This was not my first foray into the wonderful world of BERU, in 2013 I made it to 13th place in the Restricted section from home with 100W and wire antennas. Soon after last year’s contest I had decided that one of two things would happen. I would go all in for a top 10 finish from home, or I would travel.
I began sounding out what others had planned for the Caribbean, as it seemed to be an ideal place to operate from, with some very impressive performances in the past. I could only hope to do half as well as those guys!
I’d come across Gingerbread Hill mentioned in the write-ups from VP2MXF and VP2MCC in previous contests and as soon as it transpired that no-one else had booked it for the BERU weekend I jumped in there and booked the villa. As usual I was a bit quick off the mark and after a number of minor changes to travel plans we had flights to Antigua, a plan to get to Montserrat, accommodation and importantly a plan to get home again afterwards. The group comprised myself, Steve M0SPF / VP2MZR and a non-amateur friend.
Licensing was arranged in advance and I was asked if I wanted to choose a callsign. VP2MXI wasn’t an obvious choice, but I had figured it was unlikely to have been issued in the last year and XI are also the last two letters of my US call.
After an overnight stay in Antigua we caught the ferry over to Montserrat and were met at the ferry port by David, the villa owner and ex-pat American. David and his family have been on the island for 35 years and have many amazing stories to tell about the island and the volcano.
I’d taken along my K3, KPA500 and KAT500 as well as my trusty Begali Traveller and a Winkey. I’d taken the time beforehand to set the logging laptop up and test everything. I didn’t want to arrive and find something fundamental was missing or broken! During the contest the K3 and KPA ran flawlessly, though I learned an important lesson that you can’t reset the KAT500 settings without the serial cable.
As the villa comes complete with a 50 foot crank up tower (thankfully motorised) and a 3 element tri-band yagi. I didn’t need to take any aerials or coax. In the end I did take a 40m dipole and a 30/17/12m parallel dipole (for outside the contest). I couldn’t find the 80m dipole that was on the inventory so I made one up and left it behind labelled up. The weekend before BERU it turned out VP2MLL was on the air and so he kindly left the CL33 tri-band yagi up on the tower for our trip.
In the contest I made 1239 QSOs in total in 22 hours of operating. I took a couple of sleep breaks, one at around 0400z and the other at 0900z. I figured for the sake of a handful of QSOs I’d be better off being awake for the UK dawn on 80m and make sure my accuracy was 100%, rather than operating in a zombie like state.
This was the first full 24 hour effort I had ever made, so there was a risk I wouldn’t make it. The first 14 hours saw 1000 QSOs, which made the remaining hours seem very slow going. After duplicates I am claiming 1223 QSOs, which should hopefully place me in the top 5 or so in the Open section. It seems a few extra QSOs may well have clinched it for me, but I missed a lot of multipliers from Africa especially.
I didn’t have too much trouble with non BERU stations calling, though on one occasion, after a few very persistent callers, one asked me “what is BERU?”. My response was a quick “google it”, to which that station, a moment or two later, began to send out the description of the contest over the top of me. Thankfully at the time the G callers were just as strong so it didn’t slow me down, but I was left wondering what he had hoped to achieve.
My overall claimed score according to Win-Test is:
Operating time : 21h25
BAND QSO DUP DXC HQ POINTS BONUS AVG
80 128 1 16 2 640 580 9.53
40 208 1 26 3 1040 920 9.42
20 360 7 31 2 1795 1340 8.71
15 308 7 28 4 1540 1340 9.35
10 219 0 15 2 1095 640 7.92
TOTAL 1223 16 116 13 6110 4820 8.94
TOTAL SCORE : 10 930
Outside of the contest the statistics looks like this:
Operating time : 15h37
BAND SSB CW RTTY OTHERS DUP ---------------------------------------- 160 0 0 0 0 0 80 0 1 0 0 0 40 0 0 0 0 0 30 0 255 0 0 1 20 0 133 0 0 1 17 0 368 0 0 1 15 0 243 0 0 1 12 0 454 0 0 6 10 0 136 0 0 0 50 0 0 0 0 0 ---------------------------------------- TOTAL 0 1590 0 0 10
I account the success to Clive the contesting penguin, he did a good job of motivating me to stay awake! He even helped take the aerials down at the end of the trip…
On the return leg of the journey we flew from Montserrat on VP-MRT (A Britten Norman Islander) and ended up with a very long wait in the airport in Antigua before catching the overnight flight back to Blighty. At some point during the flight, depending on which time zone we were passing through I turned 29, but I felt it was rather apt that amongst the contest and other QSOs I logged a total of 2828.
Of course, the trip wasn’t all radio. It would have been daft to go all that way and not see the island. We did manage to get out and about to explore and do a tour of the island. It was fascinating to see the devastation left behind by the volcano and to learn some of the history of the island.
QSL cards can be requested via OQRS on ClubLog, sent via the bureau or direct to M0PCB. All logs for VP2MXI are already uploaded to LoTW.