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G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-004 Pico Areiro on LF, 05/ 06-04-15

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-004 PICO AREIRO on LF, 05/ 06-04-15

This report covers No3 in the CT3 series of eight activations.
For a general introduction see report No1 (MI1).
For MI4 activation zone survey results, see CT3/MI-004 report for 12-04-15.

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.

This activation was carried out in darkness so that the LF Lower frequency bands could be targeted. Hitherto, no CT3 SOTA had been offered on bands below 10MHz. The activation started on the 5th of April and ended after midnight on the 6th local time (WEST = BST). CT3/ MI-004 is a drive-on summit with a large car park. The walking requirement is minimal. That is why it was chosen for a night activation.

Bands: 40m-80m-160m 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 80-40-20-15-10m (One of two built 1992 for CT3).
Loading coils for 160m (Inserted at 40m break points)
Two 5m-long end strings for dipole.
5m Telescopic Mast with bungies.
6 Ah Li-Po battery.
2 x 2.2 Ah spare batteries harnessed in parallel.
Cheap 3xAAA headlamp (Wilkinson’s, Scarborough).
Sandwiches from the hotel.
Umbrella (Poundworld, Scarborough).

MI4 is totally different to any other SOTA on Madeira in that you don’t need to walk much more than 100m metres to activate it. Because of this, it can be put on the air safely at any time of day or night. Standard tourists as well as walkers throng it’s trig point, cafe and surrounding areas throughout the day which actually makes a night activation a more attractive proposition and far less embarrassing too.

Setting off from the hotel in Canico at 20:15, I arrived in the final dregs of daylight half an hour later. I didn’t know this in advance but conveniently the summit was lit up like a Christmas tree. There was walkway lighting and stray light from the radar station. Even better, there were no tourists; in fact not a single person and I’m happy to say that’s how it would remain for the next four hours.

After some final preparations, I slung the rucksack over one shoulder and locked the car at 20:55. A minute later I was at the QTH recommended by G4OOE Nick and G4OBK Phil where I set up the 80m dipole. With the 5m mast bungied to the fence and the dipole paralleling the bottom run of the wheelchair ramp, I tied its ends to a lamp post at one end and the boundary fence at the other. It just fitted in with little room to spare.

Since weight was no problem and because no strenuous exercise is needed to reach this summit, I dressed myself well to combat the damp and relatively cold conditions. Coming off the back of an English winter of activations, I was well acclimatised to cold conditions but why suffer if you don’t have to? I could do this in comfort so I wore top and bottom base layers, pullover, hooded fleece and Primaloft jacket for good measure. It proved to be somewhat of an overkill but the jacket did help to keep the swirling cloud and drizzle off me during the first half of the activation.

PICO AREIRO: CT3/MI-004 (LF-QRO): 1,818m, 8pts, 20:56 to 00:40 (local). 4C initially and 0C at the end. Wind 20mph at trig point & abt 8mph at QTH. Low-Cloud & drizzle for the first half and moonlight at the end. Dark throughout. LOC: IM12MR; IOTA: AF-014. Orange (EE via Portuguese network) phone coverage.

7.033 CW - 24 QSO’s:
Having never done a SOTA night activation from a faraway land before, I could only guess what might happen. After getting as comfortable as possible, I called G4SSH on 40m CW with 50 Watts. The strength of Roy’s return signal took me by surprise and with an exchange of 589/ 559 I now knew for sure that the band was fully open to the UK and probably much of Europe too. What a great start! Phil G4OBK was the next caller and this time it was 599 both ways. Closer at hand came Manuel EA2DT followed by a slow but steady stream of chasers as follows:

GM0AXY; G4CFS; M0IML; DL3HXX; DK6YM; DL2HWI; HA5TI; PA3FYM; S51MF; M0BKV; DF1BN; EA2IF; G2NF; E77O; DL5ZK; HP5ES; F5MNO; IS1HE; HB9BAX; SV2NCH and finally F8CZI. Half of the incoming reports were 599 with the remainder in the range 559 to 589. I found myself giving out 599 RST’s like they were going out of fashion, apart from HP5ES - 499 and SV2NCH - 559.

A couple of QSO’s into this session I had to QRX the frequency to fetch the umbrella from the car. Life was much more acceptable after that but I returned a second time to get my grandson’s booster seat which came with the hire car. This item stacked on top of some flat stones with the pathway side rope for a backrest, further enhanced comfort. I didn’t think of it until the next day but why hadn’t I borrowed a chair from the hotel?

I was more than happy to have worked 24 stations. Taking more than an hour, the session broke no records but in a way that was no bad thing. The 80m and 160m bands would follow 40m and those needed to be aired as late as possible.

7.138 SSB - 12 QSO’s:
Phil G4OBK was first in here and we had a quick chat about the summit and my current location which had been used by Nick G4OOE in 2014. Being partially screened to the north which is where I was aiming the signals, it didn’t have an ideal takeoff. I could have set up outside the bounds of the summit complex as Phil had done but the WX out there was far from pleasant tonight and it was getting both colder and wetter.

Carrying on with 50 Watts in the knowledge that spare batteries were but a short distance away in the car, I went on to work: EA2CKX; G6WRW; HB9MKV; EA2KD; EA2DT; DF5WA; EA1DFP; I/OE7PHI; S57TI; DJ5AV and M0HEM.

Ironically Carolyn G6WRW gave me a good (57) report. Usually she struggles to work my activations but on just the band and time you would have thought her least likely to succeed due to noise, we exchanged fairly easily. Most incoming reports were between 57 and 59 with one 53 and a 55. I had the most difficulty with S57TI but Ivan got his report in the end.

3.557 CW - 3 QSO’s:
After QSY’ing the link dipole, it was time for 80m. I was expecting quite a few contacts on here but I was to be a little disappointed. At least I did get some QSO’s and from England initially. I worked Phil’s big station easily with a 599/ 579 exchange and then Roy G4SSH giving him a somewhat optimistic 589 and getting 229 in reply. I could hear Roy’s signal decreasing rapidly in QSB so perhaps that dip in conditions prevented me working many chasers after him.

After a lot more CQ’s I managed to log Mike DJ5AV with 559 both ways but it became obvious that propagation was sporadic and at the time, the chasers were just not hearing me. I was probably below their noise levels; a real problem on the lower bands at night.

3.724 SSB - 1 QSO:
I only managed to work Phil G4OBK on here but our 59/ 59 exchange must be a testament to his set up rather than any puny signal I was putting out. Despite further CQ’s there were no further replies. At 22:30z I gave up and texted Roy for a QSY to 160m CW/ SSB. I wished him goodnight and thanked him for his support, he having given up his evening.

1.832 CW & 1.843 SSB - Nil QSO’s:
After the absence of an great rush to work me on 80m, I expected very little or nothing after fitting the home-brew 160m slug-tunable coils at the dipole 40m break points. In fact in termd of QSO’s, zilch is what I got though I did hear someone who seemed to be calling me on both the CW and SSB frequencies. I could resolve very little apart from what seemed to be part of my own callsign.

In SSB the caller seemed to have a Spanish accent. Being the closest chaser country, the latter made sense but beyond that I really couldn’t say and after 25 minutes of CQ’s, alternating between CW and SSB plus a battery change, I gave up.

160m is my favourite SOTA band so this was a major disappointment to me, especially as I felt that I had come so close. Having swapped the battery in the hope of a fraction more power, leaving 160m as late as I dared (knowing the XYL) and tuning the loading coils perfectly, I was out of options. It was well past midnight in the UK and maybe later still in Europe so most of the chasers would be tucked up in bed by now. It was a pity. The empty logsheet stared back at me accusingly. 160m was the essence of what I had come here to do tonight and it had been a failure. Still, it wasn’t a disaster by any means. At least I had some 40m and 80m contacts to show for my trouble.

End of operation:
Though I considered 20m, there was little future in trying another band without spotting support at this late stage. It was time to go. It took about half an hour to pack up and get everything back to the car. Some care was needed on the unlit steps through the gap in the buildings, which was currently doubling as a wind tunnel but the clouds had parted to reveal a half moon. I savoured the moment for a minute or two before driving away at 00:40.

Though it didn’t feel that cold, by now the temperature had dropped to zero degrees C and care was needed on the first part of the road. I passed a few youths who had no doubt been enjoying some late night drinking at the restaurant at Poiso but I was back at Canico by 01:15.

40m CW: 24
40m SSB: 12
80m CW: 3
80m SSB: 1
160m CW: 0
160m SSB: 0
Total: 40

8 SOTA points.

Strange as it was, out of all the activations I did in Madeira during the holiday, this one will perhaps be the most memorable. Almost no walking required and a vehicle nearby to return to for equipment. The darkness, the wind, the rain, the moonlight and LF communications from a far flung island summit.

I expected to see one or two people when I arrived at mid evening. Moreover, I half expected to be moved on by personnel from the airforce radar station; one reason why I dared not use their perimeter fence as a tie-off for my antenna. Thankfully no one showed, military or otherwise.

The aim was to get Madeiran SOTA onto the bands below 30m and that was a success. Just one QSO on 160m would have been icing on the cake but it didn’t quite happen. It is difficult to see how my chances could have been improved with the limited equipment available but after night activations back in the UK, I did expect the band to be a little more open than it was. It may have been just bad timing. Another night may have produced success but another activation into the early hours would undoubtedly have eliminated at least one future daylight activation and I didn’t want to risk that. Maybe someone will complete a 160m SOTA QSO from CT3 one day. I hope so but I don’t think it will be me.

Thanks to all stations worked. The fact that you interrupted an evening of relaxation and probably upset the XYL just to work my station, is much appreciated!

Also 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: 2-3-6

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: QTH 40m south of summit trig point on lower run of conveniently lit wheelchair ramp.

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: QTH on lower run of conveniently lit wheelchair ramp. About to start.

G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN/P. Above: QTH on lower run of wheelchair ramp. Soggy Pound Shop umbrella, child’s booster seat and rig.

Links to all CT9/M1NNN/P 2015 Reports:
CT3/MI-001 G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-001 Pico Ruivo on 02-04-15
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
CT3/MI-006 G4YSS as CT9/M1NNN: CT3/ MI-006 Pico RUIVO de PAUL on 10-04-15
CT3/MI-007 G4YSS (CT9/M1NNN): CT3/ MI-007 Picos da Achadinha, FAILED! 04-04-15
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