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After weeks of planning and preparation, Orkney Amateur Radio Club were finally ready to start the first island activation of 2004. It was decided that the best time to get on the air would be the Easter weekend, hoping that there would be a little more activity on the bands.

We had kind permission from the landowner to bring our camping and radio equipment on to his island on the morning tide of Friday 9th till the morning tide on Sunday 11th so all systems were GO!

As the time came closer, a phone call from the landowner put a smile on every club members face, "You are welcome to set up your radio equipment in my house as I won't be on the island this weekend!" BINGO!! No need for heavy generators and tents. So the extra space in the 4x4s was filled up with more beer!! Now it could even rain and it wouldn't bother us inside the only house on the island.

Thursday morning came and everything had fallen into place nicely. All three 4x4s were packed and ready to take the equipment over the causeway early on Friday morning. Then came the bad news; due to fog on the mainland the landowner who had been in Edinburgh was stuck at the airport and couldn’t get to Orkney until Friday afternoon at the earliest. So it was decided that rather than rush to pack up the generators and tents etc we would cross our fingers and hope that the fog would clear enabling us to go over on the evening tide.

A phone call on Friday afternoon confirmed that the plane had landed and we were good to go. So the team set off on the first leg of Grimbister 2004. As Dave MM0EAX lives across the bay from the Island everyone met there for a beer and game of pool while at the same time watching the tide for the first sign of the causeway coming into view.

From left: Steve MM0SJH, Colin GM0IFM, Kenny MM0GKB, David MM5DWW,
Clive GM3POI, Duncan MM3SWW and Mark MM0MSS

As this was the first activation of the year the team were very eager to get started and as the tide window wasn’t for very long we were at least ½ an hour early on the beach poised and ready to go. Once across the causeway we began to set-up the antennae.

On 10m,15m,20m was a dipole at 40 feet.

On 17m a home made vertical

On 30m/40m a marine band HF antenna (with a GM3POI conversion to work on either band by adjusting a tap on the coil). This antenna was very much an experiment but we were soon to discover a very successful one as it went like a bomb on both bands. Photo: GM3POI adjusting a tap on the coil.

Once all the antennas were assembled it was all in to the house to set up the stations. The cottage had two rooms so this was a bonus as we were able to set up one station in each room:

Station 1 was used on 10m,15m and 20m bands and consisted of a Yaesu FT1000MP with an Ameritron amplifier.

Station 2 was used on 17m, 30m and 40m and consisted of a Kenwood TS950sdx and a Kenwood amplifier.

Heil headsets were used on both stations and SDX logging on both laptops.

Station 2 was ready first and at 19:45z on 40m US3LX was the first ever callsign logged from Grimbister Island; there soon followed a tremendous European pile up which was to last all the way through the night and into the next day.

Station 1 was ready shortly afterwards and at 20:06z on 20m IZ6FZS was logged. We were now underway.

Conditions soon dropped off on 20m so by 21:00 after a good run of North and South Americans there wasn’t a signal to be heard above 7Mhz. Typical it's pitch dark and the 80m dipole is still in the back of a 4x4! Thankfully Station 2 was still in big demand on 40m so all was not lost; and it was decided that at first light we would erect the 80m dipole so that we would have a fall back if 20m closed early again the following evening.

As the evening wore on the Europeans started getting lower on 40m, and the occasional South American would manage to bust through. Even the VK6's were making it through without too much trouble so the experimental antenna was a success great! ZD8I also managed to break the pile-up at 22:40z (now you know your antenna’s working!) By 00:00z the CW operators were getting itchy fingers. "Wonder if we could get a run of Americans on CW?" was mentioned on more than one occasion. So the SSB operators sprung a few tinnies and sat back while the CW guys got to work - first call at 00:40z was UA9CKN.

Whilst the SSB operators were taking a well earned break Colin(GM0IFM) Clive(GM3POI) and Ken(MM0GKB) started into a CW pile-up; mostly Asiatic Russians and North and South Americans were worked between 00:40z and 03:00z although some rarer Caribbean and Central Americans popped up from time to time with EM1HO (Antarctica) at 00:55z. With 40m still wide open at 03:00z the CW guys decided to switch to Station 1 and wait for 20m to open up while Station 2 switched to 40m SSB. First call back on SSB found P43E followed by a string of South Americans, ZS6TDF made it through at 04:08z and TR8CA at 05:09z. By this time the European pile up was s9+ and we were just saying to ourselves the chances of hearing a VK or ZL amongst this lot were 3/10 of bugger all! NEGATIVE at 05:26z ZL3GS came through like a freight train followed by ZL3NW at 06:10z!

Station 1 started 20m CW at around 06:45z. First call found 4Z4DX then mostly Eastern Europeans and VK's whilst still on 40m came the requests from the pile-up "when will you do CW?" so it was decided that Station 2 would keep them happy on 40m CW and Station 1 would start 20m SSB.

20m proved over the weekend to be a bottomless pit during daylight hours and it wasn’t unusual to be working a run of JA’s VK’s and North Americans all at the same time.

Conditions above 14Mhz were on the whole very poor, no contacts were made on 10m at all and just a handful on 15m although it is worth mentioning 9V1RH, 5R8FU and a lot of South Africans and Indonesians made it through.

17m antenna radials

Our 17m antenna also seemed to work well although only a vertical it performed very well and comments from the pile-ups were very complimentary "nice signal" "very loud" "you’re the only station I hear on the band" to mention a few, ok we had an island QTH and a roll off to the sea in all directions but it has to be stressed the importance of a good radial system under your vertical antenna which we had. This can be time consuming when you are setting up but proves a winner in the long run, especially on 30/40m.

The Holm of Grimbister activation proved to be a big success, although over the weekend the conditions weren’t great there was a big demand for the island. Thanks to all who called in and sorry to those who didn’t make it. A big thanks to the landowner who kindly let us invade his house with our radio equipment and antennae. MM0MWW’s final Q count was 5866 into 121 DXCC’s which has proved to be the our most successful island activation to date.

One more thing worth mentioning was the standard of discipline on the bands which was generally good (above 7mhz!) but still the Japanese stations take the gold medal for proving to be the most disciplined operators in the world and a pleasure to work.

It also has to be said that a considerable amount of lower powered stations eg, the UK M3 series callsigns made it through the pile-ups with out too much trouble due to timing and generally good operating technique which is nice to see.

Thanks to all for calling in - sorry to those who didn't make it through please try again from our next island OR?? All stations that complete our Island Survey AND INCLUDE THEIR E-MAIL ADDRESS will now go onto our mailing list to be informed of any future IOSA operations by the OARC team (please note that the mailing list will only be used to inform you of future activations. We will not send you any other unsolicited email/spam.

73s de MM0MWW team

Donnie Grieve, GM0HTH
Colin Blunn, GM0IFM
Clive Penna, GM3POI
Steven Spence, MM0DGI
Dave Thomson, MM0EAX
Ken Mackintosh, MM0GKB
Mark Simpson, MM0MSS
Steve Harvey, MM0SJH
Duncan Elliot, MM3SWW
David Wishart, MM5DWW

With support from...
Terry Penna, MM3POI
Ed Holt, GM0WED