|Hints and Tips for Prospective
Activators (Page 3 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.
Avoid unnecessary carrying of equipment and take advantage of the 'Brewster
Angle' by choosing a location close to the landing site and the water's edge. Ignore
suggestions from the "experts" to climb to the highest point. Save yourself a
lot of unnecessary effort and time. GM3VLB/P (or /M) has regularly contacted the Pacific area
with 50W and a mobile whip, from the sea-shore.
Recently, whilst operating /M from Great Cumbrae (CS17), André beat the European pile-up with
a 59/57 to and from FO5QB in the Marquesas (and the next log entry was V31MD in Belize!).
What is essential is an efficient (as distinct from expensive)
antenna located very close to, or indeed over, the water.
A short operation (perhaps only lasting an hour or two) may sometimes be necessary due
to tides, boatmen, ferry timetables, weather etc., but would be unfair to stations outwith
the British Isles and Ireland - it is they who form the majority of island chasers.
Given average conditions, 100 contacts with the UK mainland stations
on 40m or 80m can be achieved in
45 minutes or less. There is no skill needed to work a Scottish Island from the Scottish
mainland, or indeed much of G-land, you only need to "be there". Daytime
operations have average propagation, they often favour those Brits who, for whatever reason, are
not working, but they can cause much frustration overseas. (This is one of the reasons that a large
percentage of contacts outwith the UK and Eire is now required by Activators hoping to
meet the SCOTIA conditions).
André is generally against 'list operation' as it basically wastes precious operating
time. A classic situation occurred recently when the control station, with a long list of
Brits, could not hear the island station - the latter was, however, being heard all over
Europe! Lists imply the activator hasn't enough skill to cope with a handful of Brits on
40m. This is the chance to learn.
The worst aspect of lists is the frustration felt by many when they
hear the same
call-signs always appearing at the top of the list (especially when some of these have not
even 'called in'), or certain 'preferred' stations being given multiple attempts to
contact an island that they patently cannot hear (with the obligatory "Good Contact"
indicating that, at the 5th or 6th guess, working up from "5 and 1 ?", "5
and 2 ?", "5 and 3 ?" etc., a 2-way contact has supposedly been achieved !)
What kind of conscience or reputation do they have ? !
The simplest advice is to choose the appropriate band for the time of day the operation
is taking place and the prevailing band conditions at that time. All you need is your
ears, not the indices from Boulder, Colorado. The conditions will either be good, average,
or lousy !!
You need to have some idea of likely openings on different bands to different parts of
the world, and be consistent with your operating pattern so that the DX stations know
where and when to look for you. Frank (VK7BC) and André knew that they could almost
guarantee a rock-solid QSO at around 0600z (if, indeed, they hadn't worked short-path during the
previous afternoon). Jim (VK9NS - now s.k.) was frequently romping in soon afterwards, together with
W. Samoa and Hawaii (less so in the recent deep and prolonged trough of the solar cycle!).
Under average conditions, the first 100 contacts are pretty easy, even if the island
has been activated a dozen times before. To make 500 or 600 contacts takes a bit more
dedication, whilst breaking the 1,000 barrier (as André frequently did) is pretty tiring
unless there are two of you operating. André and Keith (MM0BPP) made over 2,200 QSOs in
just over 24 hours from the Monach Islands (DI22) - and that was despite the fact that
they have been well 'thrashed'. (Remember that we are talking here of running 50W into a
4m vertical - not several kilowatts into multi-element beams!).
A 'new island' obviously helps, but remember that most islands are likely to be 'new
ones' to the vast majority of overseas chasers. There were over 200 serious UK/EI Scottish
Island chasers, so if you worked 100 or so during the day, you had still missed more than
half of them! With the latest licensing arrangements, there are also more and more new
operators coming onto the HF bands - many subsequently 'chasing' one award on another.
It was sometimes suggested that GM3VLB had high QSO rates because he 'picked' new
islands. This suggestion was unfair. At the time, only 30 of the 128 islands he had activated (i.e. less
than 25%) were 'new ones'. One suspects that other activators might have somewhat
higher 'new one' percentages! André also frequently returns to islands that he has
It has also been suggested that André, miraculously, always has "good
propagation", Hi, Hi !! In fact he had to return to the Isles of Fleet (CS10), for
example, having only made 27 QSOs first time around. And, on the Flannans (DI25), despite
their 'rarity', André struggled to break the 1,000 barrier. However, he
generally maintained a personal average of well over 400 QSOs per island (excluding repeat visits
and multi-station operation).