I managed to find Lennyís telephone number and gave him a telephone call. He was a bit surprised, but once I explained what I wanted, he immediately offered to help. This turned out to be extremely useful as he offered to erect a small tower that I could use for the duration of my visit. I also enquired about obtaining the callsign ZD8SIX for my trip only to discover that all amateur calls had been temporarily suspended. It turned out that the island Administrator was introducing an annual license fee and the suspension was a way of getting everyone to reapply I assume. There was no problem with obtaining the ZD8SIX call Iím pleased to say and today I am the proud holder!
The trusty RAF TriStar ready to go at Brize Norton RAF base
Ascension is at strategic geographic location as demonstrated during the Falklands war in the early 1980s when it acted as a staging post for the Falklands. Visiting the island requires a rather unusual procedure in that only a few years ago you could visit if you were invited and had a job - a bit like China! Even today, you still need to have the permission of the islandís Administrator before you are able to visit, but this seems to be just a formality and a hangover from yesteryear.
There are no hotels as such on the island so I decided to stay at the Ascension Island Servicesí Guesthouse seen in the photograph below. With help from Lenny, they were happy for me to operate from there which I hope will be very convenient as the bed will be in the same room as the rig - all ready for late night radio openings!
Ascension Island Services guesthouse with Cross Hill in
Learning first-hand from Jimmy, W6JKV, I decided early on to take an amplifier with me rather than just rely on a barefoot 100 watts. I learnt a lesson in the Falklands when I was hearing several Californian stations but they couldnít hear me. When I went to Jimmyís Texas BBQ in September, I brought back a TE Systems 400-watt amplifier. But, guess what? On trying it out when I returned to the UK I was amazed to discover that the input stage of the amplifier oscillated violently on receive. Well, I have to honest and the word "amazed" was not what I said. Eating humble pie, I sent the amplifier back to the UK distributor, Vine Electronics (who I didnít buy it from I might add) but they were unable to rectify the problem before I left (but were extremely helpful - thank you Ron!). So I borrowed a second amplifier from the same manufacturer from Kerry, G0LCS. I was really taken aback when I discovered a relay problem causing an intermittent fault on receive! I cannot say that I was happy with TE Systems!
I managed a quick repair though, with the aid of a pair of pliers by bending the RX contact on the output relay. I only hope that the problem does not reoccur when the amplifier is used in earnest on Ascension. I also brought back a 5-element M2 antenna from the US and a few modifications involving many wing nuts made it ĎDXpedition friendlyí. The purchase of a lightweight TV rotator and 30 metres of telephone cable completed my antenna needs. I have few brilliant ideas, but the purchase of a ski bag to put all the antenna bits and pieces in was definitely one. Iím sure that someone along the way will be making a sarcastic remark along the way about me skiing on Ascension (no one actually did)!
Looking west over Georgetown
taken from the top of Cross Hill.
It's 17:15 and they have finally given up trying to repair the aging TriStar and have cancelled the flight altogether rescheduling it for 13:00 tomorrow, Wednesday! I canít describe how angry and frustrated I feel. I am only planning to be in Ascension for 8 days and now at least two have disappeared. I really feel like packing it all in and staying at home to work the DX.
We were told that we could stay over at Gateway House (the air base accommodation block) but I decided to go back home Ė a 90 minute journey. Iíll ring the booking agency tomorrow and get a refund damn it! I canít tell you my feelings as I drove home. I had been carefully planning this trip for so long and here I was still stuck in the UK. I was angry and frustrated and felt like kicking the dog - and nearly collided with two cars! Maybe I could stay over longer if I decide to go? This would be tough as I am involved in a new company start-up and it is difficult enough as it is justifying the trip.
Clarence Bay, just to the north of Georgetown, where the turtles come ashore
Iíll try and avoid a rant but I can tell you Helen, my wife, was not very happy with me when I arrived home as I was in a really foul mood. I also discovered that I had missed out on working ST2SA (Sudan) yet again while I was non-productively waiting in the lounge getting more and more irritated! Anyway, I stopped off at the local off-licence to buy a bottle of red wine to console myself. Needless to say Helen lectured me by saying that it wouldnít help. I still managed to get through three quarters of the bottle before getting to bed. I didnít sleep well last night; should I go or should I stay to quote that famous Marx Brothers song?