I had the opportunity to spend two weeks of vacation with my family on the Paradise Island in the Bahamas. This is such a lovely and unique place, that it's hard to explain in words. In this article I'd like to share my radio related experiences and will not write too much about the island and the holiday complex itself, but in case of interest you may google around a bit to find out more about this special place on Earth. It is definitely a mighty candidate for any bucket lists.
Right after I've received my original callsign HB9GIU, I've immediately applied for a local callsign for the Bahamas. It was not at all difficult or bureaucratic to request, but it took much longer to obtain than expected. I've received an electronic copy of the C6ABD licence roughly one week prior to our trip, while the original one will reach me now by post only when I'm back home.
Based on the suggestion of HA7GN, the original plan was that I'm going to participate on the ARRL's DX SSB contest from the Bahamas. Since it is organized during the weekend of 4-5 March, just in the middle of our vacations, it appeared to be an excellent opportunity indeed. However, as the trip was approaching, it bacame soon clear to me that I won't be able to build up sufficient SSB operating experience on time, to be able to take on such a challenge in an enjoyable manner. I am very new to ham radio in general, and hardly had a few SSB contacts so far. Being able to manage pile-up's, operating in an appropriate manner and according to the contest rules, continuously logging everything, not to sleep for two days :) require more than I'm currently ready for. I'll park this challenge for a later time in the future.
Due to the above, I've decided to remain at casual operations and in digital modes only.
The list of equipment I've taken with me are as follows:
- FT-991a rig
- MFJ-4230MVP power supply (excellent pair for the rig and for this purpose as it's very compact, works both in EU with 220-230V EU as well as in the US/Bahamas with 110V)
- MFJ-1622 apartment antenna for 40 - 2 meters (great to easily install on the balcony of the hotel room)
- A Lambda / 4 homebrew vertical for the 20 m band we've put together with HA7GN back in Hungary (a fishing rod, an L-profile aluminum rod, 4 radial wires, 1 active wire, 1 coax connector, and many cable zippers)
- RigExpert AA-54 Antenna analyser
- A macbook with fldigi installed
- A Heil Sound head-set and a foot-switch
I had some initial concerns how to take all of these to the flight:
But finally everything important fit into one carry-on bag. The fishing rod was travelling as a separate check-in luggage, while the aluminum mounting frame for the MFJ-1622 came with the clothes.
We had two connecting flights, with multiple security controls. Of course, all the equipment were carefully checked several times, but I have to say everything went quite smoothly and without any bigger problems. One of the smaller hiccups was, that they took away one pack of the cable zippers, the longer ones, which I do miss a bit. But luckily I had a few more pieces around the cables (in the same bag actually...), and also some shorter ones in my travel bag. Learning is nevertheless that it's better to put such zippers into the check-in luggage and not to take on board.
The fishing rod was "lost" in Nassau for half an hour or so, but finally it was found as well. It turned out to be useful to have a picture on my phone showing how it was exactly packed and looked like, which they could use to locate it easier based on their security recordings.
In the first few days, I've installed only the MFJ-1622 on the balcony of the hotel room:
Obviously such a small antenna has its own limitations, but I could use it very well on both 20 and 40 meters, without any hassle. I think it's a great piece of engineering and can only recommend for similar use-cases and when limited space is an issue.
The Paradise Island is a big complex with three huge hotels, waterparks and beautiful beaches, and I did have some concerns how to find a good place to set up the vertical antenna. It should have electricity available, but not too many people around. At the end, it did not take too long to find this watchtower, which is the most perfect shack I could have ever imagined:
This is not only gorgeous, but also has electricity inside, as well as chairs and desk. It is located in one of the furthest edges of the complex, with hardly any people around, and the antenna could be erected on a hill, next to bushes with no trespassing. Almost too perfect to be true.
When I've asked the managers what if I'd use my radio there, they had absolutely nothing against and were very helpful. The crew inside the watch-tower was on duty till 16:30 the day I set up my antenna there the first time, and the whole place was "my own" afterwards. It was an unforgettable experience to operate from there. Thank you for all the excellent QSOs guys!
By the time I'm writing this article, the half of the vacation is still to come, and I'm very excited to go back to air a few more times from this wonderful place.
Some more photos are available on QRZ.COM.