St. Vincent

You may consult my “Dictionary for Ham Chinese” if you can’t understand any unknown abbreviations and words.

My travel report was issued in “funkamateur” 10/1997

 We saw rather long faces, as we declared to celebrate my 50. birthday in November 1996 in warmer regions, without thinking about any tickets for the rest of our big family. This time it was NOT Friday 13 (see travel report Barbados - “In the land of bearded trees”), as we started our Caribbean tour. That was probably the reason that some things went wrong!
Delayed departure in Berlin, another delay in London, arrival in Barbados after sunset instead of 14.00 local time and than this: after a first tuning effort I sit in front of the “wreck” of my good old IC-751A, which does not make a single “peep”.
Some hours of antenna building behind us and five weeks of vacation before us on the assumption that I coudn’t manage a single QSO drives the sweat out every pore. I am rather paralysed. We made great exertions to get the 80m dipol over the three gables of our beachhouse. A rather artistic effort without remedies. I have fastened a guidewire in a breadfruit tree and try now to throw another guidewire with a tied

The other way to erect antennas

stone over a 12m high palmtree on the other side of the beachhouse. Two workers of the Barbados Telecom, who lay a cable in the nearby lane look at me with growing interest and visible joy. My power is already vanishing, as one of the workers comes across and tells me that it would be easier to buy the coconuts on the market.
 I tell him, that I was a ham and want to use the palmtree as a pole for my dipole. He gives me a meaningful sign and vanishes. A little later he comes around the corner with a skylift - the rest is a crack.
 I can’t remember any more uncomplicated help. That’s the Caribbean!
The first contest - CQWW SSB - is at hand. I have only about 30 hours until it starts and I already begin to find consolation in the thought, that I was the third time on air as 8P9GU and that SSB was not my mode at all as my XYL Erika’s attempts of reanimation seem to get successful. She shows me a scrap of paper with the phone number of our good old friend Charlie, 8P6KW. Perhaps he knew what to do. And he knew indeed ...
 Mister Burton, ICOM dealer and a kind of god to me in this moment, promises to help.
 Friday afternoon, the transceiver “is playing again” - the contest is saved! But Mr. Burton can’t tell me any reason for the malfunction. It just works again.
Charlie and his XYL Friedel help us in an unbelievable manner. We pick up the transceiver and three hours before the contest starts I log the first CW QSOs. But after 41 contest QSOs the transceiver strikes again. The same defect - I give up.
 Not that I would have had a new DXpedition record in mind but I had chosen the aims of our Caribbean tour with the help of the numbers of QSOs from those islands in my logbook and was keen on the pileups - acid !!!

Bottom Bay - one of Barbados’ nicest beaches

 Charlie picks us up on Saturday morning to visit 8P9Z and I carry my transceiver with me. Perhaps the guys could help me. Wrong - but Steve, K4FJ, lents me his TS-440. I’m in the contest again. At the end I log QSO No. 633. Not even a giant score, but I was present!
 Gary, 8P6ER, has the redeeming idea: Hans Girardi, ex OE9AGI, who lives here in Barbados since about 17 years and knows a lot more about transceivers than many others promises to help me and repairs it overnight. Hans means, it was a defect caused by the high humidity. In case of another “relapse” I had to open the case, switch on a fan, wait five minutes and go ahead with QSOs ... I am sceptical.
 The first week of my DXpedition I want to forget as soon as possible. But we met good old and made new friends - that counts.
Gary announces me to his friends Frank, J39CY, in Grenada. He gives me some phone numbers, if there would be any problem with the customs - Sigi, DL7DF, could sing songs about it ...

 After a 40 minutes flight, unexpected uncomplicated clearing at the customs and a short ride to our new QTH at Grenada’s south coast, Lance aux Epines Cottages, I immediately start to erect my antenna.

Delight of creole cuisine

Our cottage is located about 10 meters from the shore, so no reason to think the humidity would be less than in Barbados. Prepared for another disaster, I switch on my transceiver. But this time my ICOM don’t leave me alone. J38GU is QRV.
 The QTH is not even a good DX spot, Europe and the USA are covered with hills, but my Butternut HF6V stands in subsoil water, the area is only 20 cm above sea level.
 Like always I am searching for audible signals on the bands. T9/OI5XY is my “experimental guinea-pig”. On my first call I receive 599. Not bad ...
I don’t have to call many CQ’s - the first pileup is immediately running.
 At last we can relax a little after the “hectic” week in Barbados.
 The conditions on the higher bands are not really breathtaking. Only between 13.00z and 16.00z some european stations are audible on 20m and 17m. I recall, that we are here for vacation, so I leave the poor openings to Europe. Sigi and his crew did a great job a few days ago as J38DF, so I concentrate my activities on 30m and 40m during the evenings and nights.
 After two weeks in Grenada full of good experiences the second stage of our trip ends with 2.658 QSOs in my Log. 481 in RTTY, the rest in CW. In WAE RTTY contest I reach 362 QSOs. The statistics is symptomatic for the whole journey.
 I made 54% of the QSOs with North America, 41% with Europe and 5% with South America. Asia, Africa and Oceania share the rest of the 2%.



















 Frank, J39CY, who cared for us in Grenada, gives us the phone number of his friend Donald DeRiggs, J88CD, whom he already infromed about our arrival in St. Vincent.

 With the Island Hopper of Caribbean Airlines we cross the Grenadines on our way to St. Vincent the next morning. It is a breathtaking view. More than 30 islands lay like a pearlchain in the torquise sea.
 Arrived in our hotel “Umbrella Beach” I think the stroke hits me! It is beautiful here but almost unusable as a QTH., Again at the south coast but surrounded with even higher mountains as in Grenada right behind the hotel. I don’t get my HF6V more than six meters away from the iron roofs which is unfortunately lying in transmitting direction and for my 80m-dipole no tree is high enough.
My XYL is already getting nervous because I don’t spend a glance on my antenna case for over an hour. but I am completely down when the stopping ceiling fan signalizes a power loss.
 After a first walk into the next village and a good sip of Rum life spirits come back to me.
 Six hours after our arrival antenna and rig work fine and I call CQ on 20m. Once, twice, three times - NOTHING! As if I hadn’t known!!! Short time before I surrender PY7ZZ calls me - direction south seems to be okay. He asks me for 30m, “a new one” for him. More and more CQ’s - a few QSOs. Unsatisfying! I quit for a while.

Fishermen of St. Vincent

 We go snorkeling and have an outstanding meal at the “Pepperpot” afterwards.
 It is already after 00:00z, when I - a little desillusionated - start calling CQ on 40m. I am able to finish two QSOs relatively relaxed then the big pellwell starts. I am not able to hear distinct call signs out of the “noise” - it seems to me that the whole world has waited only for me. It’s a pity that I can’t visualize such a pileup. Then my experience shows me again that it doesn’t make any sense to work with call sign fragments. Everybody seems to have the same call sign. So change of strategy: I work split and better come back a few seconds later with the complete call sign - that saves time. After about three hours I have more than 400 QSOs in my log - not too bad under these circumstances.
 Probably I make a few mistakes too, but who ever sat on the other side of the pileups and isn’t one of the “exception-hams” like DK7PE, G3SXW or OH2BH will understand that. In the Caribbean one has to struggle rather often with bad condx, strong atmospheric noise and of cause human made QRM so that it‘s not easy to dig the stations out of the noise. In very bad condx I’m “celebrating” every logged QSO. So the relatively high number of dupes is less enjoyable for me.
From my rather5600 QSOs as J87GU 266 are dupes. I don’t blacklist anybody for a dupe but adrenaline is rising remarkably when I dig somebody out of the noise and realize that I have worked him less than two days ago. Of course not everybody has a computer log but who works so many stations that he doesn’t find a relatively rare call sign in his paper log without searching for hours. And he may perhaps give the other guys a chance to work a new country in the pileup!
 A few times we meet Donald, J88CD. He is a TV producer and Director of the “Government Information Service” as well as Director and founding member of the “Rainbow Radio League” of St. Vincent. He is a ham since 10 years but a little impressed of the 93 countries I have worked in less than a week.
Ham radio in the Caribbean has another meaning for the native hams. So they leave the pileups to the “crazy foreign hams” - all much too exhausting!!!
 Donald asks me for a short interview and films a few sequences during CQWW CW. They show the two minutes long take in the TV evening news on Monday.

Nothing compares to it ...

 I think I won’t forget my 50th birthday so soon. We celebrate it in St. Vincent. My XYL has organized a boat trip to the Baleine waterfalls, a two tank dive at “New Guinea Reef” is also on our program and we have Lobster with garlic butter and French red wine at dinner. I have even time for a few QSO’s.

 The days vanish in a hurry.
We experienced a lot, made wonderful sightseeing tours, made new friends, enjoyed the creole cuisine and also enjoyed to do nothing but liming from time to time.
 I have more than 5500 QSO’s in my J87GU log, 2069 of them in the CQWW CW and 123 in RTTY.
70% of the QSOs were made with North America, 23% with Europe, 5% with South America and 2% with the rest of the world.

For statistics freaks:





















 I would have probably reached much better results with bigger antennas, more power and a better QTH, but for a vacational activity of a DXpeditions greenhorn I am not disappointed at all.
 I envy the guys of 8P9Z or 3E1DX a little for their huge pileups when I helplessly call CQ a few kilohertz up. But after I have seen the contest station in Barbados nothing wonders me anymore: with 3 element beam for 40m, 5 element monoband beams, beverages and “afterburners” - there is no chance for me with my minimalistic rig - 100W barefoot into my HF6V. But I have fun too and enjoy ham radio like it is.

 An important tipp for all, who want to be QRV from the Caribbean and look for native hams: The guys meet daily at 06:30 and 18:30 local time in the Emergency and Weather Net on 3815 kHz. They are glad about every new appearing call sign and it is not hard to make friends on the islands.
 Another net is the Caribbean Net on 7176 kHz, which can be used all day long.
 A big advantage is if you carry a handsheld 2m-rig besides your shortwave transceiver. It is easy to get in contact with local hams from the neighbour islands via repeater. E.g. it is not a problem to speak to Barbadian hams when you are in Grenada, though Barbados is quite a bit away - 120 miles..

 On our way back to Berlin we have to stay on transit in Barbados for a day. My XYL starts rolling her eyes as I start to unpack my stuff and erect my antenna for these “few minutes”. I close my station in the early morning with more than 500 QSOs in my log..

 With a total of approximately 10.000 QSO’s in my logs after that bad entry in Barbados we fly back into the cold and wet Berlin.
 As we unlock our door we stand again in water, this time it is no salty water but water from the washing machine of the couple above. My cry “nothing but away from here” falls on “fruitful ground” - the next trip is already in progress!

 During our first stay in St. Vincent we had a visit of Bequia (speak Backway) on our program. We were so surprised by the tranquility and beauty of the island that we decided, to come back in May 1997 and stay here for our whole vacation. My guest license is still valid, so nothing stood against another nice time in front of my radio.
 The first ten days we stay at “Creole Garden” in Lower Bay with Dawn and Willi. Willi is a German who fulfilled his dream here in Bequia.

Creole Garden

 From our room we have a fantastic view to Admirality Bay. Then Willi and Dawn fly to Germany for vacation.
We change to “Kingsville Apartments”, located also in Lower Bay.
The cottages are furnished with a good taste and cost about 400 USD per week (1997).

Kingsville Apartments

We often go on excursions to explore the island. If one can live without animation and has the gift to arrange his vacation himself there is a lot to experience on Bequia. One can do expanded walks, go snorkeling and SCUBA diving, meet natives and can “check” the objects of interest. You should NOT miss to visit Athneal Olivierres museum. Athneal, called “The last whaler” still caught whales "with his hands" until a few years ago for the inhabitants of Bequia. The guys rowed in a small boat onto the sea and Athneal harpooned the whale with a handharpoon. He loves to tell you his stories.
 At the far end of Lower Bay beside “Coco's Place” a young French artist established her Studio. If you don’t look for crying colored pictures as a souvenir from the Caribbean but fastidious drawings or aquarels you should visit her. Her mother will show you her work, because the artist is seldom at home. She often looks for new motives on the islands.