The dense green vegetation is a testament to the rain. The road zig zags across the mountainous island offering views of bays, beaches, villages and people. Its slow going and despite our long flights to this point, excitement tempers impatience and we chat and stare inquisitively from our van.
Our villa is perched three hundred feet above the Atlantic and we can see Martinique twenty or so miles north across what will become a view that changes hourly and daily. From the spectacle of a lightening storm hours after midnight to rainbows, clouds, glimpses of the twinkling stars that compete with lights of Martinique, our home for a week is a treat in of itself.
Most people think of Caribbean Islands as destinations for sailors, surfers, snorkelers or even weddings. We are none of these but passionate ham radio operators. Why come here and forgo our opportunities to sail or surf? One popular aspect of ham radio is to make a two way contact with different countries across the global. Think of it as an equivalent of collecting postage stamps from across the world. Nothing too serous, its just fun! The rarer the country the more in demand any ham will be and given Saint Lucia doesn’t have an abundance of local ham operators, visiting hams are the definition of popular. The other draw is Saint Lucia’s location and specifically how it aids radio communications. Located close to the equator, a radio signal can reach Europe, North America, Africa, Oceania without necessarily crossing the north or south magnetic poles that can interfere with it rendering two way communication harder if not impossible. Another important benefit is the radio signal’s journey from Saint Lucia to a destination is typically over vast swaths of ocean that are favorable to the signal.
The common thread amongst the eight of us is owning Buddipole portable antennas and thanks goes to Budd and Chris, the founders of Buddipole, for organizing this, the eighth trip to Saint Lucia and possibly the fifteenth trip to the Caribbean over the last few years. Our team is designated BIC-SL8 (Buddies in the Caribbean Saint Lucia 8).
Antennas begin to sprout up across the villa grounds and roof. As the light fades first up are verticals for 40m and 80m given these ham bands work well at night. Dawn and morning bring a medley of dipoles, Yagis, verticals rounding out support for all the nine ham bands from 160m to 10m.
Over the course of a week I got to know my seven other team mates learning a lot in the process about not just ham radio but them. We are all very different personalities but Budd and Chris have perfected the process of finding compatible and motivated operators. We met many of the local hams including their families at the villa and for a panic on an idyllic beach. We enjoyed local beer, rum and of course local food. I operated from the beach, from a mountain top and from the villa. As the week drew to a close I had “worked” (two way contact) upwards of 1,400 foreign hams from as far away as Australia, Japan Korea and Kazakstan and many points between. All in all my modest “postage stamp” collection was 60 different countries.
A truly fun time and one that I’ll treasure for eons. The only downside is I now have another “addiction” beyond my Summits on the Air (SOTA). I can’t wait to go on another suitcase DXPedition.
Thanks Budd, thanks Chris!!