Last year, my experience with my KX3 on holiday in South Africa was a virtual washout. I brought along my Buddistick and a 20m wire dipole but, despite having had great success with both of those at home in GJ land, I managed to make just one QSO in South Africa during the whole visit. Ouch!
I was informed after I arrived that most HF activity in South Africa is on 40m, for which I was not well setup antenna-wise; plus, holiday stopping locations were not necessarily radio-friendly. In addition, my KX3’s Eneloop internal batteries will allow 10w output for a limited time before the voltage drops and I am working: (1) with just 5w, (2) into a compromise antenna, (3) in a possibly less-than-ideal location.
I also brought along a PAE Kx33 low-noise PSU to boost the KX3’s output to 15w but, again, I was dependent on finding an operating location which would let me place the radio within about 6m of a power socket. All in all, it was a mixture of imperfect planning and bad luck, so this year I planned better!
I am a very happy user of Geoff Brown G4ICD’s (now Andrew GW0UZK’s) UK-made G Whip wire antennas and, in particular, his superb single-band, resonant end-feds. As luck would have it, G Whip announced a new tri-band end-fed for 40m/20m/10m – plus anything in between that your ATU can handle – to be released in January 2017. Since that was very close to my departure date, Geoff kindly supplied me with production antenna #1, a month early. It is just 12m long and it won’t be hard to find somewhere suitable to string it up.
I also use a Buddistick when there isn’t enough room to stretch out an end-fed, but I am on the third standard stainless steel whip, the first two having suffered terminal damage when my tripod/antenna combo has blown over; careless of me, but it happens. I ordered a shock cord whip (which I hope will be tougher) and the small ‘travel’ loading coil. With a longer whip and shorter coil, I had to recalculate the tap and counterpoise settings and, even with an MFJ antenna analyser, the recalculation was no fun. In the end, I bit the bullet and bought a RigExpert AA-54 digital analyser. Wonderful, brilliant, fantastic – should have bought one years ago.
Finally, I investigated the LiPo battery market and settled on a 12v 7Ah LiFePo4 model from Tracerpower in the UK. That capacity is OK for airline travel (see below) and it should allow me at least 10w out from the KX3 for a reasonable amount of time, freeing me from the power socket constraint.
Clarification: LiPo/LiFePo4 batteries can be transported in airline hand luggage (but not as checked luggage) as long as they are below a specific capacity (generally around 100WAh). Check with your airline for their regulations.
LiPo batteries cannot be posted via airmail, so I had to make alternative arrangements for delivery to my home in Jersey; this time luck was not on my side and the battery didn’t arrive in GJ until after I had left for South Africa.
Once we were ‘down south’ I began to think that it was a repeat of last year; locations weren’t antenna-friendly or when I did manage to hoist an antenna, there were few if any signals about; to add to the misery, band conditions have been poor. No QSOs.
Finally, we ended up staying in a national park bungalow in the Eastern Cape, right out in the sticks and surrounded by substantial hills, but there were convenient trees to support the G Whip end-fed and a power socket within 2m of the patio table. What’s more, there were signals and an HF competition (SARL Field Day) at the weekend!
Apart from ‘local’ contacts, I have heard stations in Indonesia and Namibia (which is just ‘next door’). Whilst I have worked South America from my home QTH on the antennas I have with me, I haven’t heard any signals from the west in spite of similar/shorter distances from my current location to South America.
Update 1: After a change of location to Addo, Eastern Cape, the triband end-fed has been bringing in solid signals from the west of here: 9Z4PT (Trinidad & Tobago), PY7ZZ (Brazil) and W1ZY (Rhode Island, USA).
In any event, several surprised South African radio amateurs have now got ZS2/GJ7LJJ in the log (“You’re from where?”), and I have justified lugging all my gear to a different continent.
The XYL is just happy that I’m happy!
Update 2: Relocation to Arniston in the Western Cape. Early morning by the beach. Good S5 signals coming in from the USA last after dawn (about 04:00UTC).If you found this entry interesting, you might like to subscribe to this blog using the Subscribe button at the top of this page. A mention on your favourite social media site would be appreciated as well. Thanks!