The bands are slowly getting better. The CQWW CW contest is coming up shortly in a few hours. We’d really appreciate a QSO with everyone on as many bands as possible, whether you’ve worked us before or not.
Once again, we are offering a souvenir from St. Barthelemy for all those who work us on 5 out of 6 bands. This should be possible from Europe (including 160) and easy from the US. It’ll be mailed to you after we return home.
See you in the contest!
No turkey dinner here, we’re all taking turns at the radio or sleeping. The pool is delightful during operating breaks and the weather is always the same – beautiful!! We had no running water for 1 ˝ days, it turns out we depleted the water storage tanks under the house which collect rainwater for domestic water. The property manager finally switched us to city water. The construction work next door is wearing on us, there are two backhoes breaking up ledge and the sifting it into various grades of aggregate. There’s no topsoil on this island, so you have to make your own. The noise is annoying, to say the least. Fortunately they don’t work weekends, so it’ll be quiet for the CQWW weekend. With the work involved in site preparation, it’s no wonder why properties around here start at $2M and up!
The bands have deteriorated significantly. The daytime high bands have not produced any surprise openings. Today even working the US has been tough on 12m and 10m. The “money band” without a doubt is 20m, except for a noontime pause due to absorption. We enjoy sunset the most. Aside from the spectacular view to the west, as soon as the sun drops over the western part of the island, the bands come alive with JA’s coming in like gangbusters on 40m and 20m. We’ve been generating huge JA pileups. We’ve also worked JA’s on 80m at both sunrise and sunset, but not too many on 15m. For K1CC, running JA’s without polar flutter is a new experience.
We spent the 2nd night on 80m on CW and logged over 1100 QSO’s that night. But 160m has been poor, ever since that unforgettable opening to Russia our first night on 160m. The aurora has been obvious to us yesterday and today when we hear US stations with a flutter. Florida stations always come here S9. And there’s a lot of pipeline propagation to Texas and the midwest here on the high bands.
Tonight we plan to hit 40m SSB hard. We need to reorient our phased verticals for a better shot into Europe in preparation for CQWW this weekend. Also on the “to do” list is to configure Win-Test for the contest tomorrow and set up our Telnet filters. Most importantly, we need to get some rest. Tonight, as usual, we’ll be on 160m as much as conditions permit.
This weekend in CQWW CW we’ll be M/2 with 2 stations and 4 ops. The two phone-only ops will operate the WARC bands on SSB and provide us with moral support and make coffee for us. They’ll be our technical crew for all the little problems that arise. One of them is fixing the very thin wires on the VDA’s which occasionally burn out or short out, even though we’re only running 500-600W. Turning antennas will be the job of our support team, as they require running outside and twisting the mast to the proper direction (and making sure it stays that way in the breeze!). Our spirits are good and we’re enjoying this operating marathon.
We know that many of you have worked us on several bands by now. Although our CQWW operation will not win us any plaques, we would like to make a good showing. Please work us in the contest on every band possible, even if you worked us this past week. As an incentive, we offer a souvenir from St. Barts for everyone that works us on 5 bands. It will be mailed out to all the CQWW CW 5-banders after we return back home.
Happy Thanksgiving to all and see you on the bands today!
Another day on St. Barts – the weather is always the same, it’s sunny with a daytime temperature of 84F (29C) and 78F (26C) at night, with very little day-to-day variation. There’s a mild breeze and of course it’s quite humid. We have our stations set up in the living room with no air conditioning and no screens. Our biggest enemy are the mosquitoes, especially at sunset, but we’re getting friendly with them. Our escape from reality are the bedrooms which are air-conditioned, but sleep is always in short 2-3 hour segments at random times of the day (contest style). Needless to say, we’re not getting much sleep. Today we have no running water but we have a pool to cool off.
Our antenna project today was to move the 160 inverted-L as our guy wires were intefering with construction on the lot next to us. It’s not as good a spot, but there’s nothing we can do. We had to fix one of the VDA’s as the 22 gauge wire shorted on one of the elements. Otherwise things are working well. We have no coax switches to save on weight, so there’s a lot of running around when changing bands.
160m inverted Lantenna at the new operating position
We put our top-gun 80m op on SSB and he cleaned up with 1000 QSO’s in the log. Tonight we’ll go to CW on 80. Unfortunately 160m was disappointing, with very poor openings to Europe and very noisy conditions. We had a lot of noise just after sunset and couldn’t copy the pileup. It was not a good night for 160, though we did go to SSB and worked a number of US stations and a few Europeans.
Sunrise brought a nice Asian long-path opening on 17m. We went to 10m just before local noon, worked the midwest and West Coast and a few EA’s. The band then opened further into Europe and we had spotlight propagation to southern Poland and OK/OM. We logged dozens of SP’s, all weak but very copiable. Otherwise it was all G’s, F’s, EA’s, CT1’s and EA8’s, as you might expect. As they faded, the band shifted to the East Coast and we’re sitting here at 19Z still running the US on 10m. The other two stations are on 20m SSB which is just a bottomless pit of Europeans all day long and 17m CW and SSB with non-stop Europe and the US.
Our QSO total is now 26,700 at 19Z. Tonight we go to 80m CW for the first time! We’ll be on 160 again, which is a needed band for many of you.
See you on the bands and keep filling those band maps on Club Log!
After a very shaky start since Tuesday, all good news to report today. Our last suitcase arrived yesterday at 5 PM so we are now operating in full force. We reconfigured our station with the last amplifier and the missing computers and now have 3 fully operational stations on the air.
At this moment we are putting up our last antenna (#10), which are 2 phased verticals for 80m. Sunrise is the best time to put up antennas, before it gets too hot in the sun. We have not been on 80m yet, instead we’ve focused on 160m at night. We put up the inverted-L the day before yesterday just before sunset. It is on the edge of our property and with permission, extended the radials into the adjacent property, as well as the horizontal leg on a fiberglass pole. It’s just over the crest of a bluff into the Caribbean and looks very impressive. We also put up a 100m beverage to Europe which works well. The first night we made over 700 QSO’s on 160m (mostly Europe) with fantastic propagation into Russia. It was really exciting!! As the terminator moved into central Europe, the band closed early, with not many western Europeans. There was essentially no propagation to the US either, just a few stations. Last night it was the opposite, with a good European sunrise opening but no Russians. And of course, at 08-09Z, all the bands are virtually dead as we anxiously await local sunrise. This morning 20m opened to Europe at 1000Z and within 2 minutes we went from a dead band to a huge pileup.
We’ve made some QSO’s on RTTY and tried FT8 on 6m with no success yet, using a 3el VDA. All the antennas seem to be working very well. We were careful in how we located the antennas and there is no interstation inteference, a pleasant surprise. We also put up a short beverage to the US/JA since the EU beverage is quite directive. The pileups have been very big at times. The most exciting ones are the JA pileups on 20 and 40 at local sunset, with a wall of JA’s to pick out calls. We operate mostly split, since our antennas are quite modest and we’re only running 500-800W (depending on the amplifier).
We’ll be hitting 80m very hard tonight (CW and SSB). We have no QSO’s yet on that band. We will also try 12m and 10m around local noon and later, but our focus now is to bring up our QSO total from a slow start.
Do you want to see the picture of which operator you worked? Please check Club Log which we update a few times daily. Unfortunately QSO Director does not work as it should, we’ll try to fix it. Please do not request corrections to the log via e-mail. We don’t have enough time to deal with this now. It might be easier to just work us again 😉
Our Elecraft-sponsored KPA500 has been working well and is a perfect DXpedition amplifier with it’s small size and weight. We would like to thank Elecraft for their support of our DXpedition, as well as all the other other sponsors.
As usual, good news and bad news (but mostly good!). Our daily trip to the airport yesterday resulted in 3 out of 5 remaining pieces of baggage arriving. There are still 2 pieces somewhere in the Caribbean with our 3rd and 4th radios… The good news is that the bags that arrived had all of our antennas. Last night in the dark we put up the multiband vertical lashed to the front gate of the property and finally got on 40m. We were surprised at the massive pileup for hours and hours on such a simple antenna and 500W. At our local sunrise we ran JA’s until they faded into the ionosphere.
In the meantime, the rest of the crew started preassembling the other antennas last night. At 5:30 AM we started putting up our “real” antennas. We found a good spot for the Spiderbeam and put up several VDA’s for the other high bands. We also retuned our vertical back to 30m which was temporarily modified for 20m. It is now 9 AM and we have all the high band antennas up. We’ll be putting the 40m and 80m phased verticals today and will hopefully be on the low bands tonight, at last. We’ve also staked out a beverage location for Europe and another one to the US/JA. If not today, it’ll go up tomorrow. We’re looking forward to giving out the 160m “new one” to all those needing it. Our location has turned out to be very quiet and with the beverage antennas, we look forward to working everyone on 160!
All our daytime antennas are ready, during the day we put up our night antennas as well as beverages
So here we are on St. Barts on day 2 and still no luggage… We drove to the airport to check the status and were told that our luggage is now on St. Martin. We can see St. Martin from our QTH, it’s only a 10-minute flight. However, we were told there was no guarantee that they’ll be here tomorrow. The St. Barts airport was full of angry and upset tourists like us who paid a lot of money to spend a vacation on this island, only to be left without any luggage. Not a happy crowd…
Today we cobbled up another antenna and managed to get on a second band (18 MHz). We found a small spool of wire and put up a dipole at about 10 ft (3m). With a big downslope to the north and west, it was enough to work Europe and the US and a few Pacific stations. However, the band is now dead so we’re left once again with just 10 Mhz for the night.
Our home made 17m dipole
We are uploading our logs to Club Log but unfortunately the QSO Director software is on one of the computers in our delayed baggage, along with antennas and radios for the other bands. We’re happy to at least be putting out some kind of signal from TO2SP.
With any luck, we’ll get our luggage tomorrow and have enough daylight left to put up more antennas. If not, we’ll continue to work 10 MHz.
We left on Monday November 13 by car from Wroclaw to Berlin and spent the night in Berlin. Our flight to Paris Charles deGaulle was at 6 AM the next morning. We were successful in our airport transfer in Paris within our narrow 3 hour time window. We were now home free, our biggest challenge was overcome, or so we thought…
Our arrival at Orly was met with a big bureaucratic mess, as they wouldn’t accept our prepayment of excess baggage charges (from our previous reservation) and demanded payment once again for all the excess bagge. As we were arguing with them, our baggage already got tagged and was whisked away. In the end, we did not pay anything. Part of it was tagged to Guadeloupe, part directly to St. Barts, including two of our carry-ons. We spent the night in Guadeloupe with another early wake-up at 3 am for our final 7:15 am flight to St. Barts.
Checking in at Point-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe
St. Barts — at last!
The next surprise was our landing in St. Barts. As all the YouTube videos show, it’s an exciting landing but we made it OK. The big surprise was that of all the bags that were checked, the only ones which arrived were the 3 carry-ons and one suitcase. Apparently there was no more room on the airplane for the remaining 5 baggages, it was full. We were told the baggage would arrive whenever space was found. This was not good news for us….
In the meantime we went shopping for food and picked up K1CC at the airport, who arrived without incident from St. Martin. So, the bottom line is that we will be starting off our first night with the only antenna we have available to us, which is a 10 Mhz vertical. A quick test shows the location to be very quiet. More good news is that we see opportunities to put a beverage up for the US/JA and for Europe, once we get all our baggage. Hopefully that will be tomorrow, but it could be the day after.
So look for us on 10 MHz tonight. We won’t have any Internet connection with Club Log or QSO Director until we get all our hardware here.
L-R SP3GEM, SP6IXF, SP6EQZ, SP3CYY, SP6JIU
Yesterday the 5-person Polish part of the TO2SP DXpedition met at the QTH of Janusz SP6IXF in order to make our final preparations before departure. We distributed all our baggage among the participants such that we would not exceed our individual baggage allowance. We also checked the volume of the trunk in our car to make sure everything would fit — no last minute surprises!.
We’ll be driving the car to Berlin. In addition to the standard baggage allowance, we purchased 100 kg of excess baggage which includes the antennas and the amplifiers. We just hope that everything will arrive safely in St. Barts.
The most critical part of our trip is the change of airport in Paris since we only have 3 hours to pick up our baggage and get from Charles de Gaulle Airport to Orly airport, on the opposite southern side of Paris. It is theoretically possible — or so we have been told.
Once again we discussed our operating strategy on each of the bands with the goal of maximizing the number of QSO’ s during our 2-week stay. Upon arrival, Jurek SP3GEM and Janusz SP6IXF will take over as DXpedition leaders, they have the most experience related to antennas and propagation. Our QSO record so far is over 85,000 QSO’s during our 5T0SP DXpedition in 2012.
Because of the current low sunspot activity, it doesn’t seem possible to beat that number but we’ll do whatever we can to at least come close. Our antennas and location will be favorable toward achieving that goal. We’re counting on a large number of QSO’s with North America.
With that goal in mind, we have changed our operating frequencies during the DXpedition to ones more accessible to Novice/Technician and General class hams in the USA. We also hope that the FT8 mode will enable QSO’s even in poor condtions on 10m and 6m. We’ll have a station dedicated just to that mode. Due to lack of log synchronization between WSJT-X, QSO Director and Win-Test, QSO’s using the FT8 mode will be entered into Club Log just once a day.
And of course we look forward to working everyone in CQWW CW, whether you’ve worked us previously or not.
See you in the pileups!
After searching hard for alternatives, we were able to book flights for the entire Polish group
on the Berlin-Saint Barts route. The flights are not as convenient as they were before, but what’s most important is that we arrive on-site with all our many pieces of luggage, without any delays or any lost baggage.
We are departing on November 14, one day earlier than we originally had planned, flying through Paris and Guadeloupe, landing in St. Barts in the morning hours of November 15. Our whole trip duration door-to-door will be 53 hours. This is similar to our long return from VK9X several years ago. The critical point in our journey will be transferring from Roissy Charles de Gaulle Airport to Orly Airport in Paris, which is located on the opposite southern side of the city. We only have 3 hours for this airport transfer, including picking up our baggage.
Because our license is valid starting November 16 at 0000 UTC (8 PM local time), that gives us the whole day to comfortably install and tune our antennas. We’ll probably do station checkout on November 15 using our individual calls (FJ/home call).
We have already tested and packed all our antennas, radio gear and the computers which will be used during our DXpedition. The computers have all the logging software installed and the network configured.
We have reserved a hotel in Berlin for our first night’s stay and one in Pointe-à-Pitre in Guadeloupe for the second night. We’ve also made payment for our excess baggage (over 100 kg) on all the flights.
Our QSO’s will be uploaded daily into Club Log and they can also be tracked real-time from our Web page using QSO Director http://www.qsodirector.com/event/to2sp/ . QSO’s made in the CQWW CW DX Contest will not be uploaded nor tracked real-time during the contest in accordance with CQWW rules. We will also be on 6m using the FT8 digital mode. This gives us an opportunity to make QSO’s on this band which would otherwise be unlikely during this part of the year from the Caribbean. For this purpose we built a 3el VDA antena for 6m, which is very lightweight and our tests show surprisingly good results with it. We’ll be paying particular attention to 160m, since in our judgement the demand for FJ is greatest on this band. We’ll also be active during long-path and short-path propagation periods to JA and the Far East, since this is a difficult polar propagation path for them and FJ is very sought after there (37th place on the Club Log most wanted list for Asia).
See you in the pileups shortly!
We received a surprise notification from Air France that our flight from Paris to St. Martin has been cancelled. They are offering to refund our money and instead are providing service from Pointe-à-Pitre (PTP) in Guadeloupe to Grand-Case Espérance Airport (SFG) which is on the French side of St. Martin. This flight cancellation puts us in a difficult position of finding alternative flights with not much time left.
The devastation on St. Martin was severe (see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NuMGB774h9w&t=12s ) and the tourism business is slow to rebound. Apparently there was just not enough passenger volume for Air France to continue direct flights to St. Martin from Paris, even though the St. Martin airports are both open for traffic. This is a result of a very limited supply of hotels and pensions in St. Martin following the hurricane, as well as severe damage to the infrastructure of the island, including marinas and yachts which were moored there.
We are currently investigating other options. KLM flies there only several times every 10 days on an irregular schedule, none of which matches our villa rental period and the license period. Flying Delta through Atlanta is not an option as none of the guys from Poland have U.S. visas (required even for transit) and there’s just not enough time to secure the visas at this point. But we are doing our very best to find suitable connections and to purchase new tickets.
Keep your fingers crossed and wish us luck in our efforts. We hope the TO2SP Dxpedition will be on the air shortly!