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The Decca and visitors

May 17th, 2014 | Posted by M1ACB in General | Isle of Lewis - (1 Comments)

Our home for our week on the Isle of Lewis was The Decca, owned by Pete and Louise.

We couldn’t have picked a better location and couldn’t have been made more welcome. We did wonder if 13 radio amateurs arriving with so much equipment, taking over the garden for antennas and ‘re-modelling’ the houses for the shacks, would have been too much for our hosts – but we couldn’t have been more wrong. We were welcomed by Pete and Louise when we arrived and told to do whatever we needed to do to make our trip a success. They let us take down all of the washing lines in the garden, so that we could guy the masts, they turned a blind eye when we distributed the living furniture around the house to make room for the HF stations, they laughed and got used to their touch-switch bedroom lights going on and off in the middle of the night when we went on 80m and they switched off their solar panels and everything else in the house when we tried to find the source of some noise (it was one of our own laptop power supplies). It was excellent accommodation, in a great location, with fantastic hosts. We’d like to thank them for their hospitality and recommend that any other groups going to Lewis give them a call.

Decca ShackDecca Aerials

 

Before it’s retirement in 2000, The Decca was part of the Hebridean Chain of the Decca Navigation System.

The Decca Navigator System was a hyperbolic radio navigation system which allowed ships and aircraft to determine their position by receiving radio signals from fixed navigational beacons. The system used low frequencies from 70 to 129 kHz. It was first deployed by the Royal Navy during World War II when the Allied forces needed a system which could be used to achieve accurate landings. After the war it was extensively developed around the UK and later used in many areas around the world.

Norman Smith

Norman Smith

We were visited by many local and visiting radio amateurs during the week, just wanting to say hello, swap stories and see what we were doing.

On our last day, we were really lucky to be visited by a very interesting local resident, Norman Smith from Lionel, Ness. Norman worked at the Decca station for all of its operational life from 1954 to 2000 after being a ships radio officer. He told us about the 185 foot masts which were at the station and the 300 foot mast which was nearby. He explained that the main house in the centre of the building used to be the main radio operations building, with the houses either side being accommodation for the Station Engineer and the 2nd Engineer. He was able to tell us about the earth mat which is still below the ground which we had been wondering about all week.

It was really nice to meet Norman, who celebrated his 90th birthday with a meal at The Decca a few weeks earlier, and we’re very grateful that he took the time to come a visit us.

6m and 4m at GS3PYE/P

May 2nd, 2014 | Posted by M1ACB in Isle of Lewis - (0 Comments)

Gav M1BXF is a big fan of VHF, so he always takes the opportunity to improve the 6m and 4m stations each year for GS3PYE/P. Most of his shack made the trip up to the Isle of Lewis this year and you can see him at work in the pictures below :

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The antennas for 6m and 4m with the 2m and 23cm EME system in the background : Lewis64-3

Bob G1SAA put together a great ‘portable’ satellite station for the trip to Lewis. Bob, Pete 2E0SQL and Mark M0MJH  have been working many of the passes on  AO-7 (mode B), VO-52, FO-29, SO-50 & AO-73 :

Satellite-1 Satellite-2 Satellite-3 Satellite-4

VHF & EME Stations in Flossie

May 1st, 2014 | Posted by M1ACB in Isle of Lewis - (2 Comments)

This year again, we have the higher band stations based in Flossie.

Gav M1BXF and John G4BAO both put in many weeks of preparations for that stations before we left for Lewis and the photographs below show just how much equipment they brought to support the 6m, 4m, 2m & 23cm stations.

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There are also frequent dashes outside to cover the various pieces of equipment when the rains comes. This is Gav and John covering the 23cm EME equipment in some very strong winds. You can see the bend on the 2m and 23cm EME beams as the wind blows in from the left.

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Gav M1BXF and John G4BAO have spent many hours alone outside in Flossie doing some really great work on the higher bands, but the isolation from the rest of the group doesn’t seem to have affected them at all  …..   😉

 

GS3PYE/P EME on 2m and 23cm

April 30th, 2014 | Posted by M1ACB in Isle of Lewis - (0 Comments)

John G4BAO spent a long time preparing the Earth-Moon-Earth (EME) 2m and 23cm systems before we left Cambridge and now he’s in his element working people ‘off the moon’ from the Isle of Lewis.

These pictures were taken of John attempting some CW EME contacts on 23cm this afternoon :

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John G4BAO operating the 2m and 23cm EME system in Flossie, with the 6m and 4m stations to his left.

 

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GS3PYE/P 2m and 23cm EME antennas in operation on the Isle of Lewis.

 

Photographs from our GS6PYE/P activation of the Shiant Isles (EU-112) on 28 April 2014.
The operators were Dom M0BLF, Rob M0VFC and Steve M1ACB.

The radios were a pair of Icom IC-706MkIIG’s.
The antennas were a quarter wave vertical for 20m and a vertical dipole for 15m.

We made 1136 contacts on the 20m and 15m bands.

Photos of the activation are available here : https://www.flickr.com/search/?q=ShiantsDX2014

Rob M0VFC and Dom M0BLF operating from the Shepherds Hut on the Shiants :

The trip back was a bit bumpy …

 

A windy day on Lewis

April 30th, 2014 | Posted by M1ACB in Isle of Lewis - (0 Comments)

There’s a cold, blustery wind on the Isle of Lewis today and we noticed the Spiderbeam spinning on the mast when we got up this  morning. So, the working party went out before breakfast to lower the mast, remove the Spiderbeam, remove the rotator, replace the Spiderbeam and put the mast back up again. A few more adjustments were necessary to the mast holding the 15m beam, but all is well now and we’re on the air again from most of the stations.

Everyone inside again for coffee and bacon rolls.

 

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Rob M0VFC adjusts the Spiderbeam at GS3PYE/P

This morning a group of thirteen operators will be heading off to the Isle of Lewis via Fort William during our travels you will be able to track us on APRS but also we’ll be operating HF mobile while on route (Recommend watching the DX Cluster and Twitter).


http://aprs.fi/#!mt=roadmap&z=11&call=a%2FM0VFC-9%2Ca%2FM0BLF-9%2Ca%2FG1SAA-9%2Ca%2FG0DDX-9

We should arrive on the Island on Saturday the 26th and be on air soon after, we will be covering the HF bands with five simultaneous stations, while the 6m & 4m stations will have a great take-off towards the UK and Europe from the island’s northern tip in IO68 square. All stations will be able to run at the full UK power limit.

EME operations will use 150W to 55 elements on 23cm and 400W to 17 elements on 2m. Primarily on JT65 but also available for CW skeds – if your station is big enough.

Satellite operations on 2m & 70cm will use X-Quad antennas and a fully automatic Az/El tracking system.

Contest operations will take place in the RSGB 70MHz UKAC on 29 April.

A number of the group hope to make an extra trip to operate as GS6PYE/P from the Shiant Isles (EU-112). They are aiming for afternoon/early evening operations on 28 April, but may switch to 30 April if the weather is bad.

We will be doing our best to share as much information as possible about the operation on the blog, but also Twitter (#Lewis2014), Facebook and Youtube.

We are rapidly approaching leaving for the Isle of Lewis and my inbox has regularly been getting requests for satellite QSO skeds especially with stations in North America – I’ve just run the predictions for the week we’re on the island in SatPC32 which has generated a nice list of possible passes which can be found at https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B_1dHk8Yo754eHlkTlhBQmRsam8/edit

I’d recommend if you’d like to try a sked that you try request  satellite passes from Sunday the 27th onwards, clearly its dependant on someone being available but we’ll do our best to make sure someone’s available.

You can request satellite skeds by either emailing us at skeds-2014@camb-hams.com or sending @2e0sql a tweet. We will do our best to tweet which passes we will be on.

This year we have decided to improve upon our satellite operations from the Isle of Lewis, the original plan was to use a simple setup of a Yaesu FT-817 and a Arrow satellite yagi – although this setup works amazingly well as we proved last year on the Isle of Mull it does have the downside of making you stand outside in all weathers, and this year we are further north!

photo of the Wimo X-Quads setup for testing in G1SAAs garden.

Wimo X-Quads setup for testing in G1SAAs garden

So this year we plan to trial Bob G1SAA’s satellite equipment from the island, the new station comprises Wimo X-Quads for 2m and 70cms with SSB electronic Preamps (SP-2000/SP-7000) and a Yaesu G-5400B Az/EL rotator supported on a speaker stand.

Inside the shack we’ll be using a Foxdelta ST-2 tracker (LVB Clone) connected to the rotator & ICOM IC-910 transceiver, this will all be controlled using a laptop running SatPC32.

We’ve had a number of people asking what satellites we will be using, these will be the ones we target;

Satellite Uplink (MHz) Downlink (MHz) Mode(s ) Website
AO-7 (Mode B) 432.125 – 432.175 145.975 – 145.925 SSB / CW http://goo.gl/s2p4za
VO-52 435.225 – 435.275 145.925 – 145.875 SSB / CW http://goo.gl/wk7R1v
FO-29 145.900 – 146.000 435.900 – 435.800 SSB / CW http://goo.gl/IjuHUq
SO-50 145.850 436.800 FM http://goo.gl/ibjXyx
AO-73 435.150 – 435.130 145.970 – 145.950 SSB / CW http://goo.gl/wqq7Rt

All bar one of these are SSB/CW transponder satellites, see the AMSAT guide on linear transponder operating if you are unfamiliar with it, although our main focus will be SSB QSOs we can probably do CW as well however we’d recommend that you send in a sked, or ask on hf, so that we can make sure a suitable operator is available.

Of course if any other satellites with transponders become available we’ll of course endeavour to use those as well. And I’m sure you’ll still hear us using our Yaesu FT-817s and a Arrow satellite yagis if the weather is nice.