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During the activation, I posted updates on my Twitter feed:
It may only be 8:15am but I'm drinking free beer in the business class lounge at LHR T5. I could get used to this.
8:20AM 12th Apr
Good afternoon from sunny California. Off to get a car battery so we can activate Santa Cruz island NA-144 tomorrow. #hamr
1:19PM 13th Apr
Grrrr. Jet lag. Dislike. It's 4am and I'm wide awake.
12:16PM 13th Apr
Blogged about our fairly disastrous attempt activating NA-144: 4 QSOs, flat battery and a broken antenna. http://www.domsmith.co.uk/rtab
6:24AM 14th Apr
Great first evening at Visalia DX Convention. Thanks @k6vva et al for the Champagne! Fantastic surprise.
2:50PM 16th Apr
Great time at Visalia DX Convention. Good talks, @g7vjr's #clublog generated lots of interest, and great to tomar unas chelas with @XE2K
2:22PM 17th Apr
To breakfast soon, then heading down the I-5 to Santa Catalina NA-066, which we'll activate later. Follow us: http://www.domsmith.co.uk/rtab
2:38PM 17th Apr
Arrived in Avalon, CA (Santa Catalina Island NA-066). Hope to be QRV on 20m shortly. #hamr
11:41PM 17th Apr
Ha! Just spoke to @rmc47's Dad!
6:09PM 18th Apr
Operating as W6/M0BLF from Santa Catalina NA-066 http://twitpic.com/4mi9z7
7:00PM 18th Apr
Now QRT from NA-066 and heading back to LAX.
8:55PM 18th Apr
Sierra Nevada Glissade Golden Bock in the business-class lounge at LAX. At last, a proper beer.
2:59AM 19th Apr
Times in BST (UTC+1).
During the trip, I kept a blog. To read an entry, click the date.
After flying into Los Angeles from London, we were very tired due to the jet lag. We had already decided to go to activate Santa Cruz tomorrow, and so before dinner and an early night, we went to a local car shop to buy a car battery, which would be used for the operation.
The jet lag also meant that we were awake very early this morning, and so we were at the ferry terminal in Ventura about an hour earlier than we needed to be. We therefore spent the time cutting dipoles for 17 and 15m, ready for our operation.
The journey to Santa Cruz island was quite rough (probably a 5ft swell), and so we were glad when we could finally set up the station on the beach.
We unpacked the FT-100 and put up the dipole on a telesopic fibre-glass mast that we had brought with us. Because we were unsure how long the battery would last, we decided to concentrate on a less power-intensive CW operation.
Unfortunately, conditions on 17m weren't great and, after about 30 mins of calling CQ, we had only made 3 contacts. Shortly afterwards, the battery, which we believed to have been fully charged at purchase, suddenly died.
The very friendly volunteer wardens offered us the use of electricity in their visitor centre so that we could operate from there. We moved the equipment over to the new site and set it up, only to discover strong QRM from an inverter for the solar panels on the centre's roof. We therefore decided to take the station down again, and to use the electricity to charge the battery for an hour or so. In the meantime, we went for a quick walk.
By 2pm, about an hour before we had to leave, we had set the station up again on the beach, ready to operate using the newly-charged battery. We made one SSB QSO, being told by the other station that we sounded as though we either had power problems or lots of wind on the microphone. We said that we thought it was both! Immediately after that contact, in a sudden gust of wind, the fibreglass pole snapped towards the base.
With the boat returning for us shortly, we decided to cut our operation short, having made only 4 QSOs.
The return journey was even more exiting than the first, as it included not only a 9 foot swell, but also two delays while the boat crew rescued kayaks which had been blown out into the sea.
On our return to Ventura, we immediately drove to Three Rivers to stay the night near Sequoia National Park.
Today was a mainly quiet day, as I spent the morning working on my presentation for the IOTA dinner at the Visalia convention tomorrow.
In the afternoon, we drove into Sequoia National Park.
After a quiet morning, we drove to the Visalia DX Convention in time for the start of the advanced contesting academy programme. An excellent range of topics were covered, from Beverage antennas to waterfall displays to propagation prediction, and I learnt a lot that we can hopefully put into practice at M4A.
After the contest academy and the 'Attitude adjustment hour' (free beer!), we went to the IOTA dinner. Again, there were some great talks, in particular from K6VVA and from K9AJ. My presentation on future work on the rsgbiota.org website also seemed to go down well, and it was good to hear that not everyone is as pessemistic about the current version of the site as I am; that's the danger of only hearing support calls I guess!
In addition to winning a Heil Proset in the door raffle, I was also honoured to be given a very nice bottle of Dom Pérignon Champagne in recognition both of my work on the IOTA site, and completeing my PhD in December.
The main day of the Convention (Convention programme). In the morning, the DX Forum raised some interesting issues, particularly the DXCC status of South Sudan and Malyj Vysotskij island. The Contest Forum, I thought, was less useful, as many of the old arguments for/against CW Skimmer were rehearsed.
Most of the talks took place during the afternoon session, after a shredded beef lunch. Bob Heil K8EID gave an enthusiastic demonstration on the role of phasing in audio, and Randy Rowe N0TG told us of the trials and tribulations of attempting to get to Sable Island. It was great to hear Michael Wells G7VJR talk about Club Log; a well-received presentation, which will hopefully result in many more US logs in the system.
The DX Dinner in the evening was possibly a bit long but was nonetheless a great time, and the randomised seating arrangements meant that cliques didn't form as is always the risk at these events. Tom Berson ND2T gave an interesting talk about the VP8ORK South Orkney Islands DXpedition, ending with a slightly pessimistic forecast on the future of DXing from Antarctica. We hope that his fears are unfounded. During the dinner, it was great to see Mike McGirr K9AJ being inducted to the CQ Hall of Fame.
The final day of the Convention opened with breakfast, and a talk by Bob Grimmick N6OX on the TJ9PF DXpedition to Cameroon.
Following breakfast, we drove to the outskirts of Los Angeles to take the Catalina Express across to Avalon, the main settlement on Santa Catalina Island, IOTA NA-066. We stayed in the Zane Grey Pueblo Hotel, which I had previously operated from in 2005. This is on the cliff above Avalon, with a reasonable take-off over the bay. We were also permitted to mount our dipole on a fibreglass pole by the swimming pool.
Before dinner, we managed 65 QSOs into North America, and one into Wales, on 20m.
I made a further 69 contacts from NA-066 this morning, bring the total for the operation to 134.
After an early lunch, we returned to Los Angeles for our flight back to London.
Slideshow by Flickr.
Whether rightly or wrongly, the number of DX spots can make the difference between a successful operation and waste of time. Thanks, therefore, to those of you who spotted me:
VE3XN-@ 21262.0 W6/M0BLF Dom on Santa Catalina NA-066 IOTA 1928 18 Apr KC0DEB-@ 21262.0 W6/M0BLF iota na066 cq cq 1914 18 Apr W6TMC-@ 18144.0 W6/M0BLF IOTA NA-066 1755 18 Apr EA7HW 18144.0 W6/M0BLF na-066 5/5 on south spain 1650 18 Apr W6TMC-@ 18144.0 W6/M0BLF IOTA NA-066 1639 18 Apr R7DX 14252.0 W6/M0BLF pse 40 metr 0105 18 Apr K6VVA-@ 14252.0 W6/M0BLF IOTA NA-066 Tnx, Dr. Dom !!! 0056 18 Apr KC0DEB-@ 14251.9 W6/M0BLF IOTA NA066 Vy Loud in KS! TNX Dom 0033 18 Apr ND4P 14252.0 W6/M0BLF Catalina Is. Thx 0021 18 Apr W5CSM 14252.0 W6/M0BLF 5-9 In El Paso, Texas 0002 18 Apr KK4LW 14252.0 W6/M0BLF 2355 17 Apr MW0ZZK 14252.0 W6/M0BLF 2322 17 Apr K0JGH 18142.0 W6/M0BLF NA-144 2127 13 Apr KA4RUR 18071.9 W6/M0BLF 1813 13 Apr