Costa Rica….here we come

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Red tear drop marks our location

Bananas you may say. Well it does seem to be famous for them, coffee as well. Beyond those culinary delights people head to Costa Rica to see the jungle, wild birds, beaches, hikes, volcanos and generally have a bang up time. It all sounds wonderful but we aren’t doing any of that. Well maybe some, drink coffee and eat bananas.

As they say in real estate, it’s three things; location, location, location and that is just as true in the ham radio world as it is in real estate. Closer to the equator is generally better in enabling radio signals to reach the furthest corners of the planet. In contrast places like Siberia or Alaska aren’t optimal. Its not the cold but rather traversing the magnetic poles that can mess up radio signals making it harder to reach all corners of the planet. So the equator is good. Even better is being in a place that is under populated with hams unlike my home state were we are a dime a dozen.

We aren’t forsaking parrots and the steaming jungle on a random whim. It’s contest time and very specifically the ARRL International DX contest which is intended to get stateside hams seeking out those in distant and exotic places. That’s Costa Rica!!! Not only are we in a good place for radio signals to head stateside (no magnetic pole to deal with) but we are temporarily part of Costa Rica’s small ham community so this could all add up to a lot of fun. On the down side, our type of station is euphemistically called a Little Pistol given its basically 100 watts and bits of wire versus the Big Guns who operate 1500 watts into all manner of fancy antennas high in the sky.  One last wildcard in this radio adventure  is the sun (our sun) and its spotty surface. For a very long time the total count has ebbed and flowed over an 11 year cycle from a high count to a low one.  High count is good, low count more of a challenge for us hams but it still works. We in a low count period at present and so we will see how well we fair during our visit and the contest. If all else fails we have bananas and coffee.

This is a bit of a Saint Lucia (J6) alumni reunion. Not the best of that team, not the handsomest of that team, just four that could free up the time to head down. My cohorts are; Chris Drummond (CEO and Owner of Buddipole), Matt Holden (ARRL Dakota Division Director), Harold Kramer (ex ARRL COO) and yours truly who likes under certain circumstances to be known by his Saint Lucia nom de guerre “Captain Jack” (which seemed to have something to do with my British accent while in the Caribbean).

These guys are coming …..did we say party (Chris W6HFP and Harold  WJ1B)
Here is our leader, Matt (K0BBC) testing a phased vertical antenna configuration
Yours truly W6PNG aka Capt Jack is coming not just to sample the coffee….did you say beer!

We all bring different parts of the “contest” station. Chris, Buddipole Yagis, dipoles and verticals. Matt, RF filters (these allow us to operate before and after the contest on multiple bands (frequencies) without trashing each others signal, wire antennas for 160m and 80m, Harold more filters and myself the Electraft KX3, PX3, KXPA100 setup.

We will be operating with Harold’s call sign as TI7/WJ1B.

Did I say YAGI….beam me somewhere, boys
And another Yagi…20m configuration at Saint Lucia

During the contest we operate as a tag team with only one on the air at any given time. Them’s the rules for our category of station (Low Power, Multi op, single transmitter, assisted) and works for us as we get some rest during the 48 hours. Typically 90 minutes on during daylight hours and then 2-3 hours during the graveyard swing.

We all have our own radio stations and will be warming ourselves up plus the atmosphere prior to the contest and hoping to nab contacts into EU, South America, out west to APAC and of course all our brethren in the USA and Canada.

and here is the Saint Lucia gang from December 2016….wish we were all heading to Costa Rica!!

Should be fun and I’ll post more as we progress our adventure.




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