Archive for August, 2010

Bowen Epic!

What a great time I had on Bowen, awesome in just one word. I think I’m going to move there!

We had rented a nice cabin for a few days and luckily enough it fell around the dates of the IOTA contest ( hi hi ). I had been eying up a 12m Spiderbeam spiderpole as a means of supporting temporary antennas, so I took the plunge and purchased one a few weeks before the trip. I also pruchased the 1 element quad kit and figured with the AH-4 coupler I could tune up the 20m quad 80m thru 6m.

Spiderpole 20m 1 element quad

Spiderpole 20m 1 element quad

The week before the trip out to Bowen I ventured out to Jericho beach here in Vancouver while the YL was rowing. I brought along the spiderpole and my Icom IC-R1500 receiver. I decided not to extend all the sections as I had not brought along guys so I just used half the antenna, 6 sections, 20ft. With a simple 3/4 inch 2ft pvc pipe in the sand as a support, the 6 sections stood up ok without guying. The bottom six sections also stood up without guying by using a 2 inch 3ft ABS pipe halfway in the sand. The plan on Bowen depending on soil type was to use 3 medium sized bamboo poles driven about 1ft into the ground, a 1.5 ft length of ABS pipe would be placed over these and the spiderpole placed over the pipe. This would stop the base kicking out as I extend the pole which would be guyed further up.

Packing the gear became a bit of a military operation, I felt like Santa Claus ticking off his lists! I wasn’t totally aware of the layout of the property so I made sure to bring plenty of extra coax, window line and 4 conductor cable for the coupler. As usual I try to pack light. All the gear fitted in two bags. The rig, laptop and accessories went in the LowePro which I had brought to Ireland before and the coax, tuner and spiderpoles went into a photographic stand bag I had sequestered from the YL! For future long distance DXpeditions I will look at golf hardcases to carry the spiderpole.

When we arrived at the cabin I was a wee bit surprised. I had surveyed the site on google earth and on the Bowen Island municipality website which showed property lines. I had got the impression that the backyard was a bigger. Well actually the backyard was big, except most of it was a sloping wooded creek which wasn’t apparent from either the topo maps or google earth! Oh dear! Off to the pub. Yes you see, this was a holiday style dx event and there is nothing better to refresh the mind than a few pints and fish and chips. The contest would start in the morning and I decided to leave the erecting till then.

Working the non-existant pile-ups!

Working the non-existent pile-ups!

Up at 5am and straight to work. I surveyed the site, 10ftx40ft and decided I could probably erect the quad but only while it is upright. Normally you would probably assemble the complete quad on the ground and hoist it all up. I didn’t have the room, so I would have to raise it section by section. After about 3 hrs it was up, the problem…..guying. Spiderbeam offer you one guy ring for the 12m pole. However this guy ring sits inside the quad at the 7m level, making it un-rotatable. I improvised a set of guys just below the quad feed point at about 4m height. This wasn’t sturdy enough so I added a second set at about the 2m level. Spiderbeam really need to offer another guy kit for those who purchase the quad kit, I might drop them an email.

Bowen is IOTA NA-091, British Columbia South Group. Sometimes incorrectly lumped in with the Gulf Island group NA-075 I was hoping NA-091 would attract a decent amount of QSOs during the contest……….not a chance. Conditions were poor for SSB, really poor, even W6 stations were fading up and down on 20m in the morning hours. Lets just forget about the contest, I didn’t even break the hundred mark! The quad did tune up well on 40m though and even at just 40ft, Brazil, Argentina and Australia where all easily worked on phone with 100w. Europe was not heard at all, a consequence of being surrounded by mountains on the north side of Bowen and on the mainland to the northeast, the lowest usable takeoff angle to Europe from this QTH was probably about 40 degrees, which is far too high!!!

Throughout the week I casually got on the air, mainly in SSB but also the odd time on PSK. After the disappointing show on Saturday I took a break for a day and enjoyed a day on the beach instead. Monday morning was fun though as somebody had spotted me on the cluster and I worked a string of dedicated US island hunters whose QSLs I already have in my hand, thank you very much! At the end of the week I took down the quad on the spiderpole and erected the antenna as a 20m rectangular loop on the cabin deck. Using the 4m quad cross supports as vertical supports for a 4×6x4×6m loop, it worked pretty well and was much easier to put up and down.

What a view from the 'shack'!

What a view from the 'shack'!

To surmise, Bowen was a good exercise, a really good exercise. Getting familiar with the spiderpole was the most important exercise as I have a few dxpeditions planned in the back of my head that I really want to pursue. The guys who did Mellish (vk9gmw) and Chesterfield (tx3a) really impress me, two or three guys, simple wire antennas and a focus on specific bands. These low-key, lo-fi dxpeditions are the ones that interest me the most, maybe one day I will be working you from a dxpedition like this!