First was the timing. You can go to Sable in the summer season but not much going on the bands at that time so we were looking rather an autumn trip. End of October looked good with the CQWW SSB but we thought we don’t have enough time to prepare. We also wanted to be in the contest so the obvious choice was end of November. Beside the contest there were other good reasons to go to CY0 at the end of November.
Generally condx are good at that time on all the bands.
It was full moon on the 19th and according to George, VE3NZ this is the best time for DX-ing. Most likely this will be the last good chance to make large number of contacts in the 23rd solar cycle on the higher bands. Our predictions were right and condx were really amazing. There are also other factors we had to consider like the weather. Because of the Golf Stream Sable Island generally not a very cold place. Archive data showed relatively good weather between 15 and 25 of November, however this is also the start of the storm season in this area. All in all the time looked right and we made the final decision, to go in November. We were planning to fly to Halifax, NS and then using a chartered plane to the island. During preparation we have realized we have a few antenna masts and antenna pieces that would not fit on an airliner and UPS or FedEx wouldn’t take them either because of their length. There were two options: make modifications to the masts and antenna pieces or we use George’s mini van and drive. We drove. Driving had also the advantage of taking as many stuff as we wanted and our radios were in safe on the back seat of the car unlike in the cargo of a plane. First we were planning to use two amps and take an IC765 too, however there is a weight restriction on the charter plane. The limit is 1100 LB including passengers. Things got interesting when Jim, N1NK offered his help and he became the fourth member of our group. Our body weight is 680 LB without any food or gear so lots of stuff had to be shipped ahead.
That was the most difficult part of the preparation. Everything had to be packed the way to survive the shipping. If something brakes or gets damaged we might not be able to fix it on the island so it was critical. Basically we had to ship everything except our radios, food and a few antenna and mast pieces. We were right on the 1100 LB limit. It is set because this is the weight that the plane still could fly safely with if one engine quits. And we didn’t want to test if that was true or not. Unfortunately the IC765 and my amp were too much and had to leave them home. We took George’s IC706 instead as our fourth radio. Jim brought his TS2000, Nick his FT1000MP plus his MLA2500 and I brought my beloved TS930S.
Driving to Halifax was exceptionally smooth in great weather. We have rented a room at the airport hotel in Halifax. I just asked the receptionist if someone checked in with a name of N1NK and there he was, Jim in the same hotel. Shortly after we met and had a final check of our equipment list. Next morning the weather was very nice. No problem at the airport, everything was a go.
We left Halifax around 12:30 and after a smooth ride arrived on Sable Island without any problem. We have started putting up the stations and antennas immediately. First the 40m delta-loop that works on 15m as well and Jim started operating with his own call until we set up and start the computer network. All the computer stuff was Nick’s task and he did a great job.
By the evening we were of course dead tired and on top of that a bad storm hit the island. We have realized if we choose 16th of November as our departure date then CY0MM would have been only a dream. The weather turned bad for four days and there was no flight in our out of Sable Island.
The storm was hitting us with 100 Km/h wind gusts. We were unable to put up some of the antennas. Only managed to assemble the telescopic masts and mount the antennas on top but we were not able to erect them. Next day the wind diminished just enough to raise the TH2MK3 but we were still unable to turn it. It had to be anchored against the wind. Some HAMs were asking us how come we didn’t turn our antenna in this or that direction. This is the answer. Same thing with schedules. Unfortunately this kind of weather makes all the plans useless and it would have been lots of complains from the other parties. Now I can understand the guys on 3Y1 or VP8S and other remote, cold places. At least we had a warm place to stay but what they had was a shaky tent.
The third day the weather improved enough to put up the rest of the antennas and we were in full swing. As we expected the pile-ups were tremendous. I was excited about 6m. When the antenna was up I have sit down at front of the IC-706 and CQ-d on .125. I couldn’t believe my ears, there was a pile-up on 6m too! Worked 120 stations and then silence. The propagation never came back. I was able to catch a few stations here and there from US but no EU at all. Even the Leonid’s were very bad. Heard only few pings and fell off the chair early in the morning.
160m was a thrill though. I have never heard so many EU stations with such good signals on this band. The 160m antenna was a top loaded vertical made by Nick, VE3EY with 32 radials. 18m up and two wire left and right about 17m. The band was actually so quiet we could hear anybody. Someone posted a message on the DX cluster that sounded like this: “worked CY0MM without output on a clothing line”. Sable Island is a very, very quiet place.
We had three nice days with sunshine and warm temperatures with a bit of fog, which is not rare at all around this area.
Fog is one of the reasons of the so many shipwrecks on Sable Island.
This area also known as the Graveyard of the Atlantic. Actually the last shipwreck happened in 1999 and its story was told us by Dave who works on the island since 1998.
Two gentlemen rented a sailboat and planned to cross the Atlantic from New York to EU than to Africa, South America and back to New York. They had of course a marine map for navigation. Believe it or not Sable Island was not on that map ! The guys were sailing in “open” water. During one night without knowing it they were getting closer and closer to the island. Their deep sensor’s alarm kept waking them up so they turned it off. They thought it’s malfunctioning. Finally the big waves picked up the boat and smashed it on the shores of Sable Island. There was silence and thick fog all around.
They were totally disoriented and very confused because they supposed to be on the wide-open ocean and had no idea what happened, how they got in to this situation. Sitting on the sandy shores they heard a familiar sound, a car was approaching.
The truck driver almost ran them over. Their confusion peeked when a big Mexican fellow jumped out of the car. They looked at driver then the licence plate number on the car. It was from Texas. One of the fellows asked the driver: “What latitude are we on?”
The truck belonged to a Texas company and they were doing some sort of a survey on the island. The two gentlemen were lucky to be alive and lucky to be found so easily.
During the good weather everything worked perfect and we were able to turn the antennas. We had no schedules who works on which station and when. We tried to be on whenever was possible, wherever we had condx and it worked. Nothing lasts forever so the nice days were over and we were back to the storm. The wind broke the 160m antenna right in half. The 40m was badly bent and the wind was pounding and twisting it.
It was night, the wind was hauling and I panicked that this antenna will break too. Quickly released one of the guy wires and let it go. The antenna fell on the ground. George saw it and wasn’t happy how I handled his “baby”. Yapp, I admit I have panicked, the wind made me crazy…hi. The antenna survived though. We were in and out and tried to keep the antennas in one piece and lowered the WARC yagi on the mast as well.
The 6m antenna took a hit too. Nothing broke but one little piece, an aluminium shortening bar got lose and flew away. I couldn’t believe my eyes ! I found it ! Antenna down, fix it and back up again. There were a lot of things to do besides operating on the radio. Specially our first four days were difficult and had to stop the operation for antenna repair or installation quite often. During the CQWWCW we were again in “one direction mode” because of the wind. We tried to make happy as many contesters as possible with the multiplier and made 4,500 Qs
Our last day should have been Monday, November 25th. The bad news came already on Sunday evening about the flight cancellation. We took down what was necessary but the 80m ant was still on. Never heard such a great condx on 80m like on that Monday night. EU was so loud; they were 40 dB in some cases but this ant had to come down too. Then another delay so we put up an 80m top loaded vertical using George’s 10m long aluminium pipe. Quickly put up a couple of verticals for the higher bands too and operated another two days like that. When we were told we can leave it took us only a couple of hours to pack everything. We were already in the jeep heading to the beach when heavy snow started to fall. We went out to the huge area where the landing strip was and we couldn’t find it… The snow shower was so thick we could see only about 25 meters. I had very negative thoughts about flying in that weather. The pilot can’t even find us. Finally the snow let down and the sky opened up just before we spotted the plane on the sky. By that time we were really anxious to go home. The flight was a bit shaky and Nick and George were ready to dump their breakfast but thanks God we arrived before that.
A great DX-pedition ended and we arrived home safely.
We took a lot of pictures and using my Hi8 camera I made a 30-40 minutes video too. Also we got all the action on high quality digital audio for us as a treasured memory, or for those who missed this expedition or just want to hear again their contact with us from the other side of the pileup. For more info about these check our website: http://www.dipole.com
And last but not least we would like to express our thanks to the groups and individuals who helped us to make all this happen. Their great help and sponsorship is essential for Dx-peditions like this. Also would like to thank to all the HAMs who helped us during the two weeks especially to Peter, VE3NWA who was managing our on-line log and did a perfect job; G0JHC, Neil and K5AND, Dick whose 6m enthusiasms gave me a lot of strength during preparation.
California DX Foundation – NCDXF,
German DX Foundation – GDXF,
Six Meter International Radio Klub – SMIRK,
UK Six meter Group – UKSMG,
GM DX Group – GMDXG,
OH DX Foundation – OHDXF
Oklahoma DXA (K5YAA),
Virginia DX Century Club (W4SD),
Northern Arizona DXA NADXA (NF7E)
K6BU, N5ID, NN0TT, KU4EC, JA3EJG, G4CWD, VE3CR, K5LAM, K7ER, JA3CWL, PA1555-R40
(SWL), VE3BUC, W3JJ, W0SF, PA0WRS,
wish to all of you a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year in 2003.
Hope to see you from another DX-pedition.