From July 28
until August 11, 2003 I was on holliday on the island of Bonaire.
Read the full story here below.
PJ4/PA2VST in FK52ue
As soon as my wife and I decided to go to Bonaire for holidays this year the plan came up to try to activate the island on 50 MHz. As far as my knowledge there is no ham activity any more on Bonaire since PJ9EE left. Once in a while some visitors made some contacts.
PA2VST, his son and wife on Bonaire.
Since I had to promise my family not to stay behind the
rig all the time I announced my activities on the dedicated 6 metre pages and
told already that this was NO DXpedition. In May I started to investigate the
possibilities for a simple and light weight antenna. It had to fit several
demands. Small in size and able to put it in a suitcase, omni directional and
simple to tune for a good match. With the help of many ideas from quite some
operators I decided to make a 5/8 groundplane. I also would take enough wires
with me to try an inverted V and a long wire system.
The 5/8 whip is made from different pieces of 10, 8, 6 and 4 millimeter tubing all cut into 40 centimeter length to make it simple to take it with me. Except the 4 mm tubes all are secured to another with a M3 bolt and nut. As ground assembly I used an old Katrein magnet and put the matching circuit in there. It was also a fine way of keeping the antenna up. Without extra guy wires it could take some wind before was going down. So the antenna was ready in some time and performed pretty well during some EU openings while it was in my garden at ground level.
I decided to take my IC706MK2 with me. It is easy to carry with me and I would be able to feed it from different power sources. The resort manager from Hamlet Oasis, the place where I would stay, emailed me when I asked for some information. They told me they had two sources available 110 and 220 Volt. He could not tell me if it was 50 or 60 Hz. So I decided to get a switchmode power supply that could handle 110 and 220 without problems on different frequencies. As soon I mentioned my need, a friend told me he found some supplies that fit my demands. It had to be modified but could handle different mains voltages and was not critical. The price?? Only €15,=.... It didn't take long for a decision. And after some evenings of modifications and testing it was able to run on 220 and 110 Volt delivering nearly 30A and even during a long test it didn't get hot. Something you can not say about the IC706. During the test I also put the power supply and IC706 near my HF dipole and running full power, connected with the keyer and headphone. It did not suffer from the field. So I was quite sure the equipment could run without problems in a bad environment or rare antenna positions. I planned to use a 15 meters long RG58 coax cable. Referring to the description from the resort manager, that was long enough to reach the top of the roof.
After a nine hour flight we arrived Monday July 28th 18.00Z at the resort. It was only a 15 minute ride from the airport and we were very impressed about the bright daylight and beautifull resort. Have a look your self:
The Hamlet Oasis resort.
The sunset is quite early on the island. So after we moved in and had the first drinks it was too late to set up the station and antennas. So this had to wait for the next afternoon. During the evening and most of the night we had a power failure. The power plant was very near the resort and I could hear the generators still running. This plant, shown in the photo, was nearly one kilometre away.
The power plant with an old generator at the foreground
On Tuesday I had the time to assemble the station and
when I switched on the rig for the first time I discovered a S9 QRM with statics
and noise bursts. When I moved the 5/8 more from the road it became a little
less. Also when I took it more down the noise get less. But never below S7. So
it seems the 5/8 took a lot of QRM from the area. So I tried a dipole made from
two pieces of wire and between the roof and the fence. It also took a lot of QRM
but it seemed different. So during that test I gave some CQ's on the announced
frequency, 50.103. Immediately someone responded, but because of the statics it
was difficult to read the call. After some attempts I learned it was W1CWU...Great,
because I thought it would be some from YV or PJ2. This is the nearest land from
Bonaire. A QSO was soon made and the first one was in the log. I made two more
contacts with extreme difficulties and then the opening was over.
So I really had to do something about this QRM. I started to use a little piece of wire to the coax and I moved it in the area to try to discover the source. I found one, a box with the letters "CATV" on it.
When I moved that box a little the noise disappeared. Guess that was a loose contact. I could not open the box, so I left it as it was. The QRM on the 5/8 was still S9. But when I placed it near the fence it dropped to S5. So much lower as intended, but at least not that noisy and still with a good take off in north east direction. See my antenna here:
5/8 groundplane taped to the fence!
I had to tape it to the fence. First it was standing on
the iron airco fan on the roof. But there was no iron left on the fence. I
really needed to tape it because there is always strong winds on Bonaire.
With this set up I was able to hear birdies and some kind of SSB signals on the band. Because of the statics and QRM left it was impossible to recognise a call. So it had to be CW. I doubt the low antenna position would lessen my chances. I still had a very clear view to most directions and the fence kept the donkeys away from the antenna. It seems the wild living donkeys eat nearly everything... Also wire and coax.
The view to the north east direction. With wild living donkey.
All in all it was done inbetween the hours I spent with snorkling, sightseeing the island and adjusting to the tropic climate. On Wednesday and Thursday nothing was heard on six. In the meantime I also put up a dipole for twenty meters on the same fence. I was planning to activate 30 meters, but that was really impossible because of the noise. So I changed to 14 MHz. During daytime 14 MHz was nearly dead. But the evening and night time brought many stations. Europe gave the best signals all days. So many contacts in the log on that band. On Friday we took a tour to the salt lakes at the southern part of the island. Very nice to see the environment there.
Pink salt lake and white salt mountains.
Flamingo's at Lac Bay.
During the weekend I was out most of the day. During the evening in the weekend most of the statics were gone. But nothing was heard on the band. Suddenly a new source of QRM appeared. It was a kind of splatter and it sounded like the front end of the 706 was over driven... After a long time searching between 60 MHz and AM band I found a huge signal on 800 kHz. It turned out that it was Trans World Radio transmitting there and the antennas of it were only a kilometre away. So I had to live with it because I had no parts to eliminate that. Every day the distortion was different and I guess the TX was not very clean. Also Radio Netherlands is transmitting with a powerfull transmitter from the northern part of the Island on 15 MHz, but I never found a problem during their transmissions.
Radio Netherlands antenna on Bonaire.
I did not made a note in the log, but I think I heard
the CT0SIX beacon the Sunday evening at 02.30Z. Much too late to get an European
QSO. This has been the only European signal on six metres I have heard. At
August 5th I heard the V44KAI beacon for a hour. It was loud from FK87st.
Transmitting on 50.0553 MHz. I have never heard the beacon from my home station.
I have made a test during the night with I0WTD but nothing heard. So 50 MHz
remains quiet at my place.
And then on Saturday August 9th.... I knew propagation could be enhanced by the Perseid meteor shower, so we were heading for the maximum in a few days. We did most of the island inbetween the swimming and sun burning plenty of time was left for six. Most of the day I had the beacon running and I heard stations calling me now and then. They must have thought I was really deaf. I have to apologise but the 800 kHz station was running giving me a real hard time. But conditions improved and I heard K7BV calling me. It took me some time, but we completed. I hope I was able to give him his second new DXCC.
After that a big pile up came up. I still had the QRM problem and with so many stations calling I try to QSX 1 kHz up. It helped a bit...But look here how I looked after one hour in the heat of the pile:
Peter, doing a pile up on August 9th.
My wife told me again I was on holiday and shouldn't
look that exhausted during playing radio...
Many known ones get in the log, like K1GUN, K2ZD (very strong) W4SO (sorry for mistaken the call first), N3DB, W3UR, K3ZO (loud). At 17.45Z the opening was gone and all signals disappeared. Time for a lot of beer. I worked 38 stations. Also around 10 with lots of doubt to the right call. You can't believe how difficult it will be to get CW were even one character can be break up by QRM into seperate pieces of characters. Again I am very sorry to those stations.
I let the beacon run while I took the drinks and a short dive in the pool. When I came back to the rig I heard stations calling again. Most of them were below the QRM / splatter level. But suddenly K8MFO broke the S-meter. He really scared me with his loud signal. The strongest I have heard. After 20 minutes of QRZ's and CQ's W8NJ made it and he was the last station I heard on the magic band.
Sunday the band was quiet and I hoped for a kind of opening like the Saturday. I would have been able to work many more with much lower signal levels. I had the 706 running most of the day. Even during my cool down in the sea near my appartment.
The sea near Hamlet Oasis.
At the end of the day it was time to put down the antenna and start packing the equipment. We had to leave the next day in the early afternoon. I discovered that my 20 meter dipole was already disassembled by a donkey. Half the dipole was gone...So that might have the reason the night before the SWR went up to 1:3. Anyway it has been great fun running a station on another place on earth. I regret the bad location and the problems with all the noise. I found quiet places on Bonaire with mains power available. But there are a lot of antenna masts on the island. So a much longer stay on the island is necesarry to make a succesfull DXPedition possible. North and inbetween oldest city Rincon and the Washington park there are good looking places.
Rincon city. Picture from the hill north of it.
I hope some of you have worked a new country. If so, my activity was succesfull. After all we, my family and I, had a wonderfull time. The environment, the view on breeding flamingo's, the weather, the sea life and learning more about the history from the Dutch in the past made it all one of my best holidays.
Thank you all for making the fun possible. Especially my wife and son letting me "play radio".