Whilst we were away camping this summer relaxation came in the form of crafting for Alison and, for me, operating my portable amateur radio station with some remarkable results.
The contacts in question were made whilst Alison and I were on holiday at a campsite in Cornwall called Cardinney. Fittingly, the campsite’s located about 4 miles north-east of Lands End not far from where some of the UK’s most important communications infrastructure (Cable & Wireless’ cable station at Porthcurno, the Coastguard’s Lands End Radio, BT’s Skewjack Farm, etc.) were once, and still are, located.
Why was this part of the country favoured by professional wireless communicators? Probably because of the lack of heavy industry generating high levels of background interference and a lack of large hills obscuring the big sky. Well we’d put this to the test with our cheap and chearful amateur radio station.
We did get out a lot to visit various places during the couple of weeks, but when the weather was poor, and during most evenings, the trusty Yaesu FT-857, powered from mains electricity (well – camping’s not like it was in the old days), was pressed in to service.
All contacts were made using simple mobile amateur radio antennas mounted on a mag-mount on the car’s roof; a multi-band SRC (Snowdonia Radio Company) 8010 was used most often, but I also one of my several cheap single-band antennas from time-to-time. These were attached to the LDG tuner via a relatively short length of coaxial cable running from the boot of the car to the tent.
Once again, I was quite surprised with what can be achieved with relatively little in the way of equipment and cost.
Two-way contacts were made on all bands (80m – 6m) and all continents except Oceana and Antartica, though our signal was heard in Australia (according to PSK Reporter) and I received signals from both Australia and a station in Antartica.
Contacts of note were two firsts for me; South Africa and the Falkland Islands, a place I would dearly like to visit one day.
FT8 – the magic amateur radio mode
If you know me, it’ll come as no surprise that I was using the relatively FT8 digital mode. I’ve been using this mode exclusively all year now and I’ve reached parts of the world I’ve never worked before; and with cheap compromised antennas.
It’s a great mode and working a treat at solar minimum but I did experience a bit of a problem with it being so interference free down and the noise floor being so low this far south in Cornwall; at several times I was receiving so many stations that they couldn’t all be displayed on the left hand side of the WSJT-X software’s window – I am sure that I missed quite a few stations that could have worked as a result.
ARRL International Grid Chase
What was amazing when I got home and uploaded all the contacts to the Logbook of the World logging web site was that I was in the top 500 stations of over 15,000 entries for August’s ARRL International Grid Chase to-date and inside the top twenty British operators uploading to the system.
Whether those positions will deteriorate much by the end of August remains to be seen, but I was really chuffed to be sitting 466th in the world, for the month, even if it is short-lived.