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!
We’ve been monitoring the current situation at both the Saint Martin airport (SXM) and the St. Barts airport (SBH) and we’ve been seeing a gradual return to normal conditions on these islands. This is particularly true of St. Barts which sustained less damage and with the cooperation of local residents, is making good progress. The situation in St. Martin is much worse. The airport was almost completely destroyed, flights have been limited to health and welfare and for evacuation with the first commercial lights just starting this week. This week saw the return of the first commercial flights. There are only a few available hotels for tourists and tourist villas are call closed until next spring.
We are lucky that our flights have been returned to their original schedule – Berlin to Paris and then SXM and SBH. K1CC has managed to reserve a flight on Winair from SXM to SBH and has booked an overnight stay in St. Martin at each end of the trip. All these flights had been suspended thus far because of fuel availability and were subject to government approval for resumption of commercial flights. Our previously diverted flight to Guadeloupe would have been a huge inconvenience. The Winair flights between St. Martin and St. Barts have resumed on a limited schedule as of October 1 which have greatly simplified our logistics. We are now all flying together from St. Martin to St. Barts.
We welcome three new sponsors – SP7IDX Hex Beam Technology (manufacturer of hex beams and components), SPID Elektronik (manufacturer of antenna rotators and controllers) and GXP Antennas (manufacturer of a wide variety of HF and VHF antennas). We thank them all for their generous donations.
As you all know, hurricane Irma ripped through the Leeward Islands, with some of the worst devastation in the area of St. Martin, St. Barts and Anguilla/Antigua. We have been monitoring the situation very carefully for the last few weeks to assess the situation. Although our trip is primarily driven by the availability of our rental villa, we also had to take into consideration the availability and reliability of power and Internet connections, which are rapidly being restored on St. Barts. We received word today from our agent that our villa suffered no significant damage from the wind. Since we are on a bluff looking to the north and east, we did not have any water damage or flooding.
The other consideration is the availability of flights to St. Martin, where all of us are flying to. For the SP’s, our flight from Paris to St. Martin was diverted to Guadeloupe, at least for the time being. K1CC’s flight from Atlanta has been unaffected. As we write this report, hurricane Maria has just passed through Guadeloupe and the surrounding islands and there are reports of widespread damage in Guadeloupe. We do not have further details at this time.
It appears that there will be hotels available in St. Martin by the time we arrive, should they be needed. There are several ferry companies that shuttle between St. Martin and St. Barts (1/2 hr ride). Not all are functioning and the ports have not been completely cleared, they are currently limited to cargo transport. The SP’s have reservations to St. Barts by a small airplane so that should not be an issue. The airports on both islands are functional and are currently used for relief supplies and evacuating guests. With two months remaining, we are confident both airports will be restored to normal operation.
So barring any further surprises, we are all set to go!
We still have a lot of time remaining until the DXpedition but to tell the truth we think about it every day: planning everything, preparing every detail etc.
In the meantime Jari OH6BG/OG6G prepared the VOACAP HF Propagation Predictions for TO2SP. Just enter your grid locator and click “Run”.
Many thanks, Jari!
Our team is on the way again. This time we decided to visit St. Barthelemy Island. Please stay tuned for the DXpedition news. We will keep you informed about our plans…