V6Z   2016   DXpedition

Chuuk 2016 - the story of V6Z - 17th October to 1st November 2016

 After an eventful but ultimately successful DXpedition as V6Z in April 2015, we decided to return to V6 and the same location for another Pacific adventure. Our usual April DXpedition window which we have followed for several years, was not feasible for Keith this year, but we managed to make plans to travel in mid-October 2016.

The Pacific?

Well, what’s not to like! The Pacific is magic, especially for us North-Western Europeans. It really is a fantastic part of the world to visit, apart from the ham radio. We also thought that this could be the last year in this Solar Cycle for the possibility of decent high band propagation from such a remote location (from an EU perspective!).

Same location?

We have always enjoyed going to new places and will again, in the future, but we were so impressed with this location in 2015, and realized its potential for some interesting antenna installation, that we thought we’d like to go back, especially to take in the CQWWSSB contest, as Keith was able to manage a time window to fit with this event. CQWWCW was not possible. Despite the horrible experience we had last year, with Typhoon Maysak, we thought we would give this location another spin.

(Plans for) the trip

We again covered the bands from 160m to 10m although we did not have a licence for 60m. The lower solar flux and late October time slot had an effect on propagation. We hoped that the high bands co-operated with us but we expected that 10m and probably 12m would not be as reliable as 2015, and so it was. Of course, we try to take advantage of as many openings as we can, but there are only two of us and, despite our routine, well described from previous expeditions, of keeping at least one station on the air at all times, we still need to sleep and eat! We reckon we average about 5hrs sleep each per day – which is not really enough and we are very tired towards the end of our expeditions. We were also mindful that we aimed at a serious entry in the M2 category of the CQWWSSB Contest over our last weekend. We did prioritized 80m and 160m even more in 2016, after 2015’s success, despite many being disappointed.

Antennas       

Our location at the Blue Lagoon resort is excellent and affords some interesting opportunities for antennas. It was by good chance we chose this place last year, and originally had requested rooms in a different part of the resort, but due to room renovation, we were put in the most Southerly rooms which allowed access to a peninsula of land maybe 100m N-S and 50m E-W running out into the lagoon. This proved to be a great move but to take advantage of this location you need LOTS of coax. We traded off weight saved by taking a lighter amplifier (thanks to Colin, GM0RLZ for lending us his Expert 1.3) and only one fibreglass pole, against taking much more coax cable and a second remote coax switch. We still maxed out our baggage allocation to the last gram!!!

Both East and West shorelines have multiple overhanging coconut palms and we planned to hang most of our antennas out over the salt water lagoon. We did this to a limited extent in 2015, on the eastern shore, and the results to North and South America and long path into Europe were outstanding with simple vertical dipoles. In 2015 we used our usual vertical Moxon antennas along the western shore. This year, we hung vertical 2el yagis for 10, 12, 15, 17 & 20m out over the lagoon on the west side for Asia, Europe and Africa. On the east side there is more vegetation, despite Typhoo Maysak’s best efforts to rip everything out by its roots!, and the trees are lower, but we put 2el vertical yagis for 10 and 15m whilst on 12, 17 and 20m it was verticals – all out over the lagoon. We had a 40m vertical on each shoreline. 30m was a vertical and a half-square – the latter did not work well. We used a separate T-vertical for 80m on the lagoon edge with radials out over the salt water, and an inverted L on 160m. Installation took a day longer at least but we reckon it was worth it.

Contests

Being a rare multiplier in a big contest is great fun, but there are a few problems.  With limited power output and wire antennas, even if they have some gain or directivity, it can be very difficult to control a pile-up sufficiently to make QSOs at a good rate. This is compounded by the fact that it is virtually impossible to work split in CQ WW SSB.

The contest was great fun although there were rarely times when it was possible to run on two bands. 10m was extremely patchy with weak signals and QSB to NA and even the opening to JA was rather intermittent for us. 15m was as reliable as ever and we found some good propagation into EU on 20m but this is often a battle due to high QRM levels in EU and our openings coinciding with the path to NA from EU. On SSB the low bands are never easy from a DX location in contests.

Post script

Our final QSO total for the DXpedition (incl CQ WW SSB – 4450 QSOs) was about 18000 QSOs, which we are quite pleased with given the poor propagation, especially in the second week. 10m was not so bad on the first few days of our trip but was poor at the end and in the contest. We had much better results on 160 an 80m compared to all our previous trip – of course we spent more time there too. We used a couple of unterminated, quite short beverages for NA and EU and these were a real game changer for us. With these and dedicated vertical antennas on 80m and 160m, things went fairly well on those bands.