This storm is already intense and predicted to hit the north-east side of the island tomorrow morning with hurricane force. For the last three years, we have been lucky with storms tracking to one side or the other of the QTH, but the track for this one cuts straight down the center of the island and should pass near the capital city, Antananarivo. The prediction has been consistent and is now close enough to be sure that we will experience some rough weather in the next few days.
To that end, for the first time, I have lowered the hex beam antenna. I collapsed down the telescoping sections of the heavy duty 10m spiderbeam mast and threw some additional guy lines over the central plate to which the arms attach. The wooden support beam goes two meters into the ground and is surrounded by buried concrete, so I am not worried about the base, but I do expect the fiberglass arms to be battered about. I considered dismounting the whole antenna, but that would have required more manpower than I have readily available, so it will have to ride out the storm.
Over the last two weeks, I have traveled in South Africa and Botswana, primarily on business, but with a little time set aside for radio fun. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive regulatory clearance to operate in Botswana in time for the trip, so I left the radio in my suitcase there (despite the bilateral agreement on amateur radio between the US and Botswana, to operate, US hams need to file with BOCRA, which takes some time). However, in South Africa, I operated from Pretoria and Cape Town, visited a local ham club, and activated a SOTA peak.
While I would prefer to activate less common SOTA peaks, when traveling I often need to consider what is in range of public transportation. Table Mountain is a 50 Rand ride on Uber from downtown Cape Town and is also a stop on some hop-on/hop-off bus tours. Two hanging cable cars run from the base of the mountain to its top. There is a long path up as well, but as I was lugging more equipment than usual, I decided to take the cable car, which was something like 250 Rand round trip (about $20; pricey, but it is, after all, a tourist attraction).
Conditions over the previous week have been good, so I decided to put in an effort on the ARRL INT DX CW contest this weekend. I knew from experience that I would not be able to work around the clock since the US and Canada are not typically in range in the morning, so I anticipated being able to get some sleep from about 4 am through early afternoon, which was fine with me. Reviewing recent logs and VOACAP predictions, I mapped out propagation paths and figured where I would point the hexbeam, and more or less stuck to that plan. Over the course of the contest, I put in about 23 hours in the chair.
I was effectively limited to three bands: 15m, 20m, and 40m. Ten was almost uniformly dead, and my 40m loop is very inefficient on 80m. Bands faded in and out more or less as predicted including some good spans of working the west coast on long path in the afternoons.
I have a few days of meetings in Paris before returning to Madagascar and before arriving, I mapped out a couple SOTA peaks near Paris. I was not sure when I would work them in since my only free time will probably be in the evenings, but I have already operated from one: FL/NO-120.
I had some confusion about the name and designation. There area references on the sotawatch website that list F/NO-120 as “Buttes de Parisis”, and Google points to older versions of the sota.uk website that also referenced that peak. The French SOTA website indicates that as of February 1, 2017, there was a reorganization of France into the FL and F associations, so these websites just need to catch up. I had planned the trip back in January 2017, hence my use of the older term. For logging purposes, since the Nord-Ouest summits now fall under FL rather than F, I used the FL/NO-120 designation. Oddly, the name seems to have changed to “Fort de Cormeilles”, which is a historical building in the area. In any event, the GPS coordinates are the same.
I’m still in the Los Angeles area, and today activated another nearby hill. I know that this site is very close to W6/CT-225, Flint Peak, which I visited a couple days ago, and I have seen reports from others who have activated both in a single day without too much effort.
Once again, I find myself in San Francisco for some meetings and have a down day to tackle a SOTA peak. In planning this trip, I noted that no matter how many SOTA peaks I activate near San Francisco, I can always find another one, and one hint is to look at the multiple sub-regions that overlap in this area. Today, I took one from the Coastal Ranges list — Mount Caroline Livermore on Angel Island, just off the coast of Tiburon, California. It’s a one-pointer, but definitely not a “drive up” site — you need to take a boat to get to the island, and there’s no way to the top except legs.
From San Francisco, Angel Island can be seen from the Fisherman’s Wharf area at the northern end of the city, and the island lies just distant to Alcatraz. As usual, I am staying at a hotel in the Union Square neighborhood, so I had to figure out how to get to the site on public transportation. Working backwards from getting to the island, at this time of year there is only one ferry service, Blue and Gold, which departs from Pier 41 several times daily, the first outbound ferry at 09:45. Since Fisherman’s Wharf is a big tourist area (less so in winter), there are plenty of ways to get there: I took the 8BX Muni bus which has a stop a few blocks away (two bucks fifty each way).
A couple days after activating OK/JC-038, my family spent a day in Kutna Hora, a town with a lot of history and great architecture. The nearby Sedlec Ossuary is also a tourist attraction. On the way back to Prague, we stopped by a tall hill that overlooks Miskovice, just outside Kutna Hora.
The grass-covered hill is topped with trees, and a road runs around it. At one end, there is an observation tower topped by microwave and other antennas. Unfortunately, this time of the year, it is not open to the public. You can reasonably park anywhere along the side of the road or right at the tower.
My family and spent the holidays in the Czech Republic this year. We enjoyed a few days in Prague, had a nice visit to Cesky Kromlov, and spent New Year’s in the Lipno ski area.
What better way to start the New Year than to activate a SOTA peak? OK/JC-038 (Okolí) was not too far away, and on Google Maps, it looks like roads approach reasonably near the peak. Going northwards from Lipno, we followed route 163 and then 162, but at one point a smaller, unnamed road branches off 162. I went right by it and had to turn around, because this road is unpaved and enters the woods. It was covered in light snow, the rental car was doing well with traction, and other tire marks made it obvious where the road was, so I drove in.
Lately, I’ve been hearing a good deal of voice in the CW portion of 20m and 40m. I’ve already made some mental adjustment to being in Region 1, where the band plan allows for voice operation below 7.1Mhz on 40m, and even on the 30m band. However, what I’m talking about is very near the bottom edge of the bands…and sometimes slightly below. I have to assume the signal source is close, but I can’t spin my delta loop to get any hint of direction.
And then tonight, I had an odd one — in the SSB portion of 20m, but on lower side band (not a matter of DSB, I checked). Here’s a bit of captured audio from 14236.5khz at 15:38z 19DEC (quality’s not great because I just recorded off my headphones with my cell phone…)
In all cases, these signals sound like a bunch of buddies talking informally, without callsigns or any formal procedure. I have to assume it is unlicensed operation, most likely in an area where there isn’t really much provision for enforcement.
Anybody recognize the language in the audio clip? I’d love to know what their chatting about.