Isle of Islay – 6-13 May 2017

For 2017, the Camb-Hams are going to the Island of Islay which lies 120Km west of Glasgow and just SW of Jura.



We plan to travel to the stop-over in Dumbarton on Friday 5th May where we will catch up with friends, get a meal out and get the food first thing the following morning and are then heading to Kennacraig for the ferry to Islay.  We won’t be in the cottage till after 3pm so don’t expect too much activity on Saturday 6th.

We will then be QRV through the week before dismantling the stations on Friday 12th.


Activity wise we plan to have the usual.

  • HF bands from 80m and 40m through 10m will be covered with 4 or 5 stations , all capable of running the legal power limit using linear amplifiers
  • 6m, 4m and 2m again all at legal limit
    • 6m running frequency: 50.285 MHz (for data)
    • 4m running frequency: 70.220 MHz (due to QRM centred around 70.280)
    • 2m running frequency: 144.365 MHz (for data)
  • 2m and 70cm satellites

Equipment wise, here’s a taster:

  • HF
    • 5 * Elecraft K3 transceivers
    • 1 * Icom IC-7300 transceiver
    • 6 * Elecraft KPA-500 amplifiers
    • 5B4AGN and DuneStar transmitting band-pass filters
    • Hexbeam for 20m – 10m
    • G4ERO homebrew 20m mono-bander
    • 1/4 verticals and horizontal dipoles on 80, 40 and 30m
    • Vertical dipoles on 17 and 15m
  • VHF 6m
    • Icom IC-7300
    • Yaesu VL-1000 “Quadra” linear
    • 6 element YU7EF wide spaced
  • VHF 4m
    • Icom IC-7300
    • 600W homebrew 6m/4m solid-state linear
    • 7 element YU7EF wide spaced
  • VHF 2m
  • Satellites
    • Icom IC-910 transceiver
    • Wimo 2m & 70cm X-Quads
    • SSB Electronics Preamps
    • Yaesu G-5500 computer controlled rotator system (PCSat32)


Location Details


In the past, especially Arran, we didn’t have the best location for VHF. This year however the opposite is true.

Here is the horizon, as seen from 40ft up at the cottage (note the upper orange line is 1deg);


Using ‘SRTM Path Profile’ this is what the coverage looks like for an HT at 2m above ground, bodes well for beams at 40ft.



Throughout the week, Geoff G0DDX has been busy activating many of the Worked All Britain (WAB) squares around Islay. These are the 10*10km squares on the Ordnance Survey mapping system covering the UK.

Some squares are easy to reach – GS3PYE/P is in NR36, for example. Others require driving along some more exciting roads and farm tracks, and Geoff has activated many of these, and continues to do so.

Then there’s NR33:

With the nearest road about 4km away, and and with only a few square metres of dry land (none at the highest tides!), it needed a fair walk in through the scrub, with not even a footpath to follow. Challenged by Voi G0BOE back home in Cambridge, Colin G4ERO, Dom M0BLF and Rob M0VFC decided to activated the square yesterday – assuming we could get to it, which wasn’t a certainty!

When we got there, there was plenty of dry rock to get a couple of dipoles up, and we got both 30m CW and 40m SSB stations on air:

As well as the WAB square, we also activated SOTA summit GM/SI-201 on the way back to the car park, making for a nice day’s walk:

VHF Station Going Well

The VHF station has been running well since the day we arrived.  It was setup and making QSO’s by 19:00z on Saturday.

The VHF Antennas

As usual, the Camb-Hams trailer mast has been used for the VHF antennas. The G1000 rotator is in a cage this year to help reduce the strain on it, especially when lidting to the vertical position.

From bottom to top the antennas are;

  • 6m:  6ele YU7EF EF0606
  • 2m: 17ele Tonna + DG8 preamp
  • 4m: 7ele YU7EF EF0707

4m and 2m are fed by LBC-400 coax, and 6m is using H2020 coax.

2017-05-06 19.53.10-2

The VHF Operating Position

The VHF desk runs all 3 VHF bands, at the same time usually.  The setup here is;

2017-05-09 21.19.13

To work 3 stations there is a need for 2 laptops + a 21” monitor, The monitor allows 2 MSHV windows (2m + 6m) to be shown side-by side, with the main laptop display to be used for KST chat and other computer activities. The 3rd MSHV (4M) window is running on the netbook (above the Pro3).

At the time of writing this, on VHF we have made 96 QSOs; 42 on 6m, 14 on 4m and 40 on 2m, including 16 on 2m EME.


Since we’ve had some excellent weather this week, G4ERO, M0BLF and M0VFC activated SOTA GM/SI-099. Like all summits on Islay, it’s a 1-pointer, but requires quite a long walk-in. There’s no footpath most of the way, so navigation was mostly an exercise in avoiding the thickest scrub, deepest bogs, and unnecessary loss of height.


It was G4ERO’s first SOTA activation. We put up a 30m dipole, allowing us all to qualify the summit under our own calls on CW. 2m FM also got us each a QSO with GS3PYE/P back at the main station, and MM1BXF/P who was fishing nearby.

9km walking for one point wasn’t as good value as many other summits, but it’d only been activate on one date previously, so good to get it on air again.

Here is a panorama of Loch Leathan M1BXF was fishing in. He caught 16 trout and put them all back, the biggest was around 11” long.

2017-05-07 15.14.10