2006 UPDATE - SAINT MARTIN / SINT MAARTEN - PJ7/ND5S



MAP OF ST.MARTIN/ST.MAARTEN

GENERAL ISLAND INFORMATION . . .

Sun-drenched Dutch St.Maarten has been our destination of choice for winter getaways since 1995. We have regular radio skeds with our friends in Michigan and always report that the temperature is 83, but in actuality it doesn't vary too far from that.

There is a uniqueness to this island in that it is the only island in the world shared by two parent countries. The northern part of the island is French and is part of the French West Indies. The southern part of the island is Dutch and is part of the Netherlands Antilles.

The French side of the island is heavily influenced by French culture, you can hear French being spoken by the children as they play. On the island you'll find some of the best restaurants in the Caribbean. It is said that you can dine on the island every night for a year and not repeat restaurants. If you're a real gourmand you must visit Grand Case where you'll find everything from rib shacks to haute cuisine.

THE HARBOR FRONT AT MARIGOTWYNDHAM SAPPHIRE BEACH CLUB The image at far right is the harbor front at Marigot, the capitol of the French side. High atop the hill overlooking the harbor is historic Fort St.Louis built in 1767. The red-hulled boat at the pier is a water taxi used to get to the neighboring island of Anguilla.

The Dutch side of the island is more international in flavor and is home to several Casinos and the major airport, Juliana International. There are 35 beautiful beaches surrounding this island and all are public access; private ownership of the beach is not allowed. Dutch is the official language on the Dutch side of the island but it is very obvious that English is the preferred language. In all the years going to the island I have rarely heard conversations in Dutch.

The Wyndham Sapphire Beach Club, where we own time-shares, is located in the Lowlands section on the Dutch side, at Cupecoy Bay. The Sapphire is a deluxe 9 story structure situated northwest of Juliana Airport.

THE CLIFFS AT CUPEBOY BEACH

VIEW FROM PIC PARADIS

The photo on the left was taken from the top of Pic Paradis 424 meters (1390 feet) above sea level. Quartier D'Orléans is seen left center and Philipsburg is seen upper right. Two cruise ships are at the pier. Barely visible on the horizon is the island of St. Bartholomew (St. Barth's).

In the photo on the right are the gorgeous cliffs of Cupecoy Bay, a favorite photo spot on the island.




BUTTERNUT HF2V VERTICAL WITH 160M KIT

HF2V VERTICAL AND MA5B BEAM

ANTENNAS . . .

It's no accident that our time-share dates coincide with the ARRL CW DX Contest. When we purchased here, we were up front about our radio activities and it was understood that we would be putting up antennas. This has not gone without challenges in the past, but we have been operational every year.

The antennas are located in an open top, walled, elevator service well on the roof. The antennas keep a very low profile when viewed from street level. The size of this well is approximately 12 X 20 feet. Two 250-foot coax runs (RG8X mini) conveniently follow a ground wire down the building and are hardly noticeable. Two antennas are used for our operation. The MA5B Cushcraft 5 band 3 element beam has two active elements on 10, 15 and 20, and a dipole on 12 and 17. We point this antenna north northwest and leave it there for our operation. No rotator is installed. I have thousands of Europeans in the log for our operation even though they are "off the side" of this antenna. There's a good bit of RF on this roof. You can see 2 satellite receive dishes in the lower right portion of the picture and out of the picture to my back are cell phone antennas and VHF/UHF antennas. Since this picture was taken, two very large satellite dishes have been added to the left side of the well. We have been very lucky to have avoided intermod.

A Butternut HF2V with a 160 retro-kit is used for the low bands. This antenna works out great on all 3 bands (160/80/40) and also serves as an effective radiator on 30 meters through an antenna tuner. Because of the nature of the roof, running radials would be difficult for the HF2V. Luckily this building has a substantial network of 1/4-inch solid copper wire running along the entire perimeter of the roof and traveling down the building to ground. Scrubbing off the considerable weathering on the wire with steel wool provided nice bright copper to which I ran a very short 18-inch ground braid for the vertical (red clip).

ANTENNA HARD SIDED GOLF CASE Both antennas break down and fit into a single hard-sided golf bag case. The reflector of the MA5B was too long for the case, so my friend Roger (K8RS) cut the reflector in half, reinforced the element pieces where they join with proper sized aluminum, then fashioned a connector out of solid aluminum. Thanks for a great alteration Roger! Random size blocks of foam rubber are used in the case to stabilize the aluminum to prevent shipping damage. The two antennas and the golf case weigh in at 53 lbs. With the new airline limit of 50 pounds for a checked-in bag, the fastener container and a couple of the heavier pieces had to be transferred to our other bags. The new weight requirements really present a challenge to mounting a vacation ham radio experience but can be done with careful planning.

A consideration for temporary antennas, unlike permanently mounted antennas, is that they will go through many cycles of assembly/disassembly. After tuning the antenna to my satisfaction, I used a scratch awl to mark the aluminum for consistent reassembly. I also labeled the parts as L1/R1 (left element one, right element one), L2/R2 etc., for the antennas to speed up identification. A very important consideration for stainless steel hardware is anti-seize prevention. Petroleum jelly applied to the threads works well for this and isn't as messy as anti-seize compound, although anti-seize compound is a better choice for home installations. Carrying extra heavy-duty zip lock bags for small parts is also a good idea as the shipping process takes its toll.



SHACK EQUIPMENT

EQUIPMENT . . .

My vacation shack from left to right

  • Two position Alpha Delta switch for convenient selection of my low band Butternut HF2V vertical (30/40/80/160) or my high band Cushcraft MA5B mini-beam (10/12/15/17/20)
  • Alinco DM-330MV 30 amp switching power supply
  • LDG AT-11MP automatic antenna tuner
  • Heil Pro headset
  • Icom 706MKIIG
  • Homemade interface for FSK RTTY, CW keying and PTT lines sharing a single Comm port. See details
  • HP Laptop computer
    • Software - Writelog and MMTTY
    • K1NU rig to computer interface
    • SIIG brand PCMCIA Comm Port adapter plus the computer on-board Comm Port
    • With 2 Comm ports and the internal soundcard I have full rig control on Comm 1, and keyboard CW, keyboard FSK RTTY, PSK32 and PTT control on Comm 2
  • All equipment fits into a single carry-on bag


2006 ARRL INTERNATIONAL DX CONTEST - CW . . .

ND5S AT THE OPERATING POSITION
  QSOs MULTS
BAND 2006 2005 2003 2002 2006 2005 2003 2002
160 271 172 110 237 48 43 32 41
80 516 433 405 325 54 51 53 50
40 538 622 593 378 51 56 54 48
20 486 625 605 239 51 54 50 48
15 699 538 733 531 55 53 54 53
10 - 646 427 550 - 52 53 56
TOTALS 2510 3036 2873 2260 259 309 296 296
                 
SCORES 1,950,270 2,814,372 2,551,224 2,006,880 123 123 123 123


Must be a sign of the times in the doldrums of the sunspot cycle. Activity in the 2006 ARRL DX CW contest was significantly lower than last year. Not a single contact was made on 10 meters despite this operator calling CQ at the top and bottom of most hours during daylight. I should have stuck to every hour as I found other Caribbean neighbors were able to get a short window on 10 late in the afternoon.

After the contest I confirmed with other stations south of me that they had some propagation. A P40 station in Aruba was able to make 150 contacts and I could hear some South American stations making contacts, but no stateside activity was to be heard from St.Maarten when I operated the band.

My 160 and 80 meter activity improved from last year. But my overall performance was off from last year by some 500 contacts and almost 1,000,000 points.



TOTAL ACTIVITY FOR 2006 . . .

BAND ARRL CW PERI - CONTEST TOTALS
CONTEST SSB CW RTTY *
160 271 1 292 0 564
80 516 0 527 0 1043
40 538 0 433 0 971
30   0 52 0 52
20 486 18 87 181 772
17   0 214 0 214
15 699 0 21 35 755
12   0 31 0 31
10 0 0 0 0 0
           
TOTALS 2510 19 1657 216 4402
* Includes RTTY NAQP Contest Activity

Activity outside of the contest was also challenging. I had a hard time scaring up contacts on the high bands 10 through 20. My low band activity though was quite successful. I put more Europeans in my 160 log than I had in all my previous trips to the island combined . . . not bad for 100 watts into a relatively short vertical. I’m sure I gave many stations a new one on Top Band. Arriving home I had 150 requests for QSLs in my stack of mail with many stations thanking me for a new one.

I checked into some of the phone DX Nets on 20 meters and gave some guys a new one. Not very efficient use of time though, as one may sit there on the net for 2 hours and make 6 contacts. Six contacts can be had on CW inside of 2 minutes when the DX is running hot and heavy. I made some casual RTTY contacts on 20 meters and handed out mults in the RTTY NAQP. RTTY contesting software “recognized” ND5S and I got return calls that way and had to repeatedly send PJ7/ND5S with my weak station for the call to be corrected.

Other than a run of JA/UA0 during a 45 minute window on 20 meters I had one Hawaii, one Malaysia, a ZL and a couple of VKs and no other Asia or Oceania contacts. This was a very strange occurrence based on past trips to this island. I want to thank Kazu, JA9FAI, for alerting me to the time for the short opening to JA.

Here’s hoping for the upward swing of the sunspot cycle to come soon and better DX opportunities for everyone. While in the low spot of the cycle one would be well advised to concentrate on those hard to get low band contacts.




YOUR ST.MAARTEN OPERATION . . .

Amateur radio operation for U.S. citizens from both Dutch St.Maarten and French St.Martin could not be simpler as both are members of the European Conference of Postal and Telecommunications Administration (CEPT). All you need to operate is the FCC Public Notice (which outlines the CEPT details) available in PDF format by CLICKING HERE, proof of U.S. citizenship and a copy of your FCC license.

Obtaining a specific contest callsign is more involved and requires a fee and application to Landsradio in Curaçao, the seat of government for the Netherlands Antilles.



MEI-LIRON (ND5S) & SUE (KF5LG)

THANKS . . .

I want to thank my wife Sue (KF5LG) for sitting by the pool for the weekend while I knocked myself out on the radio. If you are a frequent visitor to my webpage you knew that we brought our Pekingese Mei-Li with us to the island in 2003. She passed away in November 2003 at the ripe old age of 15 1/2. We very much missed her and we have since brought Shasta into our home. Shasta is an 80 pound Black Lab and she has filled the void left by Mei-Li.

I want to also thank Sue for being my able-bodied assistant in assembling and raising the antennas.



GOODBYE . . .

SAFE HARBOR

So long from St.Maarten for another year.

I want to leave you with this photo of ships lining up at sunset to enter Simpson Bay Lagoon; safe harbor and tranquil waters await them there.

Drawbridges into the lagoon are located on both the French and Dutch sides of the island and operate twice daily, morning and evening. Both channels into the lagoon can be seen on the map.









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