A few days in Madeira

Airport Shenanigans.

Monday 2nd February 2015, and it was an early start, having booked a last minute (Like the previous Friday!) week away in Madeira, and the possibility of at least a couple of Sota Summits, having failed miserably 2 years since when, apparently, the baggage handlers decided to lay waste to my MFJ 971 travel tuner en route… but never mind, new year, new opportunity!
Just in case, I decided to take my MXP-817 Amp as well as the 817nd, Tracer 8Ah Battery, no tuner this time, but my old linked dipole (10-12-15-17-20-40-60m), 4m pole from sotabeams, and with a couple of bungees, and a hastily cobbled together guying kit (just in case).
Backup ‘plan’, in case the Tracer battery didn’t make it past ‘security’… Umm, AA Batteries in the 817nd…
Boots, socks, a floppy hat (not a SOTA one) and a couple of ‘seaflo’ lightweight collapsible hiking poles completed the ‘other stuff’ in the lightweight case.

In order to get through BHX ‘screening’ the Radio and Battery went in the hand luggage along with the ‘real’ camera, and tablet, loaded with a couple of DVDs worth of ‘Flight of the Conchords’ for in flight entertainment.

I thought there may be ‘fun’ at Security at the airport, and I wasn’t disappointed!

The queue(s) for the ‘scanners’ were already backed up to the main door, and about a 20 minute wait ensued. Once to the front, all my ‘junk’ took up 2 trays as I was upfront about what was in the bag, and they made me unpack it all… For once, I didn’t manage to set the alarm off walking through the gate, but my trays appeared to be causing quite a bit of consternation, staff were pointing at the screen, people behind, in the queue were ‘tutting’… Other more important staff were called across and stood pointing at the screen for about 3 minutes… the queue of passengers waiting to come though continually growing…

The first tray was pulled though and I was invited to explain what was in it… Well, a battery, since that seemed to be the thing they were pointing at, mostly… Asked what it was for, i pointed to the radio “that radio”… He took the battery to one side, swabbed it, put the swab in his ‘testing equipment’ and scanned it once again, whilst staff stood and pointed at the image on screen…
That appeared to be OK - yay! So I could put it in my bag.
“What’s this then?” said the man inquistively pointing at the radio… "That’s a Radio! That the battery will be used to power"
I was invited to take it out of it’s leather case, to be swabbed, and sent through the scanner again… (Still the queue of relatively unhappy passengers grew…)
Staff pointed at the image as it went through the scanner again.

“Is it a ‘Ham Radio’?” I was asked, by the guy who appeared to be rolling his eyes somewhat…
I explained that it was, I got asked where I was going, and on what flight, and they handed the radio to me.
“Do you have a camera as well?” He asked
"Oh that’s fine, have a good trip!"
I thanked him politely for his attention to detail :slight_smile: and hurried away from all of the held up passengers!

I did wonder, however, just how many people going though there, had “25000 mah” mobile phone ‘power banks’ of dodgy chinese manufacture, stuffed in their checked baggage, not bothering to tape up connectors.
I was also somewhat surprised that I was never asked to power any of the ‘junk’ on…

After all that… I think I was the 2nd to last person on the plane!

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Wednesday 4th February. CT3-MI-006

Waiting in hotel reception for the guy from Avis to turn up to take me for the hire car at 9am, hobbling around with very blistered feet from so much walking the previous day (not a great start!)… he never turned up… until 10am… Marvellous.
So, eventually, by 10:30am, I should be on my way, Final word from Filipe at Avis, was “if anything goes wrong, even a puncture, just call the ‘helpline’ you are coverered for everything” (more on that later!)

So, equipped with a paper map, and a copy of ‘locus free’ and an offline map of Madeira, I was off to CT3/MI-006, only nearly 2 hours late… still it wouldn’t take too long to get there… would it?
The Locus Free ‘map’ showed that, more than likely, the road from Encumeda to MI-006 wasn’t open, although nobody could tell me for definite that it was… So, I decided to drive along VR1 to Ribeira Brava, then take VE3/ER101 along to Ponto Del Sol, then the ER222/ER209 up to ER110 just along from MI-006 - easy!

Well it would have been if I hadn’t taken a wrong turn right at the start, and found myself in the middle of Funchal… Never mind, soon on VR1 along to Ribeira Brava, where… ummm, I took a wrong turning, into the middle of town! After getting stuck behind 2 taxi drivers sitting in their cars next to each other, having a little chat, I managed to get back on the right road again!

Then, a little further along the road, missed the turn off onto ER222, and ended up in Arco Da Calheta, where I managed to pick up a road signed ‘Pico da Urze’ - That would do, not too far along ER110 from where I needed to be.
(This would have been a lot easier with a navigator! Then again, it’s fun driving around narrow roads with hairpin bends on holiday, on the wrong side of the road! :slight_smile: )
I was held up some more by a tourist bus, obviously on a day trip, winding up the same, narrow road!

Eventually making it onto ER110, past the hotel at Pico da Urze, and to the cross roads, where it was made clear that, as suspected, the road through to Encumenda was indeed, still closed. Only a little further along the road, and I found the side road, along to the car park.

Finding the hill to be shrouded in cloud, I pulled on my boots, and started the relatively short walk… Turning back after a couple of hundred yards as I’d left the camera in the car!

Take a right turn through the woods!

Still, it took less than half an hour in all, along the track, right, through the woods, and left to climb up the hill, much as described in previous reports, and I was up the top…
There were probably another 10 or so people there, and the cloud was swirling around. The sweeping vistas from the couple of viewing platforms consisted of… grey clouds… ah well.

I had a quick look around, and decided to bungee the 4m pole to the end of one of the fences, one end of the link dipole wrapped around the top of the fence, the other end chucked unceremoniously onto the top of a gorse bush. (Only unravelled as far as mid way between the 20M and 40M links as I didn’t think 40M would be very useful)

No need for a guying kit!

Looking at RRT, I saw that Carolyn, GW6WRW/p had just been spotted on 21Mhz, and set the antenna up for that, 5W from the 817nd saw her as the first contact, s2s, not a bad start!
I then spotted myself on 20M and attempted with the 5w, rapidly finding that attaching the amp would be a better option! So on it went. Quickly followed by 22 or so QSOs
Once they had dried up, 10M seemed to be very lively, so the antenna was dropped and the links changed to 10M. 34 QSOs later, and Mike, 2e0yyy came on, asking if I could drop down betwee 28.3 and 28.5 to enable US Tech chasers a go, one in particular, N2BTD, who was very patient as I struggled to get him in the log, but got there in the end, Thanks, Brian!

The extensive ‘shack’

A quick change to 12M saw another 8 QSOs, and a final change back to 10, saw a further 2, by which time, since all calls seem to have dried up, it was time for a couple of photos, and get packed up.
One last wander across to one of the viewing platforms allowed me to snap a peak above the clouds, just!

At last! A view, of sorts…

Walking back down, it appeared that I could possibly be able to take a pic of a Brocken Spectre…

Was I going closer to the edge to take a photo? Absolutely not!

However, I thought it best not to get too close to the edge of the hill, just in case!
About 20 minutes later, I was back at the car, the only one left in either of the 2 car parks.

Getting back to the hotel, was a lot easier, drive along ER110 to the cross roads, turn left, and follow the road downhill until I reached VE3, then onto VR1 and turn right at some point before getting to the middle of Funchal!

71 QSOs in close to 2 hours, many thanks to everyone who called in, and apologies to anyone who I missed.

Thursday 5th February. CT3-MI-004

I was going to get up early… but decided, looking out at the weather, I’d go back to bed for a little while :slight_smile: I’d had the Tracer Battery on charge overnight, even though it was only about 1/3 used…

After breakfast, a final check I had everything, I jumped in the car, driving towards the middle of Funchal, to find the road up through Monte, on the way to CT3/MI-004.
Lots of windy roads, hairpin bends, all good fun (at least with not much traffic about!) The higher I got, the more the amount of water running down the sides of the road told me it wasn’t going to be a very dry day!

Soon I came to the junction, signposted to Pico do Areiro, and turned off, held up for a few moments by some workmen doing some logging work. Around half the way along the road, the clouds rolled in, visibility dropped to about 15m, and the ICE warning lit up on the dashboard!The thermometer showing 3C…
Eventually reaching the top, I missed the car park sign in the mist and ended up having to drive around the roundabout at the end, and back down to the car park.
Being such a nice day (not!), I think there were 4 cars in the car park! I parked close to the bottom, in order to do at least some walking up the hill!

Up the steps, past the cafe building it was impossible to even see the radar dome! I had a quick wander about, up the wheelchair ramp, up the steps to the ‘trig’, looking for somewhere suitable for the ‘shack’

There is a radar dome there… somewhere!

Since it wasn’t too busy (I probably saw less than 25 people all the time I was there) I bungied the pole to the fence post mid way up the steps, by a nice ‘seat’, which was rather nice!
Again, I unravelled the linked dipole to somewhere between the 20m and 40m links, and wrapped the ends around the fence top. I decided to use the amp from the start, so cabled it all up.

The ‘shack’ looking like it’s at the end of the world!

Close to 12:30, I spotted myself on 21Mhz, and within 20 minutes, had 18 QSOs in the log.
However, there appeared to be a problem… The amplifier appeared to be intermittently powering off and back on again, a bit of further investigation showed that the 817 was intermittently using the internal batteries. It looked like an issue with the Tracer battery…
I had a similar issue with one on G/WB-004 last year which I’d put down to the cold… being rather chilly here, it could be the same, I put it in the back pack, and it appeared to solve the problem.
Dropping down to 14MHz I recorded a further 17 QSOs in the next 20 minutes.
Going to 28MHz, I then recorded 50 QSOs in just over an hour, including a s2s with 9H3BT/P on 9h/ma-001, which was a nice surprise!

‘Spot the battery’… it’s in the bag!

However, the battery problem appeared to have returned, meaning that I was sometimes running close to 50W, then dropping to 2.5W on internal 817 battery, then back up again… Not ideal.
A bit of wiggling about with cables, seemed to have made things a little better, so I went to 21MHz and tried again…
A s2s with SP8RHP/P on sp/bw-003 ensued, followed by another 3 QSOs… Finally going to 24MHz for a further 6 QSOs before taking a few pics, and packing up, once calls were being unanswered.

View up to the highest point.

The path ‘PR1’, apparently to nowhere!

Thanks, once again to anyone who called in, and apologies if I missed anyone!

Getting back onto the main road, I managed to miss a load of very deep potholes… except one…
Convinced that I’d probably blown the tyre, or at least bent the rim, I stopped and had a look… I couldn’t see any damage, and thought I’d got away with it…
However, in the middle of what passes for ‘rush hour’ in Funchal, some nice YLs, whilst stopped at traffic lights began to attract my attention (no, not in THAT way…) and pointing to the front of the car… yes… tyre was just about flat… typical…
No problem… I called the ‘helpline’ as instructed, to be told that they didn’t do punctures, despite what I’d been told, however, they would come out for around 100 euros… umm… no…
Having replaced numerous wheels in my time, I’m more than capable of doing so, but didn’t relish the prospect of doing so in some narrow back street, on the wrong side of the road… The nice people at Avis, sent one of their guys out, who did it instead :slight_smile:
Only downside, was, since there was a small tear in the sidewall, it wasn’t repairable, and hence, I ‘lost’ the 100 euro excess… ah well, At least Filipe called me, and apologised for the attitude of the third party ‘helpline’

So, all in all, 2 days of good fun, gambolling around somewhat scary roads, 2 SOTA summits activated, if a little expensively!
Next time… can someone remind me to actually take my floppy brimmed hat with me to a summit please? Sunburnt ears apparently cause quite a bit of hilarity!

Finally, if anyone is considering doing such a mini ‘tour’, I’d say go for it, it was a lot of fun!



Many thanks for the lovely reports and the contacts made to two of the summits I managed to work you on.


One other thing…

It was very straightforward in Funchal airport on the way back, things taken out of the bag and scanned with no issues. Security personnel were probably whispering ‘Just another SOTA nutter’ in Portugese :wink:

Back at BHX, I did walk past the people in customs who were discussing an x-ray of a suitcase full of spanners! BIG spanners! The mind boggles!