the CC for working on our behalf.
MM0BQI – GM1J