Martinique 2016

  01.02.2016 - KLM offers flights to Martinique for 502 Euro! We don’t have to think twice and book two flights for May 6. Melanie is glad that we return so soon and she immediately booked our room 109.
  We will make a sidetrip to St. Lucia where we stay at Bay Guesthouse for 11 days. From May 12 until May 22 I will probably be QRV as J68GU. Frans, J69DS, provides his excellent license service as last time. We already look forward to meet our good friends Frans and Filita as well as Stephanie and Will from Bay Guesthouse.

  16.04.2016 - We buy a golfbag as a second suitecase, so I don’t have to pay for my extra antenna case because the tubes of my HF9VX fit exactly into the bag. That saves me 140 Euro for a third luggage.

  06.05.2016 - At last! At 04:15 our Taxi to the airport picks us up. The baggage handling is fast and without any problems. I have to hand over the golf bag at the extended luggage counter but there are no complaints about the luggage size.
  At 08:30 we arrive at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. We have to change to Orly. That means we have to pick up our luggage, lug it to the shuttle bus and check in again at Orly Airport. We have almost five hours spare time in Orly but luckily we can check in our luggage immediately. The officer at the check in desk means, that our golf bag is too big so that we had to pay 100 Euro for extended luggage. I try to mediate that all is clarified with Air France in advance. He is not convinced but asks his colleague at the neighbour counter and he gives us “green light” - 100 Euro saved!  The antennatubes, coax-cableringe and various other “little things” that appear at the scanner screen don’t impress the security officer very much - what I could have understood due to the rather complicated security situation
  With 20 minutes delay we depart from Orly but arrive in Fort de France at 15:50 - 10 minutes earlier as expected. I’m already playing with the thought that I could erect my antennas still in daylight but due to Murphy’s Law we have to wait for our luggage - first in, last out!
   From over 500 passengers of our plane are still only three waiting with us at the baggage claim, when our suitcase appears, the golf bag is - believe it  or not - the last piece at the extended luggage counter. It is already after 17:00, when we got the next shock at the Europcar counter. Last year there were five customers right in front of us and that costed us more that an hour - this time over 20! We are lucky that the young lady at the counter is much faster, so we have to wait just a little more than an hour. Positive: the ordered small Renault is not at stock so they upgraded us to the next higher class, a Dacia Duster. When we arrive at Europecar it is already getting dark. This time we don’t have any problems to find our Hotel in the dark. No way to think about erecting my antenna.
  I assamble the complete station, all is in good conditions - no transport damages.

  07.05.2016 - Actually, for me, the night is over at 03:00 local time. I can’t change my “biological clock” that fast. At home it is already
09:00 and I usually can’t sleep that long. Somehow I get the feeling, that the jetlag is getting more and more difficult with the years. But the night is pitchblack so I rotate in my bed until 06:00 waiting for the first daylight. Then no horses could hold me in my bed.
  I assamble the HF9VX and at 08:30 the antenna is blinking in the sun. But I have a few problems with the adjustment - 20m doesn’t work properly - I can’t get the SWR below 1:3 at once. After a while it is down to 1:2, not even outstanding but the other bands are less than 1:1,5. Not too bad for the moment.
  I assume that on 15m the SWR is changing heavily, when I try a few RTTY QSOs in the ARI contest. So I have to get down the antenna again and search for the source. It is only the 15m band, so it can’t be very serious. It is just a contact problem with the 15m wire extension.
  The condx this morning are not even breathtaking. Most signals are almost in the noise. So we decide to look for food and drinks, buy a few things to “survive” our vacation.

  Later I try to initiate a few pileups without success. The first day ends with about 150 QSOs. I usually don’t like endless CQ’s but what shall I do.

  08.05.2016 - Around  03:00 the night is over again. I sit in front of my radio and call CQ on 40m. A few QSO’s but more than difficiult. I try 30m - same result. VK2IR is booming in with 589 but that is all from this direction.
  At 05:30 (09:30z) I try 40m again to get a few JA’s into my log. JA7BVH and JA1QVR make it into my log with rather good signals but then silence again.
  At 12:00z ALL frequencies are completely dead - only noise. Even the normally omnipresent “RTTY beacon” on 10101 is inaudible.

  Today we will visit my good friend Kirtscho, DL5ZB, and his XYL Ingrid. They are on vacation in Saint Luce in the south of Martinique (without radio). We arrive at the hotel short after 10:00. The joy on both sides is great. Of course we are immediately at theme number one - ham radio. Fortunately our XYLs find a few interesting themes too. We make an extended walk into Saint Luce, have a beer (or two) at the beach and after a dip into the Caribbean Sea we return to their hotel. We say farewell and short after 17:00 we are back in our hotel.

  First of all I check the frequencies. The upper bands are dead, on 30m I can hear a few stations. While my XYL prepares dinner, I manage a few QSOs. The signal strength of the received stations varies from S3 to S9.
I realize, that more or less 50 percent of the QSOs are dupes. I continue the log of my DXpedition to FM last November.
  After midnight I make a few QSOs on 40m but the noise level (QRN) is so high that it is no joy at all to identify a call sign. A lot of question marks. After an hour I fall again back into my bed.

  09.05.2016 - At Greyline-time I try my luck on 40m. JA5AQC and five US stations make it into my log - within half an hour. It makes no sense.
  At 11:15z I can hear P29LL on 40m with a good signal - 579. But he seems to have the same difficulties like me. He is calling CQ again and again though I can hear quite a lot of US stations calling him. I call him too for a while without success. Half an hour later all freuqncies are dead again - not the faintest signals.

  We start a sightseeing tour. The first stage is the Rum Distillery “Favorite”, which we have visited the year before. Because it was no sugar cane time they had maintained the engines. This time we want to see that steam monstrum in action.
  Crazy! The steam engine was built in the twenties of the last century. We are impressed how it works. Finest engineering art. When we leave the production area we shiver a little in the cool fresh air (32°C) :o))
  Of course we can’t leave without the obligatory Rum tasting. I am the driver so I have to limit myself to just dipping my tongue into these noble spirits.

Ingrid und Kirtscho

With Ingrid and Kirtscho

  Ingrid and Kirtscho send us a Whatsapp message after their visit at the Banana Museum. We meet at Anse Dufour. They are inspired by the cristal clear water and the turtles they have already seen.
  This time we invite them to visit our hotel. It is not that comfortable like theirs but much more familiar. Our manager Melanie takes a few pictures of us for the family album.

  After saying goodby, I make a few QSOs on 30m. This time I have a nice pileup but it doesn’t last long. A few QSOs on 80m then condx go down again. Silence on all bands.

  Gil, FM5FJ, has contacted the hotel and asked to call him back. I call him and we arrange a meeting after our Saint Lucia trip because time is running out. In two days we are already in Saint Lucia. So postponed is not canceled.

  10.05.2016 - At 05:30 I sit again in front of my radio and make a few QSOs on 30m and 40m. On 30m works KH8/KC0W with a giant signal, I can work him with the first call. So it works - when it works.
  After 07:00 the old wellknown story. Nothing, niente, nada on all bands.

  Ingrid and Kirtscho fly back to Germany tomorrow. They returned their rental car yesterday. So we arrange a day tour with our car. Unfortunately the weather is not good this morning. I come back from the Baguette bakery like a wet cat because I got into a pouring rain shower on my way to the car. But here they say liquid sunshine. Half an hour later the sun is shining again but not for long.
Again and again we have little rain showers. I hope the weather is getting better. It would be a pity to stay at the hotel with dead bands.
  At 10:30 we meet Ingrid and Kirtscho. The weather is much better now. We make a trip to Anse d’Arlet. Beach and water invite us to swim. We snorkel in the nearby reef, the underwater world is not even breathtaking but there is a big variaty of fish. At 4 PM we bring them back to the hotel.

  I decide to pack my stuff today for our trip to Saint Lucia tomorrow.

   11.05.2016 - At 10:30 AM we are on the way to Fort de France. We return our car at the harbour and check in for the ferryboat to Saint Lucia. At the Check In desk we feel like at an airport, passport control, costum control, lbaggage claim etc.
The luggage is limited to 25 kg per person. My suitcase with all the ham radio stuff has 4 kg too much. We have to take the PA out and put it in Erika's handbag. Then it starts. We are the third family at check in.
  When we saw the luggage containers, we realized that it was probably a mistake, to be amongst the first in the queue. Our suitcase and the golfbag are on the bottom with 4 similar suitcases on it. I pray to the Lord, that my stuff can handle that weight. The passage to Saint Lucia is quite calm, the sea is pretty smooth. After 90 minutes we arrive in Saint Lucia, where our taxi driver Poly already waits.
However, he has to be patient, because the immigration formalities had to be done before of course. And as it always is: the entry forms for St. Lucia are already issued upon departure in Martinique, but instead of filling them in on the ferryboat, some start with it at the passport control desk. This costs the other travelers a lot of time.
  Finally, everything is done and we arrive at Bay Guesthouse at 5 PM, where we are warmly welcomed by Stephanie. After a first chat I start erecting my HF9VX antenna.  It is about 1,5 meters away from the water and 50 cm above sea level.
  It is almost 8 PM, when Filita and Frans, J69DS, drop in to welcome us too. A big hello! Of course a welcome beer is a must!
  At 01:18z I do my first QSO with 6Y5WJ on 30m on RTTY.


  22.05.2016 - At 4 PM we start our trip back to Martinique, where we disembarque at 5:30 PM. The sea is rather calm but it is necessary to walk like a sailor to get around. But we already have had worse “rides” without getting seasick.
  After all entry formalities and waiting at the baggage claim, our taxi will takes us to Europcar, where we receive our Renault Clio for the next 15 days.
  When we arrive at L’Imperatrice Village it is already too dark to erect the antenna. A good occasion to sleep well after all the night shifts of the last days on Saint Lucia. I sleep like a rock until 8:30 AM.

  23./24.05.2016 - Time to get the antenna up. At 10 AM the well balanced antenna is flashing in the sun. However, it is not yet used, because once again all bands are dead. First of all, we have to do a few purchases, including a visit to Monsieur "Ich liebe Dich", where we buy fruits and vegetables. He is happy to see us again.
  At 21:16z I log my first QSO on 20m with UE98PS. The subsequent "rush" is modest, I change from band to band, 40m CW, 30m RTTY, 80m CW, 40m CW. After less than 100 QSOs I go back to bed. At 00.00z I try again with poor success. Very tough. At 04:00 (00:00 local time) I get up again and have a little more luck now on 40m and 30m. But the Europeans vanish at 06:40z after their sunrise. From 09:00z to 10:00z no sign of any Japanese hams.
  After breakfast we visit Fort de France. We meet our fruit seller at the market hall to hand over a small gift. We have printed her a 30x22cm photograph, which can be found below (the picture with the fruits on the hat). She is very pleased about the unexpected present and runs around to proudly show the photograph to the other sellers. 
  We stroll through the streets of Fort de France and enjoy the beautiful weather. It is quite warm today - just 95°F. The visited shops bring a nice refreshment. At 4 PM we are back in our hotel. I manage a few QSOs on 20m and 30m with consistently good signals. I set the alarm clock to 23:30 and lie down to sleep for 2 hours. Then a few QSOS on 40m and 30m before the bands close down again. So the sleep interval until 6:00 is a little longer.

  25.05.2016 - I get up at 6 AM. Bad condx again. Even US stations are not louder than S5-6. But the first 2 Janapese OM appear in my log, though they are dupes. I already worked them last year on the same band.
  After 30 minutes I’m back in my bed.
  For this afternoon, Gil, FM5FJ, Eric, FM1HM, and Julien, FM1HN, have announced a shortvisit. They want to see, how one carries out a Low Budget DXpedition. Precautious we buy a few more beers.
  Eric speaks very good English, I try to speak a few words in French, the rest is explained with hands and feet. We have a lot of fun.
  We chat for a while, Erika takes care of Erics two one- and four-year-old boys. Eric is currently straw widow for a longer while. His wife works as a teacher in French Guiana for several weeks. Eric has his hands full with his four children and a job in the hospital - two full-time jobs. But he doesn’t seem to be annoyed.


From left: Eric, Erika, Julien, Gerd and Gil

  Time flies, before we say goodbye we shoot the obligatory "family photograph". Gil promises to come again with his XYL line and everyone forces us to come back pretty soon. Nothing is promised but one never knows ... Just a few more QSOs, then I go to bed. The alarm clock is set to 23:30. It is not always easy to get back to life after two hours of sleep. Today it runs quite well on 40m until the band closes at 05:00z.

  26.05.2016 - After breakfast we are heading to the “Far North” . We visit “Habitation Céron” and are overwhelmed by the luxuriance of nature. A splendor of flowers at its finest, huge ancient trees and  everywhere rustling in the underwood.
  Although the entrance fee of 12 Euros per person is not really cheap, you should definetly pass by if you are that area. It is worth it. We collect ripe fruits under a huge mango tree - about tsix pounds we drag away. It's just "mango time". Everywhere you can find the yellow and green fruits. Nobody cares about them.
  We continue north on narrow, winding and steep roads to Anse Céron. From here you can see the Rock “La Perle”, a smaller "copy" of the "Diamant" in the south. The beach is unusually dark and extremely fine-grained, almost black when wet. This is due to previous volcanic ash eruptions.
  On the way back we have a short break in St. Pierre and find that this city would hardly be eligible for a holiday, it seems pretty run-down. Sure, the salty air destroys everything, no matter whether metal, wood, masonry or color, but then it does not have to look so dull.

  We are back at 5 PM. The band conditions are very poor again, no good prospects for the Japanese guys.
  It's enough for a few QSOs at 20m, then the usual rhythm of the last days - alarm clock at 23:30 clock and EU pileup or what is left of it. 40m - THIN, 30m better, but the QSOs only "drop" into the log. So I’m back in my bed after an hour. 06:00 - next try. At 40m I work P29LL, VK9NT and a few VKs with quite good signals, but no trace of Japan. Bad luck for the guys.

  27.05.2016 - Today, with the CQ WPX Contest starting at 20:00 local time, a somewhat smaller program is on our agenda.
  On our today’s plan is the rum destillery "Habitation Clement" near Le Francois, which is about 20 km away from us. For 8 Euros per person we can visit the Rum destillery including rum tasting and a great park with many exotic trees and shrubs, e.g. a cashew tree with its cute-looking fruits and ... mangoes, mangoes, mangoes. There are dozens lying in the grass. We load our bag that the handles almost tear off. It's like picking mushrooms, you just can’t stop. From now on mangoes are on our daily menue. As many as in those 10 days we have’t eaten in our lives so far. But it's too bad to let them rot. And matured on the tree, they always taste better than from our supermarket..
   We buy an (for our conditions) expensive bottle of rum. But we leave the 2400-Euro-bottle there.

  28./29.05.2016 - Contest-weekend. I start on 20m. Very tough start. The signals are consistently easy to read. I'm also quick when I call someone. The contrary: when I call CQ, minutes pass until someone digs me out. The first hour brings only 48 QSOs. Pure frustration!!! After QSY to 40m it doesn’t run much better.  Stat WPX FMThe first hour on 40m brings 45 QSOs - despite good signals. So it continues. After 6 hours I log QSO Nr. 260, others have already numbers beyond the 800!
  Once the hourly average is 22 QSOs - that does not really bring tears of joy in my eyes. But that's how it goes.
  Between 18:00z and 20:00z catch a good opening on 10m with really good signals, mostly US stations, a few Europeans too. DH8BQA is the only German who makes it into log. A few minutes later the big white noise starts again.
  Afterh 24 hours I have 633 QSOs in my log and end the contest with 1090 QSOs. One (!) japaniese station has been able to fight himselve into the log. Here only helps: forget.
   Today no alarm clock is set to 23:30s.

  30.05.2016 - At 05:50 I try 40m. Very faint signals even from the USA. After 30 minutes and 6 QSOs I fall back into my bed and sleep until 09:20.
  After breakfast we hit the road. The sky is rather grey so we decide to visit the biggest Shopping Mall of the lesser Antilles in Lamentin and visit again the “Potterie”, where we buy a nice little ceramic turtle from the artist who made it herself. 
Then, as always, we visit Monsieur "Ich liebe Dich" and buy fruits and vegetables for the next few days.

Mr Ich-liebe-dich

Monsieur “Ich liebe Dich” with his wife

   When we get back to the hotel at 5:30, I just get a 12m opening for a few minutes, after 20 minutes everything is calm again. Just enough for 34 QSOs.
   I'm still trying on 17m, 20m and 30m with more or less success.

  31.05.2016 - The last week of our DXpedition has begun. No big change in terms of condx. During the day, the band openings are negligible on all frequencies from about 12:00z to 19:00z. I can’t even hear the 30m-RTTY-"beacon" on 10101 kHz.
  Today we drive to the peninsula Tartane, which we already visited last year, but had canceled it due to  bbad weather. Today it doesn’t look much better. The sky is overcast and there are a few rain showers on the way. But when we arrive in Trinité, the gateway to the peninsula, the sky opens and a bright blue sky awaits us.
  We visit the ruins of the Hardy-Destillery. The old engines are rusting away and abandoned to decay. A miserable sight. But modernity hasn’t stopped just before the steam-driven distilleries.
  In the souvenir shop next door there is even a Hardy-Rum-tasting.
  And, what grows in front of the destillery? Right, a mangoe-tree. We select the best fruits, which are lying in the grass and leave with six pounds in our bag.

  Ah, I forgot to mention the "whistling frogs", less than one inch big, which “whistle” so deafening loud from dusk ‘til dawn, that sometimes I even felt disturbed in the pileup. Without earplugs it is almost impossible to get an eye shut at night. Thankfully, we have brought enough of them.

  01.06.2016 - Everything as usual. I get up at 11:30 pm to work a few Europeans on 40m. The success is again only moderate. So after an hour I’m back in my bed. Next shift 05:30 for Japan. Result: one JA station, about 10 US stations in more than half an hour. I decide, I better sleep. I snore for another two hours. Then another check - all bands dead.
   Unfortunately the weather is not good today, it rains every few minutes. Trips have no sense, to sit in front of my radio even less. We stroll a little aimlessly through the area, but we do not have to sit in our hut.
   In the afternoon I make several attempts to get a few QSOs on 12m into the log - with little success. In the early evening I run a few pileups on 20m and 30m.

  02.06.2016 - Since 06:00 I sit in front of my radio and call desperately CQ on 40m. During half an hour, only 6 US stations make it into the log, of which 5 are Dupes. Does not anyone of the guys have an electronic log, or is it just mercy with my endless CQ calls? Meanwhile, of the 8,801 QSOs driven, 696 are Dupes. The bird shoots a US station with 7 QSOs on 40m and 3 QSOs on 30m. I give up. Two hours of sleep are more important to me.

  After breakfast we go to Anse d’Arlet for snorkeling. There are almost no corals but between the rocks, about 100m away from shore lots of fish. Especially a whole kindergarten of blue striped grunts, which are only about 4 to 6 inches tall. Hundreds of them cavort between the blocks. Trumpet fish, palm-sized zebrafish, juvenile parrot fish, etc. can be seen here. The zebrafish swim to within a few inches of the masks. Apparently they are begging for food. At the next snorkeling we take some of the brought baguette into the water. As we start to feed the fish, there is such a huge swarm around us that it's almost scary. Erika is watchin it from safe distance. Luckily it was just a small piece of bread. But we could have fed two whole baguettes.
  Nothing new on the radio. Hardly worth mentioning what to work. Of the 30 QSOs that I log, more than 10 are Dupes again.
  I sleep the whole night again.

  03.06.2016 - As always, I'm sitting in front of the radio at 06:00 to look for JAs at 40m. In fact, JE2PMC manages to get into the log. Otherwise, rather nil. ZL1ALA is still to hear with good signal, then ebbs away the whole thing again.
  I listen to XR0YS for a while, who also works some JA stations that are audible to me, but everything stays calm on my QRG. Conclusion: back to bed.
  Today, the weather is adjusted to the "wireless weather" - pretty cloudy. We visit a few nearby attractions, are a few times surprised by the rain and are back in our hut in the early afternoon. Around 19:00z I maker  few QSOs at 12m awith very low signals from Europe. The WWV prospects are anything but rosy.
  At 21:00z there are fb signals from Europe on 20 meters for a half hour. 21:30z everything as usual - signals in the cellar. So off to the hotel beach.
  The sun has come through again.
  From 22:00z it runs very well on 20m. I also manage a bunch of RTTY QSOs on 20m until a power loss at 23:25 in the middle of a QSO. After 10 minutes everything is okay again. We have dinner, then I try 30m and 40m, but the conditions are too bad. A few QSOs and serene call sign guessing, then I give up. I set the alarm to 23:30 local time to work a few EU stations on the lowbands. Maybe it works.
  And indeed, it works.

  04.06.2016 - 05:30z. The alarm clock wakes me up after two hours of sleep. I need a moment to come to life.
At 30m it runs like a clockwork this morning. The signals are quite usable, not too loud, but good to read. I reach 211 QSOs in this shift, then the signals drop down. For almost 4 hours to get back to bed. I definitely want to try to get a few more JA stations into the log. So at 06:00 the next shift starts.
  06:30 - after 3 QSOs on 30m within half an hour I lie back in the bunk. On 40m - nothing.
  After breakfast we we want to leave for the beaches in the south of the island, but it is raining pretty hard. According to the weather report it should be better after 11:00. And it stops raining as awaited. So we grap our snorkel gear and leave.

  I have a ring of coax cables that I want to bequeath to Gil, FM5FJ, and we also have a few small gifts for his XYL and the kids. We leave at noon and visit Gil and his family.Wwhen we arrive, it begins to pour down like from pitchers. There is no sign of the bay below its QTH and the hills in between. We can’t leave at all.



The french Computer keyboard

I make a few QSOs in his shack. It is amazing, what can be heard on 17m, there is only one difficulty - his French keyboard. I am rather familiar with the English keyboard, where Y and Z are reversed, but here are too many characters “in the wrong place" , so I am not able to handle it in the heat of the moment with my 10-finger blind system and finally give up. I don’t want to sit here as a bungler. Too bad, because the conditions are excellent. What's missing is a filter in its IC-746. It is open like a barn door.
His FT-3000 is currently under repair.
  After a while we say goodbye to Gil and his family and return to our hotel. No beach today due to bad weather.
I am still puzzled, if condx dropped down so rapidly during those 50 minutesi we need from Gil’s home to our hotel or if it depends on my (bad) antenna location. Of course I can’t compete with Gil’s exposed situationi. WWV says SFI 80, A 4 and K 2, what is not even breathtaking.
  On 20m I work a few /p-stations during fieldday.30m more bad than right, 40m opens after 00: 00z, but with weak signals. Anyway, it's enough for a few QSOs. But no reason for euphoria.

  05.06.2016 - The last day of operation.
  At 06:00 local time I sit in front of my station and look for JA. But nothing at all. Four QSOs with four US stations is the result of half an hour CQ. The bed tip is stronger than the transceiver.
  Based on the results in the morning hours of the last days, I decided to make the last QSOs tonight and then disassemble the station. I will get the antenna down tomorrow morning. Our plane to Paris starts at 6:30 PM. So there is enough time for packing the rest.

   A first view of the sky: bright sunshine, only a few fair-weather clouds. So out into the nature. Today we will go to the rainforest in the northern part of the island.
  Via Balata we drive on winding roads through dense green to Morne Rouge, where we can enjoy a wonderful view for five minutes, then everything disappears in the fog - or better, in the cloud that envelops us. As it starts to rain, we make our way through the rainforest to Saint Pierre. The road is narrow and extremely curvy. One is always happy when no car appears from one of the confusing curves. An oncoming bus would be an obstacle that could only be overcome in reverse to the next, slightly wider part of the road. From Saint Pierre we go back over the highway on the west coast to our hotel.
   The conditions on 30m and 40m are real bad thiis last evening. I guess a few call signs and then finally close at 00:00z.

Martiniqu 2015

  Searching for a not yet visited and activated island in the Caribbean, our preferred DXpedition area, we found Martinique. We never have been on vacation on a French island before. The main reason therefor was and is, that my French is rather lousy. Okay, it is “good” enough to order a beer or say a few kind words in a small talk - but not much more.
  The dilemma started already with my application for the guest license in the middle of June. The French authorities, where I asked for the guest license for Martinique, came back in French on my English application. The application forms and the explanation to fill it in of course also in French. It took a while to look behind the sense of the questions and the longer to write the email in French. But I handled it anyway.

  The search for the hotel was not half as difficult. The Internet is a good source for it and Google Earth additionally simplifies the search. We found a hotel on the southern shore of a big bight in the Martinique-kleinsouthwest of the island. Because Martinique is a mountainous island I looked for a location, which had a rather clear view from northwest to northeast for an undisturbed radiation of my antennas into the main directions USA, Japan and Europe .
The “L’Imperatrice Village” near Les Trois Ilets seemed to be the right place.
  They had a studio for the planned period of our trip and they positively answered my question, if I could erect my antennas on their property.

  The only problem with the guest license was, they issue TO calls just for a period of only 15 days. That means for me to work half of the time under the issued call, the other half under FM/DL7VOG. Odd rules! Unfortunately the time periode is too short to cover both contests - the WAE-RTTY and the CQWW CW with a short call sign - there is always a day missing, either the first day of the WAE or the last day of the CQWW. So I decide to use the short call sign only during CQWW CW.

  19.07. - The cheque over 24 Euro for the license fee is written and in the mail to France. This is the only way to transfer the money, neither Paypal nor anything else.

  Due to the malfunction of my HF9VX on 10m in J6 last year I have to assemble the antenna and check it out to find the failure before we go. The SWR on 10m was extremely high and the resonance frequency was at around 29 MHz, not even good for CW. That meant, the antenna was too short but I didn’t find anything that caused this phenomenon. Let’s see.

  17.09. - I got the email from the licence authority in France that I can use the vanity call TO4GU for 15 days. I probably will use it during the CQWW CW Contest. At least for this reason a shorter call than FM/DL7VOG is more useful.

  02.10. - I receive my TO4GU license by mail. 5 weeks left ...

  20.10. - The antenna is checked, all tube connecting joints are cleaned from oxide. I will see if it works well this time.
3 weeks left ...

  28.10. - I found a message in the Internet, that LA8OM will take part in CQWW CW as TO8M from Martinique.
Good competition! He will be with his XYL in FM for 10 days around the CQWW CW. I sent him an email to make an appointment for a meeting in Martinique. Chris answered immediately and we will surely find at least an evening to chat. 

  08.11. - Less than two days left ... November 10 at 07:00 our flight goes via Paris to Martinique. In Pais we have about 5 hours to change from the Airport Charles de Gaulle to Orly. I bought the tickets for the Shuttle-Bus, but how it works with the luggage, I don’t know yet. I suppose that we have to check out at CDG and check in again at Orly with all our luggage.

  The suitcases are packed exactly at the limit of 23 kg per person. Tomorrow I will stow the complete DXpedition rig, which is still used in test mode in my shack, as hand luggage.

  09.11. - The equipment is packed and the Taxi ordered for 04:00 am.

  10.11. - Start! No problems with the check in at Tegel Airport, our luggage is with 23,0 and 22,8 kg exactly within the limit. Just our cabin luggage is about 1 kg too heavy, but the kind Lady at the check in desk smiles and lets us go.
  In Paris we have to change airports. We arrive at Charles de Gaulle Airport and depart in Orly, that means collect the luggage in CDG, carry it to the Shuttle Bus and another checkin in Orly. A bit boring but it is like it is.
  We take off exactly in time and arrive at 17:05 in Martinique. Our plane, a Boeing 777 is fully booked - almost 500 passengers and crew members, a big village on tour!
  Soon we have collected our complete luggage - it is still daylight. But the advantage gets lost at the Europcar counter.
A queue of 5 customers in front of us. The guy at the counter is a bit slow. When we are ready after 45 minutes it is already dark. That means we have to find the Hotel at nighttime, not so easy on an unknown island I thought.  A shuttle bus gets us to the car delivery point. We get a new Dacia Sandero. It is quite okay for us but the engine is just a bit weak - to “climb” the sometimes rather steep roads I have to use the first gear, sometimes the second. But we are on vacation so we decide to go the Caribbean way.
  The 25 km long route is crowded but with just a 50m detour - I missed the last junction - we arrive our hotel at 20:30. Not too bad.

  The kind young Lady at the reception speaks German - we are lucky. She had studied in Germany for 5 years. So I don’t have to try my bad French. We can keep it for our first supermarket or restaurant visits.

  Because it is dark night the antenna has to wait. First I have to check the surrundings of our cottage for usable space. On first sight it is not even located ideal - but tomorrow is another day.

  For now it is enough for one day, so we go to bed but the biological clock is still ticking on home mode. At about 02:00 am we are so agile that we could get up. We can manage a few more phases of sleep until we get up at 07:00 am.

  11.11. - We are looking around if we could find a better place for my antenna as we have beside our cottage. But I think we have the “best” place. There is no path where anybody could fall over my radials so we decide to erect the antenna here. We probably had better antenna conditions before. 160m will be problematic. I hope I can find a solution.




The hotel is located in a beautiful scenery. The cottages are neat and in good conditions. At least from the outside. The team is working hard to get the cottages organized. The interieur has to be refurbished. Many years there has been done nothing. But I think in a few years this will be an emerald.



Should be enough for the first days

  But before we erect the HF9VX we stroll to look for food and other little things we need.

  We are back at 01:00 pm and I start to assamble the Butternut Vertical. At about 03:00 pm all is set up, the antenna is adjusted and works fine. The best and most important, I can’t hear any local QRM. I call VP2MEW and log him at 20:10z as my first QSO. But condx are rather poor. I jump from one band to another and try to work a few stations. I still don’t know if it is the general condition or my antenna location which is responsible for the poor sigs. I can’t ask the internet, because I don’t have access to it. Either the router is out of order or our cottage is too far away from it.
I ask the young lady at the reception desk to check. She tells me that it must work but it does NOT. Let’s see.

  I log QSO number 230 after about 5 hours - not even a  big deal ...

  12.11. - Because my biological watch is still set on home mode, I turn from one side to another in our bed until I decide to get up at 04:00 am. Maybe I can do something on the radio. Wrong! Not much to do - the one or other US station and a few low EU signals on 40m and 30m. At the usual Japan time not the faintest trace of JA stations on 40m.



  BUT: the Internet works !!! I’m checking the condx - very poor!

  A few minutes before 11:00z I switch to 12m CW, perhaps here is something to do. Low noise, nothing else. I start with a few CQs. One, two stations then a cluster spot and a nice little pileup - until 13:00z, than condx fade out.

  Time for our first sightseeing trip.

  13.11. - Friday the 13th. Normally I am not superstitious but when I switched my PA this morning at around 05:00 I was hard on the edge. NOTHING happens. The power supply doesn’t give out the 88V and the power LED stays dark. And because this is not enough: the circuit plans are safe at home in my shack.
  That means 100W output for the rest of our stay. With my 100W I surely won’t win any flowerpot.
2 US stations, HSØZIV and JA1HGY make it into the log, then 20 min CQ and logically surrender.

  At 06:20 my power supply shows a green light. It works again but shows no reason why...
At 10:40z I call CQ on 12m - a few very poor signals from Europe. After a while I try 17m - the same. I switch to 10m and there I can hear also a few poor sigs from Europe. 67 QSOs are the result then the signals vanish in the big noise.

  No reason to sit in front of the radio. We take a trip to Fort de France, the capitol city of Martinique.
Our impression is, that most of the building have seen better times. But the street life is colourful, typical Caribbean style.

  Late afternoon we are back. I try to get a little sleep before the WAE RTTY starts at 20:00 local time. I only hope that the condx are better than the last few days!

  14./15.11. - Contest weekend. I start the contest on 40m. The first hours are not bad. But after a few hours the conditons fade, and the worst - on all bands. The three hours of sleep after 8 hours of contesting doing good. About an hour after sunrise the upper bands open but not for long. Then again silence on all bands. The signals on 10m are not loud at all - there is no visible change on my S-meter-scale - but the readability is okay even for QTCs. The noise level here is unusual low. Seldom in the Caribbean.

  I think, I have to struggle to hit the 1000-QSO-mark, which I had as J87GU already after 24 hours two years ago. The conditions do what they want - up and down. A few hours I can’t hear anything, not to think about working anybody.

  7 hours before the end of the contest I stick at 800 QSOs and I can hardly find any signals. Just the big guns I have worked already. I should work about 30 QSOs per hour to reach my aim of 1000 QSOs.
The first hour out of the seven bringst just 10 QSOs, 9 of them with South America! A desperate situation. The way to Europe is completely closed. CQ calls don’t have any use so I go up and down the bands to catch a few stations. A hard job. The last hour brings the success, 15 minutes before “ultimo” I log QSO number 1000 - oomph!!! I end the contest with 1018 QSOs but this is my first contest without a single Japanese station in my log. Far east seems to be behind a barricade, no UAØ, no HL or VU have found the way into my log. Only one VK, one YB and two ZLs were logged. This never happened before - what conditions!!!???


Under full sails

  16.11. - My birthday. My XYL Erika has organized a Katamaran tour to small islands off the west coast. The tour starts at 09:30 in Francois and ends at 17:00, that means to get up early. Francois is an hour away by car. A radio-free day. The weather could be better but we have enough sun, though the light is not optimal to take good photographs. It is a bit misty. As the coast line almost vanihed and we asked if it was raining so heavily one of the crew members stated that what we saw was no rain but sand from the Sahara. That phenomenon appears twice or three times a month. Awesome!
  The tour is wonderful, the crew members do their best to translate their usually in French helt comments, which I understand 20 %, into English. It isn’t easy for them but we have a lot of fun.

  We are back in our hotel at dawn. A few QSOs on 80m then I fall dropdead tired into my bed. 

  17.11. - Around 10:00z I’m up again. A first band check - from 40m to 10m just noise not a single signal.
I call CQ on 12m and a few stations make it into my log with signals just a little above the noise. My S-meter doesn’t even show a motion.
  Until now I have 2.380 QSOs in my log. I think I stay in “Holiday-Mode”. During the day nothing to do. So we better explore the island. There is a lot to see. 

  18.11. - Same procedure like the days before. Some rather useless attempts to dig a few call signs out of the noise. On 12m and 10m it works - at least a bit. Then we start our tour to the southeast of the island. We visit a few bays with nice beaches. In one of those bays we watch a rather big turtle, which is not very impressed of us. It is surfacing a few times to breath less than a meter from us. Then it dives back to the ground for more seagrass.

Kirche in Petit Anse

Church in Anse d’Arlet

  We have Marlin for lunch in a small restaurant direct at the beach in Anse d’Arlet.

  After our return I answer a few emails. My problem here is, that the WLAN router reception in our room is too poor so I have to leave the house - 10m away from our terrace it works well.
  At the days end I can manage a few QSOs on 80m and 40m with for those condx realy good signals. So is ham radio fun! But short after 02:00z the condx go down rapidly. Nothing more to do as to go to bed.

  19.11. - No changes to the days before - in the morning on 40m two QSOs, 30m also two QSOs but one with V63YY from Micronesia. I check the upper bands for usable signals - nothing. I really can’t hear the station which are spotted to the cluster.
Finally at 11:15 CU3AA on 12m. I call him - but as fast as he appeared he vanishes in the noise again. From S7 to S0 in less than 5 seconds - I can’t even hear if he catched me. Then a CQ call of DJ3GG with S9. I already believe that this is the end of waiting, I call CQ myself and can dig HA2MI “already” after 10 attempts out of the noise. Further CQs - but no echo. I give up.
  For today my personal “guide” has chosen the southwest of the island, including the visit of a Rum destillery - with that she gets me :o))
  We drive on a very curvy road through dense green vegetation heading south and stop in Diamant after a short break at the Mauny Rum Destillery. The Rum tasting is rather poor for me because I don’t want to drive with alcohol. We buy a good bottle of Rum, then we continue our trip. Unfortunately the sky covers with clouds and after a short rain shower we decide to go back to the hotel. The lack of blue sky and light doesn’t allow good pictures. I am still searching for a good QSL photograph.

  20.11. - Same situation like the days before. Extremely poor signals on the upper bands with deep QSB. So no use to sit and wait for better condx. We make another day tour to the south of the island.

  21.11. - At 01:00 local time I am awakened by my alarm clock. Time for a few pileups on the low bands, which I have neglected a bit during the last mornings, at least for the Europeans. I should have got up an hour earlier. The pileup on 40m is tremendous but after less than two hours condx go down again. A good moment to catch a bit more sleep. When I get up at sunrise a first look through the window - it is raining and the sky is completely overcast.
  Today is market day in Anse Mitan. For a daytrip the weather isn’t good enough. So we decide to visit this arts and crafts market. Nice things but what should we do with all this?

  On the way back to our hotel we take a short dip at the beach. Here I step onto a sea urchin. What a pain, 14 stings in foot and calf - well done, Gerd. And no chance to remove the stings because of their nasty barbs. But the pain doesn’t last very long. After a while I can walk without pain.

  Short wave is as usual, very faint signals. Arduously I reach 4313 QSOs.



  22.11. - To give the European guys a few QSOs on the low bands I set the alarm clock to 24:00 local time (04:00z). In contrast to last morning I am not able to cause a pileup. I even don’t have to work split. It goes very slow. 01:30 I decide to go to bed again - it doesn’t make sense to sit in front of my radio.
  At my 10:00z shift I just get a few Japanese guys into my log.
When I switch to the upper bands (10m und 12m) at 12:00z signals are again so poor, that I rather get dizzy from holding breath due to concentrated listening. 12:20z the bands are dead again.
After breakfast another try - too poor signals to read anything. I give up again.
  So we better take a trip to “Jardin de Balata”. After Fort de France the road leads to the mountains. We pass a few villages and the narrow road is winding through the dense rain forest - a formidable scenery. On our way we stop at a replica of the “Sacré Coeur” church of Paris in a small village. Unfortunately the church is closed.
  The Garden of Balata is a good recommendation. The owner has had a good hand to collect tropical plants and a big variety of beautiful flowers in this unique biotope. The garden exists since 1986 and is designed so wonderful, that one could think it was decorated a few hundred years ago. A multitude of exotic plants, palmtrees, ferns, flowers and giant trees line the winding paths through that artifical terrain. 



Palme mit Früchten



Rose de Porcelaine


Pandanus tree with fruits


Humming bird - a flying diamond

  23.11. - The day starts with 10 minutes CQ on 17m/CW - without any reaction. On 12m/15m/20m I get 52 QSOs into my log within almost two hours. From 12:00z on only noise on ALL bands. Super prospect for the CQWW during the weekend!
I log QSO Nr. 4544 - within 12 days! :o((

  So we find us on the road again. Today we visit the south ... LA8OM and his XYL Eileen are guests in the Hotel Corail in Ste. Luce.


Our meeting with Chris, LA8OM, and Eileen

  Yesterday they have tried to visit us in our hotel. His business card layed on our cottage’s doorstep with a short comment when we returned from our daytrip in the late afternoon. We had a short phone call this morning and made an appointment for tonight.
  We start our tour to Anse Saline at 09:30. In every travelguide about Martinique you will find that Anse Saline is Martinique’s prettiest beach, if not of the whole Caribbean. That may not be exaggerated. It’s a beautiful beach indeed, but we have been to various islands in that area several times and we know that every islet is convinced that their beaches are the best in the Caribbean. I would not

Anse Saline

Anse Saline

bet. We stay there for a whole while, swim a few times in the magnificent, 27° C cool water.
  Then we drive our car via Ste. Anne, Le Marin and Ste. Luce to the Hotel Corail to meet Chris and Eileen. Short after 17:00 our ragchew starts and ends at 22:00. Chris will be in the CQWW CW from FM5BH’s QTH as TO8M and will be a hard “nut” for me to crack. His rig (1500 W) and antennas (Beam and dipoles) will give ham a certain advantage - but I am not jealous. I do what I can and will have my fun too.
  We have a nice evening, crowned by a marvelous meal, chat about God and the world and this and that and in an instance it is time to say goodbye. A few photographs to remember the meeting and we drive back to Anse Mitan.

  24.11. - ”POINT OF NO RETURN” - Now we count our days here backwards.
  Again very poor sigs on all bands. Only very few stations reach the S3 mark of my S-meter, the rest is to hear in the noise but not to read. Deep QSB doesn’t make it easier. Fun is something very different - I surrender after three hours - all in all 83 QSOs can be logged during this time period.

   The weather for photographs is not optimal today, grey sky, foggy weather. We decide to visit the fruit market in Fort de France.



Fruit seller in Fort de France

Banana varieties

The market is always good for a few nice pictures and much sun is not needed.
We couldn’t imagine how many banana varieties there are for sale. One doesn’t know much more then the Supermarket’s “Chiquita” bananas and maybe the Mini-Banana. We buy a few different kinds to check, amongst them a few plantanes to make banana chips. They are giant. Unfortunately we didn’t find a different kind of banana, which we saw last time. This kind of plantane has an almost cylindric form and  is about 15 cm long and 7 cm thick and we could have mixed them up with our big country cucumber if they woudn’t have layed there as a “hand”.
  The red bananas are about the size of our wellknown “normal” bananas and taste slightly sour. The small yellow “figs”are our preferred sort of banana, which are much better fresh from the tree as our artificial riped from the Supermarket. The big yellow and the little smaller green plantanes can be used as a kind of vegetable for fish and meat dishes or cut in thin slices and fried as salted chips. Have you ever seen a black banana (okay maybe when you forgot to eat them before they are overriped)? This one is originally from a distinct banana tree and really black! The matchbox in the picture is a measure to compare the size.

  In the afternoon I play radio again and on 30m it runs well - a good row of Japanese stations are calling too - until a “LID” appears on my frequency and emits as an endless loop “CQ WITHOUT SPLIT”. The usual “police men” give him names like pig and other animals and try to get rid of him, but he doesn’t care. I change frequency but in an instant he is there again with his senseless loop. I don’t know what happens in the windings of their brains when they destroy the pileups with their insane behaviour. So I go QRT and we better drink a beer and have lunch instead of a good pileup.

  25.11. - This morning a surprise waits for me. The signals on 10m and 12m are very strong compared to the last days. But I can’t cause a pileup. Maybe the condx are a kind of one way. 140 QSOs in almost 3 hours but this time without crawling into my headphones.

  On our todays programm is a visit of FM5BH. I have taken the address and we drive to Ducos where he lives. Anyhow we will find him - we think...  But neither the Post office nor the Gendarmerie knows this address in Ducos. But because we are already on the road we visit the banana museum. It is really unbelievable how many different bananas there are growing in the world - much more than 1000. A big variety of them is growing in the museum’s garden.

  At last: the 5000-QSO-mark is reached. A hard job ...

  26.11. - In the morning I have a nice little pileup on 40m with stations from Japan. Good signals. The signals on 12m and 10m are a little better than the days before. But it’s only for a short period, then the bands are dead again. 

Maison de Cannes

Maison de la Canne - Sugar Museum

  In the late morning we make another sightseeing tour just in our region. The “Maison de la Canne”, a sugar cane Museum and the Musee de la Pagerie, a former sugar plant, where the later Empress of France, Josephine, was born is on our todays plan.
   16:30 local time we are back and I try a few QSOs on 30m - some good signals but the most of them in the noise. A good pileup is something different.
  I decide to go to bed a bit earlier (19:30 local time) to get up at 01:00 to catch the EU opening - perhaps it works better in the earlier morning. Tomorrow evening at 20:00 local time starts the CQWW. Toi Toi Toi - but I doubt to reach  the QSO-numbers of the last years contests, if condx are not improving.
  But I can’t go to bed that early. When I prepare my log to upload it to Clublog N1MM+ tells me, that all is set to “Zero”. I can’t even find the log for a while. I have to set up the programm again, all COM ports, the digital interface have to set to the usual values. For “Dummies” like me it takes more than an hour. But at the end all works fine again.

  I work a few stations on 80m and 40m, then I go to bed to sleep until sunrise.

  27.11. - Like the days before I get up at 06:00 local time to work a few  stations on 40m. After 30 minutes all in all 8 QSOs. I go to bed again. Two hours later I try 12m and 10m with Europe. Same as before more noise than comfortable signals. It is a tourment. I hear a lot stations calling me but can’t read many. A few big guns make it into my log but I’m sorry for the 100-watt-guys. An hour later the sigs are improving but after 30 minutes - what else - NOISE.

  The mosquitoes are extremely confidential today. I can’t get rid of them with the usual repellants. They probably love German cuisine and swarm around my legs.

  Because the CQWW CW is starting at 20:00 local time we have nothing special on our today’s schedule. I want to sleep a few hours before I enter the rumble.

  Unfortunately the Internet doesn’t work in our cottage, so I will probably miss quite a number of multis.

  28./29.11. - Contest-weekend. 00:00z I start on 40m. To save a good frequency I started 1,5 hours before the contest with pileups on 40m. But after 8 QSOs in the contest DL5CW came to my QRG and overtook it. He had better “arguments”, so I had to look for another frequency. Not easy to find an empty frequency. So I found myself on the upper edge of the band in a small slot. Strong QRN doesn’t make it easier, but 40m is the best band with good runs.

  A bit of negative statistics? I log QSO Nr. 100 after 85 minutes, after 8 hours I log QSO 648, after 12 hours QSO 853, QSO 1000 at 13:02. 17:26 falls the 1-Mio-Points-Mark, after 24 hours QSO Nr. 1870 and end the CQWW with 3076 QSOs, 3024 are countable - the rest are dupes.
  Due to those poor conditions I am not dissatisfied with my result but it hurts a bit when I think about the scores of my last contest entries from J6 and J8 with at least 1500 QSOs more. This time - in contrary to the WAE RTTY - 3 (in words: THREE) Japanese stations have made it into my log. 

  30.11. - Same dilemma: on the low bands nothing to do, the upper bands closed during the day. The weather today is bad as well. We make a shopping tour. After our return I try to catch a few stations but fail. The day ends with QSO Nr. 5149. If I add the QSOs of the CQWW I have now 8215 QSOs in my log after three weeks. Last year I had 10.000 more in the same period. But enough whining, I have to take it as it is. So we have seen a lot of this beautiful island.

  01.12. - See above! Again the big noise on all bands. So up and away! First we drive to Sainte Luce to say farewell to Eileen and Chris, LA8OM. They fly back to Norway today. He did really well in the CQWW contest. With more than 5000 QSOs he has beaten me. Even with much better technical equipment and better antennas we start in the same category. But I am not jealous at all. I know about my technical limits. What can I do with my 400 Watts into a vertical on plain ground versus 1500 Watts into a beam and dipoles.

  Then we are on the way into the “Desert” in the extreme southwest of the island. Here the vegetation is rather poor compared to the lush green rain forest in the north. Only dry and flat scrub and big cactus. No shade at all. Of course we are there in the biggest heat over noon. But we carry enough water.






Giant roots of dead trees


The “Desert”


Giant Cactus

  The hike takes two hours. We didn’t die of thirst but it was really “warm”. And we haven’t been the only hikers. So we would have been found before the vultures.

  Our way back leads us to Anse Saline, where we take a swim and a good cool beer.

  Today we also want to meet Gil, FM5FJ, in Morne Gommier. Unfortunately he is not at home. His father tells me, that his son is in Fort de France and returns later. Jil’s house is a bit further down the road. We find it easily and I put my QSL card into his letterbox and I decide to write him an email this evening.
But before I can write it my cellphone rings and Gil is at the phone. we scat a while in English and French and make an appointment for the day after tomorrow late afternoon.
  A little later that evening I work FM5WD, Lucien, who lives in Lamentin, about 18 km away. Perhaps we find the time to visit him too. But my personal travel guide has a tight plan for the last week.

  02.12. - 06:00: Time for the morning shift for Japan. 4x USA and 1x Australia within 20 min. That doesn’t justify my bed escape - so back to the “trap” until 08:00. Then I’m listening to the noise. CQ calls on 12m bring a few QSOs with rather poor signals. I can hear a few stations calling me but can’t identify them. So I give up.

  The time of dupes has already startet. There are stations from the USA, which are 4 or 5 times in my 40m log. Specifically annoying is when you dig a station out of the “dust” after 5 to 10 tries in those bad condx and you see in your log, that the guy has worked you yesterday on the same band. But: that’s life. It doesn’t make sense to tell them - that doesn’t help and costs additional nerves. 300 Dupes from 5080 QSOs. The percentage seems to be normal.
  After breakfast I sit again in front of my “box”. But after a few tries I give up again.

  Today we make a tour to the west coast. Tartane is a picturesque village on the peninsula Caravelle. Unfortunately the weather is not good. It rains from time to time, no sunshine at all. From the picturesque is not much to see, without sun all is a bit too grey and trist. We have a typical creole meal in a small street restaurant - Pulpo with Rice and red beans. Very tasty but with 15 Euro per person not even cheap. But we are in “France”, and there are restaurants a bit more expensive as in Germany. We are lucky that we have a kitchenette in our cottage. Otherwise wie should have stocked our vacation budget for at least 2000 Euro, if we would eat outside every day.

  Late afternoon. I try a few QSOs but after a short while I give up annoyed. From the last 10 QSOs 9 (in words: NINE) are dupes. That’s enough for the moment. I will try again later but I doubt, that anything will change.
  And: the first QSO after a pause is - what else - a dupe! But a few new calls make it into my log too. The pileup is moderate - I prefer to go to bed.

  03.12. - 10.00z = 06:00 local time - the same. Instead of the expected Japanese one Australian and a few US stations. I tilt back into my bed.

  Next try 13:00z on 12m. Extremely poor signals - senseless. After breakfast a little better. I can even manage a few RTTY QSOs on 12m.


Steam engine in the Rum destillery

We start a rainforrest tour into the north of Martinique. On our way we pass the Rum destillery “La Favorite”, a small family owned company. It looks a bit antique. With an old steam engine and giant gears they drive the sugar cane press. Because the season for sugar cane is over the workers maintain that huge engine. The engine can be admired in full action at harvest time. Would have been very interesting. That monstrum must be very noisy. This destillery is the only one on the island, where one can watch the production process. The tasting of the different Rums convinces us that this destillery produces - how we heard from different sides - the best Rums of the island. The prices are in accordance with the taste. The “normal” Rums cost between 12 and 16 Euros, the more advanced (15 years old) over 60 Euros and the top class 100 and 120 Euros. We have decided to take a bottle for cheap 15 Euros though the expensive tastes much better. But every sip for 2 Euros - hmmmm!?


In the rainforest

  The road through the rainforrest is extremely curvy with steep parts. We are overwhelmed. Such a tight and diverse vegetation we haven’t seen on many islands in the Caribbean. In Saint Pierre we make a beer break. In the small pub where we drink our beer and talk enthusiastic about the scenery we have seen sits a man at a neighbour table. He listens and comes to our table. He tells us that it is nice to hear German voices. He is an artist and comes from Wuppertal/Germany. In Germany he worked as mechanic for airconditions but was not very satisfied with his job, he took his money and flew to Martinique. He earns his money with wallpaintings and tattoos. On his tablet he shows us his work. We are impressed. We talk for a while about the life on Martinique and the extraordinary friendliness of its inhabitants. We say goodbye after a while because we want to visit Gil, FM5FJ. We jump into the traffic jam. On the  road it starts raining cats and dogs and we arrive Gil’s house after dark. Our Sandero huffs and puffs on the steep road to Gil’s property in Morne Gommier, mostly in 1. gear. 
  Gil and his XYL welcome us heartily and in an instance we lay on the same wavelength. After a good sip of Rum we inspect his antennas (with a torch) and his shack.  We are impressed of the view to the bay of Sainte Luce. Gil lives with his family on top of a hill, about 460m above the sea. In his receiver no local QRM and a free “shot” into all directions. The missing PA is compensated through the exposed QTH. When Gil demonstrates his YAESU FT-2000 I realize, that he must accept

Gil und Gerd

FM5FJ, Gil, with FM/DL7VOG, Gerd

the physical laws too. On all bands just noise. Just on 40m we can hear Joel, V44KAI, who is fishing for signals in the noise.
  We are amused about our poor French respective English knowledge, but we don’t have any problems to understand each others. After 20:00 we say goodbye like good old friends, though we got new friends today.

  At the end of the day a few QSOs on 80m - and unbelievable but true - not a single dupe.

  04.12. - The day starts grey and wet.
  On 40m I catch E51XGI and a few US stations. 30m - nothing. Conclusion: back to the bed.  Next try after 12:00z - the wellknown noise on the upper bands, now and then a few poor signals, hardly identifiable. Six QSOs on 15m, then again endless CQs. QSY to 12m - also a few weak signals, I can’t cause a pileup. A try on 10m fails. Nothing to do today.
  The weather doesn’t allow a daytour too. Every few minutes it’s pouring down like from jugs. Later in the afternoon the weather is calming.

  Good news from Alfio, IT9EJW, my QSL printshop. He has delivered my 3 days ago ordered QSLs. That’s a new record. 

FM-QSL Front

My new QSL card for Martinique

  So I can answer the direct cards before our Post increases the postage from 0,80 to 0,90 Euros January 1.

  I sit a while in front of my transceiver, without knowing why. There is really nothing to do for me. Sh...-weather and Sh...-conditions. That fits!!! My log shows “already” 6.665 QSOs after more than 3 weeks - plus my contest QSOs as TO4GU. Maybe I can reach the 10.000-QSO-mark. But that’s physics. One can’t beat it despite all curses.

  We make a short trip to the nearby pottery between two rainshowers to organize a few souvenirs.

  After our return I try again to catch a few stations with little success. 22 QSOs on 30m, 55 on 40m and three on 80m is the result of 3 hours desparate work.
For the weekend I set my alarm clock to 00:30 local time - 04:30z, to make a few QSOs on 40/80m.

  05.12. - I have rather good runs on 80m and 40m. On 80m almost no noise, but a pileup ??? I QSY to 40m. In 2,5 hours about 200 QSOs, then condx vanish. At 10:00z I am QRV on 12m in RTTY. Also relative good signals for about 2 hours. Then: the lovely noise on all bands but the 10.000-QSO-mark is cracked.
  Today we visit the big fruit and vegetable market which takes place every Saturday near the river in Fort de France. What a colourful mess. We buy quite a good variety of fruits and hope that we can eat them before our departure in three days.


Fruit market in Fort de France

  On our way back we stop at the market in Les Trois Ilets, to say goodbye to our favourite fruit seller, Monsieur “Ich-Liebe-Dich”. He has always a kind word on his lips and his favourite phrase is “Ich liebe Dich” - probably the only words he knows in German. He enjoys his new nickname “Monsieur Ich-Liebe-Dich”. The weather is poor again today so that I sit in front of my “box” very early and try to cause a pileup but fail again. The alarm clock is set to 00:00 local time. Nothing to do. I realize that it is better to go to bed again.

  06.12. - At least - after quite a while - beautiful weather, bright blue sky and not a single cloud. We decide to visit a few beaches in the south. In Petit Anse we meet a native guy of my age and chat a while in my horrible French and his (same) English. But it works. We understand each other. He invites us for a Rum in his house in Schoelcher. But we have to reject due to our plans for the last day in Martinique.
  Back home we realize that we cought quite a bit colour today. A few QSOs, then we go to bed. I log NE4H for the third time on 80m and for the fifth time on 40m. Don’t the boys have no logs or is it just the joy to meet me again?

  07.12. - My last day starts slowly. Between 09:45z and 10:15z I log only 13 stations on 40m and 30m. I watch J6/K4ZGB and C6AUM for a while how they try to work a few stations on 30m but have the same problems. I go back to my “trap”.

  Originally I wanted to disassamble my antenna the morning before we leave. But the mornings QSO rates of the last days convice me, to disassamble and pack all my stuff tonight. We have to leave tomorrow around 10:00 for the Airport - so we don’t have any hectic on our last morning.


Our baguette seller

  As I bought our last baguette and gave the seller a little present for Christmas she gave me a small bag with berries I never have seen before and big kisses left and right. I have to promise to come  back to Martinique soon. That’s easy.

  Today I have a good run on 15m.
  At 17:39z I have my last QSO on 17m with a good old friend, Dick, PA3FQA, and am logging QSO Nr. 10.964. Maybe that I have missed a number of QSOs due to our many daytrips but apart the condx were under all expectations. I’m sorry for the OM, who may have needed FM on this or another band or mode and didn’t make it into my log. But FM doesn’t appear in the most wanted list. I have heard a lot guys calling but wasn’t able to identify the calls.

  After my last QSO we have a Rum, then I pack my rig and disassamble my antenna. At 17:00 all is stowed away and the weight of our luggage in the limit. The suitcases weigh exactly 23 kg and the cabin luggage is 11,5 kg - allowed is 12 kg. The antenna case is 12 kg.

  We go to bed not too late, we will start at 10:00, return our car and wait for our plane to Gouadelupe, where we have almost 4 hours to catch our flight to Paris.

  08.12. - Last breakfast. Then we start our last trip to the Airport Lementin. Our Sandero shows now 4785 km. That is summa summarum 1359 km we drove during the past 4 weeks. We have seen a lot and met nice people. We left a few “white spots” for our next trip to Martinique.
  From Pointe a Pitre in Guadeloupe we fly via Paris to Berlin, where we will arrive 09.12. at 17:00.

  I have learned that I don’t have to be shy with my French-”knowledge”. Of course it was much easier with better French - but anyway we didn’t have much trouble. And we have arms and legs to translate difficult words.

  We will come again - nous t’aime, Martinique - au revoir.

  09.12. - After almost 30 hours we arrive in Berlin at last.
My antenna-case is missing in Berlin. When we changed Airports in Paris we still had it. We wait at the luggage belt until the screen shows “no further luggage available”.
  A young Japanese scientist is in the same situation. No luggge. She is a bit helpless so we take care of he. We fill in the forms at the lost and found counter and take her in our taxi to the railway station. She has to go to Dresden tonight - the booked train has departed long ago, but there are more trains to Dresden within the next hours. The next day she has a presentation about Gen Technology. Fortunately she has her laptop with the presentation at hand but no cloth at all, just what she wears.
  When we arrive at home I check my emails and there is already one, which tells me that the lost case has arrived in Berlin with the next plane from Paris. They will deliver it the next day.

  10.12. - At 13:00 my antenna is delivered, at 18:00 GLS delivers my new QSLs.
I start answering the 77 direct and OQRS requests.


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