Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Island On The Air IOTA - The Planning

This post is not complete....

It feels as though the time has come to think about and plan for an IOTA field operating expedition.

To date I have operated in two multi operator 2 day ARRL field day operations, 3 single day outings to Champlain lookout, and two 3 day winter operations, both of which were "off the grid" and 100% self supporting.

I have thought of either Summits On The Air (SOTA) or Islands On The Air (IOTA), for some reason I find the island expedition more interesting, perhaps its the water that attracts me as I tend to miss the salty air of the New Brunswick coasts of my childhood.

The IOTA web site is the starting place for planning the options available.

  • IOTA is an amateur radio activity programme designed to encourage contacts with island stations world-wide. The oceans' islands have been grouped into some 1200 "IOTA groups" with, for reasons of geography, varying numbers of "counters", i.e. qualifying islands, in each. The objective, for the island chaser, is to make radio contact with at least one counter in as many of these groups as possible and, for the DXpeditioner, to provide such island contacts. For both it is a fun pastime adding much enjoyment to on the air activity. 21 separate certificates are currently available for island chasers, graded in difficulty, as well as two prestigious awards for high achievement.
  • Source: IOTA FAQ

Islands that qualify must meet a few key attributes. These include,

  • not lying in a river, inland lakes or seas, or largely enclosed bays
  • a minimum distance from the mainland.
  • must be either 1 kilometre in length or shown on a 1:1,000,000 scale map.

Clearly there will be a minimal travel involved as I live in a land locked region of the country. Also, there are some real life constraints that will restrict my options.

A search of IOTA islands that are within driving distance are within 1200km of Ottawa are:

Ref. No.Distance (kms.)Distance (miles)BearingGroup Name
NA-217411.11255.45121.8°New Hampshire State group
NA-137432.07268.48110.5°Maine State West (York to Knox County) group
NA-136464.32288.52156.3°Connecticut State group
NA-148472.06293.32127.9°Massachusetts State North (Barnstable to Essex County) group
NA-026483.42300.38160.2°New York State group
NA-031489.27304.02143.5°Rhode Island State group
NA-046534.19331.93135.6°Massachusetts State South (Bristol to Barnstable County) group
NA-128535.15332.5348.7°Quebec Province (St Lawrence Waterway) group
NA-055549.66341.5494.5°Maine State East (Knox to Washington County) group
NA-111589.37366.22177.7°New Jersey State group
NA-014723.01449.2685.6°New Brunswick Province South group
NA-140729.79453.47188°Maryland State West group
NA-127747.1464.2387.8°Nova Scotia Province West group
NA-139751.35466.87181.3°Maryland State East group
NA-126765.11475.4298.2°Nova Scotia Province South group
NA-177795.46494.2856°Quebec Province (Gaspe Peninsula) group
NA-068800.26497.2670°New Brunswick Province North group
NA-125830.71516.1847.2°Quebec Province (St Lawrence Gulf) West group
NA-083860.13534.46184.4°Virginia State group
NA-081927.71576.4589.3°Nova Scotia Province East group
NA-029927.73576.4675.2°Prince Edward Island (include satellite islands)
NA-154979.63608.7182.3°Nova Scotia Province North group
NA-207996.96619.48336.4°Nunavut (Hudson Bay - Ontario Coast) South group
NA-1731000.13621.45346.2°Nunavut (Hudson Bay - Quebec Coast) South group
NA-0771027.12638.2256.6°Quebec Province (Anticosti Island) group
NA-0671055.69655.98184.9°North Carolina State East (Carteret to Currituck County) group
NA-1761066.07662.4353°Quebec Province (St Lawrence Gulf) Centre group
NA-0381103.43685.6470.5°Quebec Province (La Madeleine Islands) group
NA-0101123.84698.3277.7°Nova Scotia Province (Cape Breton Island) group
NA-0941166.1724.5872.7°St Paul Island
NA-0631197.3574490.2°Sable Island

I would prefer to operate as a VE station, so it seems that some candidates are;


Quebec Province (St Lawrence Waterway) group

New Brunswick Province South group

Nova Scotia Province West group

Nova Scotia Province South group

Quebec Province (Gaspe Peninsula) group

New Brunswick Province North group

Quebec Province (St Lawrence Gulf) West group

Nova Scotia Province East group

Prince Edward Island (include satellite islands)

Nova Scotia Province North group

Nunavut (Hudson Bay - Ontario Coast) South group

Nunavut (Hudson Bay - Quebec Coast) South group

Quebec Province (Anticosti Island) group

Of the Canadian options I have I must admit that the ones that standa out for me are;

NA-177 Quebec Province (Gaspe Peninsula) group
  • Group Name: Quebec Province (Gaspe Peninsula) group
  • Claimed by: 19.4% of participants.
  • Main prefix: VE2
  • Location: 48.00N - 49.33N / 64W - 68W
  • Group Contains: Bonaventure and Plate
Bonaventure Island is at the eastern most tip of the Gaspe Peninsula.

Bonaventure Island (Île Bonaventure), with Percé, was among the early seasonal fishing ports of New France, and was associated with the lineage of Nicolas Denys. The island became a migratory bird sanctuary in 1919 due to the 1916 Migratory Bird Convention between Canada and the United States. The Province of Quebec acquired ownership of the entire island in 1971 and later grouped it together with Percé Rock into the Parc national de l'île-Bonaventure-et-du-Rocher-Percé (Bonaventure Island and Percé Rock National Park) in 1985. One of the largest and most accessible bird sanctuaries in the world, with more than 280,000 birds, Bonaventure Island is a major tourist destination with boat and island tours from May to October.

Boat and island tours are offered from May to October. The island features five hiking trails. Park wardens and naturalists also offer guided bird, fossil and geology walks and tours. The park's main interpretation centre is located on the mainland in Percé, in a restored building known as Le Chafaud. The exhibits focus on the park's bird colonies, marine life, ecosystem, geology and history.

The official website for the Park is at the following link.

NA-077 Quebec Province (Anticosti Island) group
  • Group Name: Quebec Province (Anticosti Island) group
  • Claimed by: 29.5% of participants.
  • Main prefix: VE2
  • Location: 49.00N - 50.00N / 61.58W - 64.58W
  • Group Contains: Anticosti

Anticosti Island (French, Île d'Anticosti) is an island at the outlet of the Saint Lawrence River into the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, in Quebec, Canada, between 49° and 50° N., and between 61° 40' and 64° 30' W. At 7,892.52 km2 (3,047.32 sq mi) in size, it is the 90th largest island in the world and 20th largest island in Canada. Anticosti Island is separated on the north from the Côte-Nord region of Quebec (the Labrador Peninsula) by the Jacques Cartier Strait and on the south from the Gaspé Peninsula by the Honguedo Strait.

Anticosti Island is very large but very sparsely populated (281 people in 2006), mostly in the village of Port-Menier on the western tip of the island, consisting chiefly of the keepers of the numerous lighthouses erected by the Canadian government. The entire island constitutes one municipality officially known as L'Île-d'Anticosti.


From what I have read I have selected Anticosti Island as the destination, the avilability of cottages and poper places to stay on the Island make this a clear winner.

Getting there:

Getting there is simple enough but will involve a long 20hr hrive and a ferry crossing.

Drive - 1300km 19hrs Ottawa to Havre St Pierre

Ferry - Havre St Pierre to Port-Menier
This is the only ferry crossing I could find to the island and is not a traditional ferry in so far as your vehicle goes with you goes like this.

The passenger accommodations are much more traditional. I'm not sure I want to see the Pathfinder in the air like this I assume they will not drop it.
Drive -

It is 155km from Port-Menier to the Cabins at Vauréal, and the recommended driving times are at 60km/h which reflects the rugged nature of the roads on the island.
  • Island road map link

Lodging -

Source: link

The typical cabin located at Vauréal which are on the north shore look very accomidating.

These Cabins which are avilable in the park can be seen from this link on this page.
Usefull things to remember
  • The island's only grocery is in Port-Menier
  • Gas is avilable only in Port-Menier and McDonald Visitors Center, Chicotte-la-Mer Visitors Centre (south shore)
  • At sites, cabins and campgrounds, you'll need to bring enough water bottles to last your entire stay

Usefull links
  • Usefull general link

More to come

73 OM


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Silent Lake Yurt "DX expedition" Field Report

Now that we have returned from our outing to Silent Lake I wanted to take this chance to post a note.

Roxanne and I spent 3 quiet days at Silent Lake provincial park in eastern Ontario. Trip dates were Feb, 15, 16, and 17th. I spent most of my time playing radio, while Roxanne read a few novels. We also enjoyed the outdoors, WX was mostly overcast with a few sunny windows, but not too cold.

The previous post has some of my planning information and may be of interest.

The Short Trip In

The truck was unpacked into the snow transportation for the final trip to the camp.

The Yurt is a 14ft circular "insulated" canvas temporary winter shelter and is equipped with a BBQ! The entire space is very basic but comfortable for the duration planned. Cooking is done outside, on the Coleman and Propane BBQ. Heating is with a small wood burning stove. There is no electricity and very very poor cell coverage.

All the wood you could ever need is provided at the edge of the site and it is replenished every morning. Most need a final splitting to make into reasonable pieces for the stove. The wood used by the 6 Yurts in the campground is taken from the park its self on a yearly basis.

The 6 available Yurts book up very quickly and are in high demand, planning ahead and taking what you can get is simply a must.


Well,... Salmon on day 1, Steak on Day 2, suppers were very yummy.


Silent Lake is a multi use park which sees several users involved in activities such as ice fishing, snowshoeing, and skiing.

Random Wire Antenna

I suspected the only way I could reliably get on 80m in a park with limited open spaces would involve a end fed random wire antenna. A few days before we left I ordered an ICOM AH-4 tuner form Radio World. A quick trip to Princess Auto and I picked up 100ft of 12AWG wire for the long wire, and 200ft of 14AWG wire to make 4 50ft radials. I chose the AH-4 simply because it works with the 1 button push tuning on the face of the IC7000, successful tuning results in the "tune" indicator being displayed. It is as simple as that. I was pleased with the workmanship of the AH-4.

I tied the AH-4 to a tree close by, pounded a 4ft ground rod at the base, and connected the 4 radials. The 100ft random wire was pitched up in the near by deciduous trees to a height of 30 to 35ft. I use a tennis ball stuffed with washers to whip the antenna up where it needs to go. Works every time, (hi hi)

The 4 radials at the ground.

The random wire end fed solution proved very effective as I received reports of S9+10 to S9+15 on the 100W pk of the IC7K. All bands were 1.5:1 or better (where I tried them) with the exception of the CW portion of 80m.


The portable Yagi, is the Super Antenna YP-3. Setup was very easy and I had pre verified the needed element lengths for the the CW portion of 20m. Although this kit can accommodate 20m and above I only used the YP-3 on 20m this trip.

The boom parts snap together and elements are easily assembled although chilly on the fingers. At 20m the elements are loaded and the beam width is about 18ft wide.

Total height is approximately 20ft if fully extended. I was not able to go to this height because of tree limbs which were near by.

Operating Position

A simple table in the yurt serves as both the supper table and operating position.

  • Battery plant, was 4 gel cells, 200AH, after 3 days of operating, 30% capacity remained in the batteries.

  • Equipment included, Signal link USB, 12V Laptop "inverter", Battery Booster, CAT converter, Laptop, IC7000 and mic.

  • On Tuesday evening I knew the gang was at the MARG meeting and Norm NLH was not available, so after I checked into the Sandbox net I gathered enough steam to try 3730 Net Control. Thanks to every one who checked on to 3730, I had a blast! It was so nice to be able to hear everyone!


Most DX QSOs were to Europe, although I was also able to contact a few stations in South and Central America. Many US stations and fellow Canadian operators were kind enough to return my calls as well.

Most QSOs were 40m and 20m PSK.
I did check into 3730, Sandbox and Ontars on occasion.

Wednesday morning 7:00 Eastern, I tried my best to work Tx4T Hamradio DX-Pedition to French Polynesia but with no success.

Walk on the Lake

We took a hike around the lake, and stopped for tea on the way back. It clearly would have been a bit nicer if it had been sunny.

Thanks for dropping by to the blog.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Silent Lake Yurt "DX expedition"

It is time to get the ham radio out in the wilderness again and operate portable for a few days.

The destination is Silent Lake provincial park in eastern Ontario. Trip dates are Feb 15, 16, and 17th.You can see my notes from last years "event" at


The park is about 240km due west from Ottawa where we live. The drive will start early Sunday morning so that we can arrive at the park entrance at about noon time. From the park gate we will drive to the park Warden's office where we will transfer the camping contents of the truck to snowmobile for the remainder of the trip into the winter camping areas of the park.


Silent lake park is located in eastern Ontario, not far from the eastern sea coast of North America.

Radio Equipment:

The key radio equipment will be an ICOM 7000 which is a compact 100W HF and VHF radio. Antenna tuning, if needed will be delivered with an LDG AT-7000 auto tuner.


Power plant will be 4 50AH 12V Gel-cells. 200AH should provide me with about 18 hours of operation.

The battery booster will "step-up" voltage from the gel-cells to a stable 13.5V even as the gell-cell discharge. This helps the radio perform. The efficiency used in the calculation below is 80% and the booster is only enabled on tansmit.

Battery Storage 50 (Ahr)

# batteries 4

Total Storage 200 (Ahr)

Radio (A) (W) Eff. (min) (A)

Transmit 22 264 0.8 15 5.5

Recieve 4 48 1 60 3.2

(A) (W)

Radio 8.7 104.4

Laptop 3.0 36

Total Average Current 11.7 140.4

Expected time 17.1 (hr)

Antenna: (HF)

HF Antenna will be the Buddipole, I have a configuration for 20m and 40m. Both are L shaped.

Antenna: (VHF 2M) & Repeater Access:

I'd like to have a chance to hit the repeater near by and link with IRLP back to Ottawa. The nearest node is imaged below.

There are really only two nodes which are candidates within 50km of the park.

Operation Plans:

Plans are to operate 20m during the day, and 40m in the evening. I will be equipped to operate PSK and a SSB.

I will not be able to operate VHF and HF at the same time as I will only have the 1 radio.

Packing List:

This is my packing list for the the expedition.

Booster Battery Regulator 1
Booster Coax (3ft) 1
Booster SO239 to BNC adapter 1
Booster UHF T adapter 1
Budipole Black Coil 1
Budipole Carry case 1
Budipole Dipole arms 4
Budipole Guy rope ground pegs 3
Budipole Long whips 4
Budipole Mini Banana to BNC converter 1
Budipole Red coil 1
Budipole Short whips 3
Budipole SO239 to BNC adapter 1
Budipole Spare thumb screws 5
Budipole Tripod base 1
Budipole Tripod mast (w/ 3 guy ropes) 1
Budipole TRSB 1
Budipole Versatee 1
Computer Fused power cable (15A pair inline) 1
Phone HTC Phone 1
Phone USB Cable (Phone) 1
Computer Laptop 1
Computer Laptop Power Inverter 12V i/p 1
Computer Laptop Power Inverter Power cable 1
Computer USB Mouse 1
Creature Reading glasses 1
IC7k Coax (75ft) 1
IC7k Earphones 1
IC7k Extra cooling fan 1
IC7k Fused power cable (30A paired) 1
IC7k Icom 7000 Power cable 1
IC7k Mic HM-151 1
Power 12V Gellcell 4
PSK31 12V battery jumper cables 6
PSK31 13pin ICOM to Signalink Cable 1
PSK31 RS232 – CIV Converter 1
PSK31 Signalink USB 1
PSK31 USB Cable (Sugnalink) 1
PSK31 USB to Serial Converter 1
Soft AT-7000 manual pdf 1
Soft DM780 1
Soft HRD 1
Soft IC7k manual pdf 1
Spare Fuses (15A Paired, ¼ in inline) 4
Spare Fuses (30A Paired) 4
Spare Fuses (40A Single) 2
Spare Fuses (5A mini Single) 2
Spare SO239 to BNC adapter 2
Spare SO239 to SO239 adapter 1
Spare Spare fuse / misc box 1
Spare USB Mouse Batteries Spare (AA) 2
Tools Leather man tool 1
Tools Tiewraps 1
Tuner AT-7000 Auto tuner 1
Tuner AT-7000 control cable 1
Tuner Coax (1ft) 1
VHF (2M) Coax (25ft) 1
VHF (2M) Vertical 1
YP-3 1inch nuts 6
YP-3 Boom – Center (w/ pigtail and h/w) 1
YP-3 Boom – Director 1
YP-3 Boom – Reflector 1
YP-3 Carry case 1
YP-3 Coils () 6
YP-3 Coils () 6
YP-3 Cresent Wrench 1
YP-3 Elements (ends) 6
YP-3 Elements (first) 6
YP-3 Elements (tips) 6
YP-3 Hairpin shorting bar 1
YP-3 Hairpin stub elements 2
YP-3 Measureing tape 1
YP-3 SO239 to SO239 adapter 1
YP-3 Spare thumb screws 2
YP-3 (STAND) Guy rope clips 3
YP-3 (STAND) Guy rope ground pegs 4
YP-3 (STAND) Guy rope ground pegs hammer 1
YP-3 (STAND) Guy rope ring 1
YP-3 (STAND) Guy rope ring spacer 1
YP-3 (STAND) Guy ropes (10m) 3
YP-3 (STAND) Through keys 4
YP-3 (STAND) Tripod base 1
YP-3 (STAND) Tripod mast 1

Pad Paper 1

Pen 1