March 01, 2010

The Four Seasons

Hello folks,

Things have been a little quiet on the blog over the last few months so I thought I would post an item on the four seasons, drawing on the Sands Contest Groups experiences during 2009.

The subject 'The Four Seasons' came about whilst talking with Barrie on air one night. I hope you find it interesting and enjoy this offering as a prelude to our 2010 contest season that begins 6th and 7th of March with the ARRL International DX contest.


This time last year we were looking forward to a good contest season and Barrie G1JYB was good enough to offer the use of his meadow and Hancock's Hut for the group to operate from.

It was great to see nature in new bud and new born lambs in the field keeping close to mum who was there to both protect and feed her young.

Antenna Erection

Putting the Spiderbeam together.
Left to right: Chris G4LDS, Kev G6FKE, Ian G0VGS

Getting the Nest of Dipoles ready
Left to right: Faris M0ZFA, Frank G8BME and Gary M0RGB

ARRL International DX
We decided to put our antennas up a week before our first contest of the year with the intention of leaving them up for the ARRL International DX at the beginning of the month and the WPX at the end. All the antennas were erected on what was a cold but fine day and we felt sure we had everything covered until we got a call from Barrie with the bad news that the wind had taken just about everything down that night.

Members of the group met at Barrie's place to survey and repair the damage as best we could.

Gary M0RGB taking a look at the damage before we got busy putting things back together as best we could. The Spider Beam had suffered damage to some of the fiberglass sections and the mast was also damaged.

Pictured left to right: Gary M0RGB Chris G4LDS and our host Barrie G1JYB


As you can see from this picture all the lines are tied up with each other in a way that one of our members Hughie would describe as being fankled

The Great Storm of 2009

Our first contest of the year was the ARRL International DX contest. It was rather a blustery day throughout Saturday with a mixture of driving wind and rain all day. Barrie and Kathy treated the group to a lovely meal and the wine flowed freely as we all took a break and chatted for an hour or so before getting back to the radio and some contesting.

Little did we know what horrors awaited us as we settled down into the graveyard shift. Operators were Ian G0VGS, Kev G6FKE and myself Brian G0RDH....

Ian went out around 1am because of a call of nature and was horrified to see the devastation caused to our antenna farm. The only thing left standing was a vertical. Hancock's Hut is double skinned and the most we heard was rain on the windows. We powered the station down and went home pretty much in shock ready to return the following day to take a look at the damage.

We learned that 70mph winds had been recorded at Heysham Power Station but Barrie told us later that they would have hit our antennas at over 100mph. The wind speed increased as it passed through the valley.

I took this picture before leaving for the night.

Here's one of Barrie's pictures

As you can see from this image the mast was sheared in half.

We looked at the possible causes of the devastation and came to the conclusion that we had not left enough slack in the guy ropes to allow some movement in the wind.

CQ WW WPX Contest

A lesson learned, we patched the antennas up as much as possible and prepared for the WPX contest at the end of March. With the Spiderbeam damaged we looked towards using vertical antennas and tests were carried out.

A rare picture of Faris M0ZFA operating the K3 in the contest.

This contest went well without any disasters.

Norbrek Rally

The Norbrek Rally in Blackpool was attend by Sands ARCG and the stands we put on were very well supported by Amateurs at the Rally. As well as a selling table, Ian G0VGS and Mike M0PRL (currently VP8DMH) put on a demonstration of Elecraft Radios they had built and and soon found they had little time to drink or eat anything because of the interest shown.

Opposite their stand I had my Historic radio display and much the same problem. All that being said it was a very successful and enjoyable rally.

One of the conversation pieces that raised a smile was the wooden Morse key, however once people tried it they were pleasantly surprised at how good it actually was. The key was made by G3PEN especially for a Scarecrow Festival in his village.


As we approached summer a lot of time was spent by members replacing sections of the Spiderbeam and fixing the masts the best we could.

Group Barbeque

In June Barrie and Kathy invited the whole group up for a Barbi and we had a fantastic evening. Barrie looked after the cooking and Kathy and Stephany worked their magic in the kitchen. It was a lovely summers evening and festivity's carried on well past what turned out to be a beautiful sunset.

Barrie raising a glass at the beginning of the evening.

Barrie has a fantastic way of getting the Barbie Started.

Barrie and Ian in conversation

Kathy & Stephany's delight's

The lady in the pink top is Kathy (M3YOG) and Stephany (G1LAT) is in the gray shirt.

The Groups 5th Birthday

Ian G0VGS and Linda G0YLM had open house by means of celebration and training. The group had new members many of whom had not had the pleasure of operating the K3 or Linear in contest. Ian and Linda felt it was a good opportunity to operate the equipment in a non-contest environment where members could operate the radio and enjoy a ragchew as they got used to the controls and logging software. It was also a good time to have a drink and something to eat in a friendly relaxed atmosphere. It was nice on Saturday with plenty of summer sunshine but Sunday was the total opposite with torrential rain.


The beginning of July found us contesting again at Barrie and Kathy's for IARU and the end of the month at Sunderland point for IOTA

Sunderland point is a small hamlet located at the mouth of the River Lune where the Lune meets the sea. The WX was fairly kind to us and we had a fantastic weekend as always. Sunderland point is one of those rare places where you just feel your worries fade away.

Before Lancaster became a port, Sunderland Point was the nearest inlet for the big ships to unload their goods. Many of the goods could be landed and taken by horse and cart to Lancaster and the local area with larger items taken by boats up the river and into Lancaster itself.

During the days of the slave trade it was fashionable for the big houses to have black servants. A young boy, thought to have been a captains cabin boy was taken in and cared for at Up Steps Cottage. He sadly died of what is thought to have been a western disease and buried in a small plot of land close to the seashore. The grave is known as "Sambo's Grave" and is well cared for by children from local schools.

This contest had a mixture of joy and sadness about it because this would be the last time we would have Mike (M0PRL) in a contest with us for a good while. Mikes story is quite inspirational so please stay with me a while.

Mike originally made contact with the group when he was applying for a post with the "British Antarctic Survey" as he needed to have a knowledge of how radio worked to aid him in this quest.

He quickly passed the Foundation exam and moved on to study for the Intermediate. It was not long before an honest friendship started to build with Kev G6FKE and Ian G0VGS who were his tutors. Mike came along to some of the Sands Contest Group meetings at the Owl's Nest and extended his group of radio amateur friends.

Much to his suprise Mike really enjoyed taking part in the contests and it was not long before he was hooked. He learned the ropes very quickly and became a very proficient operator. After passing his Intermediate course he went on to study for the Full license.

Having passed that and gaining valuable experience along the way both as an operator and constructor, Mike built his own K1 followed a few months later by a K3.

Mike surprised us all one night when he dropped the bombshell that he had applied for and got a posting with the "British Antarctic Survey team" His training as a radio amateur played an important part, were all very proud of him. He is currently VP8DMH on Adelaide Island (AN-001) Mike is still a fully paid up member of Sands and keeps in touch with Ian G0VGS.

In the last week Ian and Mike had their first CW contact in conditions that would not allow normal voice communications... If ever there was a reason for CW to be learned and used by Radio Amateurs, this is one of them.

Cross Bay Walk

In August some of the members put a special event station on air in support of the historic "Cross Bay Walk". It was intended that we would run 3 stations One on the Tractor, another at Arnside Knott and a station at Kents Bank where the walk finished. For safety reasons the tractor station was cancelled due to bad WX but the other two stations ran. Band condx were terrible and even the Lighthouses On The Air stations were rag chewing with stations they made contact with.

Steve G1TLQ

Picture taken from Arnside Knott when WX improved.

RSGB Field Day

Were heading towards the end of the contest season but the group was active as ever in September Members took part in the RSGB Field Day. Sadly I was unavailable due to the XYL dragging me kicking and screaming off on holiday to Torquay but the guys who were able to operate tell me they had a great time.

Matt M0MOS

Andrew G0LWU


The GQRP Convention was a pleasure for many of the group members to attend with some really interesting lectures and although small a good variety of stands. This sadly fell on a contest weekend but felt we would all benefit from attending the rally at the end of what was a hard contest year.


As the long nights of winter came in, it didn't seem that long before we were thinking about Christmas and our annual meal. This year we decided to return to the Royal Hotel in Heysham Village, one of the oldest pubs in the area. It keeps cask beer for those who like it and has an excellent menu which caters for the traditional Christmas dinner (or as in my case an excellent Baked Sea Bass). As you may have noticed we enjoy our radio and contests balanced perfectly with food and drink with people we can honestly call friends.

As Christmas approached like many around the country we had plenty of snow, not least at Oysterber Farm the home of Barrie and Kathy who kindly host many of the contests we take part in. Sadly Barrie had a bit of an accident slipping on some black ice and injured his back but he's well on the road to recovery.

Here are a few pictures taken by Barrie and Kathy over Christmas.

Hancock's Hut

So on to 2010

We have plenty planned starting with the International DX in March, Rallies, National Mills weekend and a big DXpedition to the Isle of Arran.

We hope that you have found the 'Four Seasons' of interest and that you'll come back and visit us again soon.

Best 72/73

Brian G0RDH

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