MM/DH8BQA: IOTA Test from EU-123, Isle of Arran

Actually, the IOTA contest would have been a non-event for me this year. Since my wife and daughter only got vacation for the last 2 weeks of July, I had already written off the contest in my mind. The plan was a week of holidays in London and then another week with friends in Edinburgh. The return flight would have been right during the contest.

At some point my lovely wife asked if I was aware that the UK was an island and if I could do radio from there? After all, at the end of July there is always this β€œstrange island contest” where I go away. Good wife! πŸ˜€ So we rescheduled a bit and I took the girls to the airport on Friday, then Mr. BQA had time for himself. 😎

Equipment carried along: An Icom IC-705 & Elecraft KX3 with aΒ  ZS6BKW antenna on a 10 m Spiderbeam mast, the small one suitable for flight luggage with a pack size of just 70 cm. The whole stuff with accessories already weighed 15 kg, but it must not be more than 23 kg in total for checked luggage and I also needed some clothes for 2 weeks (don’t ask: the girls’ suitcases were as heavy even without radio equipment, rearranging was no option, hi). So only QRP. Why is that important? Well, if QRP then maybe seriously fight for the trophy which is also available for QRP for UK Islands Expeditions, unclaimed last year. I had selected a few good looking QTHs in Scotland, some of them really nice locations, but it would all have been EU-005 “only”. A quick inquiry to the organizer revealed that I could take part in the DXpedition class, despite EU-005 which is home to thousands of “fixed” stations, if I transported everything there myself. That was a given. After all quite an interesting idea and yes, compliant with the rules. So it would have worked. πŸ˜‰

But: With low power operation the QSO potential is mainly concentrated on Europe anyway. And with only a 10 m high wire as inverted V far away contacts on the low bands would certainly be out of reach, too, but probably quite a lot of UK on 80 & 40 m. But as “same island” stations they would only count 5 points while from another island it would be 15 points! Strategically much smarter! So I researched a bit further (AirBnB is your friend!) and found what I was looking for on the Isle of Arran, EU-123: a small caravan (with a camping toilet and without running water, for the purists, hi), on top of a cliff right on the Sea, clear take-off from north-east over south to west. It should also fit with travelling there (once across Scotland), ferry, the booked return flight, etc. And it did, ufb!

Isle of Arran, EU-123, in sight

Approaching Adrossan harbour

QTH for the weekend in Kildonan

Will have to look up the LH reference πŸ˜‰

Station setup on Friday afternoon went smooth. Weather was fine, mast and antenna went up quickly. Happy camper. 😎 A few transceiver issues though, see below.

Mast and antenna installed Friday afternoon

Ladderline from antenna to transceiver, no coax this time!

It was quite stormy during the night from Friday to Saturday with heavy rain. Hoped the antenna installation would hold up to it but unfortunately it didn’t! Luckily it was an easy fix.

Mast collapsed during storm Friday night, ouch!

All set up again Saturday morning, luckily it was calm through the contest.

GM7M always works the IOTA from Arran, too. According to the last reports and maps on their website I had mentally located them in the middle of the island on top of the mountains. The QRM by them on the low bands was extreme. The KX3 lived up to its name, as a direct mixer it pretty much mixed every signal with that of GM7M. πŸ™

It got cold during the night.

It worked ok’ish when running myself, I could minimize the problem by clever frequency selection. On the high bands it was less bad, but still quite obvious. I had expected more from the KX3, at 15km distance it shouldn’t be an issue at all. The sideband nulling procedure will probably also have to be carried out again.

Sunday morning Zabdi, my landlady, came and said that there were 3 masts like mine at the campsite 600 m down the road, and if that might be radio amateurs like myself, too? As it turned out GM7M with high power was right next door, not even a kilometer away! Wow, then the KX3 did really well in these circumstances! It’s all a question of perspective. πŸ˜€ When I went to the campsite in the evening to take a shower after dismantling the station there were no signs of GM7M anymore, seems they qickly took down everything, too. Pity, could have been another interesting talk. πŸ˜‰

It would have been exciting to see how the 705 would have performed in these conditions. I had tested the setup with a USB cable for rig control at home on a dummy load and configured everything and all worked fine. But then in the field noise with S9 on the HF bands with the USB cable connected?! Damn … The ferrites I brought along didn’t help. Communication via WiFi and/or Bluetooth with the computer is no problem for CAT, audio, etc. I had that configured easily. But CW doesn’t work with it (or I haven’t figured out how yet, if anyone has any tips, I would be grateful). Oh well. πŸ™ Good thing was I had the KX3 as a spare (tnx Heiko, DG1BHA, for the loan, I wasn’t sure if the 705 would be delivered in time for the trip) as I didn’t want to leave anything to chance with the goal of “winning a trophy”. Seems I was perfectly right doing so. πŸ˜‰

Night setup. πŸ˜‰ Caravan was just big enough to keep the station installed. Or was it the transceiver and laptop just small enough? πŸ˜€

Overall I’m very satisfied with the result. Various mults slipped through my fingers due to the QRM issue, so it could have been even a bit better. With QRP as a mult you can also do running which works quite well (though not as well as as a high power station, hi).

At some point on Sunday morning I needed a little break (sleeping, peeing, making coffee … 2 hours).

Condx have been mixed, the start on Saturday was really slow, later things got a little better, high bands only really usable on Sunday thanks to a bit of Sporadic-E, had some decent rates in that time frame. Tnx to all callers!

When handing out number 666 there was still too much contest time left (almost 8 minutes). Thus I continued. πŸ˜‰ At number 670 the net counter stood at 666 and I saved myself the last 50 seconds. πŸ˜‰ Made a handful of SSB QSOs, too (which are in the log, of course, but counted out below), but I entered CW-only. Now let’s see if it was good enough for the trophy. Even if not: great weekend, lot’s of fun, recommended for imitation. πŸ˜‰

                    IOTA Contest - 2022

Operator(s): DH8BQA

Class: SO(A)24CW QRP
QTH: IO75kk
Operating Time (hrs): 21,5

 Band  CW Qs  CW Mults  Ph Qs  Ph Mults
   80:  102       28                
   40:  208       43     (2)        
   20:  184       35     (4)        
   15:   98       21                
   10:   68        8                
Total:  660      135       0       0  Total Score = 726,300

Elecraft KX3, 5W + ZS6BKW on 10 m Spiderbeam fiberpole

View from the coast up the cliff where the carravan is.

Lovely landscape on Arran. Very calm and enjoyable.

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