Ham-cation and Island Fun from St. Croix, USVI
One of my favorite ham pastimes is leisurely chasing DX. I've added many new DXCC entities and have achieved DXCC Phone and WAS Mixed awards in recent months. Last winter, my partner and I planned a trip to St. Croix, USVI which became a fine opportunity to blend a love for DX, sunshine and exercise. It also allowed me to test the strengths and weaknesses of my portable gear (in "paradise").
A Dream is Realized
Our visit to St. Croix just happened to coincided with the 50th Anniversary of President Kennedy making Buck Island Reef National Monument a protected area under the care the federal government, so I made that a focal point of the adventure. Buck Island is BEAUTIFUL, but they don't permit camping, so I decided to skip operating on the island and go swimming. This was a wise choice ... the swimming and picnic was a blast!
Buck Island and the reef are amazing natural resources. The 76-acre island is surrounded by a coral reef, which supports a large variety of wildlife, including hawksbill turtles and sea birds. Visit the Buck Island Reef National Monument web site for more information on the amazing place!
Selecting the Gear
HEX PAC Portable Wins
Dipoles and other simple antennas can always get you on air, but I learned it's critical to have an antenna with proven performance available. The HEX-PAC® antenna, mounted with a shock-cord mast from BuddiPole®, outperformed all other antennas I took on the trip. Eventually, I packed up everything and just used the HEX PAC beam.
When operating CW or PSK, the portable beam facilitated contacts when band conditions were weak. At more optimal times, SSB contacts were relatively easy to make.
Everything Fits in a Radio Pack
- GoalZero® Solar Panel
- Yaesu FT-817 transceiver
- LDG Z-817H auto antenna tuner
- GAMMA® power supply
- GoalZero® battery and solar supplies
- NUE-PSK® portable digital modem
- iPhone® with logging software
- Heil Headset® w/ boom mic
- Traffie HEX-PAC® portable beam
Green font indicates equipment I'd take again, everything else just wasn't worth the extra weight. The new KX3 portable transceiver by Elecraft combines would eliminate many extra items (it integrates the rig, ATU, battery charger, keyer and digital modem).
Outcomes and Suggestions
For the experimenter who is developing emergency communications or QRP radio kits, consider skipping the amplifier for this type of adventure. Diversify your resources with digital modes (see Elkraft's new KX3 rig!), get a solar rechargeable battery system and a featherweight power supply. Elastic Bandages with Velcro® quickly anchor lightweight shock chord masts are featherweight and permit quick deployment.