The Longest Smash and Grab?

I set out to activate G/DC-007 Watchcroft on Sunday afternoon: it had been a lovely sunny morning but the weather was clearly going downhill, and I arrived at the summit to be greeted by a brisk wind and a splatter of rain. Well, I make no bones about being a fine weather activator, but I hadn’t travelled 280 miles to give up (actually, I had travelled 280 miles for beer, mead, sun, and some coasteering, in that order!) so I decided, rather unwisely as it turned out, to operate from the rather wobbly stone shelter. The roach pole fitted nicely into the trig point, but the pile of boulders that does duty for a summit was very unstable so it took a good fifteen minutes of teetering about to set up. I sat down on a badly upholstered granite lump and started to tune up on 5 megs. At this point the G8ADD curse struck! A gust of wind moved the wire antenna and dislodged a badly balanced stone from the rim of the wall…they don’t build 'em like they used to, but the curses work just fine - the rock struck and smashed the output socket on the tuner. Dammit! There was no way that I could operate on the DC bands this holiday, so I wearily packed up the HF gear and set up the 2 metre antenna.

Frankly, from West Penwith you are on a hiding to nothing on 2 metres, but with point-hungry contest stations roaming the band I thought I was in with a chance. My heart sank when I tuned the band, just a paltry few distant mutterings in the noise. I called CQ on 144.300. Nothing. Several calls later I realised that the contest stations up country were probably wallowing in QRM and splatter so I called on several different frequencies. Nothing. Time for a bit of hunt-and-pounce! Wonderful - there was M0GMG/P on DC-001! Several calls later I penetrated his pile-up and got number one and an S2S. Shortly after I got G0ROC/P in IO83VQ, then after some more futile CQing I found G3RCV/P in JO01DH, and a final CQ netted G3WKF/P just up the road in IO70KA, and the qualification. At this point the rain became more noticeable, and being nervous about all those little holes in the FT857D I decided to call it a day. Over an hour of operating with 50 watts for a bare qualification, a snail-paced smash-and-grab!

I think it is true what they say, people don’t beam to the southwest! Two decently long distance contacts showed that it could be done, and no doubt a bit more antenna gain to add to the 50 watts might have netted perhaps a half dozen more contacts, but it would still be hard work.

The moral? Use the DC bands and have an armour-plated tuner!


Brian G8ADD

PS There are two tracks to the summit from the old mine road. Of the two, the one from by the houses is more uneven and bedevilled with gorse than the one that goes up from by the ruined engine house, so I recommend that one until a convenient fire clears up the summit again!

In reply to G8ADD:

Hi, Brian.

Sorry to hear of your trials and tribulations. On a nice day it’s a super spot but being that close to the coast I guess there’s always plenty of scope for it turning.

Okay about the two tracks. Certainly there are some well-hidden holes to trap the unwary either side of the track from the house. I had forgotten that and have amended my summit details accordingly. Oops.

Mixed blessing, contests - aren’t they. I think I was suffering the same problem on Cliffe Hill and like you just managed to scrape the four. Not so when I was on Watch Croft. In this case, I’m sure the sea path and perhaps a bit of early morning propagation helped to raise the tally.

73, Richard

In reply to G8ADD:

Hi Brian,

Sorry to hear about your problems - the gremblins certainly seem to be clinging to your backpack! It was very wet and misty when I activated that summit, so I can’t allude to Richard’s comments about how pleasant it is.

I recall getting the feeling that I was closer to Spain and Portugal than to the rest of England… everyone except for Don RQL and one or two other die-hards down there is DX, so well done on getting across to RCV.

73, Gerald

In reply to G8ADD:

I heard you work M0GMG on High Willhays just before my contact with him, 5/5 both ways, you were perfectly readable, where did you go?


In reply to G0NES:

Hi, Don: 2 minutes later I worked G0ROC/p on 144.200 then spent 10 minutes calling between 144.29 and 144.31, four calls and shift in case I was under contest stations that I couldn’t hear, but near the calling channel which had a very weak station on it for some time.

To Richard: when I first climbed the watchcroft and then crossed the col to Carn Galver, in I think 1974, there was only a broken down wire fence and the whole summit area had been burned off. The area near the houses and engine house was a maze of holes and trenches from, I suspect, early tin streamers before the mine was built to follow the lode - which I think petered out a couple of hundred feet down (I chucked in a rock and timed the impact!) which you would expect from first principles - tin being effectively the lowest zone.
On a fine day it is a unique place with views that would grace a much higher hill!


Brian G8ADD

In reply to G8ADD:
This may be utterly daft, but I am thinking of buying one of these to take with me to see if it would provide some shelter for the rig when it rains. Since they are quite cheap, it wouldn’t be a disaster to throw it away if it doesn’t work. What do you think?

73 jim

In reply to G0CQK:

After picking myself up off the floor laughing, thinking I’d never fit in one of those, I re-read your post & actually that doesn’t seem such a daft idea.

While some rigs are built to take the worst the weather can throw at them, the majority of rigs used by us amateurs are not. While the FT817 does appear to be a little splashproof, the FT857 & FT897 are definitely not designed to be used outdoors in anything other than dry weather.

I can picture my FT897 & ATU sat very comfortably in one those cat tents, which must be much quicker to erect then a proper tent or fishing shelter. For a light shower they would be superb, but for something heavier I would prefer a tent.

I purchased a lightweight, single skin 2 person tent, from a well known supermarket for the princely sum of £7. Obviously, it takes longer to set up than the cat shelter (I think it took me about 5 minutes in quite windy conditions), but does give you shelter from the elements, as well as the radio.

I thought I’d uploaded some photos of it but unfortunately they only appear in this video I made when I operated from the summit of Pendle Hill in the May 144MHz Backpackers contest.

Thanks for the idea Jim, I must just invest in one of those :slight_smile:


Mark G0VOF

In reply to G0CQK:

Jim, that idea is so utterly daft it can only be brilliant - I must try one, even the price is right!


Brian G8ADD

In reply to G0CQK:

Also brilliant if you have little girls and dolly wants to go camping.

I think that is what is meant by ‘thinking outside the box’.

Nice one.

Steve GW7AAV