Wednesday, June 3, 2020

FREE month

Last month I spent more time on the radio than the preceding twelve months combined. I was on the air as one of ten stations with a special call in the P*75FREE(DOM) range to commemorate the end of WW2 in The Netherlands in May 1945.

Planning the event at the end of last year we had ideas to be active as a group or subgroup during the month with a large event from a war museum. They were happy to accommodate us a whole weekend. However COVID-19 changed all that. 

Initially I went out /P alone to a couple of PAFF nature reserves but as the month progressed we decided to do a smaller group activity with three operators from a nature reserve (PAFF-0168). We were able to set up two stations - one 40m and one 10 to 20m using the portable hexbeam. We changed the latter into a 60-80m station in the evening.

Hexbeam set up in a nature reserve with PD75FREE, PG75FREE and PH75FREE running two stations

Through email and Telegram chat the FREE stations kept in touch on the progress, the conditions and notable experiences. It is nice to see how working as a team motivates one to be more involved and spend more time behind the radio. Each participant made different choices based on preferences (like more or less digi) and set-up.

Another motivating factor were the most active chasers that tried to find us on each band and mode and even contacted us by email or Facebook to share their enthusiasm and look for opportunities to work us with OH2YV as the most striking example. His dedication was extraordinary. He finished first by a stretch only using phone and CW (so missing all possible digi points most other chasers did collect). 

All in all we made 25.000 QSOs with 13.000 stations. I was not the most active by a long stretch but still made a nice amount of contacts spread over the bands and modes (giving serious chasers a chance to accumulate points). There was a nice bit of sporadic E in the second half of the month, allowing for short skip on 20 and 40 but also openings on higher bands up to 2m.

In three pictures an idea of my activities (star = digi, dot = phone/cw):
VHF and high HF: 2/4/6/10/12/15m - sporadic E fun within EU

17/20m gave both Es and some F2 DX

Low band (30/40/60/80/160m) throughout EU and one DX on 40m to PY
To be able to work the chasers on low bands and further than the first hop (DX was challenging), I went out one last time in the last weekend of our activity to a piece of wasteland where I could set up an antenna for 160m. PD7YY joined me to see if we could work DX on 40m as well - and we did with PP7DX making it all the way.  

18m pole with low band wire antenna's and our YNOMY flag

After finishing collecting all data and producing 400+ awards the following challenge is QSL-ing all our chasers. For now the radio will enjoy some rest - probably until I go on holiday. I hope to be able to go camping in France - like previous years. We'll see how things progress in this peculiar period.