RSGB Top Band Club Call Contest 13th November 2004
Think of all the things you would love to do in life. Sitting in a Landrover on a salt marsh with a 34 foot vertical aerial lashed to it. It is night time and pitch black. The temperature is close to freezing. The remains of a couple of bags of soggy chips are on the floor at our feet and the flask is all but empty of tea. Every time I get out of the Landrover to walk around I fall down that blasted hole! You know the one, deep and full of salt water. If I fell down that hole once, I fell down it ten times! Why is it everyone else manages to miss it? The battery voltage is starting to drop in the cold too.
The day started with G3SZU and G0VGS going down to the shore at Bolton-le-Sands to check out the proposed site for the contest. It is a lovely day, the sun is shining and there seems to be a complete lack of cocklers. The site is perfect and should be a really good ground plane for Keith's latest invention, the Szuperdupernotalooperbutaverti
cal. This has previously been tested in Keith's back garden and found to be good. We manage to find a way down to the grass for Gary's Landrover and then qsy back to Keith's for a brew and a look at the Szuperdupernotalooperbutaverti cal. The aerial is a 34 foot vertical made of aluminium tube with a coil about half way up. This all splits into 7 foot sections for transport. Everything is looking good.
The contest is due to start at 20:00 GMT and we all met up at the site at 18:30. It is now pitch black and the sky is beautiful, stars twinkling and the lights of Grange-over-Sands and Barrow are lovely over to the north. The lights of Morecambe to the south compliment their siblings and all is well with the world. There are four of us at this point. Keith G3SZU, Kev M0TNX, Gary M0RGB and myself, Ian G0VGS.
We positioned the Landrover down on the marsh and illuminated the site with our car headlamps from the carpark above. The next trick was to raise the antenna to its operating position. I have never done anything like this in the dark before and it was achieved in several phases. We needed to get the base of the antenna above the Landrover so we could use the vehicles body to add to the ground.
First we attached a length of wooden baton to the vehicle. This was vertical and located right behind the cab. Next, the aerial was assembled and three guy lines attached. Two of us held a guy line each and Keith was then able to walk the antenna vertical and rest it against the baton. Gary was stood in the back of the Landrover and the two of them managed to slide the antenna up the baton and lash it. In the meantime, Kev and I were trying to keep the whole thing straight. There were only two of us to hold three guys and we had to keep moving around to help the boys trying to lash it. That was the first time I fell down the hole! It was to prove my nemesis that night.
We eventually managed to get the whole thing erected and straight by tensioning the guys while Gary stood underneath and shone a torch up the length of the vertical to check. Job done, we stood back to admire our handiwork and I fell down the bloody hole again!
The antenna was connected with a single wire to the ATU and a second wire was taken from the earthing post on the ATU to a stake hammered into the ground. We needed nothing more on a salt marsh! Unfortunately, Gary's auto ATU would not tune the beast and so Keith's homebrew monster manual ATU was drafted into service. This is the size of a small house and can handle Megawatts with ease. Antenna tuned we were ready to go. So was Keith. He had the onerous task of taking Barbara out for a meal.
Shortly after this, Mark M0DGK arrived and we were four again. Mark would have been there earlier but I had apparently given him times for meeting up whilst consuming a particularly good Malbec the previous night and been completely wrong, sorry Mark!
So away we went. Gary on the mic and Mark logging. Kev and I stood outside and chatted as there was only room for two in the Landrover. I went to check all was tidy and immediately fell down the damn hole again! If I had not been wearing walking boots I would have sprained my ankle badly this time I think. Even so, it is still a little sore as I write. Of course, everyone was full of sympathy inbetween their hysteria!
So Gary is calling into the ether and gets a contact! The first of the event is Dave, G6CRV in Heysham. Gary works him and then calls again. That is when the fireworks started! No, I mean it, actual fireworks. They are being let off about 100 yards away and it sounds like a small war is taking place close by! None of us can hear a thing while they are going off. A typical evening for Sands Contest Group!
Anyway, that all soon finishes and we settle into the contest. Kev takes over on the mic and Gary and I decided to go and get some chips to warm us up. We got to the chip shop to find that it had just closed! Fortunately, they obviously realised that we were in dire need of sustenance and opened the door. They had some chips left and the odd fritter and fishcake. We accepted these gratefully and returned to the site. The food was handed out to those in need and we munched contentedly while the contest continued. Conditions were not ideal but the antenna was certainly working. With our regulatory 30 watts we were reaching the south coast of England and getting reasonable reports.
Kev left and Mark soon followed. That left myself and Gary shouting into the night. At one point Keith called back (having had a warm and comfortable meal at an unnamed hostelry!) Barbara was in the car and must have thought us completely mad. To be fair, she probably had a point! They went again and once more Gary and I carried on bravely. It was getting quite cold by now but we were somewhat protected in the Landrover. The antenna was certainly working and at the last, Keith arrived again to help us pack down. Just as the contest was finishing we heard what we at first thought was a GI station. It actually turned out to be a GJ! We worked him with no problems to cap off an interesting evening.
We closed the station down and got out of the cab and I immediately fell down the bloody hole again!
Everything in the back of the Landrover had a sheen of frost on it including Keith's doorstop ATU but nothing was harmed and we got everything packed down in short order. I was to fall down the hole yet one more time but my evening was made when Keith fell down it a little later. At last someone else had done it!
We strapped the antenna to the Landrover and went back to Keith's for a quick brew before all going home for the night.
All told a great evening with plenty of fun. Thirty two contacts will not win us any medals but the antenna worked well and Gary's 857 was splendid.