|Hints and Tips for Prospective
Activators (Page 2 of 3)
Having made over 150,000 QSO's
in the course of 270 separate Scottish
island expeditions, having sailed in a wide
variety of craft and having camped in some horrendous weather conditions, André feels
able to pass on a few suggestions to those perhaps considering activating a remote island
for the first time. No doubt though, even the more experienced activators may also be able
to glean a few tips.
The winter months are the ideal time to do one's homework. Apart from tracking down
island owners (or their agents), possible means of transport need to be investigated.
Backup plans should be looked at and evaluated. Study local maps (the Ordnance Survey
1:50,000 Landranger maps are a basic minimum, the 1:25,000 Pathfinder maps may be needed
for new islands), and look for likely fishing villages or marinas. (Bear in
mind marinas are expensive places, and relying on transport from a marina is likely to
be reflected in the boat-owners costs!)
Remember that fishermen dont tend to keep boats on coasts exposed to the
prevailing winds. For example, try and locate a boat moored anywhere on the Atlantic coast
of the Uists!
Most boat owners have a normal daily job to attend to, and cannot be expected to
down tools at a moments notice. Transporting a CBer, playing
with their radio is not going to be top of their priority list.
Avoid what comes over as mainland / incomer arrogance. A great deal of
humility is needed. Island folk do not need advice from anyone, especially not about the
weather or the state of the sea. It is vital to get over the point that you are not
engaged professionally in
propagation tests for a big commercial outfit, who might be paying you vast travelling
expenses and per diem allowances. Convince them that you are not a rich
city-dweller with thousands of pounds of expensive radio gear, who is making money out of
the hundreds of hams you are going to contact. They will soon see through your lies and
pretences, and their grapevines will soon spread the word about you.
Avoid displaying designer labels (but wear good weatherproof clothing
nonetheless), wear your finest 'car-boot sale' wellington boots, and keep the number of items of baggage to an absolute minimum. On the
subject of luggage, make sure each item is protected against possible immersion by waves -
they dont have to be in watertight containers - just dont expect to be invited
to clutter up what is often a one-man wheelhouse with your baggage (a couple of tarpaulins
can be extremely useful in these cases).
Most importantly, be seen to bring back ALL your rubbish to the mainland. TREAD
LIGHTLY, and try to leave NO indication of EVER having been on the island. You have been
awarded the privilege to operate from some of the most beautiful locations in the world
and it is up to you to keep them that way. Break that rule and you can rightly expect your
reputation, both with the boat owners and your fellow hams, to be tarnished accordingly.
Most boatmen are familiar with radio communication, but may never have heard of our
hobby. The older amongst them may remember Tony Hancock! Take time to explain
what Amateur Radio is about, avoiding all our usual jargon (such as
we worked Samoa this morning or our antenna is an inverted-vee
or we had 500 QSOs or the rig is a TS50)
Dont assume that they are all whisky drinkers, or that a bottle will be adequate
payment for their time. Remember that time costs money and that, these
days, their running costs are quite high. Ask yourself what your local garage charges per hour for their labour -
that should be your starting point, not considering fuel etc., for the boat itself.
Most important, show an interest in their life, their work, and their families. You
will be rewarded by warm friendship and generous hospitality. One boatman, previously
unknown to André, but who took him over to Gruinard (CN30), the anthrax
island, showed enough interest in our hobby to make a mental note of the
14.260 MHz USB frequency. Several months later, André heard a strange
call-sign in the pile-up. It turned out to be his Gruinard boatman, doing his day-job as
Captain of an ocean-going tug, and calling him ('illegally', of course) from somewhere in
the Indian Ocean. André and he have since become good friends.