|Autumn 2002 Expedition to Shetland
We thought some of you might be interested in some details
concerning our recent Shetland and Isles of Fleet trips.
We sailed from Aberdeen on September 11, arriving 14 hours
later in Lerwick, Shetland's capital, just before 8am, after an exceptionally smooth
14-hour sail from Aberdeen. Alex made our first (/M) "Mainland" (SI11) contact
at 0759Z as we motored to Yell (SI20). We had set a minimum target of 200 QSOs on each of
the 11 islands we would visit .
Despite very poor conditions until our last night (as
a result of a solar flare), we in fact made over 2500 contacts in just over 5 days in the
Shetland group and almost 600 more on CS10, Isles of Fleet. These were all made on the
trusty TS-50S and my near-40-year old Webster Bandspanner mobile antenna (and/or a 5m
telescopic fishing rod supporting a thin wire, resonated by a coil+ slider arrangement 1m
up from the base - on all bands from 3.5 up to 28MHz).
This time, we were able to operate a lot of /M CW using a
miniature home brew keyer and paddle (of the Swedish "hacksaw blade" variety)
mounted on a special bracket beside the passenger seat. We were quite surprised at the
pile-ups on CW - Alex, a keen CW man, was in his element !
A courtesy telephone call to Arthur (GM4LBE) produced the
sort of hospitality for which Shetland is renowned "When you get to Yell, the
neighbours have the key to my weekend cottage - I'll phone them and tell them you're
coming - go in, use my rig and antennas, take anything you want from the fridge - make
yourselves at home"!!
Later that afternoon, we sailed to the island of UNST
(SI26) where we were welcomed again by Gerry (GM4GQM) and XYL Sandra (they run a B&B
and had put me up, and fed me, free of charge on my last visit - this time I insisted we
pay our way, but they insisted on a reduced rate!!). To save me installing my vertical and
radials, Gerry said "Just drive your car onto the front lawn - anywhere you
want"!! We had a comfortable night (Alex even had an electric blanket!).
Gerry had obtained permission for, and transport to, UYEA
(SI24), a "new one" for SCOTIA. We spent the night in a big shed constructed
entirely of corrugated iron, sleeping on a couple of wooden pallets each. I set up my rig
on a filthy workbench whilst Alex sat astride a rusty quad motorbike, having rigged up an
up-turned fish box across the handlebars to take the CW station! 80m
proved a headache that night. We wondered whether the swaying vertical was being badly
de-tuned by the proximity of the iron shed.
An early breakfast and it was on to Fetlar (SI22) where we
located a relatively clean and empty horsebox for that night. In the event, it turned very
cold and we decided the car might be warmer! Another early breakfast and a ferry crossing
back to Unst - this time invited, by the Captain, to travel high up on the bridge of the
car ferry. Then on to, and across Yell, before another ferry to the mainland.
We were soon active on MUCKLE ROE (SI18), reaching our
required QSO target before QSYing on yet another car ferry to WHALSAY (SI15) and another
overnight operation from the mini-motorhome. Morning saw us on the seas again, heading
back to the mainland, replenishing food and water supplies before heading for BRESSAY
I had hoped to visit Eva, the XYL of John Yates (GM4AGX),
well-known resident ham on Bressay, who sadly died earlier this year. John and Eva had
also put me up last time I activated the island. Unfortunately, Eva was not at home. (I
left Alex to activate this one on his own, and we were soon taking our 10th and last
inter-island ferry back to Lerwick and then by various road bridges we motored on to EAST
BURRA (SI02). That evening saw us on WEST BURRA (SI03) where we had a visit from the
jovial Arthur (GM4LBE) - who had so kindly offered us the use of his home on Yell.
Conditions had finally improved and from our position on
the pier, with water on 3 sides, we had some huge "pile-ups" and some remarkable
contacts in all continents. This continued the next morning when, on request, we made an
unscheduled return visit to East Burra before crossing back onto TRONDRA (SI05) and yet
more pile-ups. We finally closed down at 1149Z on Tuesday 17th, some 5 days and 5 hours
and 11 islands after arriving in Lerwick, having averaged over 500 QSOs per day, despite a
lot of motoring and inter-island ferry travel.
We had a relaxing afternoon, spending some of it at the QTH
of Cecil (GM0EKM), another island resident and keen island hunter who also has a
marvellous collection of early commercial, domestic and amateur radio equipment on display
in his privately run museum near Sandwick. There is also old Shetland tweed-making
machinery on display and early photographs depicting island life in days gone by. Under
the same roof, there is a comfortable cafeteria with an early "juke box" in the
corner - a most interesting afternoon and very well worth the visit.
A few hours later, it was back on the overnight ferry to
Aberdeen. First stop was the shower, then a meal and then into our bunks - if there had
been a gale blowing out there, we would never have known ! We were very soon dead to the
world. Next day, at my son Niall's QTH (VP8NJS) in Aberdeen, we spent the afternoon
dismantling and rebuilding the starter motor of my ageing Ford Sierra! (Fortunately it had
kept going during the last trip!)
36 hours later, with excellent weather forecast for the
Solway Firth area, Alex and I were off again - this time for a 24-hour operation from the
ISLES of FLEET (CS10) -perhaps the last activation of the season. This expedition involved
making each crossing by foot, at low tide, with all the gear for an overnight stay.
These operations brought my personal island QSO total to
6154 for the 4 months since May 10th on BUTE (CS19) (and to nearly 8,000 QSOs since the
so-called "ban" last July) ALL of these will be valid of course for the SCOTIA
award programme. Alex GM0DHZ's total will not be far behind, and he has now activated 45
islands - not bad considering he lives in Portsmouth - about as far away as you can get
from any Scottish island!
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank
everyone (including the many SWLs) for their support, with special thanks to all those who
stopped to think of what is involved either financially or in terms of varying degrees of
hardship or discomfort and made their own personal contribution . If I could be permitted
to give one example, I even had one donation today from a well-known UK station saying
"Please accept this contribution towards the cost of replacing the wheel
bearing" (which disintegrated on my way to the Burnt Islands). It is these gestures
which continue to make it all worthwhile.
vy 73 de André GM3VLB and Alex GM0DHZ
(and my personal thanks to Alex for his help, support, good humour, patience, tolerance