I don’t usually report on activations but perhaps this one is a little different!
The plan was to take part in the Mercian Mountaineering Club Cornish Meet, take a look at some of the old favourite sea cliffs from my climbing days, soak up some sun, try out a new antenna on DC-006 and DC-007, and enjoy a relaxing break.
So much for plans…
A thunderstorm Thursday morning should have been a clue, but we set off in brilliant sunshine and the journey was completed in just over four hours! We checked in at Trevaylor Campsite about a kilometer north of St.Just in the hamlet of Truthwall, a cosy and friendly site with four fields, hook-ups, a shop and, Oh Joy! A bar!
Friday morning started sunny so we decided to limber up with a walk from Cape Cornwall with the Watch Croft scheduled for the afternoon. It was not to be. First the Longships Lighthouse, then the Brisons disappeared behind a veil of rain while the wind became fierce, so we headed back to the campsite only to see our tent trying to flog itself to pieces. All we could do was tether it to the roof bars and hope. That night we slept in a rocking car! Saturday we spent cowering from the elements in the car, whilst the wind but not the rain gradually abated. By evening we were able to put the tent to rights and sleep as intended under canvas.
The sun showed up again Sunday morning so it was time to salvage something from the weekend. It was time to try out the new antenna, a modified W3EDP, on the Watch Croft.
The Watch Croft is an object lesson to anyone who regards a one-point summit as an easy option. You park beside the road at SW348415, 180 m asl, and walk about a kilometer up the unsurfaced road to Garden Mine Cottage at SW356418: at the gate to the cottage’s garden a faint track meanders off rightwards through the gorse and bracken towards the summit. This is pure bush-wacking; in late summer with the bracken tall the track may well be invisible, but it is not wise to leave it as the surrounding ground is littered with holes, trenches and tips left by the old tin streamers, with a few unmarked shafts from the tin mine thrown in for good measure! This track lands you on a large flat bouldery quagmire with sparce vegetation, possibly poisoned by arsenic vein outcrops. At this point you should take a bearing on the trig point so that a reciprocal course will bring you back to the safe track. The summit itself is an unstable spread of loose boulders bordered by some granite tors, not a place to peg out a mast! However, a short distance to the west is a large standing stone, from its shape I would guess it celebrated the Joy of Sex! Anyway, a couple of strips of duct tape and the pole was secure!
A series of CQ’s on 5.3985 SSB brought no answer, retuning to 3.666 was no better, so I tuned to 7.118 and straight away G0RQL and G3RMD came back, and I was in the game! A sometimes unruly pile-up gave me 22 contacts in 40 minutes, then as the channel went quiet Pauline alerted me to approaching rain. Abandoning thoughts of another touch at 80 and 60, I hastily packed up. Our retreat wasn’t fast enough and our trousers were soaked by run-off from our cagoules - but at that we were better off than our friends, who were caught half-way up Commando Ridge at Bosigran and thoroughly soaked. Well, its all part of the fun!
Previous tests and this activation showed that the W3EDP antenna system is a viable choice for SOTA and I intend to put it to good use. For those who would like to give it a try, my version consists of a 26 metre wire inverted V and a 5.5 metre counterpoise lying on the ground. The tuner is a 22 turn coil 50 mm long and wide with a 5 turn link at the counterpoise end, the coil has no direct connection to the rigs earth. The coil is tuned by a 150 pf airspaced capacitor and there is a 100 pf airspaced capacitor from the top of the coil to the antenna socket. This is shorted out on most bands with a toggle switch but is needed to tune 5 megs. The tuner gives a good match on 80, 60, 40 and 20 metres, a couple of turns off the coil would add 15 metres and the WARC bands. So simple even I could build it! It is worth remembering that in the days before HF beams were introduced this antenna was regarded as a really mean DX machine.