Start: 23-11-2022 End: 03-12-2022 IOTA: AF057, Island: Nosy Be
This DXpedition by Ronald PA3EWP, Günter DL2AWG, Erno DK2AMM and Gerben PG5M was originally planned for 10-23 November but canceled last moment due to one of the operators was tested positive for Covid. We were actually already on our way to the airport. Going with just 3 operators was not a good option due to all the equipment that had to be rearranged.
For the afore mentioned reason, we decided to ask a 5th operator to join which would give us more flexibility in case again someone would become ill. We found Johannes PA5X ready to join the team. Once we were all healthy again we could schedule new dates for the DXpedition which became November 21st till December 3rd. Although we had left the suitcases packed, we had to rearrange some of the materials now we had more luggage to carry.
We all travelled first by car to the airport at Frankfurt. From there we flew via Addis Abeba to the airport on Nosy Be. After arrival we had to do the formalities and had no issues to get all our equipment through customs. Outside the airport terminal we were greeted by the driver of the mini bus that was pre-arranged. It was a typical African situation where most of the suitcases were place on top of the bus and securely tightened with a rope. First we had to go the Hellville, the biggest town on the island. Half way we stopped at a hardware store to buy a 6 meters long steel pipe that would serve as the mast for our 6m yagi. From there we continued on a very bumpy road with every 50 meters huge potholes. I was really afraid that our suitcases would fall of the roof, but fortunately that did not happen.
In Hellville we bought a data-SIM card for our MiFi router, which would provide us internet access in our accommodation. Once the card was inserted in the device and activated, we were sure that it worked properly. Next we travelled to our hotel, a one-hour drive.
We arrived at the hotel around 17:45 local time. We had only 30 minutes before it would be dark, so we immediately started to install our 30m vertical antenna. That would allow us to have already one station on the air. Both radio stations were setup next to each other on a long table in the living room. Later we all went to the restaurant to have dinner and after that most of us went for well deserved sleep, except for one operator.
Our accommodation was a house with 4 bedrooms, a living room, toilet and bathroom. It was approx. 50 meters away from the main building. Along the walkway between the two, there were three concrete pillars having a light in top. We quickly concluded that these pillars were ideal to attach our masts or Spiderpoles to.
The next day we started to build up the other antennas and our plan was to have the Hexbeam and DX Commander ready first. The Hexbeam was placed on top of a 6 meter aluminum mast and fixed to one of the concrete pillars. After the 6m yagi was assembled, it was placed on the 6 meter steel pipe and attached to one of the other pillars. Around 11:00 local time, the 3 antennas were installed and ready for use.
In the afternoon the 80m vertical was installed (also using a concrete pillar) and the radials spread all over the area.
During the dinner in the restaurant, we got heavy rain and thunder but it lasted not too long. There were also some short power outages.
The owner of the hotel was rather impressed that 5 guys coming to Nosy Be with all their equipment and making contacts with people all over the world, so he wanted to show this to all his guest. He organized for the next day a drink at the bar after which the guest could come to our place to see what we were doing. It was a funny situation.
We had now two station on the air on 80-10m with CW, SSB, FT8 and RTTY.
In the morning Johannes started to assemble the QO-100 satellite station which we had on loan from PE1COM. Around 11:00 local time and made already some 200 QSO’s!
Next we started to install the 160m antenna. This was a top loaded vertical provided by Martin PA4WM. We decided for a location for the vertical and jointly erected the 18 meter tall Spiderpole and fixed the guy wires and the topload wires. The radials were again spread over the whole area and informed the staff of the hotel to watch out for the many wires.
Just when we were running a nice pile up on 160m, suddenly the SWR was very high. We went outside to see what was happening. This was difficult in the dark but we quickly found that one of the topload wires was broken. That was a real pity as we had to wait till the next morning before we could repair.
In the morning we created a new toploading for the 160m vertical. We used some of our radials to be able to create the two wires. With the new wires for the top loading, we had no further problems and the 160m vertical served us till the end.
Because of having interference issues with some bands (amplifiers going into protection), we had the idea to install a sloping dipole for 40m behind the swimming pool. That was some 100 meters away from our accommodation at a sloping terrain. We took one of the 160m radials to construct a dipole. The higher part was fixed to the fence of the pool and the lower part was fixed to a tree some 15 meters below. After a small adjustment, we had a perfect SWR of 1.07 on 7010 kHz. After the 100 meter long coax was connected we measured the resonance at 7.055 kHz, which was perfect.
With this new 40m antenna we could much better combine some bands which made us more productive.
Funny thing was that in the evening the Christmas-like decoration lights at the pool area of the hotel were flashing and you could clearly see that is was CW! The owner of the hotel did not recognize that it came from our operation.
This dipole turned out to be a great addition as it was much more quite and in some cases we could use it as a receiving antenna only. For 40m this dipole was used often, instead of the DX Commander, the latter much closer to the other antennas. The 40m dipole could also be used on 15m and we even were using the dipole and Hexbeam on 15m at the same time, without any interference!
This was a day with our normal operating schedule, like during the previous days except there was no work on antenna’s etc.
We were using the IC7300 for the 6m station but due to lack of propagation we also used it as a FT8 station on the available bands (the other two stations had priority).
The team wanted to explore a bit more of the environment and therefore we arrange a trip to one of the smaller islands. During the boat trip to the island we did some snorkeling and on the island we visited one of the small villages. We distributed some books, pencils, etc. for the small children of the village. Further we visited a medical clinic where we donated medicines and other medical supplies. The trip was concluded with a local lunch on the beach, before heading back to the hotel to continue our operations.
Now we had made our phone contact on QO-100, it was time to also make CW QSOs. The whole QO-100 was a last minute arrangement before departure, so CW facilities were not included. In order to operate CW, we needed an interface between the laptop and the satellite transceiver. We had a spare microHam USB Interface III, but the DB15 cable was in use by one of the other stations. Because we are radio amateurs,we wired the interface connection with materials we had in our spare parts box. Some small wires, 2 alligator clips and a spare 3.5mm cable did the job. With that we could run N1MM and make CW QSO’s!
This was yet another day with our operating schedule.
Since had no propagation on 6m, we decided to take down the 6m yagi to give us more time for the other antennas the next day.
During the day, the operators that were not on duty, started to take down the 160m vertical and packed the Spiderpole, guywires and matching unit. Collecting all the radials and coiling them for packing was a time consuming exercise.
We also started to dismantle the QO-100 station and did the packing. Johannes had made a special wooden case for the dish which was packed together with the 6m yagi.
Just before sunset, we took down the Hexbeam. Dismantling the Hexbeam and mast was done during darkness but with the lights in the concrete pillar and using headlamps. After dinner I took down the DX Commander and packed it into the travel case. This left us with the 30m vertical, 80m vertical and the 40m dipole.
Around 6AM local time we started to take down the remaining antennas. At the same time we started to dismantle the 2 radio stations and did the packing. Around 10:30 AM the job was done and went to the swimming pool to take a refreshing dive, complimented with a nice drink.
After we all took a shower and dressed for the trip back home, we met the taxi who started to pack all our cases in his mini bus. After a farewell to the hotel staff, we started a one hour drive to the airport. After a not too difficult check-in and customs formalities, we were ready to board the plane.
With a stopover in Addis Abeba, we arrived next morning in Frankfurt where we took our cars for the last stretch.
Our combined effort resulted in 37,637 QSO’s on CW, SSB, RTTY, FT4 and FT8.
2x Elecraft K3
2x microHam interfaces
2x SPE Expert 1.3K-FA amplifiers
1x Icom 7300 (spare)
1x Hexbeam 20-10m
1x DX Commander 40-10m
1x 30m vertical with elevated radials
1x 40m dipole
1x 80m vertical
1x 160m vertical
1x 6m 6 element yagi
1x QO100 satellite station
470m coax cable