The original plan was to follow up the previous 2 years’ outing to C4 and 9H with one to The Gambia. The flight was booked up and with the xyl signed up I was busy finding hotels by the beach , as the original Radio Syd location was now reported to be suffering from QRN .Out of the blue Thomas Cook suddenly changed the flights without options so that only 6 days were possible, this to include the licence application and station setup! So a refund was taken and after consulting the excellent BERU website, the bank, the xyl, contesting gods, the VP9GE DX villa was booked instead.
Knowing that the VP9 licence only allows 100w, and enjoying a making a travelling homebrew antenna setup, it was decided to enter the restricted section , and keep the villa’s A4S beam for before and after the contest. The suitcase 40/20/15/10 vertical , a second 15m GP and FT857 and coax were squeezed into one suitcase at 1kg under the max weight, and the second case shared with the long suffering XYL for a few T shirts and my version of Bermuda shorts.( not good). The excellent Ed VP9GE met us at the airport and ferried us to the villa, next day to the shops, and even lent us some bus passes. A kinder host cannot be found. During the contest he removed and hid the villa’s beam feeder but made available a 40m dipole and 80m dipole, and a 160m dipole was used on 80m Rx due to local QRN. This did need manual switching on rx, so apologies to those who thought I was slower than usual, but I had to switch antennas with one hand and log with the other every over on 80! I used Ed’s FT902 as it is ergonomically better than my little FT857 , but only discovered the CW filter switch underneath it after the contest! Apologies to those I couldn’t dig out on rx due to this blunder. SD logger and Win key and manual band input completed the simple setup. The suitcase verticals overlooked the sea from his garden , on a hill up about 100 feet about 200m from the sea. In most directions the takeoff was clear from west through to north east bearings, just a worry over a bigger hill to the east , which maybe explained few African contacts except V5.
The contest operation went nearly to plan for an old op restricted entry, starting on 80 with VE’s, then moving up, the preceding sun event seemed to delay 10m opening, but open it did eventually. 40M opened to G during local daylight before dusk, which caused some surprise locally. Wow he’s working GM in daylight on 40! Sadly fatigue , and a nasty cold picked up on the plane, set in a bit early and I missed the wee small hours VK/ZL opening, but managed a few VK/ZLs in the early morning. Total QSO count was 620 ish, quite a few behind J34G, but I was pleased to have kept up with him for a while. It was great to work friends in the UK and elsewhere on several bands, and get moved around the bands by a few. We were lucky to spend the next few days sightseeing and swimming around Bermuda with its perfect beaches, Forts, gardens and coastal walks, and museums. The people have a culture of being welcoming and polite, quite a shock! In the evenings I worked about 700 more contacts, with 100+ on 160m which seemed quite popular with W’s, and a few EU stations made it on 160m too.
Great thanks go to Ed VP9GE for his hospitality and help, he made it an unforgettable trip. Next year the choice is open again, the BERU travelling bug has now bitten 3 years in a row!