Start: 08-09-2013 End: 14-09-2013, IOTA: OC012, Island: Tarawa
For the second time I wanted to go to the Pacific to activate one or two islands. For quite some time I explored locations, flight schedules, accommodations and also took uniqueness of local cultural or traditions in consideration. I finally chose Yap Island, part of the Federated States of Micronesia, as the prime destination because it is unique for its stone money and their outstanding navigation skills, which were my personal interests for this trip. To reach Yap I had to fly via Palau and made it an easy choice to be my second destination for this trip. The initial plan was a two and a half week tour but was cut short for personal reasons at the start of my trip.
The final planning and organization of a trip like this is not always a sequential process but sometimes many parallel actions have to be executed. Booking flights, accommodation, transportation, etc. should all fit together. Yap can be reached by airplane from two directions; Guam and Palau. For reason of preferring to fly by KLM, my route was from Amsterdam to Seoul and by Korean Air from Seoul to Palau (twice a week). This left the last stretch from Palau to Yap by United Airlines which is flying once a week. Now it was a matter of booking the flights which I do all by myself (I don’t make use of travel agents). The flight to Yap needed an early booking as flights were quickly fully booked. I prepared the flight bookings for Korean and United in two different browser sessions and hit the final booking button of each within a second. This could hopefully avoid having a confirmed flight for only one airline. In my case that was the case. KLM flies daily to Seoul so there was not a problem.
Accommodation was provisionally booked, pending flight confirmations so everything was no ready for further preparation and action.
I used my packing list from the 2009 DXpedition as the starting point. Most materials on the list would be needed also for this trip but some major parts could be removed such as the T-Match and the 12 m fiber pole which was together some KG’s. Further I did reorganize my hardware tool kit. I also had to arrange another soldering iron as the local power voltage was 110VAC for which I don’t have tools. I did purchase a 12VDC soldering iron which I could directly connect to my power supply.
An important improvement was on my antenna box. In 2009 I used quite hard polystyrene foam to separate the elements and traps of the R7+ vertical, but they were all broken after I returned home. This time I used a kind of soft foam which could not break and afterwards it turned out to be the right choice.
For the right location on Yap Island I searched the villages and settlements via Google Earth in order to find a suitable locations. Obviously the right place is a combination of 24 hours power, possible low QRM level, good take off to Europe,etc. Apart from using Google Earth, I also got in contact with Haru, JA1XGI who was on Yap before. He gave me detailed information and a picture of the place from where he operated. This all together gave me enough input to choose for Village View hotel on the north-eastern island of Maap. The disadvantage was that it was rather remote and no internet in the rooms besides not having roaming for my mobile phone.
For my activity on Palau it was a very easy arrangement. The VIP Hotel in Koror offers the use of their radio station when you book a room.
When flying to Palau I had a 10 hour stop in Seoul. When waiting there I got an update on activities after my DXpedition trip that made me decide to shorten my DXpedition. I had to rebook my flights back from Palau to Seoul and Amsterdam and fortunately enough time to do so.
On Sunday September 8 I departed Palau at 01:20 AM and arrived at Yap airport after 1 hour flight at 03:25 AM local time. There were no issues to pass customs and outside the airport building I was welcomed by Mr. Al Ganang, the owner of Village View hotel. In pitch dark we drove slowly across the entire island and an hour later we arrived at my chalet. I badly needed some sleep and set my alarm clock at 08:00 AM. I started the morning with a good breakfast from the small restaurant that belongs to the diving center next to the 5 chalets of the hotel. I started to assemble the vertical antenna and placed it with the help of Al on a suitable place at the edge of the beach near to the chalet. I needed only one length of coax cable to reach the radio inside the room. Around 12 AM the station was up and running and I started to work the pile ups. Signals were very weak but very workable.
The next day I went to the capital Colonia for shopping but also to visit the Telecom Office to buy a local SIM card. I had e-mail exchange with the Telecom Office before my departure about having internet access via a local SIM card. Although the card was working for phone calls, internet didn’t work and finally I also experienced very poor reception at the Village View hotel. The result was no phone connections and no internet. The only e-mail contact I had was when visiting an internet café in Colonia, which did a few times only. A trip to Colonia could take between 30-60 minutes (one-way) and I was relying on available transport from the hotel. Sammy the technician of the dive center and his wife Rosie who is running the restaurant, were always ready to take me with them to Colonia when needed. On September 9 I decided to relocate the vertical in order to improve the signal. I fixed to vertical to a bamboo pole of about 2 meter long and placed it in the water with the help of Sammy. We did this at low tide so we only had to work in a shallow water. For me it was difficult to measure the difference but since the antenna was now freer of surrounding objects and in the middle of salty water, it must have been an improvement. To my fear I heard the wind starting to become a storm and was afraid that the antenna would collapse. There was nothing I could do as it was high tide and dark. Fortunately, the antenna survived the storm.
The next day I suddenly got a “ERR 12V!” error in the display of the K3 and the power reduced to 10W only. Since I had no internet, I could not look up what the cause could be. First I thought it may be a kind of HF interference and started to relocate the power supply and coax cable. Nothing helped and sometimes the power came back again. Till the end of the DXpedition I had to cope with the situation that I had sometimes only 10W. Later when back home I found that this error is caused by bad connectors of the HF amplifier.
I have also taken the opportunity to see the remains of the fantastic traditions of Yap. The stone money is unique for the island and still in use for traditional ceremonies. The stone disks, varying in size up to 2.5 meters, were carved out from quarries on Palau and then transported on bamboo rafts, towed by sailing boats to Yap, a journey of 1000 kms. The stone disk will be place somewhere in a village or along a path and will remain there. The owner of the disk may change, but not the place. I was lucky that I could join some of the local villagers on a short sailing trip. This was done by a canoe that is made the same way as they have done hundreds of years ago. Yap people are known in the world as the best navigators of the Pacific. I could also witness a traditional dance ceremony in a neighboring village.
On September 14 I dismantled the station and made everything ready for the return flight to Palau where I would stay for one more day before flying back to Amsterdam.