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Activity reports

MC0SHL / GB0SH Activity 2008

The ILLW 2008 from GB0SH and MC0SHL


The International Lighthouse and Lightship weekend (ILLW) started life as an idea by John, GM4OOU and the late Mike Dalrymple, GM4SUC, as a weekend where clubs and individuals within the UK could go out and operate field day style from the many light houses around the coast. This idea soon caught the imagination of radio amateur’s world wide and thus the ILLW was born. This is not a contest and was originally administrated by the Ayr Radio Club in Scotland, where they started it all from Turnberry Lighthouse in 1995, and is now administered by Kevin Mulcahy VK2CE - see www.illw.net for full details. This year the event was held over the weekend of August 16th and 17th 2008.

Our story starts 4 years ago when a group of friends looked to activate a light house in Wales, just around the corner from Fishguard and on its own island, Strumble Head Lighthouse. This team consisted of Ant MW0JZE, Rob MW0RLJ, Tim M3SDE, Oliver MW3SDO, Russell G5XW & Marti M1DAZ. Now in 2008 the team had changed slightly with some members unable to make it due to family and work commitments and Chris G1VDP joining us in 2006. With the addition of 2 new members of Charles M0OXO and Villiam OM0AAO in 2007 we had the basis of a small group.

Following the 2007 operation we got our heads together and decided to form a small club, or group of friends, who enjoy Dxing and Contesting. We also named the group and applied for a club call - which we would activate before, during and after the event – and a contest call for use in the major contests.

Build up: Wednesday 13th August and Thursday 14th August

Tim and Ant arrived at Rob’s farm on the evening of Wednesday 13th August and had the customary drinks and evening meal – relaxing and catching up on what had been going on over the months since CQWW in October 2007 – before retiring around 00:30 ready to start on antenna building the following morning.

Thursday morning and the weather was as good as it was going to get so we took the chance to visit one of the Islands near St David’s where we had a meeting with a representative of the Islands owners to discuss a possible future IOTA activity next year. More on that will be published at a later date.

Once back at Rob’s farm in the afternoon Anthony, Rob and Tim went about setting up the 40M, ¼ wave ground mounted vertical. It was a homebrew built by Ant, and this was its first serious DX outing so expectations were high. 40 radials were wound out and fixed to the base of the vertical.

As it was a year ago when we as a group decided that we should name our team “Strumble Head DX & Contest Club” and this week was our first chance to get the group together and be “On Air” with our shiny new callsign MC0SHL we decided that we would make a major effort to air the call.

Ant set up his new Elecraft K3 Transceiver to Rob’s Acom amp and in the club house at the farm and hooked up the 40m Vertical first tests showed that all was good… CQ CQ Mike Charley Zero Sierra Hotel Lima calling CQ 40” Immediately there was great interest in our Club Station many asking what was the significance of the MC in the callsign. It seemed that few had heard any MC0’s on air.

Soon another team member arrived at the farm MW3SDO Oliver riding his Harley Davidson motorbike from North Wales. Much alcohol was consumed that evening along with some casual operating from the club station. We could see that the Vertical was working well logging ZP7SR in Paraguay, LU3OE and friends in Argentina, YB6PR in Indonesia and YN2N in Nicaragua to name just a few. Finally closing down at 01:15z

5 Go Mad in Wales: Friday 15th August

Having left home at 03:15 to make sure he had a full day with the team to set up the antennas and have breakfast, Chris G1VDP arrived at Rob’s around 07:30. He was met at the door by Tim and Rob who were just getting up following a late night of drinking and operating on the radio. Oli and Ant were not far behind them and we sat down to a welcome cup of tea and breakfast.

The radio was switched on and a CQ call put out. Soon there was a small pile up from European and UK stations to keep us all happy for an hour or so. Rather than just give out a quick DXpedition type contact, 5/9 rubber stamp QSO, we decided to get each callers name and giving them the details of our locator and WAB area if they asked for it. I think because we were using the MC0SHL call it was a new prefix for many callers. As the morning wore on we made the necessary call to Geoff the lighthouse keeper to make arrangements to go and set up the antennas and carry most of the equipment up the steep climb to the light.

The short drive through the Welsh lanes – just wide enough for the cars to get down – was uneventful but the usual fun. Geoff arrived on time at 10:30 and we unloaded the vehicles of the antennas and radios. Geoff informed us that we only had about one hour as he had to go somewhere, which scuppered our plans a little – but these are things we have to overcome. We climbed the 80 steps and started on the antenna build. Splitting into 2 teams we set about it with the usual enthusiasm. Ant, Rob and Chris on the antenna and mast building, Tim and Oli on setting up the radios, laptops and rolling out the cable.

Rob started to put together the masts to support the Windom and Moseley TH33JR WARC. Ant and Chris put together the elements and beam, a task both have done on numerous occasions with this antenna. Within 30 minutes the antenna was ready to be put on the mast and lifted in to the air. The military mast to support the Windom was in place and just needed the antenna putting on and lifting in to position. Tim and Oli had the operating positions set up and we were ready to leave so we could finish off the following morning when we returned.

We took the lanes back to Rob’s farm where we had a much needed cup of tea – also known as a brew – and sat down to plan the remainder of the day. Again we got on the air using the 40M vertical and called CQ, another small pile up ensued and we worked a few more. Ant, Chris and Oli decided to make a nest of dipoles, Chris had made a centre piece and was eager to try it out. The wire was measured and cut to lengths for 80M and 40M, attached to the centre piece and strung up on Robs small tower (60ft when fully extended) at around the 30ft mark. It was then tuned and tested for both bands. We then had a problem with the roll of rope used for tying off the antenna so this was rolled on to a spare coax drum, all 150M of the stuff.

This antenna then gave us the facilities for getting on 80M and working a few more inter G contacts and a little DX on the Friday night – more later – so we then went and had another brew and to see how Rob and Tim were fairing with the pile ups on 40M. It was then a case of rotating the operators on 2 radios so we all had someone on air time on both 40M and 80M. Tim, Ant and Oli went into Goodwick to get some supplies for the weekend (Beer, wine and food –ingredients for one of Chris’ speciality dishes a Chilli). Rob had to do some work, after all it is a working farm we were on. Giving Chris time to catch up on a little sleep following his long journey and early start.

Friday evening arrived and the meal prepared and cooked. More contacts had been made and we stopped for a break to sit down and enjoy the good company and food. We also made plans for the group’s next couple of exploits in both the CQWW DX RTTY contest, the CQWW DX Phone contest and maybe an entry from a Welsh island in the IOTA contest 2009. The wine also flowed freely and some of the usual fun and games started – photographic evidence available upon request hi hi!

Along with the many European stations we were working on 40m were some nice signals calling in from Asiatic Russia around mid evening, UA9AX logged and not long after Central & South America started calling in with YY5LI in Venezuela among those. Tim decided to move up the band to 7.180 where a pile up continued to the United States, its surprising how many times we heard “Thanks for the new one” is Wales that rare on 40m? At this time we also worked A43LI Ras Ayqah lighthouse in Oman on 40m.

GB0SH on the air: Saturday 16th August

We arrived at the lighthouse Saturday morning to the wind and rain we had come to enjoy whilst doing this event – the first year it is sunny we will be confused and think it is the CQWW Phone contest in October and we have come to the wrong place! We firstly got the beam in the air, this needs all team members to do it safely and that no injuries occur. But when we connected the radio we found we had no signals and the SWR was sky high. We tested the coax cables – sadly we had left the antenna analyser at the farm when we made the dipoles – so we only had a continuity meter to test the cables. All coax was OK so we lowered the beam and tested all connections at the antenna. This showed the connector box was at fault, so this was removed and we connected the coax direct to the beam. When Chris inspected the connector box it was found that the coax had come away from the SO239 inside, and this was the cause. So it was left off, the antenna raised and we were on the air on 20M. This had cost us a good hour and half which we could have been making QSO’s, this is lesson #20 on the mistakes made – always check antennas and connections before going to the site!

Rob, Chris, Ant and Oli then put the Windom up and tested, all OK so station number 2 was up and running. Time for a well deserved brew and get in to the swing of each having 30 to 40 minutes on the radios. We stuck to 2 bands, 20M and 40M for most of the time with quick diversions to 15 and 10M on the beam, Ant also had a go on 17M but we found the bands not in that good condition.

As the day progressed we had some nice pile ups on both 20M and 40M. We managed to work a few lighthouses around the world, but conditions were not the best –but at this point in the solar cycle this can be expected. With having the facility of a multiband beam we also tried on all the bands between 20M and 10M with not much worked. 10M we had 3 contacts, one of which was with Italian lighthouse <insert details>. So we continued on 20M with short periods where we had no callers.

40M was more productive. As well as making contacts with Europe we also managed lots of inter-G contacts. This gave us the opportunity to work other UK lighthouses and give plenty of other callers a new country on 40M. Photos and video footage was shot, with the video footage uploaded to www.youtube.com that evening back at the farm under the GB0SH call.

Photos were taken for QSL’s and a website we are planning for the group. Ant made some short films using his mobile phone, which we uploaded that evening on to you tube for all to see. All too quickly it was 19:00 and time for us to leave, we decided to leave early and get back on the air at the farm, this year we didn’t have any one to bring the fish and chips for our evening meal. So again we climbed down from the island, taking some of the unused equipment so as to lighten the load the next day. The short drive in day light was welcoming as in previous years it has been gone midnight when we have left the light, but the call of the good food and a glass or two of wine was too great this year.

MC0SHL calling CQ

We returned to Rob’s farm where he kindly made a Spaghetti Bolognese. While he was cooking we each had a shower and got changed ready to have some more fun on the radio from here. A few CQ calls and the pile up started on 40M. A number of callers thanked us for the lighthouse number, where we had to correct them that we were not on the lighthouse at that time, and we decided to change the picture on QRZ.com from the lighthouse to a group shot. This we found stopped the confusion and not many more asked for the lighthouse reference number. We had a brief break for dinner and then fired up the 80M radio also. This also caused a small pile up of G and near Europe stations.

80M provided some fun, but again this was in short bursts rather than the pile ups we were experiencing on the 40M vertical. Rather than just making the standard rubber stamp/contest/dxpedition type of QSO we consciously decided to give the details of who was operating and our location, especially the WAB area, to all callers. As the night grew darker the propagation changed bringing a string of close European callers with the majority being DL. Again we had the “many thanks for the new band slot” comment, which made us think how rare Wales was on the lower bands.

Again we put the 40M vertical through its paces. This type of event is just what we needed to get all the club members focussed and ready for the upcoming CQWW Phone contest when we next meet. At one point we had to move frequency as the pile up for ZD8LP was only 1KHz down from us and we were struggling to hear our callers. Chris was operating at this time, so we set the K3 to the splits and called ZD8LP. First call and we were in the log, not bad for a quarter wave vertical with radials.

We continued to call on both bands and slowly we started to drift off to our beds. At 03:15 Chris eventually decided to call it a day and left Ant sleeping in the shack.

The following morning the early risers got on the air and made a few calls using the MC0SHL call before we again left for the short Drive to the lighthouse and to meet Geoff at 8am.

Last day on the air

The climb to the light does not get any easier. We got straight back on to the air and again had a small pile up for the lighthouse call. Many of the UK callers were people we worked the night before and were happy to get both calls in the log. The rain had stopped, but the wind was blowing quite strong but our guy ropes held strong. sunfish

Rob spotted a Sunfish in the waves just off the island, Chris took a photo to try and get the image on our next reprint of cards. There is a much and varied wild life in the area, with Seals and Dolphins regular visitors. Over the weekend a Porbeagle Shark had been seen in the harbour at Fishguard, this again is a rare occurrence as these fish live in the deeper waters, and are rarely seen close to the shore.

The morning went far too quickly and soon it was time to strip down the radios and antennas at 12:00 as arranged with Geoff. This went smoothly and before long it was time to do the reverse climb down off the island. This took a little longer than usual as we had to wait for the key to unlock the bridge gates. After loading the cars we returned to Robs for a much needed brew and to sort out who’s kit was what and load up the various vehicles.

We still managed to have a couple more hours on the air from the farm using MC0SHL. This again caused people to ask for the lighthouse reference number, but we explained that we were not in the light and we had to close down the GB0SH operation.

We first closed down 80M leaving Tim on the 40M station while we took down the 80M dipole and put Rob’s Windom back up on his tower. We eventually closed down and the final station in the log was G7AHW with a total worked by both stations of 1,961 logged QSOs. These break down as follows:

GB0SH 804 logged QSOs into 53 DXCC entities.268 different prefixes logged, with most being from Europe.

MC0SHL 1,157 logged QSOs into 63 DXCC entities.


The Strumble Head DX and contest group were 2 members down for the weekend, Charles M0OXO and Viliam OM0AAO who sadly both had prior commitments. We will be getting together again as a group at Rob’s farm at the end of October for the CQWW DX Phone contest where once again we will have to have a few beers, glasses of wine and good food. This accompanied with good friends and even better company makes for a week of fun on the radio.

The reason we set up the station at Robs this weekend was to test out a home made antenna for the contest. This worked better than we expected with the above facts and figures as proof. Logs will be loaded onto LOTW for both calls and we will be QSL’ing as the cards are requested. Bureau or direct.

A website for the Strumble Head DX and Contest group has been set up, www.mc0shl.com, which will have full details, photos and profiles of each member. We look forward to working you all again from one of our sojourns on the air. And don’t forget we all are active and would like to hear from you if you hear us calling.

Chris Colclough Tim Beaumont