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.
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.
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 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 southwest 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 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.
28.10. - I found a message in the Internet, that LA8OM will take part in CQWW CW as TO8M from Martinique.
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.
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.
11.11. - We are looking around if we could find a better place for my antenna as we have beside our cottage. Bu
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.
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
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.
At 06:20 my power supply shows a green light. It works again but shows no reason why...
No reason to sit in front of the radio. We take a trip to Fort de France, the capitol city of Martinique.
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.
Under full sails
Under full sails
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
The weather for photographs is not optimal today, grey sky, foggy weather. We decide to visit the f
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 meet 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Good news from Alfio, IT9EJW, my QSL printshop. He has delivered my 3 days ago ordered QSLs. That’s a new record.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As I bought our last baguette and gave the seller a little present for Christmas she gave me a small
Today I have a good run on 15m.
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.
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.
10.12. - At 13:00 my antenna is delivered, at 18:00 GLS delivers my new QSLs.