After 20 years of DXpeditions to Caribbean islands is not much left to go to. So we decided to visit St. Lucia for the first time.
Later in April I sent him an email and he immediately offered to help me with the license. I downloaded the application form from his website and sent it with all the needed items to his address. His XYL Filita went to the license authorities to arrange all things for me. A big thank you for both of you !!!
Around this time in May I found an affordable and conveniently situated QTH on the northwest coast of St. Lucia in Gros Islet, Bay Guesthouse.
October 25. The license copy has arrived. I change my stationary rig to my DXpedition’s rig to check it before we go. All works fine.
November 1. The HF9VX is cleaned up at the tube connections (you don’t believe how aluminum corrodes within a year).
November 4. We have packed all things carefully - I don’t want to have the same disaster again, when I had to realize that I forgot the power cord for my switching power supply in Sint Eustatius a few years ago. Now I have an exact check list for equipment, all connecting cables and tools.
November 5. Our Taxi gets us to Tegel Airport for our flight to London, where we have to stay overnight. The taxi driver is a little surprised about our heavy luggage for a summer holiday (2x23 kg suitcases, 2x 15 kg cabin luggage and my about 10 kg antenna case) but he is too shy to ask for the reason and I don’t see any reason to tell him about our trip.
November 6. The flight to Saint Lucia starts half an hour later as scheduled. So we arrive on the island at 3:20 pm. After passport and customs control Poly, our from Bay Guesthouse provided taxi driver, picks us up and tells us that he needs about 1 hour 20 minutes from the airport to Gros Islet. I hope that he is fast enough, that we are there before darkness to get my antenna up. Due to heavy traffic in Castries he needs 2 hours instead. It is almost dark when we enter the guesthouse.
Due to the fast sunset I give up to erect my antenna the same day. It is raining and in an instant so dark, that you couldn’t see your own hands right in front of your eyes.
November 7. I am a bit surprised about the environmental conditions. Google maps shows a rather big area left from the guesthouse.
We are back for the WAE RTTY Contest. After 6 hours I log QSO nr 300. Not a bad start but signals are going down. So I decide to make the first break. I sleep about 4 hours. It rains cats and dogs the whole night.
I end the contest with 1195 QSOs. Though conditions weren’t outstanding good during the day I got my best result ever in this WAE contest. But I made more breaks than allowed. I wasn’t on air for at least 20 hours. I had to adjust the antenna several times (never had this problem before) and slept a bit more due to Jetlag.
November 9. I have an interesting QSO with David, J6/EB7DX, in SSB on 15m. I ask him for his location on the island, so I could visit him and he tells me he is working remote from Spain :o)). He uses Frans’ rig to cause and enjoy pileups...
November 10. Frans, J69DS, and his XYL Filita visit us at the guesthouse. Frans hands over my license, they are “inspecting” my antenna and my working conditions. We make the obligatory photographs, chat for a while about this and that and drink a few beers together. A nice evening.
November 11. In the early morning hours I run a nice pileup on 30m with good signals from Europe. The first time on the lower bands that I don’t have to “crawl” into my headphones like the other nights on 40m and 80m. This is fun!
After another RTTY pileup on 12m I join my XYL Erika to the nearby beach and take a first dip (after 4 days!!!)
November 12. I get up at 5:50z (1:50 am local time) and run a nice pileup on 40m, mostly Europe but also a few JA , ZL, VK and of course W.
In the morning hours I erect the 160m aerial, an Inverted L on a 15m fiber pole, with the help of my XYL. That was quite adventurous!
I went to 160m and started to call cq. Three US stations made it into my log, then SWR rose up - the guy rope of the horizontal part was broken and the wire layed on the ground. Short repair in a pitch-black night without glasses - heart what else could you want!?!
November 13. After the morning pileup we - Will, Erika and I - were watching every square cm of the sea ground for over an hour, where I have lost my glasses - but nothing. There are a lot of Rocks where it could have fallen between, so no chance. We gave up our search. Fortunately I have spare glasses just for my computer work.
November 14. The usual start with EU pileups, then I catch two hours sleep, get up at 05:30 local time to run JA pileups on low bands. 80m still no JA QSO. Will try again tomorrow.
We make a walk to Pigeon Island which is just a stonethrow away, visit the old Fort on the mountain top and enjoy the beautiful view over Saint Lucia. Back in the afternoon I run JA pileups on 12 and 15 meters - 10m no luck today.
November 15. After a few pileups on the low bands with JA stations (the first 4 Japanese made it into my 80m log) we visit Castries, the capitol city of Saint Lucia. All Saturdays there is a huge
November 16. I have again trouble with my antenna. The HF9VX refuses to work on 10m and during pileup in the middle of the night quits its service on 30m too. At least my 160m antenna is working fine now. But what’s the use of it when conditions are so poor that I can’t even hear European stations. Just a few US stations made it into my log. The noise level is extremely high.The picture aside shows the noise level on the S-meter.
In the early morning hours I work DL8AKI, DK8YY and DL5ZL as the only EU stations. I can hear a few stations calling but they are too weak to break the noise level - SORRY. I hope for better condx for a few days, because 160m is searched by many stations.
Short after noon Frans picks us up for a beach party with his family. He has erected a few Buddipoles and the car trunk is used as shack where his IC-706MK2G works well. We make a few QSOs besides all the good food and drinks. It is real nice to be with good friends. We feel like family in an instant. Unfortunately the weather god is not with us. Three times it is pouring cats and dogs - but we have our fun with all the splashing water from the rainfly.
And it is a good opportunity to celebrate my 68th birthday!
November 17. I get up at 01:30 to see what’s going on on 160m. All the same, bad noise and poor signals. I go mad when it stays like this all the time. But I can’t beat the physics. It is like it is!
I try a few QSOs on 160m, but conditions remain bad, faint signals and big noise are making it hard to copy any station. I switch to 80m and 40m and increase my log to 7132 QSOs.
November 18. Again just very few QSOs on 160m. I work 4 Russian stations, 4 other Europeans and a few Americans. It takes very long to get them into the log, a lot of queries before I can log a contact. It is really no fun at all. Just the 4 Russian stations were strong enough to log them without asking again. I go to bed at 03:00 local time and get up at 05:30 to look for the Japanese guys.
November 19. Today we make a catamaran tour to Soufriere with a lot of sightseeing like St. Lucia from the sea, a drive-in-volcano with horrible stinking sulphur springs, the Diamod Waterfall and a cocoa-factory. We sail into the bight of Marigot, a picturesque village, and stop for snorkelling at a “reef”. I am really not fastidious about reefs but it is not hard to find better ones in the Caribbean. Just rocks, a few sponges, no corals and few fish - that’s it ...
November 20. After my 160m Pileup I go to bed at 03:00h to get up at 05:30h for the JA guys. Not much to do this morning, opening is very poor.
November 21. The day starts with 160m. 48 QSOs in an hour, most of them with US stations but also a few Europeans.
The evening is reserved for “Jump up” in the streets of Gros Islet. We eat chicken at a street booth, drink a few beers and a “Local Spiced Rum”, real hard stuff. The crowd is dancing to the Reggae Music, which is hammering out of giant boxes. The bass makes you feel dizzy. The chest is bumping, you can feel the basslines and the loudness is something for crazy young people and nothing for my sensitive ears. But the people have a lot of fun, dancing and drinking.
After our return I start another pileup on 160m. Same dilemma like the days before. Noisy and weak signals, just a few US stations coming in with good signal strength, just 12 QSOs, 2 Russian and 1 French station. That’s all, I got to 80m - the same, not too strong signals and lot of noise on the band - 90 QSOs with mostly EU stations. Then I switch to 40m. The pileup is building immeditately. The Europeans are very loud and I manage about 120 QSOs before I go to bed.
November 22. I start my day with a 12m pileup. After 380 QSOs I log QSO nr. 10.009. The first magic frontier is broken.
November 23. It is frustrating! To get up at midnight and sit and hear nothing but noise on 160m. I know 160m is for many guys a new one but I can’t help them due to really bad conditions. Okay, a few US stations can make it into my log but most of the Europeans are still waiting.
Filita and Frans have prepared a nice BBQ and we celebrate it in our garden. Chicken, meat and roti - fingerlicking good! Filita is a master cook.
Nothing much to say about conditions. Good pileups on the high bands in the morning hours to Europe and in the evening hours to Japan. On the low bands the same but the other way - late in the evening good openings on the low bands to Europe until their sunrise and in the mornings to Japan. But 160m stays like it is - unstable and noisy.
November 24-27. No changes in general. We make a few sightseeing tours. Wanted to go to the rainforest, but weather has changed. Every morning grey and rainy. So we stay in our guesthouse and I enjoy playing with my radio. The afternoons are better but always a good chance to get wet.
November 28. My day starts a bit better, when I got up at midnight I found 160m better than the days before. Not even breathtaking but I managed to get a few EUs into my log. More than on all days before together. But still not good enough to be satisfied. Poor Europeans!
My XYL Erika and Stephanie promised me to dance for me with a coconut bra and a banana skirt when I’m doing good in the contest. So that gives me another big stimulation to do my best ;o).
Time is running now. Four weeks seem to be very long - not so in the Caribbean. It seem to reduce to two weeks. But good times are always running. Just six days left.
We take the minibus to Castries in the early afternoon to buy a few fruits for the weekend. I won’t have time due to the contest. The minibus needs more than three times the time it usually needs for that tour due to heavy traffic and the same back to Gros Islet. So my planned sleeping time before the contest reduces to about three hours. And I feel that the next morning. My eyelids are getting heavier and heavier. I have to make a break. Two hours later I am back on the bands.
November 29/30. The first day of the contest ends with 2121 QSOs and about 2.150.000 points. I already had better scores but I am happy with it. I have to be aware, that youth is over and the body needs more respect. The mind is willing, but the rest ...
Sometimes I feel sorry for the guys outside North America and a bit for me too. They obviously can’t break the “USA wall” and I get only 2 points per QSO for a US station instead of 3, if I work stations outside my own continent. But the US stations are simply too strong and cover the others. And in a contest you can’t say “only JA” or “only EU”. Everybody wants to make the new multiplier and to be the first. So the strong wins.
December 1. This morning is the first without rain since almost a week. So we decide to make a Rainforest tour to Babonneau. But before we go a nice little pileup is obligatory.
The taxi drops us at our guesthouse in the early afternoon. We swim a while in the 26° warm but refreshing water at the beach right beside our guesthouse. Then nothing can hold me from the radio. It is time for Japan. But conditions are not even outstanding - just a few JA guys find the way into my log on the upper bands. My log increases to about 17.000 QSOs so far.
December 2. The usual morning procedure. Getting up at 00:00 local time, Europe pileup until 03:30, sleeping until 06:00, Japan/USA pileup on 40m until 07:00 followed by EU pileups on 30m and 12m until 10:00, breakfast in between and then sightseeing. This time we take the bus to the Rum Destillery near Marigot Bay. A guide shows us, how they produce Rum from sugar cane. A rather long process. At the end of our visit there is a long desk with at least 20 different kinds of Rum and other sweet liquors to taste. We taste many but aren’t able to try them all.
December 3. IT9EJW’s printshop sends me a control file for my J6/DL7VOG QSL. It shows our guesthouse with my antennas.
December 4. The last day begins just a bit weired. We had a chicken/fish meal at a street booth with our guesthouse neighbours from Canada, Simone and Richard. We are chatting about ham radio and a few other “unimportant” things until 23:30. When we say goodbye I am ready for the low bands (so I believe). But sitting in front of my radio I have to realize that I had less than 4 hours sleep during the last two days. I can’t help it but I fall asleep every few minutes amidst the pileup. My concentration vanished. I expected another end of my DXpedition but I have to quit. My mind doesn’t win the fight vs. my body any more. A bit angry about myself I go to bed at 02:00 to get up at 05:30 for a sked with a few Japanese friends on 80m. Conditions this morning are lousy. No chance for them to get through to me.
My final log shows QSO Nr. 19012. 14769 of them on CW, 4173 on RTTY and 106 on SSB. On 160m I have 942 QSOs, the best band is 12m with 4011 QSOs, followed by 40m with 3175 QSOs. USA lead the ranking (of course) with 5638 QSOs, followed by DL with 2248 QSOs and JA with 2124 QSOs.
Poly, our taxi driver brings us to the airport in the south and via London we fly home into cold and wet Berlin - a temperature jump of 28 degrees!