DX Expedition to Bowen Island
This year the club planned a trip to Bowen Island to participate in the annual Islands-on-the-air Contest. Three weeks prior to the event club members Ralph and Eric travelled to the island to scout out a few spots where we could set up to participate in the contest on July 27th. We decided that the main park and picnic area near the ferry terminal would be a good location with ample facilities and open space to operate from. So after some more preparation and coordination between those going, we got everything ready for the trip.
Brett and Fred met at Eric’s home at 6:30 am on the Saturday and we loaded up Eric’s SUV with the equipment for the event. We packed a number of options so we could handle any problems that we could encounter and off we went to the nearest Starbucks for a coffee before the drive to the ferry terminal. We planned to catch the 8am ferry and we had no trouble getting on – it was in fact almost empty for the trip over. Just after parking the car on the ferry and getting out we spotted Deme getting out of his car, we had begun to wonder if he was coming. It was a pleasant trip and we were soon across and carrying equipment from the car to the picnic area to set up.
We used Fred’s sling-shot to get a line over a large maple just behind the covered benches and soon we had Brett’s dipole, a ZS6BKW, strung and ready to use. As we were finishing the antenna work a club member from the Bowen Island radio club, Bill, dropped by to join us for a few hours. He was quite impressed with Brett’s go kit which sported an IC-7000, tuner, various gauges and a notebook computer running N1MM. After a bit of fiddling we had the station operational and started listening for signals. But beyond a couple strong ones and much noise we heard nothing.
We struggled to find stations and make contacts for almost two hours making only 2 CW contacts. It was looking very discouraging for the day, and Brett thought we should take his smaller KX-3 up to the alternate site on the lookout just above the picnic area. So Brett and Eric drove up to the lookout and hiked the final steep bit to the viewpoint and there we set up the small portable station – Brett’s KX3 - which we used on our SOTA hike last week. We found the band full of signals and Brett completed one QSO with a California station. We decided we had to move the main operation up here and so we quickly packed up and returned to the park. It didn’t take long to pack up the equipment and drive up to the end of the road near the viewpoint
As the road climbed almost to the summit, we decided to set up at the road end and operate out of the back of the car. Here we found a lovely snag about 40 feet tall and Fred shot his line over it and soon we were on the air with lots of stations. We encountered quite a bit of noise on the band but we were able to make over 30 contacts up here. It still wasn’t a good number but we enjoyed the challenge and the views were quite nice. One of the highlights for me were the numerous opportunities to share with the public about amateur radio. While I was chatting with one couple Fred was making our only European contact, in the Ukraine, and once logged he stopped to share his achievement. This quite impressed the couple. They are now seriously considering getting a license as they are boaters and could use radio as a good safety tool.
In looking back, we all felt that the day was worth the effort and we had fun doing our DX expedition. It would have been even better with more members out but as it was, those that went felt that it should be repeated in some form next summer.