This year I came back to beautiful Belize for the third year running using the V31GX call.
Normally on my Beru trips I go restricted from the beach and carry all my stuff as extra luggage but this year due to sunspot conditions decided to splash out on a ‘renta-shack’ and guest lodge owned by a lovely German couple V31DL and his wife Monika, which also doubles as the Belize amateur radio club HQ. (V31HQ). They also disproved the fallacy that Germans have no sense of humour. Its a really nice place that is fully equipped and they made me very welcome, even brought breakfast to me up to the shack in the morning! I would heartily recommend it here if anyone fancies some radio fun in beautiful surroundings whilst on holiday in the Caribbean
It had to get used to the Icom7800 and the German keyboard (Z&Y were swapped) in the shack but that didn’t take too long.
Antennas were a 3 ele on a 60 foot mast for 10,15 and 20 and dipoles for 40 & 80. Alas the 40M dipole never really worked as it had developed a fault after a thunderstorm recently so had to use a low dipole @ 7M and I swapped about different antennas for the Rx, as it was really noisy otherwise. The amp was some sort of black box under the table with a desktop control box, Icom I presume like all the other equipment.
I arrived only a day before the contest as I had no need to erect antennas etc. but due to a hectic few days at work prior to leaving I was ‘cream crackered’ to say the least when I arrived after the long flight, that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!
The few hours before the contest, I had to set-up N1MM to read the CAT and key the rig (via a microham Mk2) which took an hour or two to work out as I never used them before and they are mostly SSB users here.
It started well. As ever here started on 80M for first ½ hour then moved upwards, I had the advantage of old logs to analyse and previous operating plans with openings all marked out in time order. No QSO’s on 10M at all despite QSY’ing when requested to check out. I think only southerly paths would have have had any chance on 10m, I worked VP8NO several times, should have tried as he was a good signal here.
I now know why Colin, ZF2CA camps out on 15M for a lot of the time, fairly good path to VE and especially VK/ZL later in the day from here when running a bit of power and good antennas. The ZL’s were a stonking signal. It was hard to gauge relative conditions from last year due to differing power and antennas but 40M & 80M was hard work with much ESP going on. Nasty QSB with signals going from nothing to good readability every few seconds, many repeats needed. Some 40wpm+ VE’s who only sent reports once weren’t making it easy in such conditions.
One of my QSO’s with Bob, G3PJT, was a real exercise in perseverance, it must have taken about 5 minutes due to the bad timing of the QSB, sometimes it happens like that, just bad luck but we got there in the end.
Running QRO and good antennas was a new thing for me, I quickly learnt that instead of asking for repeats it was quicker to send what s/n I thought I had with a ? at the end and listen for the ‘R’ or ‘CFM’, as they mostly heard me better than I heard them.
Non Beru callers were only an annoyance a few times, in fact they were a relief during the quiet times of which there were a few.
I was impressed with the noise filter on the IC-7800, much easier to use than the K3 version and I would say more effective, although I think my K3 with a roofing filter had better audio and selectivity in contest conditions..
Alas tiredness set in early (my usual issue, that’s why I prefer to operate as a team in long contests) so only operated for 14 hours, (see earlier excuse!), so I missed out on the 80M opening to UK Sunday morning. Should have stuck to 12hrs to be competitive. Just a shame to let the team down but then its all for fun.
All in all very enjoyable though and a real pleasure to use such a well equipped station for a change.