the GM3VLB page

offering informal information on Amateur Radio operation from Scottish Islands
(specifically the SCOTIA, IOTA, WAB, WLH and CIsA programmes - and other schemes involving Scottish Islands)

Published by GM3VLB

Spring 2002 Expedition to Inchmarnock

9th to 13th May

In the early days of activating Scottish islands (back in 1997/98), several unsuccessful attempts were made, in particular by Ron (GM3THI), to try and obtain permission to land and operate from Inchmarnock Island. The then island owner seemed quite set against the idea. However, a chance conversation with a fellow passenger in the queue waiting for the flight home from Vancouver in May 1999 brought some unexpected news. Despite his somewhat inebriated state, he informed GM3VLB and son Niall that he sailed a lot on the Clyde, knew the island well, and that it had recently been acquired by new owners. (These are the sorts of chance encounters you get when you set out to travel the world wearing the traditional Scottish kilt!).

As soon as he returned home, André lost no time in tracking down these new owners. Primarily due to a slight, but fortuitous, indiscretion during a telephone conversation, it transpired that he and the island owners were, relatively speaking, near neighbours. They, it turned out, were immediately interested in André's proposals and a few weeks later, in July 1999, Inchmarnock was activated over a 3 day period by both André and Ron.

With the recent launch of the new SCOTIA island programme, and with the fact that the island had not been activated since 1999, and coupled with the friendship which has since grown between André and the owners, André had had a desire to 'get away from it all'. After the long winter break, and operating on his own, this would be a perfect opportunity to check out all the expedition gear prior to the new season. Inchmarnock seemed the ideal destination.

After a 'haggis-supper' on the larger, intermediate, island of BUTE (CS19), André set up and operated for three or four hours. Using his /M set-up, with the ageing but trusty Webster BandSpanner mobile whip, some 240 QSOs were made, many in North and South America, some from Alaska, two 'regulars' from British Columbia, and a few in Japan and New Zealand. It never ceases to amaze what can be done with a well matched 8-foot whip and 50W of output power.

Torrential rain ensured that André only got about 3 hours sleep in the car but, by the morning, the rain had cleared and André jumped at the chance of an earlier-than-planned 8am crossing in a 'RIB', instead of waiting for the larger 'landing-craft' used by the island owners.

The first QSO was at precisely 0900 on May 10 (with Ray MM3ZMI) and the last happened also to be at precisely 0900, 3 days later (with Dario IV3IIM in Trieste). It seemed that most of André's 'regulars' were already aware of the new SCOTIA programme, looking for the extra point(s) to help them on their way. Indeed many newer stations showed interest too, especially once they realised that their QSOs would NOT be valid for certain other island-chasing programmes.

The usual occasional ID1OTs and M0RONs made futile attempts at disrupting proceedings. It can only be assumed that, because they enjoy this sort of activity so much, they haven't the time to learn about antennas or matching, etc. as their signal levels are almost invariably well below even many (well-set-up) QRP stations. They are pathetic. One clown was so stupid as to stay on long enough to allow three well-equipped stations, operating good LF receivers with "compass cards" for direction-finding, to get a "fix". These three stations, located in Edinburgh, NW England and SW Scotland, were able to quickly locate the would-be QRMer to within an area just some 7 miles across. It turned out that the transmitting station was located on high ground, just northwest of Morpeth in Northumberland. Whoever they were, they might not be so lucky next time!!

The WX was reasonably pleasant, though dominated by a persistent and cold and blustery wind. Initially blowing in from the NW, it eventually dropped to zero on the Sunday morning (which the infamous highland 'man-eating' midges took full advantage of). It then climbed steadily to a southerly Force 6, approaching gale Force 8 from the SE on Monday morning. This meant a call on the cell-phone had to be made, and again an earlier departure than had been planned. It did, however, give André time arrange his forthcoming return trip to the BURNT ISLANDS (CS20).

During the 3 days on Inchmarnock, André was also able to take several breaks from operating and walk over the whole island, which is now largely cultivated and fenced, and which is now home to a magnificent herd of highland cattle. Congratulations are certainly due to the now not-so-new island owners.

All in all, the trip was most enjoyable, allowing André to meet up with very many old friends after a long winter of inactivity. Despite very poor DX conditions, particularly towards Oceania and the USA, a total of over 1200 QSOs were recorded in the log.

Thanks to all those 'hunters' and SWLs who contributed to the success of this trip.

73 de André (GM3VLB)

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