It all started early in the year when Scott, NE9U told Ron, KK9K that he would like to go on a DXpedition after he retired. Ron called me to see if I had any plans for an offshore contest, and told me about Scott (a W0AIH regular whom I had not met) to see if we could go somewhere for a leisurely, relaxing plug-n-play QTH for CQWW CW this year. My first thought was, no I did not have any current plans, but we could possibly go to J7, Dominica, were we have been numerous times, but a leisurely, relaxing plug-n-play QTH it is not. Every time we go there, it is work, work and more work in preparation for a contest, and going there again would be no different.
Knowing that Fred, K9VV/NP2X, and his XYL, Lisa, W4LIS moved to St. Croix, KP2 a few years ago, I suggested this as a possibility assuming, of course, that we could arrange that with Fred. A phone call to Fred secured the deal, so the planning began. The first chore was to identify our operating team. I grilled Ron about Scott’s operating prowess and, after having Scott pass a 13 wpm code test [sic], we accepted him to the team trusting that he could truly copy 13 wpm in a real pileup! (Scott proved to be an operating animal!) A discussion with Charlie, K1XX, revealed that he was interested. Since Charlie had been a regular at J7, and a recent op at HK1NA, we did not require him to take the code test, and immediately added him to the team knowing full well that he could handle the piles. Ron and I had spent 3 weeks in E51, so I knew that he could handle piles and was an antenna expert to boot. We had our team: NP2X, KK9K, NE9U, K1XX and K5KG.
Photo insert: team photo with FCG banner
Now that the team had been branded, the usual amount of planning went into our trip: arranging flights, establishing a trip budget, contest strategy, station and antenna planning, etc. Fred told us that this CQWW CW operation will be a maiden voyage for his station and, as such, there will be some antenna work to be done before our arrival, and possibly some after we got there. The station had not yet been configured as a multi-operator set up, so that would be on the list to do when we arrived. A conference call or two with the group helped to ferret out the needs and wants of the team (including pretzels and Mountain Dew for Scott), and give us a good idea of what was in store for us on this maiden voyage. In terms of contest strategy, we decided that a multi-two operation with two run stations and a mult station would be our modus operandi. A detailed station/antenna plan document from Fred helped in our planning.
Station configurations were as follows, although we did not make the final decisions as to which rig would be Run1, Run2 and Mult until we were able to assess the physical layout of the shack:
Run1 – Charlie’s K3 + Alpha 76
Run2 – Ron’s K3 + Fred’s Alpha 89
Mult – George’s K3 + KPA500/KAT500
Logging software – WinTest, V4.14
Photo insert: station photo
Antenna switching proved to be somewhat of a challenge. Fred’s QTH has a variety of yagis, so we brought all feedlines into a 6-Pak, and from there to three Stack Match boxes, one for each of 10m, 15m and 20m. Feedlines for a 160m Inverted L, 80 Inverted V, and 2el 40 yagi were also brought into the 6-Pak, making them available to the two run stations. The mult station was consigned to an A3 triband yagi for the high bands, and an inverted vee and a 4BTV vertical for 40m. On 80m and 160m, antennas were “borrowed” from the run stations when needed.
When we arrived we worked for several days on antennas and station building. One of the chores was to construct a 10m yagi from a boom and elements that were laying in a pile. “Easy, just put it together, here are the instructions”, said Fred. With that, Scott (the CPA) and Ron (the antenna expert) proceeded to construct the yagi which, by the way used a beta match. By the end of the second day, it was it was looking good; up on saw horses, and ready for the antenna analyzer. The vswr was high, so for all that evening and into most of the next day, many adjustments were made to the beta match, all dimensions checked and rechecked, but no joy. Out of desperation, Scott-the-CPA said, maybe we should turn the beta match around, as it was pointing toward the director elements. Reversing the beta match to point toward the reflector proved to be the answer. The vswr was easily adjusted for a perfect match, and the antenna was hoisted into place as our NA 10m yagi. Lesson learned — trust the advice of your CPA! There were other antenna challenges, not the least of which was stringing wire out for the NA and EU beverages. Fred and Ron bravely took on the task, and after only three hours “in the bush” (read: tangled mess of vines and creepy-crawlers in the jungle), the job was completed shortly before the start of the contest. By the time the contest began, all antennas were installed, fully checked out, and the station configuration was in place.
Photo insert: Ron after coming out of the jungle
Photo insert: Ron and Scott working on the 10m yagi
The operation of the contest went well. There were no equipment failures, and each of the five of us got our fair share of operating time. Charlie chose to be the primary mult operator, and handled those chores like a trooper. After 2.3% dupes, we reported 9868 Q’s, 184 zones, 684 countries for a score of 20.7M. Our score broke the all-time high NA M/2 HP Caribbean record set by HI3A in 2007, however (per 3830scores.com), we were aced out in NA by VP2MDX (25.1M) and NP4Z (24.3M), so we are in third place — excellent for the maiden voyage. We were very happy to realize a 5BDXCC in the contest, especially since we made a late push to get the DXCC on 80m, and nailed GD6IA, 8Q7DV, ED9Y, 4X0W and 4O3A in the last hour. Oh, yes, and Scott did consume huge amount of his pretzels and Mountain Dews throughout the event.
Photo insert: Wintest score window
A highlight of our KP2 visit was meeting other ops on the island. K3CT and K3TEJ/KP2Q, both of whom are named John Bednar, were there and operating as KP2Q from the home where John, NP2B and Jeannette, NP2C used to live. We met up with both Johns and their XYLs at a nifty little seaside bar for lunch one day. (Ron and Scott, being Wisconsin connoisseurs of finer libations were intrigued by the Blackbeard Ale that they enjoyed, only to find out later that it was brewed in, you guessed it, Wisconsin.) It was a pleasure getting reacquainted with K3CT and K3TEJ since I operated with each of them at K3II years ago when I was in the FRC, and later in J7 with K3TEJ.
Photo insert: lunch photo
KP2M is another familiar contest call, and we had several visits with its owner Phil, KT3Y. Phil’s QTH is a well-equipped rental QTH that is nicely situated high on a hillside on the north side of the island, and only a few miles from the ocean. Phil is a very accomplished contester and active PVRC member.
Photo insert: Phil and his stn
Bob, WP2XX, another accomplished contester, is the brew master at the only craft brewery on St. Croix. Bob treated our team to rounds of his favorite brews during our visit to his pub located on the docks.
CQWW CW in the USA would not be complete without celebrating Thanksgiving. Fred and Lisa arranged for our team to join them at a seaside restaurant for a unique Turkey Dinner to beat all turkey dinners. Phil, KP2M joined us for the fun. The uniqueness of the Turkey Dinner was that each table was served its own complete turkey adorned with all the trimmings family style. In advance of being served, we warmed our bellies with plentiful helpings of island rum drinks, for which we “gave thanks”.
Photo insert: turkey dinner
This article would not be complete without mentioning that a stay with Fred and Lisa is a real pleasure. Their beautiful home is located high on a hill near the south shore about a mile and a quarter from the ocean. Certainly a highlight was getting to know their incredible menagerie of 8 cats, 5 birds and 4 dogs. As we worked on the antennas before the contest, we were usually trailed by at least one or more dogs that were hoping to be petted. A real treat was when Fred would bring two of the birds outside for our obligatory DXpedition photo shoots.
Photo insert: K5KG & Sydney
In summary, it was a successful maiden voyage for Fred’s station, although not without a significant amount of work on the part of Fred and many others to make it happen. Fred is working on improvements to equipment layouts and antenna access for multiple operating positions. And, for our team, it was our pleasure to be a part of the christening of Fred’s fantastic NP2X station.