Had an absolutely wonderful time on the Isle of Man 2nd/3rd March, here’s a brief rundown on Day 1:
GD-005 Mull Hill
Ferry arrived in Douglas at 0545 on Friday am, drove straight down to Mull Hill through the cracking dawn arriving in time to see the near-full moon set and the sun rise on opposite sides of the island. Magical. I’d planned to grab an extra hour’s sleep at this point, but suddenly I wasn’t tired so took a trip down to Calf Sound - well worth doing, it’s beautiful.
Back to the quarry carpark, and up the hill in glorious sunshine and a light breeze. This was my first HF activation, and despite my trepidation the antennae went up as per plan, with a Norcal doublet as an inverted V and the SOTAbeam erected together on a SOTApole held in position against one of the pill-boxes by the rucksack I use to carry the kit in.
Called briefly on 2m ssb but nothing heard, so gave 60m a try. Antenna tuned up beautifully using the ATU I’d built specially (very gratifying!) and Alistair GW0VMZ came straight back to my first call at 0815. I soon had a pile-up of early risers, working a dozen stations (GW0VMZ, G0HNW, GW7AAV, G4JZF, GW0DSP, M0VEY, G4CPA, G3RMD, G4OBK, GM4FAM, GM0AXY, M0JDK) by 0840. Then back to 2m ssb, for three contacts (G4JZF, G0NES, M0JDK) and finally a call on 2m FM brought me Harry, 2D0HEB for the first of several contacts.
As I was closing with Harry, Martyn GD3YUM arrived on the summit to personally welcome me to the Island, and give me the benefit of his “insider knowledge” on the summits ahead and the best way to approach them, having noted from my previous reflector exchange with Rob, G4RQJ that I’d not had time to get his comprehensive activating instructions. Truly the spirit of Amateur Radio is alive and well on the Isle of Man.
GD-004 Bradda Hill
Parked up at the recommended spot, tractors were coming and going up and down the trackways so checked with the farmer that I was not causing a problem, with a smile and a wave I was assured I was not. Martyn had warned me that this was the hardest climb of them all, and he was right - a very hard earned one point for this one! By the time I reached the summit, the sunshine had gone and a minor gale was blowing. Thankfully the wall crossing the summit provided a bit of shelter, and I anchored the SOTA pole to one of the fence posts on the far side of it. Only mounted the HF aerial this time, even so the pole was bending alarmingly. Put out my first call at 1108, and was answered by Clive MM1YAM/P on NS-147 for the first S2S of the expedition. A further 21 contacts followed in rapid succession, including Peter GW3TJE/P on SW-008. ( And G3RMD, M0JDK, GW0VMZ, G4JZF, GW7AAV, GM4YMM, GW0DSP, G0HNW, GM4FAM, G3VQO, M0COP, G0RQL, GM4COX, G0NES, G4ZRP, GW3BV, MM1FHO, GI4SRQ, G4RQF, G4ZCS)
As I took down the 60m antenna and prepared to erect the 2m beam, the heavens opened and within minutes I was in the middle of a terrific hail storm. I’d not taken my waterproof trousers up with me, and my legs were soon soaked to the skin. Discretion being the better part of valour, I abandoned the 2m activation and got off the hill as quickly as possible. Apologies to anyone who was waiting for me on VHF.
Back in the car, changed into dry clothes and drove down to the beach car park, well worth doing while you’re here, despite the foul weather the inlet was very beautiful, I sat here watching the sea crashing against the rocky shore with the car heater on full belt to warm myself up and ate the packed lunch my XYL had thoughtfully provided me with.
GD-003 South Barrule
On arriving at the parking spot in the entrance to the green lane, I was well up in the cloud, rain was lashing down and the wind was vicious. The temperature was 4 degrees. In short, pretty inhospitable. I waited in the car for half an hour hoping for the weather to improve, but if anything it got worse. Hope springing eternal, I donned an extra fleece and the full waterproof kit, hoping by the time I reached the summit conditions would be better. Predictably, they weren’t; as I gained height the wind got worse and at the summit I was having difficulty standing up. For once I was grateful for my 20 stone bulk, anyone exhibiting lesser inertia may well have been blown away. I huddled behind the trig point, extremely grateful for the meagre shelter it afforded, and considered my options. The only one (other than the sensible one, ie get off the hill as quickly as possible) was to try a 2m FM activation on my '817’s rubber duck. So with the radio wedged in the top of the rucksack to give it as much protection as possible, I put out a call on 145.500. After 10 minutes fruitless CQ’s, I had almost resigned myself to failure on this one. A final tune round however produced an S9 signal on 145.400. By some miracle I had chanced on a net of four local amateurs who most graciously let me in and allowed me to qualify the hill in short order. Heartfelt and everlasting thanks to Matty, MD0MAN/M, Frank, 2D0MHG, Harry 2D0HEB, and Dave 2D0RGW. Sincere apologies to those who were waiting for me on 60m, operating on this band with the equipment available was not feasible.
The hill qualified, I made a rapid descent “crab-like” to keep the worst of the stinging rain off my face, and beat a hasty retreat to a very welcome hot bath. Then spent the rest of the evening considering the best way of going about “extreme weather” activations. Bring on next winter…
(Day 2 to follow shortly!)