G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-004 Pico Areiro on HF 12-04-15

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-004 PICO AREIRO on HF 12-04-15

This report covers No8 (final) in the CT3 series of eight activations.
For a general introduction see report No1 (MI1).

List of eight SOTA’s activated between 2nd and 12th April 2015:
CT3/MI-001; MI-005; MI-004 (Night Activation); MI-002; MI-008; MI-006; MI-009 and MI-004 (Day Activation). I also tried to activate CT3/MI-007 on the morning of 04-04-15 but this failed.

PICO AREIRO: CT3/MI-004 (QRO). This was a re-activation for zero points
Bands: 17m & 12m CW/ SSB
G4YSS using alternative personal callsign CT9/ M1NNN/P. Unaccompanied.
All times ‘WEST’ UOS. (Western European Daylight Saving Time which is UTC + 1hr and also equivalent to BST).

FT817ND HF/VHF/UHF 5W Transceiver.
MX-P50M HF 50 Watt Linear Amplifier.
Adjustable link dipole for 20-17-15-(12)-10m (built 1992 for CT3).
Two 7m-long end strings for dipole.
5m Telescopic Mast with ground spike. (Guying kit and end sticks not carried).
6 Ah Li-Po battery.
2 x 2.2 Ah spare batteries harnessed in parallel.

Activation Zone:
On the afternoon of 5th of April we visited Pico Areiro. After a look at the trig point and cafe, I left the ladies and Grandson Jack (7) in the shop while I carried out a survey of where best to activate. First I looked at where Phil and Nick G4OBK and G4OOE had (simultaneously) operated the year before; one outside the perimeter wall below the trig point and the other beside the wheelchair ramp. Both these places are quite clearly inside the activation zone. They needed maximum separation of location and frequency but they choose these places partly because they were unsure whether the knoll to the east is in the zone or not. Between the summit trig point and the knoll is a low spot (N32 44.157 W16 55.638) the height of which I had come to measure.

Survey Results (05-04-15):
The Garmin GEKO 301 GPS embodies an altimeter. Air pressure is selectable. My method involved walking between the summit trig point and the low point in question three times within 20 minutes and averaging out the results. Each time the air pressure was measured and carefully noted at each location. The GPS’s associated altitude differences were also noted as a check. The three readings of air pressure (in millibars) were in close agreement as follows.

For the summit: 815.7; 815.7 and 815.6 - Average 815.7 millibar (rounded up)
For the low point: 818.0; 817.8 and 817.9 - Average 817.9 millibar
Average difference between summit and low-point: 2.2 millibar.
1 millibar is equivalent to a 30 foot height difference.
2.2 x 30 = 66 feet, which gives a result of 20.1 metres.
(The check result for altitude readings was 21m.)

Conclusion: From the above results, the low point and eastern sub-summit are within the activation zone of minus 25 metres as specified by SOTA.

On 05-04-15 I activated MI4 in darkness so that the Lower frequency bands could be targeted. Today I was back to offer it on the higher bands. CT3/ MI-004 is a drive-on summit with a large car park. The walking requirement is minimal but during the day, unless the weather is really bad, there are many visitors to it’s trig point, cafe and surrounding areas.

The drive round to Pico Areiro following the morning activation of CT3/MI-009 near Portela, took from 13:53 to 14:35. The earlier summit had been quite a harrowing experience and I was looking forward to finishing off the holiday with something easy, this being our final day.

On the 5th/ 6th April I had spent four hours in the dark successfully working chasers on 40m; 80m, then trying hard on 160m either side of midnight without result. That time I sat on the wheelchair ramp in windy conditions, low-cloud and drizzle. Today there was wispy low-cloud but it was otherwise a pleasant afternoon.

In order to obtain a good takeoff to the north this time, I set up between the second high point (called a knoll earlier) and the radio mast. This is east of the summit proper and a 5 minute, 300m stroll ENE from the car park. From the radar station entrance and turnaround, there is a surfaced path which skirts around the back of the high point. The 5m mast was located in the rocks above a path, with the dipole tied off to a large rock at one end and a bush at the other. Few people bothered to make the trip around here but a handful came to look at the lattice tower less than 50m beyond me.

PICO AREIRO: CT3/MI-004: 1,818m, 8pts. 14:45 to 17:30. 6C (measured at car). Wind 1mph. Low-cloud and hazy sunshine. LOC: IM12MR; IOTA: AF-014. Orange (EE via Portuguese network) phone coverage.

18.090 CW - 14 QSO’s:
Today it was cloudy and at 6C, quite cool so there were not so many people around. An SMS message to Phil G0UUU started the process and at 14:10z HB9MKV answered my ‘CQ SOTA’ giving me a 599 RST. Frid DL1FU followed with a 579 both ways. The ball was rolling. Some ops reported QRM. It sounded clear to me so I carried on to work: DL; G; EA2; KA1R; LZ; SP; YO and PA0B 559/ 339. Most other reports were around the 559 mark with some 579’s and 599’s mixed in. Power was 50 Watts throughout and the above stations were logged in 20 minutes.

Half way through, two young girls came around the corner just as someone transmitted their callsign. Because there was no wind to speak of, I didn’t have the headphones on. One of the girls was startled and stopped dead in her tracks. She did not immediately recognize from where the strange sound was emanating and said that she initially thought it was bird song.

18.132/ 18.133 SSB - 15 QSO’s:
G6TUH Mike found me calling CQ with 50 Watts on 18.132 but again there was QRM which I couldn’t hear. After our QSO (56/ 55) he kindly moved me up 1kHz to clear it so it must have been splashover. Don G0RQL was first in on the new QRG with a 55/ 53 exchange. Next came: G0TDM John; OE5FSL; DL8MLD; EA2CKX; HB9CKV; OE3GGS; GM4AXY and Ken’s XYL Christine GM4YMM (53 both ways to Edinburgh).

The chasers seemed to be having trouble getting their reports, and around this time I noticed the FT817 was displaying ‘HSWR’ in large letters. It was easy to confirm as the SWR indication was full scale but it cleared when I switched off the linear. It took less than a second to realise that the linear had failed miserably and I now had no choice than to proceed with QRP from the 817. After giving sterling service for 2 weeks, at least it was considerate enough to fail on the final activation of the holiday.

With the 5 Watts now available I carried on to work: EA1DFP; IE9GLB; EA1YY; ON5SWA and SM7DIE but in fact from a few QSO’s prior to this, I must have been outputting much less than 5 Watts through the failed amp. No wonder people had been asking for repeats!

14.052.2 CW - 10 QSO’s:
I asked Phil G0UUU to post me on 20m but also to warn the chasers that the amp had failed and it would be QRP only. It wasn’t too difficult with a mere 5 Watts, so conditions can’t have been too bad on 20m. Starting with Kurt HB9AFI (579/ 449) I worked the two Mikes - EI2CL and DJ5AV with a delay for a battery change in between (6Ah to 2 x 2.2Ah). Then came DM3SWD; DL2DXA; PA0INA Frans (Friend of Gill & Steve in Scarborough); OH9XX; GB2RN (HMS Belfast anchored in the London Thames); F6EAZ and finally EA8AA/P (QRP to QRP) booming from Santa Cruz, Tenerife.

Incoming reports were in the region of 339 to 559, with a 579 from F6EAZ and 599 from Tenerife. 20m CW took just under 20 minutes. A final SMS to Phil set me up for SSB.

14.266 SSB - 10 QSO’s:
This was the final band and mode of the 2 weeks in Madeira and these were the last ten callsigns worked: OE7PHI Hans; EA2DT Manuel; G0RQL Don; G6TUH Mike; G4AFI Andy; CT2HKN Miguel; CT2HIX Carlos; OK1SDE Borek; OE5AUL Peter and DJ1SD Joachim.

M0IML was one station that, try as I may with my meagre 5 Watts, I couldn’t get a report over to. QSB, a feature throughout the holiday, had the final word today. That was confirmed it when I gave Andy G4AFI a 51 to 58 report!

G0RQL was using his beam to good effect and with a 59 both ways we were able to hold a conversation. Don commiserated about the broken amplifier, thanked me for the ten days of SOTA QSO’s and wished me a good journey home. A few others did the same during this final session. It was sad to leave but the QRG had dried up and it was time to pack up for the last time.

QRT was at 17:15 local and I was back at the hotel around 18:15. After a few minutes spent uninstalling the 2m-FM/ PMR446 kit and satnav from the hire car and emptying it, I was just in time for evening meal at 18:30. More brownie points. A well earned bath to wash off the blood, sweat and tears from MI9 would have to wait until later.

17m CW: 14
17m SSB: 15
20m CW: 10
20m SSB: 10
Total: 49

Zero SOTA points (Re-activation).

Observations (MI4):
This had been an easy activation to end a hard day after the difficulties on MI9. It had cost me my amplifier but what classy equipment; to die only on the very last day! A couple of days after returning to the UK, I ordered a replacement amp from China. That arrived this morning (25-04-15). I also ordered a new MRF186 output device in case that was what caused the failure due to overheating. I have spent two weeks wading through the aftermath of the CT3 trip and I have had no time yet to look at the blown amp, which I will need for a GM trip in early May.

CT3 Conclusion (Overall):
Most things had gone pretty well throughout the 2 weeks. It had been a bit of a slow start for SOTA and I hadn’t managed to activate either of the ‘new ones’ though I tried and failed with MI7.

As for MI3, everyone seemed to be saying that it is potentially dangerous. Despite diminishing tolerance to precipitous cliffs, I would have loved to have tried to prove them wrong but it didn’t come off. This was partly due to me not contacting Madeira Explorers for information and if necessary the supply of a guide and partly due to the nature of the failure on MI7.

Apart from deep QSB which affected the bands 14 to 28 throughout the fortnight, there was little to complain about from the propagation viewpoint. 18 MHz carried most of the traffic and it usually did it well. Having the use of up to 50 Watts seems to make things easier for chasers and speeds things up for me too, in not having to repeat many reports. Speed, more accurately QSO rate, is something I am quite poor at in comparison to many of the other activators, though I was quite happy to do one summit per day most of the time.

I had VHF QRP capability with handhelds and from the FT817ND but I am sorry to say, I didn’t dedicate much time to this after a few non-replies to CQ’s, albeit in English, went unanswered. I regret not putting aside half an hour at the end of at least one of the higher summit activations to erect the 2m J-Pole, using the mast adaptor I’d made and really try for a local contact.

A lack of success in the past on this and other islands has rather put me off VHF. That and the fact that you don’t really know where to call. Granted, 145.500 MHz-FM is supposed to be Europe-wide but there can also be local centres of activity similar the 145.575 used in northern Scotland for instance. I have tried on other visits to Madeira and always hoped that the Irishman Cedric would come back to a CQ from Porto Santo. Sadly he has now passed on.

As well as radio, it had been a great holiday too. I had some nice afternoons in the hotel pool with Grandson Jack (7) who is showing promise at swimming. His Mum Hazel got her first introduction to the island and my XYL Denise her 5th! We had done many of the touristy things; the cable car and sled run in Funchal, Sao Vincente caves, Camacha basket works, Porto Moniz rock pools, Santana’s unique houses, Cabo Giro, Ponta da Pargo (Bream Point), the eastern tip beyond Canical, Joe’s Bar at N32 42.740 W16 46.199. Incidentally, Joe will still make you a large bottle of Poncha for 10 Euros. The others had also been on a minor safari in a LWB Landrover while I was out activating one day. I saw quite a lot of Land Rovers on Madeira and the hotel manager had one. We compared notes.

One trip we didn’t make was to Porto Santo which is a couple of hours each way on the boat. I had a crazy idea of a smash and grab activation of one of the five unactivated summits there but it would have cost a fortune for all of us to go and the sea state was never less than choppy. I know Nick G4OOE is interested in going there one day.

One worry before going to Madeira were the predicted windspeeds of up to 50kph. Thinking perhaps more of EA8 than CT3, I packed goggles just in case, as some summits can be quite dusty. None of this materialised; the maximum wind being around 15 to 20mph as I remember and these summits are mostly clothed in bushes, grass and other plants. In fact the weather couldn’t have been better for SOTA. Though it got near to 20C on the first activation - Pico Ruivo, it was rarely more than 8 to 15C at altitude on the others.

On the evening of the 5th it was 4C on Pico Areiro (MI4) at 9pm and 0C by midnight. I wouldn’t say I was toasty warm cowering under my umbrella in wind-driven drizzle on that night but after ‘training’ in Britain throughout the winter just passed, it caused little discomfort. On the 12th, in the afternoon it was 6C up there. Temperatures like these suit me just fine; I am no use to anyone if it gets hot. Even at sea level it didn’t get above about 23C on the warmest days and there was usually a sea breeze.

Many of the activations undertaken would have been noticeably shorter than if I’d been doing them in the 1990’s. Pencilled notes on an old map of Madeira show journey times to places at the western end of the island. For instance in 1992 we were clocking 82 km to Porto Moniz and it took 2.5 hours to get there. You could go there on straighter roads via Paul de Serra but it still took 2.5 hours to cover 94 km. Five hours round trip! Sao Vincente was taking 2 hours one-way from the Canico area because all roads followed the terrain.

A waiter at the hotel remembered bus trips to the Porto Moniz rockpools which took 4 hours each way from Funchal! Things have improved tremendously and there just isn’t the frustration of old and the feeling that you’d just climbed out of an automatic washing machine at the end of every journey of 20 km or more. Now with motorways cutting through mountains in tunnels you can be at Porto Moniz in little more than an hour and still be in a fit state to enjoy it.

Going Home:
In contrast to the security examination at East Midlands Airport two weeks earlier, we all passed through Funchal Airport security at walking speed, keeping pace with our hand luggage as it rolled through the X-Ray machines unscathed. None of the bags were opened or even touched by human hand other than our own.

Flights home were routine. Even the takeoffs and landings at Funchal Aeroporto have become a bit tame since the runway was extended for the second or third time around 1999.

My 4th visit to Madeira, this was a memorable holiday.
Thanks to all who worked my station CT9/M1NNN/P.

Totals for CT3 (8 Activations plus one Failed Attempt):
02-04-15 to 12-04-15: Six activating days. Bands used: 160-80-40-20-17-12-10m.
Ascent: 2,471m (7,779ft) - 33.7km (21.1 miles) walked. 517 QSO’s - 44 SOTA Points.

Thanks to all stations worked and to G4SSH; G0UUU; G6TUH; IK2ILH; G4OBK; DL3HXX; SP9AMH and GM4AXY for spotting either during this activation or on others in the fortnight. Also to Andy MM0FMF for the indirect use of his text spotting service on 12th April. Special thanks to Roy G4SSH for SMS text liaison for the duration of the activation and for posting advanced alerts.

73, John G4YSS
(Using CT9/ M1NNN/P)

Photos: 1-2-4-6-7-9.

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: The Wheelchair ramp used as a QTH by G4OOE in 2014 and G4YSS on 05/ 06-04-15.

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: Pico Areiro.

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: Military Radar station - Pico Areiro.

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: QTH behind knoll.

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: QTH behind knoll.

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: FT817ND and broken amplifier.

Links to all CT9/M1NNN/P 2015 Reports:
CT3/MI-001 G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-001 Pico Ruivo on 02-04-15 - #4 by G4YSS
CT3/MI-002 G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-002 Pico Grande on 08-04-15
CT3/MI-004 (LF) G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-004 Pico Areiro on LF, 05/ 06-04-15
CT3/MI-004 (HF) G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-004 Pico Areiro on HF 12-04-15
CT3/MI-005 G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-005 Pico Casado on 04-04-15 - #3 by G4YSS
CT3/MI-006 G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-006 Pico RUIVO de PAUL on 10-04-15 - #2 by GM4WHA
CT3/MI-007 G4YSS (CT9/M1NNN): CT3/ MI-007 Picos da Achadinha, FAILED! 04-04-15 - #4 by G4YSS
CT3/MI-008 G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-008 Pico Chao dos Terreiros on 10-04-15
CT3/MI-009 G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-009 Pico da Coroa on 12-04-15 - #2 by HB9BQU