By Tom Kravec, W8TK
CCC is like an iceberg. Most of us see the tip. That's the radio fun, sun, and great food and fellowship while in PJ2 or the stateside fun of monitoring PJ2T operations. The unseen part of CCC is all that goes on below the surface to keep the club up and running. Hardly a day goes by that Geoff or Doug or I aren't doing something to keep the club functioning. Geoff reports that he spends an hour and a half to two hours every day, seven days a week, on club issues. For example, this week has involved making arrangements for K8EP to be met at the airport by INTAC, ordering and cross-shipping TVI filters for PJ2BR while he visited in Miami, coordinating the purchase of a DX Doubler for the station to be taken down and installed by K8EP, sending transfer instructions to pay the contractor for installing the wall entry gates, making logistical arrangements for G3XSV's upcoming visit, posting the month's utility billings to the accounting data, transferring station support funds to K4LT for deposit, coordinating the team building and planning for CQWW CW in November, hassling with the insurance broker on the island to get our policy finalized, balancing the club checkbook, transferring money to Zoom to pay for his July and August oversight, coordinating computer shipments for the station (thanks, NW0L), shipping a donated rotor to CATS for checkout and possible rebuild, making up adapter cables for newly donated transceivers, and last but not least, dealing with political problems in the neighborhood -- BIG ones. None of us are complaining about all this work -- it's a labor of fun, but be assured that the great fun we have down there on the air does not come cheaply, or easily, and that membership in CCC is a REALLY great value!
On 31 May W0CG reported to the members several acute problems that have arisen in the past few weeks. First of all, an operator renting Signal Point for WPX CW had a power failure that cost 3 hours of operating time. You might recall that a CCC group had a similar outage in last year’s 10-meter contest. The problem was discussed at the annual CCC meeting at Dayton last month, and those present agreed that first priority for capital expenditure from the PJ2T account should be a generator. Members thought that initially a 5 KW gasoline generator using Field Day style hookup (extension cords from generator to rig/computer) would provide for emergencies in the most economical and safe fashion. Automatic transfer switching can wait for another day. After the latest power outage, the board authorized expenditure of CCC funds for a generator, and PJ2BR is actively checking the market for new and used units in the 5 KW range. It looks like roughly $1500 will do the job, and our 2003 station support member renewal income will neatly cover that cost. (That's your $100/year toward the station.) We'll get the generator as soon as the next CCC person can get down to the island.
A more serious problem arose during the WPX contest: neighbors reported severe TVI and BCI for the first time. As you may know, the Sellies (aka the “big blue house people”) have never been happy with Signal Point because they feel that the antennas spoil their view of the sunset. They became unhappier still when their TV reception was disrupted during the WPX contest. In addition, our neighbor Ton, in house 3, was having problems hearing his Dutch language broadcast station, and while he has been cordial in the past, he was quite unhappy with this disruption. Stateside observers noticed that the signal from PJ2 was distorted at times during the contest, and we heard CW birdies up and down the band. It's possible that the rental operator could have mis-tuned or overdriven the AL-1200 linear, causing spurious emissions and TVI. We hope it was that simple. He was guilty of other transgressions (the QTH was left unlocked and unattended for over two hours during a trip to the airport, plumbing valves were not turned off, etc.) and as a result he will never again be allowed to rent or operate the station. Unfortunately, however, but some political damage has been done.
To make matters much worse, W0CG received an E-letter from a Dr. Koers, a law professor in the Netherlands and part-time resident on Curacao in the neighborhood of Coral Cliffs. His message was one of cooperation and accommodation but it also carried a scary threat. This letter came out of the blue, completely unexpectedly. None of us, Geoff included, had ever before met or communicated with Dr. Koers. Our suspicion is that the TVI angered Mr. Sellies so much that he contacted Koers in the Netherlands and triggered the message below. An excerpt from his letter reads:
"I now understand that other radio hams may be considering buying property and that you, directly or indirectly, may be instrumental in drawing their attention to Coral Cliff as a good site for the hobby. Of course, I have no means here to do a reality check on this information, nor will I even try to do so. But it may save all of us a great deal of hassle in the future if I now state, for the record, that I will oppose with whatever legal or extra-legal means available to me under Netherlands Antillean law the placing of any additional radio-masts or antennas (except of course for normal TV and/or radio) in the vicinity of my house at Coral Cliff.
If such a situation were to arise - and the purpose of this message is to avoid just that - I also wish to reserve the right to object to any existing radio masts or antennas on whatever grounds that may be available to me. I also suggest you convey this message to any radio ham you know who is considering buying property at Coral Cliff with a view to enjoying his hobby there so as to protect your personal legal position. I am sorry if all this sounds harsh, but I remind you I also just said "good luck and have fun" with the existing radio masts. It is just that we do not want to see more! And perhaps, as a lawyer, I do not know to bring a message such as this in terms that are not legal in tone. You should also be aware that Netherlands Antillean law differs fundamentally from American law. For example, it allows a person to claim damages (or restoration of the original situation) on the ground that a certain action of someone else is in contravention of a general obligation of everyone not to infringe on the rights of others."
His threat is credible. Geoff and Cindy met last summer with their on-island lawyer and, among other things, discussed the potential legal exposure due to the towers. The lawyer explained that even though the towers are properly permitted by DROV and by the Aviation Department, and even though there is no zoning in the Coral Cliff neighborhood, there would still be a basis for neighbors to bring a suit on exactly the basis mentioned above: that a certain action of someone else is in contravention of a general obligation of everyone not to infringe on the rights of others. In the opinion of our lawyers, the Plaintiff in such a suit is unlikely to win, but the costs of fighting such suit would likely bankrupt the club, and even personally Geoff and Cindy. Unfortunately, the Dutch neighbors are quite wealthy and would be able to grind CCC and the Howards into submission by filing a nuisance lawsuit.
The killer statement Koers is making is that if we, or any other hams, put up any more towers in the neighborhood, that he will sue US to remove our existing PJ2T towers.
It is very important to re-emphasize that he is TOTALLY OK with our existing three towers, and is not asking us to remove them or threatening those towers in any way. It is ADDITIONAL towers, anywhere in the neighborhood, that he will fight.
We have responded immediately and forcefully to these complaints. W0CG sent sympathetic and conciliatory messages to all parties. We have assured Dr. Koers that we have no intention of erecting any more antenna towers.
Here is part of Dr. Koers' response to W0CG.
Many thanks for your email in response to mine on the radio masts at Coral
Cliff. Not only am I grateful for its contents, but I also appreciate greatly the trouble you took to give me some more background in the technology of your hobby and in the motives that drive you and your friends. Most of all: thank you for not being offended and for replying with so much respect and wisdom.
Yes, to each his or her own version of paradise; yes, my wife and I would
like very much to meet you and your family one day; and yes, I would also
like to see your station in operation.
Obviously, we have dodged the legal bullet through quick and careful diplomacy. The reality is that the three towers are adequate for the club -- our plans to erect a tower on the ridge have been canned -- we don't really need it. In fact, we may have made a friend, and Dr. Koers sounds fascinated by the radio competitions and wants to visit the station during a future contest!
On the TVI part of the crisis, we have officially hired Brett Ruiz, PJ2BR, our friend on the island and proprietor of Microtech N.V., the local satellite TV provider, to troubleshoot our station and the neighbors’ television sets. He'll be paid out of PJ2T Station funds. Brett is a lifelong islander, speaks fluent Dutch, and has the professional credentials and diplomatic demeanor to show the neighbors that we mean to solve their problems. Every form of anti-TVI technology is being shipped to Brett to aid him in his assignment. W0NB picked up some Amidon ferrite devices and shipped them to K8EP for his July trip to Curacao. N8BJQ sent a couple of Drake low-pass filters to K8EP, and Geoff had AES drop-ship some Vectronics filters to Brett when he was in Miami last week. In addition, we have acquired (W8TK donation) an old Hallicrafters SX-99 as a gift to Ton, so he can listen to his broadcast stations without the dubious benefit of broadband solid-state circuitry. Perhaps we can get him interested in SWLing as part of the bargain.
Brett will be at the QTH on Thursday and Friday prior to the IARU contest working with Ed and the Dutch neighbors to try to find the source of the TVI and kill as much of it as possible. In short, we have pulled out all the stops with the intent of keeping the neighbors happy so that Signal Point operations may continue as in the past.
Another issue raised in Geoff's 31 May E-mail was concern about possible interstation interference during contests given that N7BG is in the process of buying a QTH in the neighborhood. Tony has assured us, however, that he believes we can co-exist successfully, that he will not be operating as much as we thought, and that his QTH could provide both a nice mult location for PJ2T as well as some overflow bedrooms for big teams. Good points! This threat of litigation against CCC and anyone else who erects towers in the neighborhood, however, is a cloud over our future as a viable contest club.
Bottom line? All is OK down there now. The neighbors were restless but we're calming them down as best as we can. It's part of the curse of being interested in ham radio, and explains why W9EFL, W0CG, W8TK, N8NR, N8BJQ, and W8AV all have big pieces of real estate far out in the country: no neighbors!!
PJ2H Story 16 April 2002
Dental work, auto repair shops, marriage counseling, 40 meter SSB -- all to be avoided at almost any cost. Twelve fearsome hours of nonstop QRM, QRN, and QReverything else facing me before I could get out of the chair. These were among the wonderfully positive thoughts circling through my trembling synapses as I sat before the rig with about 15 minutes to go until the 0000Z WPX starting gun. Maybe I could feign illness and go to bed. Maybe I should just go cut the grass. In the dark. There might be a tidal wave. Maybe something on the 10 meter system would break, taking me away from my sentence on 40 meters to concentrate on the sudden and welcome intrusion of a higher priority project.... I was in the chair at our CCC contest club station on the south shore of Curacao, waiting and watching the clock.
Our 2002 WPX SSB operation came about as fluke of circumstance. Plan "A" was for N8BJQ and N8NR to do a Multi/Single, finally getting some fun and payback for all the agonies of building towers and antennas in the hot sun the preceding July. Barb and Debbie would bask in the Caribbean sun and Bob and Steve would rack up unimaginable totals operating from South America, off-continent from the big NA and Caribbean competitors. Murphy intervened, however, in the form of a work problem for N8NR, thus W0CG was invited to come along with Steve and Barb instead. Thus enter Plan "B."
Not wanting to subject himself to the agonies of an SO operation, but still wanting a shot at a plaque and maybe even a record, Steve decided that a single band operation would make sense. "Geoff, would you like to do a two-single band operation for WPX?" Sure, why not, the station interference problem was minimal, we had lots of equipment working, I could sleep...." Which bands?" Steve studied the WPX scores (they are all in his head, every station, every year) and determined that we had the best odds of a win or a record on 10 or 40. It was Steve's booking, Steve's trip, so he had first choice and wisely went for 10, leaving me with 40. "You OK with that, Geoff??!!" "Shore," says I, the stomach acid already churning, dread building by the minute. Would I be able to pick out even one callsign in the melee?!
Licensing was full of glitches. We had sent in the requests and money clear back on January 26 -- Steve requested PJ2T for the 10 meter effort and I asked for PJ2DX for 40. The money transfer was sent to the Bureau and all paperwork successfully FAXed. Piece of cake, as always. Unfortunately, the bank messed up, the money never made it to the Bureau, and Omaira of the radio bureau started three days before the contest FAXing me in the US, sending E-mails, and even phoning me at home in the US to let me know that there was no money on file, thus there would be no callsigns. Finally, she reached me at home on the island, explained the mess, and I told her we would physically stop by the office the next day. Steve and I did so, anted up another 200 guilders, and happily went away with the receipt and dreams of loud signals and high scores. Thursday afternoon -- another phone call from Omaira: "You can't have PJ2DX. We can only give you a 2 x 1 callsign." Naturally, my first thought was why did you not tell me that two months ago? Second thought: "Yes you can, you control the entire PJ2 block and PJ2DX is unassigned." Third thought: Unprintable. For the first time in my over three years of dealing with the Bureau Telecommunicatie, I quit being cooperative, nice, quiet, and courteous, and argued with her at length. You are wrong -- it is unassigned, you CAN TOO give me PJ2DX. "Well, the lady who really knows for sure is home sick today with the flu, but I'll phone her at home." An hour later, the fateful call comes and no, she says you have to take a 2 x 1. Why, I argued further? "You just do. It is the rule." "Whose rule?" Lacking OH2BH's negotiating skills, I finally backed down, quickly mentally reviewed the 2 x 1 callsigns that had been used in the past, and selected one that had not -- PJ2H. My last initial. That would be fine, she said, and the permits were issued immediately and FAXed to us. I was so angry I almost told her to forget about it, but the money had been spent, so why not at least try to use the callsign. Amateur licensing on Curacao is inexplicably hostile and unwelcoming on Curacao. Even after operating there heavily for three years, and as a property-owner and member of the island radio club, as a non-Dutch ham I am highly unwelcome.
For the two weeks before the contest I had tried to forget about the agony that awaited: split frequencies, S2 signals, QRO broadcasters, and instead buried myself in plumbing, wiring, and painting, continuing to fix up the house. Maybe the 40 yagi will break and I won't have to do it. The fateful date arrived, however. Steve and I had tried some simultaneous 40/10 SSB the night before, and the station interference problem was not bad. We cascaded the spare W3NQN filter on 10, I wired in my filter for 40, and all he heard on 10 when I was running a KW was the usual frying, except on my cardinal fourth harmonic. I fired off a CQ on 7080 at about 0300Z the night before, full power, yagi on Europe, and was immediately buried in a curtain of callers, most from Eastern Russia and the vicinity. They were all weak, all gave me 20 over 9 or better reports, and all wanted a contact NOW. How will I ever copy all these guys through the contest QRM?
Now in the chair, fifteen minutes until kickoff, no excuses, everything working fine, the TS-940, LK-800, and new Heil boomset doing all that they were supposed to do. Darn, I have to do this. Steve was in position at Station # 1 running lots of Qs for fun on the barefoot IC-765, staking out a frequency. I fired off a couple of CQs trying to establish myself on 7070, but no callers. Still too early at 2345Z. Let's see, split. What a pain this will be. Which button does what? With only one receiver, I had to toggle between listening on frequency and listening up in the US band. I found a reasonable listening frequency, entered it into VFO B, wrote it on scratch paper, and was finally ready. Maybe this will be fun -- first time out with Writelog.
Bang, 0000Z. CQing begins, and Steve is off to the races. I can hear him behind me across the room running US stations like an auctioneer. His serial numbers were climbing fast. As for me, finally one QSO. More calling, more patience, another QSO. Steve is flying, I am mired in QRM and poor band conditions. Well, I'm telling myself that one of my QSOs counts for two of his....
More frustration, so I decided to S&P from the bottom of the band up and worked the handful of "beacon" stations in Europe who would be there for the duration of the contest. After 15 minutes, a whole 9 contacts against Steve's 56 (he was in the Low Power category.) I turned to him with a sick expression and held up 9 fingers -- he had 33. This is ridiculous. Think I'll just quit and go do some more painting. But CCC club officers W8TK and W0NB, among others, are looking for me. They expect to find me, I better show up. So I settled in, started slogging, and flipping from US to European bands to listen on alternate pairs of calls. Lots of talking and button-pushing for just a handful of QSOs. One hour passed. Another, and another. Steve was slowing down dramatically as 10 closed down, just short of 600 QSOs. Finally, at about 0330Z, just as he was going to bed, the band lit up and I started to have fun. There was about a 50/50 mix of European and stateside callers dropping by, signals were pretty good, and I decided to stick with it for awhile. In fact, when Steve said goodnight I was so busy I could hardly get out an answer to him.
As expected, the night was very hard work. After the initial 0330 burst, things slowed again, punctuated by an occasional cool breeze of about 10 fast and loud QSOs following the posting of each packet spot. Thanks, W8TK and W0NB. Both stopped by to offer a QSO and some words of encouragement and a liberal signal report. Most of the QSOs through the night were in the noise, and a few required half a dozen very patient attempts until I could complete the QSO accurately. Why don't these guys put up some ANTENNAS?! Now the stomach acid really was churning. Throat dry, voice tired, why oh why is this not a CW contest?!
pending an extended, continuous period on 40 SSB is an interesting study in propagation. Conditions changed rapidly through the night, and as that happened, the foreign broadcasters came and went. It was impossible (and unwise) to hold one transmitting frequency for very long, and I had to check the listening frequency often, as well as soliciting reports from callers on the sound of my frequency from their side. I remember having a solid, quiet listening frequency (7252) for quite awhile, only to lose it instantly at 0700Z when a broadcaster lit up right on that spot. It was necessary to ask several calling stateside stations to QSY repeatedly until I could find a slot high in 40 where they could be copied. Hard work for both of us -- I hope they REALLY wanted the PJ2 mult! In all, operators were incredibly patient with me -- it's a difficult situation when you're a big gun station that can be heard by everyone, but where the inverse is not true.
By now it is about 0730Z, and my goal has become to catch up with Steve's 10 meter QSO count. Getting close. Rates are slow now, S&P is unproductive, Europe has all gone to bed now, and nobody is back up yet. Most of US is asleep except for some die-hard sixes. I know the band is still good because the beacon stations from Eur and North America are still pounding out loud and unproductive CQs down around 7045. Outside, the Caribbean is calm, waves minimal, and the moon white and bright, laying a carpet of light from the horizon directly to my operating chair, the air sweet and warm. It's punch-drunk time, but I'm having fun trying to visualize what it looks like in and just outside his shack when an occasional UA3 or RV6 calls me, the morning sun starting to climb in the sky in Russia. Wonder if it smells like pipe smoke in his shack? Is he trying to keep his voice down, afraid he will wake up his wife? Are there light snow flurries outside his window right now? Cup of coffee on the table in front of his chair (mine's hot tea)? Wonder if he knows that I can hear his dog barking in another part of his house in that far far away place? What a miracle this hobby is -- I'm world-spanning without even leaving my chair.
Finally, at about 0830Z, I'm forced to acknowledge that I'm alone. Too much daylight in Europe by now, not enough in Asia, and most of North America is in bed, where I should be. No QSOs now for the last 20 minutes. Click the linear to "standby" and head for the bed, but not without one more brief walk to the water's edge to drink in the beauty of the moon on the sea, and to marvel at the miracle of a few pieces of aluminum glistening in the moonlight that can take me to Russia, and bring that barking dog to me on Curacao. This is life.
No alarm clock needed -- I set my brain to wake me up at about 5:45 local and it did so, as always. What might be on? Is the band open west yet? After a cup of hot tea and a hunk of toast, I launched into a couple more hours of patient operating, snagging a few US early risers, a couple of European super-stations that had not been on last night, and then, like magic at about 0715 local, here come the JAs, knee-deep, like a faucet had just been turned on. A few were loud and easy, but most were about S6, and there were bazillions of them. After about 10 minutes of slogging (but racking up a lot of prefixes) I switched to the ultimate contester ego trip and asked for JAs by number. Imagine, in a CONtest, running Asia on 40 SSB by callsign number. It worked, though, and the rate picked up magnificently with the reduced QRM, and I suspect they were astute enough to realize that we were all better off with this technique, arrogant as it may have appeared. The JAs stopped as fast as they started, but only after a period of extreme headiness and I pinched myself repeatedly: running JAs on 40 SSB. Unheard of. To add to the thrills, I was called -- Yes I was called by several DUs, YBs, a 9M6, and various UA0s. Where were the HLs and BVs, though, darn it?? A couple of the YBs and the 9M6 were 20 to 30 over 9. No kidding. Now, all the station-building work seems worth it.
Steve emerged from the bedroom, willed himself back into the chair, amazed that I had, at least briefly, caught up with his QSO count after a long night of slugging it out. 10 started out slow, and he was frustrated by some local corona noise, but the noise mercifully cleared, signals started to come up, the 10 meter Europe opening finally made its way to our ridge-shaded antenna, and he was off and running. It was fun to watch Steve as the day progressed, switching the various combinations of 10 antennas as conditions dictated. In the afternoon, he did very nicely feeding the Europe monobander and the bottom US/JA monobander concurrently. Whoopee -- our design WORKS! All that modeling paid off!!
I slept. After dreaming of DX, I finally emerged at around 3 PM and had some supper and shot some photos and video of Steve, whose QSO total by this time dumbfounded me. Now I'll never catch him! I was slept out, so I took the wire brush and cans of cold galv and grey spray paint and went first up the 100 footer, then up the 80 footer, spot-painting everything that looked even slightly rusty, and being very careful not to touch the 10 meter driven elements! With Steve at low power and at the high-current feed points I would not have gotten fried, but it was fun to visualize BIG RF and to imagine the signals he was hearing, making their way down the Heliax and eventually into his headphones. Euphoria -- the sky was blue and warm, and the turquoise Caribbean water, from 140 feet above the water level, was indescribably beautiful. I willed myself to stand on top of the top plate on the 100 foot tower so I could reach the 40 meter yagi mast bracket, and even hit that hardware with paint. That antenna and I would be having another all-night session again tonight.
The cycle repeated, except that the second night was easier (I had had more sleep), I better understood the propagation patterns I was facing, and the band was a bit quieter. My expectations were also more realistic. Steve spooled down on 10, went to bed, and I plugged on. For hours, I was alone again in that quiet, peaceful, warm and gentle world of the nighttime Caribbean, just me and the moonlight, and the world in my headphones. If part of the lure of contesting is escapism from the pressures of real life, I was now fully, completely enveloped in that escape. Club members W0NB, W8TK, K8ND, K4LT, and N8NR stopped by at various points in the night to buoy me up. I felt guilty: I was in the N8NR chair -- it should have been Bob here, not me. Unfortunately, the Pacific run was much less impressive on Sunday morning, but I was still able to log some outrageous prefixes that I never had dreamed possible when I was a rock-bound Novice in Wheeling, West Virginia, living my entire life at the bottom of a valley on 7176 with a straight key and no filters. Ahhhhhhh, fun.
After Sunday's sleep, I tried some mid-afternoon CQing on 40 in Spanish, but no takers. Also did a lot of searching but no pouncing, as there was simply nothing there. Steve was running at Mach speeds on 10. Nothing to do but take a swim, so I swapped my imagined visions of DX for real visions of beautiful coral and tropical fish, enjoying the skinny-dippers paradise right outside the PJ2T shack for a couple of hours, swimming literally miles. Guilt set in. This is too much fun. Geoff: You have to suffer to make up for this. It's Beverage time.
So under Steve's watchful and quizzical eye on Sunday afternoon I fabricated a Beverage antenna ground system, inserted the termination resistor, hung on some radials, and soldered the whole thing together on the floor while Steve ran QSOs to my right. I found a beach bag and stuffed it with 1000 feet of insulated stranded #14, a three foot ground rod, the ground system and terminator, bush cutters, stiff gloves, a hammer, some split bolts and crimps and a crimping tool, put on long pants (ugh) and headed for parts unknown. It was 3 PM and I told Steve if I was not back by 6 to send out the St. Bernards. For three hours I toiled in the thickest meanest sticker bushes and cactus imaginable, but managed to get about half of the future Europe Beverage antenna installed, starting with the distant end, at the ground, and working backward toward the shack. That alone is another story in itself. By 6 I was out of time, energy, and attitude, bleeding everywhere, picking cactus spines out of my feet (yes, through the soles of my shoes) and quit, rushing back to the QTH to get in two last hours of operating in the WPX. I had waited too long and missed a little bit of the Europe opening. Still, I managed to work an incredible variety of Eur, US, and Pacific stations in the last two hours, and the score climbed to an amazing 40 meter single band total of 3.2 M, with xxxx QSOs and xxx prefixes. This will not be a win, but it looks like a close second. Steve did not get his 10 meter low power record (N9AG is still safe), but for an off peak year, he did well and probably won the category.
Would I do it again? Unhesitatingly. 40 was a fun challenge, and it is very exciting to know that your signal probably commands the entire band. In addition, the trusty LK-800, which just a few weeks before had been on the bench in pieces as W0NB and I rebuilt the power supply, played like a dream. It was fun to see it working so well after the surgery. The CCC station is a winner, and I count myself among the luckiest people alive to be able to operate from there. If you've never been on the DX side, book a trip and give it a try. You only go 'round once...!
- Geoff, PJ2H for a weekend!
CCC newsletter is published irregularly, whenever W8TK has time and material. Contributions are welcome. Send articles or comments to email@example.com