Just added some pics of Dom’s 30m 4 square.
Just added some pics of Dom’s 30m 4 square.
Hi Quin sent me some pics of his trip
I just added some more pictures from Dom of the Kii Kii Motel on E5. They are at https://berucontest.wordpress.com/dxpedition-reports-2015/2017-e51kta-more-pictures/
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
8P9IF BERU 2017 Summary
Not one of my better efforts I have to say poor conditions and a number of equipment and other problems rather took the edge of things.
Its always tricky to separate out propagation conditions from other factors when you are operating from a new site. The last time I operated from Barbados was from the super station at 8P9Z and thus a vertical on the cliffs really wasn’t in the same league.
I used the venerable K2 and 100w to two antennas, a vertical doublet for HF fed with open wire line and via an auto tuner, and for 80m I had an inverted L. The Vertical had worked great on J6 a few years ago. Both of these antennas suffered problems, for a start the inv L was a pig to get to tune properly. Although the miniVNA showed a good match, the K2 SWR bridge stubbornly disagreed. In the end I found that if you use elevated radials then you need to be careful to choke off any RF on the coax outer else the SWR in the K2 will shut the pa down. A combination of choke balun and more radials did the job. In addition the inv L failed high SWR twice, once before the start, hence the 40m start, and finally just as 80m was opening on Saturday evening. Both cases when it was pitch black, squally and tricky to find your way to fix things.
The K2 had also suffered in transit and the tuning knob has become very stiff to turn. I hope that just the knob has slipped on the shaft otherwise it will be a new encoder. How and when this happened I don’t know but when you are in transit there are plenty of knocks and bumps.
Conditions in general at the start of BERU were very quiet and only a few stations were audible on 40. 20 too was not very noisy, 15 and 10 were dead. Not a good omen. E51KTA was loud on 40, pity he couldn’t hear me. Dom was working 9V and VK who were also good signals but CQ s nearby produced nothing. Gives you a feeling that something is not quite right. Now this site is on the cliffs on the east coast of 8P but I was a little concerned to note that in fact it faces south rather than the east I had expected. However electrically it is very quiet I could hear better than I could be heard.
A pattern developed such that I would call people, no-one coming back to a CQ, and they didn’t reply. I concluded later that I was not strong enough either to get over their local noise level or in the case of the VE s, strong enough to be heard of the side of their beams when they are working UK/Med.
I now experienced a problem I have never had in BERU, a cockerel got into the villa and I spent a frantic 15mins chasing it around with a broom until it escaped outside. A sense of humour failure was much in evidence.
So the first part of this BERU was S and P with short runs on 20m. I was slowly ( quickly !) slipping behind my 2016 target from J34G. The stiff tuning knob on the K2 didn’t help .
The remote tuner is pain for band hopping as there is a finite retuning time. Never again, resonant antennas with a switch for the future. The Butternut will be brought out of retirement yet again.
There were many notable signals. 9G5X was just a huge signal with a huge pile up seemingly all the time. E51KTA was strong too as were several of the Gx80CC stations. It will be interesting to check when the logs are analysed that the usual quiet times in the early UK morning have been filled in a bit. Nice to to work 3B8/G3TXF, its a long way from the Caribbean to Mauritius.
I usually operate the full 24 hours if possible but this year I had a 4 hour sleep from 2100 to 0100 local as I had lost 80m.
BERU seemed hard work this year and rather frustrating with the conditions and other trials.
One thing which really impressed me was the Barbados licencing office. You have to re-apply each January for an annual licence so I sent the completed licence forms with 30USD about a month before the trip. And they replied within 7 days of receipt by email with a pdf licence for my old call. When I congratulated the lady on this super service she said if I wanted a paper copy to drop by their office and she would let me have one but actually just print one off for yourself and don’t bother to come in. Ofcom could learn a lot from them.
Barbados Airport is becoming very congested due to the number of cruise ship passengers transiting the ship terminal and airport immigration queues of up to 2 hours are common at weekends I was told. So we bought a Fast Track service to bypass the wait. DX Travellers will know about the necessity of arranging a ‘fixer’ to get through immigration in some of the more out of the way spots. Fast Track is the same thing in the first world. An important side effect is that those of us with fishing poles without fishing gear or ski bags without skis or lots of electronics can just pass rapidly through the system, very useful.
Operating time : 14h05
BAND QSO DUP DXC HQ POINTS BONUS AVG
80 32 0 4 3 160 220 11.88
40 160 2 21 9 800 820 10.13
20 134 2 17 7 670 760 10.67
15 36 0 15 4 180 480 18.33
10 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.00
TOTAL 362 4 57 23 1810 2 280 11.30
TOTAL SCORE : 4 090
Steve G3UFY, my xyl and myself travelled to the Pafos forest location of Norman 5B4AIE at 900m asl this year to run C4I as a multi-op station. With a 3 ele SteppIR and verticals all looked good. However the Cyprus weather turned very nasty with big thunderstorms before and during the whole contest..S9+ static and high winds at the start. Apologies to those who were asked for many repeats but the static was bad. Sunday morning saw another storm and lightning and we closed down for a while. The station runs on solar batteries, big ones, and a top up generator. Unfortunately that generator wouldn’t go and we spent a while fixing it on saturday evening, jumping the solar inverters with cables and finding a pesky fuse with only one metal end.We had to run low power in the night as a result, then a huge storm swept the mountain depositing 2 inches of hail , lightning, and knocking down the 80m vertical in 3 pieces! This is all good expedition training and makes the end result and pub lunch well worth it. Conditions were poor, 1 qso on 10m, no Caribean, VE’s in the noise in the static, but great to hear the BERU regulars and travelers.The total of 600+ QSOs was slightly disappointing but good considering the band conditions and challenges.Thanks to Norman for all his help and great to meet the local 5B4’s before for a meal.Where to next year? 73 Mike G3VYI