Wednesday 21 June 2023

GJ/JE-001 Les Platons (Jersey)

After five nights in Guernsey, including a day on Sark, when I activated Le Moulin GU/GU-001, we were on the move to Jersey for another four nights in a hotel on the western side of the island. I drove my Ford Kuga on to the Condor Liberation - the same vessel we used to travel from Poole to Guernsey.  Liberation is a powerful trimaran and can carry up to 245 cars and 880 passengers. 

Liberation - photo by Condor Ferries

The journey from St. Peter Port to St. Helier takes one hour. As we were not permitted to take our hotel room until late afternoon, arrival day presented me with a good opportunity to activate GJ/JE-001 Les Platons (143m ASL), which is located near St. John, on the northern coast of the island. 

We found Jersey to be more commercialised and "touristy" than Guernsey - less rural with wider roads. The island is around 9 miles across and 5 miles wide.  We found a local cafe in St. John's for lunch and then made our way to Les Platons GJ/JE-001, which is a drive on summit if you want it to be. 

I turned off the Rue de Platons into a small parking bay at N 49.246 W 2.103, and carried my picnic table and chair about 75m up the road where I set up my station on the grass verge surrounded by bracken:

HF Conditions were very poor on 21/06/23, even 40m CW only produced ten CW contacts before my CQ calls produced a blank. Moves to SSB, then 30m and 20m accrued me 37 contacts in 50 minutes at which point I packed up the station and we made out way to our hotel. 

Trying to keep the KX3 cool shielding it from the sun with my bag

DX? No - only contacts with Europe were possible in my 50 minute session - and no S2S either

We spent the rest of time in Jersey doing touristy stuff - the radio never came out of the rucksack again...

Monday 19 June 2023

GU/GU-001 Le Moulin (Sark)

Part way through our holiday on Guernsey and before we moved to Jersey, we took the day boat from St Peter Port to Sark.  The service, run by the Sark Shipping Company, leaves Guernsey at 10:15am and returns from Sark at 4.00pm.  It was an interesting day out. There was time to walk to the summit for an activation, visit Le Signeurie House and Gardens and grab a late lunch before returning for the boat.  

Leaving the small harbour on foot with the other tourists, you pass through a tunnel before ascending on a footpath in trees up Harbour Hill onto the very large activation zone:

This map of Sark shows the route to the summit in blue and the activation zone in black. As you can see, most of the island, including several self catering cottages, B&Bs, a pub and hotels are within the activation zone:

Most of the tourists arriving on the day-boat, travel on the tractor trailer transport that trundle along the (mostly) unmetalled roads around the island. We opted to walk to the summit of GU-001 (Le Moulin) which took us 50 minutes. Le Moulin translates in English to The Windmill, and the first thing I noticed when we saw it, was that there was an end fed wire terminating on the windmill itself! The QTH of Victoria Stamps, GU0BEZ, is right on the summit. If you look at Victoria's QRZ page, there is a good picture of the windmill and the wire from her OCFD Windom terminating at the upper window on the mill. 

Judy - G(U)4OBK XYL on Le Moulin - GU0BEZ QTH behind

Just to the side and behind the windmill, was an overgrown vineyard. The fence protecting the vines was used to support my 5m fishing pole and inverted vee. 

Working an average of one QSO a minute on 20, 30 and 40 metres using CW/SSB, I worked 55 stations before my allotted time ran out. This was surprisingly, a "run of the mill" QSO rate for me - considering I was operating from a relatively rare DXCC Country, I would have expected to work more stations than I did.  All contacts were with stations in Europe and included six S2S QSOs. 

We made our way across the island to the gardens we wanted to see, passing the Sark Constable's Office, where I noticed this sign detailing the cost of various licences available on Sark which proved interesting - for example Bicycle Licences - £14 a year! 

After visiting the Seigneur's gardens we finished off with some lunch outside, in the garden of a very nice cafe, before heading back down Harbour Hill with an ice cream in time for the boat back to Guernsey at 4.00pm, passing this small quarry on the way:

Our boat, the Sark Venture, arrived soon after we reached the harbour, the journey back to Guernsey taking around 50 minutes...

We both want to return to Sark and stay for longer next time. It truly is a unique place.

Saturday 17 June 2023

GU/GU-002 Guernsey Airport GU4OBK/P

My first visit to the Channel Islands of Guernsey, Sark and Jersey was for a holiday with my XYL Judy in June 2023. We drove the 315 miles to Poole in Dorset and after an overnight stay in a Premier Inn there, travelled over to Guernsey by boat, a three hour journey on Condor Ferries. This trip was a holiday, with three activations planned. Guernsey Island is 9 miles long and 3 miles wide, small than Jersey and not as commercialised. 

On board Liberation - the faster of the boats used to get from England and France to the Channel Islands
The next day after arriving, there was time for an activation of Guernsey Airport GU/GU-002. This is a drive on summit. My activation took place around 400m from the airport perimeter fence at the side of a field on Rue de l'eglise at 49.429N 2.595W (Point 1 on map below).  The nearby German Occupation WW II Museum closes at 1.00pm each day, so in an afternoon the place is deserted and is fine for parking. The museum itself is also within the activation zone. I would recommend a visit to the museum, if only to view the vast array of German communication equipment on display there. We spent a few hours there on another day:

I have to thank Mike GU4EON for surveying the summit prior to me arriving on Guernsey and finding a suitable place for my activation.  Mike is the owner of Guernsey car registration 5973 - a number he chose when he got his driving licence several decades ago. In Guernsey the car registrations are numbers only. 

Point 1 is where I set up my station - 400m from the airport car park

After receiving no callers on 2m FM using my handheld and whip, I started up at 1245z on 40m SSB and worked a couple of S2S stations - HB9/DL6GCA/P Armin (HB/NW-017) and 2E0BIA/P Martin (G/SP-004).  After a handful of contacts I went temporarily QRT as Mike GU4EON joined me, bringing with him a piece of amateur radio equipment, and we did a deal on the summit - was this the first time on a summit that money had changed hands for a piece of radio equipment I wondered?

I had placed an advert on a website wanting to buy a secondhand microKEYER, a now obsolete accessory that utilises the K1EL systems WinKeyer. Mike GU4EON happened to have one that was not being used and by chance the holiday in Guernsey gave me an chance to collect the unit while I was there, right in the middle of my activation!  
The microKEYER I bought from GU4EON on GU/GU-002 now in use at G4OBK

Operation position - Rue de l'eglise is the other side of the hedge

My usual station - KX3, link inverted vee dipole 5m AGL

Having said goodbye to Mike the activation continued after an hiatus of 20 minutes. After around an hours operating time I went QRT having completed 52 contacts all within Europe. It had been well worth carrying the picnic table and two folding chairs into the field - a comfortable activation with my XYL sat reading her book some 50m away from me, using a golf umbrella as a shelter from the sun. 

Mike told me that  the actual summit, a few metres higher than were I operated from, was a man-made mound of earth adjacent to the airport car park, so after the activation and before we went to look at a WW II German Observation Tower to the west side of the island, I went over to the airport to photograph the highest point of GU/GU-002:

We stayed in Guernsey for five nights, but visited Sark and Le Moulin GU/GU-001 a few days into our stay.  I will report on that activation next - LINK HERE NOW

Monday 15 May 2023

Rheinland-Saarland-Hessen SOTA Tour - Day 7

After leaving the hotel in Wiesbaden on the penultimate day of my tour, I had three more activations planned in the Hessen region.  I soon found that Motorway 66 going west was closed due to extensive roadworks going west, and there were no diversion signs. The Satnav wasn't much help, but eventually I got into the grid lock on the minor road heading out of the city in the direction of DM/HE-044. I had planned an easy day visiting three summits in the DM/HE area, however I finished the 3rd summit earlier than I anticipated, so after eating my ham and cheese sandwich lunch (picked from the hotel breakfast table ūüėĀ) I studied the map and then added a long drive south of Mainz into the DM/RP, which proved to be a good decision.

22.   DM/HE-044 Kalte Herberge
23.   DM/HE-045 Hohe Wurzel
24.   DM/HE-059 Hohe Kanzel
        (Long drive south)
(25). DM/RP-272 Donnersberg

22. DM/HE-044 Kalte Herberge

Parking for DM/HE-044 

As you can see from the photo there was a large empty car park in woodland to access DM/HE-044. I made my way up a track for 10 minutes into the activation zone. The wood had been cut, leaving some tall pine trees at the side of the track. 

Just a 600m walk with 50m ascent to activate a 6 point summit, easy! 40m CW (29) / SSB (21) was used to make the 50 quick QSOs in good propagation conditions, before making off for DM/HE-045. 

23. DM/HE-045 Hohe Wurzel

Shelter on Hohe Wurzel - 5m pole with inverted vee link dipole

Hohe Wurzel was another easy to access summit with a shelter, just a five minute walk from the car to reach it. There was a light shower so I set up inside the shelter and tied of my 5m pole into a nearby tree. 40m SSB/CW and 30m CW was used and the tally included four S2S contacts with M0GQC/P, OK/SQ9MDF/P, HB9EVF/P and DL/HB9BIN/P in the 38 minutes I was operating. 

24. DM/HE-059 Hohe Kanzel

It took a little longer to reach DM/HE-059, but not much longer. I parked my car at the end of Nachtigallenweg in the estate shown as "Wildpark" on Locus map. I walked a straight track on to some felled woodland to reach the summit:

Just 40m CW/SSB was used to make 35 contacts with the usual EU stations in SP/ON/OK/HB9/DL/G/PA/I/F/S5/EA2/GW/LA.  After going QRT at 10:40z I returned to the car where I had my lunch and contemplated what to do with my afternoon, as there was plenty of time remaining to go somewhere else...

25. DM/RP-272 Donnersberg

I must have been driving for well over an hour on Autobahn 63, arriving at the car park for DM/RP-272 at around 1245z. The car park was within the activation zone, but after such as easy day I decided to walk 1 Km to the actual summit, which had an operating bench adjacent to it... 

DL/G4OBKs Meindl fabric boot at the trig point on DM/RP-272

My bench seat for the 33 QSO activation

The 40m SSB rate was poor on this summit, maybe it was the time of day. I only made three contacts using voice with G0FEX, HB9DDZ and 2E0ESY before the callers dried up. The other 30 contacts were on 40m and 30m CW during my 30 minute session. I then drove back to Wies baden, deciding to try a Pizza Hut out for my evening meal. It was a very dissapointing meal.  The Lasagne I chose was nothing like the real thing. I won't be returning to Pizza Hut again I said to myself, wishing I had opted to pay a little more for my main meal and eat in the Italian restaurant not far from the hotel where I had eaten on the first night of three in Wiesbaden.  I was leaving the next day for my Ryanair flight back to Stansted at Hahn airport, but before that on Tuesday morning there would be time to squeeze in two final six point activations in the DM/RP area before I handed my car back to the rental company and headed through security. 

Sunday 14 May 2023

Rheinland-Saarland-Hessen SOTA Tour - Day 6

Day 6 after breakfast saw me leaving Hotel Toskana on the outskirts of Wiesbaden for these four summits:

18. DM/HE-097 Steinkopf
19. DM/HE-003 Gro√üer Feldberg
20. DM/HE-547 Nickel
21. DM/HE-151 Staufen

One advantage of staying in a corporate type of hotel, catering for business people, is there are a lot of breakfast choices, and its easy to make up a ham and cheese sandwich for your lunch and slip it into your walking trouser thigh pocket before you leave the restaurant.... this is what I did for Day 6 and 7 as I had used up my supply of vacuum packed Lidl sandwiches bought on Day 2 of the tour. 

18. DM/HE-097 Steinkopf

It took around 90 minutes to reach the DM/HE-097 parking place, on the road outside the Forsthaus Winterstein Restaurant.  From there woodland tracks and a mountain bike trail leads to the summit. I walked up on the woodland tracks and came down on the mountain bike trails keeping an attentive watch backwards in case any cyclists were coming up behind me. There are GPX files for both tracks in the SMP and SOTLAS:

I set up in a sparse area of woodland away from the TV transmitter on the summit. 

There's nothng much else to say about what was another typical woodland summit in this part of Germany. Thirty contacts made, I packed up and went to the next summit.
19. DM/HE-003 Gro√üer Feldberg

The only 10 point summit of my tour. After the long drive to my first summit the other three summits were much closer to each other. I thought Gro√üer Feldberg would be a drive-on summit.  It was Sunday and the roads around and leading to the summit were choked with cyclists, motorbikers and motorists like myself.  The summit is served by public transport. I got to the car park on the top and it was solid, no space. A brass band was playing and there was a hotel, restaurants and several communications towers:

I turned the car round and went back down the hill where there were plenty of echeloned parking places alongside the hill road. It took less than 10 minutes to walk from there to a seat and fixing post on the summit, where I set up my station and made 51 contacts:

The nearby rocks and viewpoint attracted a lot of tourists, no one bothered me, operating with my headphones on. I never went over to see what the attraction was. Returning to the car, I had my lunch and then drove 18 Km to the parking place for Nickel DM/HE-547. 

20. DM/HE-547 Nickel

An easy 20 minutes walk up in a felled forest, with lots of log piles waiting for collection. Nothing worth photographing. There were a few passing walkers and cyclists, 35 QSOs made, all in Europe. 

21. DM/HE-151 Staufen

A pleasant 25 minutes walk up in woodland from a housing estate (155m ascent). The viewpoint, which was well populated with people sitting in the sun, is not within the activation zone. I continued and stopped short of the top at a Foresters Cabin, which I was able to use as my antenna fixing point, with the steps up to the door being my seat:

Foresters Cabin in AZ on DM/HE-151 Staufen

On my way down near the viewpoint where all the people were, this unique looking scooter was parked. I hadn't see one like it before:

I headed back to my hotel in Wiesbaden, calling for some fast food at a Burger King on the way. The Hotel Toskana didn't serve evening meals, only breakfast, and the excellent Italian restaurant I used near to the hotel on the Saturday was closed on Sundays.

Saturday 13 May 2023

Rheinland-Saarland-Hessen SOTA Tour - Day 5

Day 5 and by the evening I would be in the DM/HE Hesse area, staying in the largest city in the Hesse region, Weisbaden. Before that I was to activate four more summits in the DM/RP area including meeting up with Joerg DO1DJJ for joint activations on DM/RP-002 and DM/RP-001. 

14. DM/RP-002 Ernst Berg
15. DM/RP-001 Hohe Acht
16. DM/RP-470 Karmelenberg  
17. DM/RP-193 Kandrich

14. DM/RP-002 Ernst Berg

My Gasthaus in Udersdorf was only 18 Km from the parking place for DM/RP-002. Joerg DO1DJJ arrived on time for our 20 minute walk through the woodland to the six point summit. There were no other people present amongst the trees. 

Joerg made a short video of me operating on 40m CW:

Joerg set up about 20 metres away from me and used the 15m and 2m bands for his activation.

Joerg DO1DJJ oparating with his Yaesu FT-897 with internal battery

I went on the 40m band and finally 30m, to finish with 44 contacts. We packed up and made our way to DM/RP-001, around 35 Km to the east of DM/RP-002.

15. DM/RP-001 Hohe Acht

After driving near to the Nurburgring motor racing circuit we arrived at the parking area for Hohe Acht. We were on the summit within 20 minutes again, this time the walk was less than 1 Km with an ascent of 125m. I set up my station on a picnic table and Joerg set up round the back of the Emperor William (Kaiser Bill) observation tower on the summit.  Here is a picture of me and the tower, which was built in 1909:

We both had successful activations, with several people coming up to the tower and climbing it while we were there. 

Joerg DO1DJJ and Phil G4OBK on DM/RP-001 Hohe Acht

It had been great to have had Joerg's company mid way through my tour of the region. Returning to the car park we bade our farewells and I headed off to another summit, DM/RP-408, this however was not to be activated by me today...

16. DM/RP-470 Karmelenberg

DM/RP-408 Hochsimmer was listed as my next summit, however when I reached the parking place at 50.365N 7.216E, north of Ettringen, it was pouring with rain. I didn't fancy the 4 Km 170m ascent in the rain, so I drove away in the direction of Koblenz, to reach the easy access summit of DM/RP-470, which had a church on the top. It took just 15 minutes walk to reach the top from an official car park:

Parking for DM/RP-470 Karmelenberg

A picnic table and bench had again being supplied for the activators:

It was threatening to rain, so after 17 QSOs on 40m I packed up the station and headed to the last summit of the day. 

17.  DM/RP-193 Kandrich

After deciding to leave DM/RP-408 I had to find another summit in the direction of Wiesbaden where I was staying for the last three nights of my tour. DM/RP-193 (6 points) looked ideal. Kandrich is located within a wind farm and I parked at the start of a forestry track 2.2 km from the summit. I hadn't planned my route in advance and once I got nearer the summit I realised I could have parked at the Waldgastatte Emmerichshutte Restaurant which was much closer to the summit:

I wasted 20 minutes walking to the restaurant but as this was my last summit in the day it wasn't an issue. I set up around 100m from one of the turbines in a QRM free location. The best DX worked of the tour was here - this was a contact with Galih, YC2VOC who has been appearing in EU Activators log regularly this year:

Rain wasn't threatening and it was pleasant operating in the late afternoon sunshine. I made 25 contacts before calling ceased on 40m SSB. One of the last stations worked was the very active Leszek, who was OK/SQ9MDF/P today, operating from OK/KR-005.  

Friday 12 May 2023

Rheinland-Saarland-Hessen SOTA Tour - Day 4

With DM/SR-075 already activated I was able to leave Losheim after a 7.00am breakfast and head straight over to Luxembourg, where the price of E10 unleaded petrol was slightly cheaper. The Ford Puma was filled at €1.51 per litre, whereas in Germany the price was between €1.72 and €1.83 at the places I had passed. 

11. LX/LX-005 Preventbusch (QRV 0756z-0809z)

12. DM/RP-466 Hohe Piesport (QRV 1028z-1110z)

13. DM/RP-412 Hohe Haardter Hochwald (QRV 1257z-1332z)

11. LX/LX-005 Preventbusch

Car Parked by the comms mast on LX/LX-005 

Within minutes of arriving at the parking place for LX/LX-005 it started to rain. I set up as quickly as I could and made 20 CW contacts on 40m before packing up. It was a shame not to do justice operating again in Luxembourg, however I did re-complete the country. The last time I visited for SOTA there wasn't an LX-005. But after a prominence re-assessment, LX/LX-002 was deleted and LX/LX-005 replaced it. 

LX/G4OBK/P roadside station in the rain

Mast on summit - no interference on the 40m band 150m away from it

Decathlon stool in use again

I made my way back into Germany, it took about 75 minutes to reach the parking place for: 

12. DM/RP-466 Hohe Piesport 

The summit is named after the nearby town of Piesport which lies on the other side of the Mosel, 1.5 Km from the summit.

When I arrived at the parking place it was raining. I passed the time for 30 minutes before the rain stopped.  Luc ON7DQ had uploaded his GPX track into the SOTA Mapping Project website and had told me about a shelter well inside the activation zone, which I intended to use as the showers were persisting. Just 23 minutes walk time and I reached the shelter - a 50m ascent over a distance of 1.7 Km. The unpaved road is for farm traffic only:

When I reached the shelter there was a tie off point for my pole within the reach of my coax cable.  Shortly after starting up my operation three friendly German hikers arrived, who were very interested in what I was doing. One of them even gave me a spicy German sausage, which I enjoyed after explaining what SOTA was about!

Two of the walkers (left) and Phil DL/G4OBK/P on the right

Shelter with tie post for pole

Elecraft KX3 on the air

I enjoyed interacting with the walkers, they spoke excellent english. I had spoken to so few people over the previous three days, apart from hotel staff. The hikers told me their route was of around 12 Km, and this lunch stop for them was around half way round.

I used all three bands (20/30/40m) to make 35 contacts around Europe all told, before moving on.

13. DM/RP-412 Hohe Haardter Hochwald

By early afternoon the rain had stopped.  There was a parking layby for DM/RP-412 which looked like a piece of the old road.

I crossed over the main road, leaving the forest track on a slightly overgrown, but easy to negotiate but wet track into woodland. It was only 1 Km to the summit with 125m ascent - twenty minutes walk. The activation followed the same pattern as the previous one - this time I got 40 contacts on 20/30/40m before finishing.

5m Travel Pole fastened to tree supporting link dipole 
My final one night stay in the DM/RP area, before a three nighter in Weisbaden, DM/HE Hessen Region, was near the village of Udersdorf - an excellent gasthaus managed by welcoming hosts, Wilfred and Paula. There was complementary coffee on arrival, a 250 ml bottle of Rose wine to drink whilst I was submitting my log into the SOTA Database in my room, and a dinner of spare ribs with Weiss beer to look forward to later.....

Gasthaus Paula at Udersdorf