A day at the seaside

Marianne’s plan for Saturday 4th May 2013 was a family day out at the seaside. That’s all well and good, but when your “kids” are 20 and 15 year old lads respectively, then the stereotypical version of the “family day out at the seaside” doesn’t work.

But Marianne was clever. She advised that we would drive out to Llandudno on the Saturday morning, grabbing breakfast on the road. Thereafter, Jimmy and I would activate Great Orme GW/NW-070 while she and Liam would visit the Llandudno Transport Festival. Bingo, we had a car full of happy people eagerly anticipating the day out.

Breakfast was taken at the OK Diner on the A55. I enjoyed hash browns, bacon, eggs, pancakes and syrup along with a peanut butter milkshake, to the sounds of 1950s American jukebox hits.

As to be expected on a Bank Holiday weekend with the promise of good weather, the roads were quite busy, especially in Llandudno itself, and some time was lost. Furthermore, car parking in the town was virtually impossible. So the plan for Jimmy and I to walk up the Orme from the bottom cable car station was scrapped. Instead, Marianne drove to the Great Orme car park to park the car there for the day, and her and Liam set off on a walk down the hill and right along the promenado to the transport festival, which was taking place right beneath the slopes of Little Orme.

It was ironic that the SOTA activators - Jimmy and I - would be doing considerably less walking than Marianne and Liam on this day! I managed a little bit of walking, for Marianne had set off down the hill with the car keys, which were more sensibly left with me, especially seeing as my smartphone was locked in the car and I wanted to do some PSK! She waited for me at the “Halfway” (even though it isn’t) tram station; I descended, got the car keys, then walked back up to the summit.

It was very windy, but I found a reasonably sheltered spot a little east of the summit and around 10 to 15m lower, so comfortably within the permitted vertical distance. Also, this spot was well away from any paths established in the grass, and best of all not in the field of vision any wardens who might otherwise come and instruct us to take our aerials down. Which we would do immediately of course if requested. But it never happened.

This could be a long activation with Marianne and Liam otherwise occupied with old cars, lorries and buses at the opposite end of the promenade. I set up the 15m groundplane, while Jimmy sorted out the SOTA Beam. He opted for beam rather than MFD for this one to give himself more flexibility in avoiding the notorious QRM from the masts up here. This worked out well, and he was able to find a spot to erect the antenna, and a beam direction that did not suffer whatsoever, as well as pointing ENE just above the North Wales coastline and towards Manchester and Lancashire.

What I didn’t have with me was a feeder extension lead, so I was sat very much within the tetrahedron outlines by the radials and guylines of my antenna. The radials were a good 1.5m above me though, and my PSK system did not throw any wobblers about RF getting in anywhere. The same was noticed the other day with the 10m groundplane antenna, so it seems that if the radials are a bit further above the set-up, then the problem diminishes. The 20m system definitely requires the feeder extension to get away from the radials; I must try the 17m GP to investigate where the “cut-off” point is.

By the time I was QRV on 15m PSK31, Jimmy had already qualified the activation for his point on 2m FM. There was no point available for me today, nor the activator component of the S2S award, for I had already activated this summit in March, and had an S2S contact on that occasion. However, the very being here entitled me to the chaser component of the S2S award, so rarely are repeat activations “pointless” anymore. Pun intended and both interpretations valid.

I kicked off with 4 QSOs on 15m PSK31, followed by 6 on 15m SSB. Within these I enjoyed a bit of a natter with friend and MT colleague Barry GM4TOE. Onto 15m CW, 7 QSOs were added, including S2S with Bill W4ZV/P on Anderson Mountain W4C/WP-012.

At this point Jimmy MW0HGY/P, who had made 8 QSOs on 2m FM including S2S with Mark G0VOF/P on Longridge Fell G/SP-014, and I swapped equipment. Jimmy went on 15m SSB adding three QSOs to his log while I managed just one on 2m FM. After swapping back, I made three more QSOs on 15m PSK31 and four more on 15m CW.

Marianne called on the phone to advise that they were ready to meet back up, so we packed up and made the short descent to the car park. I drove Marianne’s car down through Llandudno (where half the streets are closed due to the fair) and along the promenade to the bus stop near Little Orme. Liam got in the car, Marianne resumed the driving, and, as usual, it was off to the Raj Bengal Palace in Colwyn Bay for some tea.