1x new association, 2x uniques, Activating in Portugal

Mrs. FMF came in to the shack and said “Can we go to Nazaré?” and I asked where it was and she said “Portugal on the coast, they have huge waves that people surf, it looks lovely.” And so I did a bit of digging and found where it was and checked if there were any SOTA summits near. There were enough for a family holiday so I set about organising our 1st foreign family holiday that wasn’t a package deal. This is a bit scary because I have plenty of experience buying plane tickets and hiring cars and finding cheap hotels for just me, something for the family for a week was a new experience. Anyway EasyJet fly Edinburgh <> Lisbon although flights are early morning we got up a 3am to get to Edinburgh for 4.15 to check in and clear security and we checked out on our return at 4.30am to get to Lisbon in time (especially as hire car return was not too obvious when I drove the return trip on Google earth!) It turns out I found a fab hotel (the AC could produce ice cubes almost, the wifi was fast, 125 channels on TV 75% in English, the breakfasts were phenomenal and the room was just perfect with posh bed linen and lovely fluffy towels.)

So we had a wonderful family holiday and I tagged on some SOTA. I could have done more but i had just one day for me SOTAing whilst Mrs. and Miss FMF ran up my credit card bill at the poolside bar and pampered themselves. I located 5 reasonably easy summits, one is a drive on but 100km away. The two I did were about 50km by road from the hotel. Not too far away as I wasn’t missing breakfast and was on holiday not on a mad activating rush. If I’d have skipped breakfast and pushed myself I could have bagged 3 but hey, that’s a reason to return to Portugal!

I’ve done plenty of activations outwith the UK involving flying and airport security and Lithium batteries and lugging heavy FT817s or lighter KX2s. It becomes a drag having it in your carryon bags and getting past security. This time I was using my QCX setup designed specifically for these situations. 20m QCX mini, 30m QCX mini (does 40m at reduced power), 5m travel pole, trapped EFHW (resonant 20/30/40) but with AA5TB style match unit will match on 40/30/20/17/15/12/10m, not that we had so many bands. Power is 3x 18650 cells that get taken through security inside a USB power pack. Everything bar the 18650 power packs were in the checked luggage, so I had my laptop, psu, USB power packs, camera and drugs in my carryon, noticeably lighter than normal.

Serra de Mendiga CT/BL-020

Hey it wasn’t meant to rain. Quite a few heavy showers on the drive out and a black sky as I climbed up from the coast. Bottoms! I parked at 39.53078,-8.79144 (IM59om57) and started what sounded like a few hundred dogs barking in the farmhouses :frowning: TNF Hedgehogs on and away I went. There was the odd spot of rain but I was at the top in no time as it’s a mighty 55m ascent and 1.2km walking. :slight_smile: I looked for somewhere to setup and finally found a walled off field near the true summit. I didn’t really want to setup on the tracks as my Portuguese is limited to “Cerveja por favor” and “Obrigado” and didn’t want to have to explain what was going on.

Away onto 20m and I worked 18 stations, EA2, SM, ON, DL, EA3, MW, G, F, EA1, GM, OK, S5, HB9 and 2 on 30m EA4 and GI4ONL. Victor texted me saying he couldn’t hear anything of me on 20 so I gave him the QRG on 30m and it was an easy QSO. 30m and 40m seemed very odd, quite dead but maybe being 1800km South of GM, D layer absorbtion coming up to midday was much worse ?

First view from the top. Hey, what is the dark cloud swirling over me? I’m in CT not GM? Amazing smell, wild Mountain Thyme everywhere.

Ciclope. This is part of an automatic wild fire monitoring system. The cameras are always scanning and moving. Feels very George Orwell at first!

Equipement, L to R: AA5TB match box (switches select 21/24 turns and 3/4 turns), SWR meter (Kanga kit plus a meter from eBay), AKG headphones, 30m QCXmini, 20m QCXmini, GMT clock, Palm paddle, 3x18650 cells, main Android phone, burner Android phone, box of junk (pens, leatherman, screwdriver, insulating tape), Decathlon super lightweight sit mat.

5m pole, EFHW as inverted sloping L.

After many unanswered CQs, I packed up and set off back to the car. There I started the dogs barking whilst I had a good drink and a banana and half a bag of trailmix (sultanas and nuts). After that it was off to the next summit.

Vale Grande CT/BL-018

This was probably about 20mins drive away. I parked in a pull off near the track that leads to the summit. There are plenty of masts at the top hence the good track. You could drive it an F1 car. I wasn’t sure if it was legal to do so and as I was eating well, the exercise was most welcome :wink:

It was still dark skies but was meant to get better so I dumped the waterproof and just kept the umbrella.

Half way there and the sky didn’t look good… should have brought the waterproof :frowning:

First view of the towers at the summit…oh there’s plenty! And what’s moving?

So I kept on plodding and soon was at the top and admired the many towers. Some kind of ATC site by the shapes and styles of antennas and everyone else has jumped in with stuff too.

Lots of vertical omnis on this one.

Looks like some kind of UHF link and that dish looks like a Ubiquiti 2.4/5GHz Wifi link.

So that’s what was moving… a damn RADAR antenna :-(. Slotted waveguide scanner in a radome. Probably L-band (23cms) by the size of it. Andrew Corp dishes facing me on probably around 4/7GHz, the others are 11/13GHz etc.

Yet another impressively large Portuguese trig point.

It’s a big scanner!

I’m getting old and whilst I don’t mind sitting the near field of my own antennas on SOTA or contesting, I think I’ve getting towards having had my fill of proper QRO RADAR RF. I wasn’t going to stay too long up here. So I found a nice place to setup in the Mountain Thyme and off I went again.

Same antenna as before. The WX is gorgeous this way :wink: Must the RADAR making the clouds!

So another 17 QSOs on 20m EA2, F, I, EA1, HB9, ON, DL & G, just 2 on 30m, EA1 and Eric F5JKK and 3 on 40m EA2, EA7 & EA4.

Surprisingly with all those antennas there was no crud on 20/30/40m but the QCX has a 200Hz audio bandwidth so maybe I didn’t hear it. What I did hear was two very LOUD clicks every time that damn scanner swept over me. I wonder what the ERP was ?

There was a thread on how to rig an antenna. So here’s how I do things with 3 guys and yoke.

A tent peg (edn marked in yellow) stuffed into the rocky soil. (EU44 size shoe for scale). 3 of these at 120degs apart.

Yoke made from a piece of scrap plastic. This was made in 2006 and is still going strong. I have several for different sized fibreglass/carbon poles. I takes under 5 mins to deploy and have the pole self supporting.

Another view of the lightweight holiday SOTA setup.

Of course by the time I’d packed up and was on my way back to the car, the WX was glorious. 24C and a nice breeze.

And more nice countryside.

My faithful steed for the trip. Toyota claim this is a 138bhp 1.8L hybrid, it couldn’t pull a greasy stick out of a dog’s whatsit :frowning: Still it was quiet and comfy and the AC worked. The hire company was a Portuguese company that provides service for Enterprise in CT-land. Well you pay for Enterprise service and don’t get it… miserable sods wanted €9 extra per day to make the GPS work. Blow that, I had 25GB of data on my phone so Mrs. Google Maps did the honours for nothing ! Parked at 39.53587, -8.85615 (IM59nm78)

Anyway, both of these were huge fun. Activating in a new country is just a buzz. On top of that I drove home in the sun listening to some laid back acid-jazz Bossa Nova with some girl singing in Portuguese sounding as sexy as sexy is. Back to the hotel, shower, find Mrs and Miss FMF and then some cold beer. What could be better?

I’ve only been to Faro airport for 45mins before whilst my plane refuelled. I found Portugal to be the most splendid of places. Everyone local was just so nice and helpful and everyone spoke the most beautiful English. A lot of the people I met spoke English better than the British in the UK can :rofl:

Driving was a different matter… my experience of mid-morning Lisbon traffic and roundabouts has scarred me for life. It nearly put me off returning.

But then there’s this:

and this:

and this:

and this:

And just so much fabulous food :slight_smile:

No activation report is complete without the latest attempt at arty photography.

I really can’t wait to get back.


Good one Andy. A holiday with a bit of SOTA is definitely the right approach. My ideal ratio is 3 summits or days out of a two week holiday. Of course Mo sometimes demands more!

I’ve always carried my radio gear on board but put my mast in the checked in luggage. I read somewhere that it could be considered to be a weapon, ie a club. You have proved this theory / urban legend to be incorrect.

We’re off to Geneva in March. HB, and F on the doorstep! Wonder what we can get up to using the famous Swiss public transport network? :grin:


Should be quite easy. You should drop a message to my good friend Paul HB9DST and ask him.


Very nice report Andy!

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Helle everyone,

Nice repport Andy, I can see your apporach is the same than mine when Mrs ask for a new trip :innocent:.

That’s what happened to me in 2004 during a week’s trip to Crete. At the security check, the agents refused to allow me to take my fishing rod through and I had to hurry to check it in at the special baggage office before the end of the boarding process. Suffice to say that Mrs CZI was extremely pleased with the situation for this very first time when holidays and radio were combined (not yet SOTA in those days)! Now the 10m Dx Wire mast travels in the hold baggage and the rest of the equipment in the hand baggage. The last few trips were no longer a problem ( EA6, SV9, IS0, EA8, JA)

Laurent de F8CZI


This happened to me at Manchester Airport, the security people said my travel mast could be used as a weapon and I had to be escorted back to the check in desk and book it in as hold luggage. Thankfully it survived the journey and I was able to get reunited with it at the other end. It seemed quite bizarre that there were several people with walking sticks and crutches who were allowed to take them onto the aircraft unchallenged !


It was I who chopped down the Cherry tree! Sorry I should have been more clear. :slight_smile:

When I have taken an 817 or KX2 with on flights, they always travel in my carry on as they are a little fragile and damn expensive. I don’t want them out of my sight. Also the batteries travel with me in the carry on, along with some kind of laptop, camera (it was £650!) and diabetic drugs. Everything else goes in the check in, headphones, QCXs, antenna, travel pole, walking pole, tent pegs, paddle, clock, tools, rg58 patch lead. The 57cms collapsed length of the pole fits easily into either my small or large hard case bags for checked luggage.

Not having a humping heavy 817 or somewhat lighter KX2 in my carry on luggage makes a huge difference. My KX2 has been swabbed once at Edinburgh Airport and my 817 has been swabbed in Edinburgh, Lanzarote-Arecife, Basel-Mulhouse, Geneva, Dublin & Lyon. In Gran Canaria I was asked to remove the battery (NiMh) from the 817 and keep it removed during the flight. Not having the radio simplified things. I’ve had LiPos in fireproof battery bags swabbed in many airports and been subject to questions in Edinburgh about the LiPO. I had to ask the security screener to get her supervisor as she wasn’t having it was legal despite showing her UK CAA & Easyjet docs saying it was OK. Her boss said “no problem”.

Moving on to removable 18650s in a USB power packs has been the best move in flying for SOTA. That was Luc ON7DQ’s idea. The security screeners see a billion power packs a day a never ask about them. It takes moments to pull the 18650s for use with the radio and the power packs will charge the cells and can be used for their intended purpose, charging a phone or camera.

I was stopped this year because I forgot to pull the 50cc tube of sun creme out of the bag and place it in the tray :frowning: I’ve had the tube of sun creme since 1998 though it has been refilled many, many times in the last 25 years. Hey if the plastic tube is serviceable, and doesn’t leak, why create more plastic waste to go into landfill for 10000years when I can refill it and re-use it?


Ditto, but the XYL doesn’t like the cold seas, so the Greek islands have won the day. I always enjoyed my time in Portugal and found the locals to be friendly and, outside of the built up areas, pretty good drivers with often a friendly wave exchanged when out in the countryside.

Sorry to have missed you on the second summit. Family activities restricted shack time and you’d gone from 20m by the time I “escaped”. Pleased to have made it on the first.

73, Gerald


Andy, ready to provide whatever assistance you need! Would be great to see you again! 73

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It’s me that’s coming to Switzerland :smiley:


You, too, Fraser, if I can help out in any way… Semd a PM. 73


Ros Castle is an excellent summit for the Trans-Atlantic event. I used it a few years ago when the weather was too dire to venture into Scotland. The short walk is a great asset when you’re laden with kit and descending in the dark. Room up on the summit for the kitchen sink… and an odd anvil or two. :grinning:


I work for the Canadian Navy at Fleet Maintenance Facility Cape Breton. I read Mrs. FMF and had a very different image than I think you intended. :slightly_smiling_face:

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