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Steve Wright
Advanced Class
EI5DD Ham Since 1973

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Other Callsigns
G4GFC (UK Callsign)
EI4ALE (Galway VHF Group Callsign)
EI185RNLI (Special Event Callsign for RNLI OPeration)
EJ185RNLI (Special Event Callsign for Aran Islands RNLI)
EI0TED (Craggy Island Dxpedition Group Callsign)

My Ham Radio Interests
My major interest in radio is home-brew project building and renovation of older radio equipment. I still have my old Codar AT5 transmitter, T28 Receiver, CR70MkII all in perfect working order after much TLC. I recently acquired a KW2000B tranceiver which requires a little attention but will be a treasured addition to my collection of vintage equipment. My most valued piece of test equipment is my B&K 700 valve tester.

I am involved in the Amateur Radio Emergency Network which is busy with local activity for at least 10 months of the year. This is also an opportunity to enjoy portable and mobile operation.

I am a member of the Galway VHF Group. I am involved with an active and innovative group of operators sharing similar interests. Meetings are very enjoyable and always an opportunity to keep up to date with new technology.

QRP operation is another field of radio that holds my interest and a number of projects are currently on the test bench at present. A pity the CW is rusty but a good excuse to bring up the speed.

Portable operation is another facet of the hobby that I enjoy. There is nothing to beat throwing a bit of wire up and working the world. I have great results to date from wire carried aloft by a kite. I intend to buy a few more kites and suspend a delta loop for 80 metres some time.

Having followed a lot of the work done by Nathan Cohen, fractal antennas really do appeal to my imagination. I hope to test a few designs in the near future.

My Base station
Icom 756
Behringer Xenyx 502 Microphone pre-amp/equaliser
Yaesu FT897D
Ascom 550
TigertronicsDigital Modes Interface

My Portable Station
Icom 7200
Fibreglass Mast+wire antennas
Kite supported dipole or slopers

My Back-Pack Station
Yaesu FT817D
LDG Auto tuner
MP-1 portable vertical antenna 80 - 10m
Selction of Dipoles
Portable centre Loaded Vertical

My Mobile Station
Icom 7200
Pro Am Whips for HF bands
Yaesu FT 8900 Quadbander

Other Interests
Classical Music
Creative writing

Galway VHF Group
QRP Amateur Radio Club International
European PSK Club
Radio Society of Great Britain
American Radio Relay League
Irish Radio Transmitters Society

Activation of Castle Kirk by the Galway VHF Group

From EI5DD

8/3/2010 3:39:29 PM (0 comments) Add a commentAdd Comment

Castle Kirk or Hen’s Castle is situated on a very small Island located between Doon and Maam in an area of Lough Corrib that is free of Islands. This Norman keep, placed in the direction of the cardinal compass points, was built early in the 12th Century by the sons of Roderick O'Connor, last High-King of Ireland, aided by their then ally, William Fitz-Adelm, the first de Burgo. This castle which occupies almost the entire island had a troubled history, being stormed and besieged many times, not the least of which was the celebrated occasion when Grainne Mhaol (Grace O'Malley) personally defended it. It continued to be occupied as a castle until it finally succumbed to the Cromwellian soldiers in 1654.

The Island is approximately half a mile from the shores although a 3 mile boat journey from the pier next to Keane’s in Maam. The CASHOTA designator for Castle Kirk is EI-005 C, the WAI square is L95 Galway and the locator is IO-53-FL.

Galway VHF Group members, Gerry, EI8DRB, Enda, EI3IS and Steve EI5DD, decided that the long overdue activation of Castle Kirk should take place over the long weekend 31st of July to the 1st of August.

The plan of action was to load equipment into the lake boat at 8 am from the pier in Maam and then take the journey down the Bealnabrack river and into Lough Corrib which is a journey of some 3 miles. It is unwise to make this journey if there is any strong breeze as the lake can get pretty rough. It was raining when the group arrived and the there was a fair breeze. After a 2 hour wait the weather took a turn for the better and the decision was taken to make the move. The journey was approximately 20 minutes to the island and the last quarter of a mile was spent negotiating a safe passage into a small pier that was in very shallow water.

The requisite equipment for running two stations was carried up to the Castle. Inside, the Castle had been partially renovated with an oak floor on beams that gave a good vantage point to observe the lake. The tent was pitched and gear stowed in between showers.

The 20 metre station was the first up and running with Gerry, EI8DRB operating. The antenna was a vertical dipole and the rig was a Yaesu FT-847. 20 metres was yielding contacts into Europe and the occasional station from the USA. In the mean time initial attempts to put up a top-band doublet failed as there was insufficient space on the island to accommodate it. An 80 metre doublet was hoisted instead giving plenty of room to orientate it and bring it to a good height. The station used on the LF bands was the Yaesu FT 897D with an MFJ tuner. Both 80 and 40 metres were in a poor state at this time. A quick tidy of the operating area was in order and then the mandatory cup of tea and sustenance was in order.

A good survey of the Island was carried out with a view to a future visit the. The total length of the Island would just about accommodate a top band doublet with difficulty and the width would just fit an 80 metre doublet. The problem would be anchor points if one wanted to get the wire horizontal without dog-legs. A multi-band vertical would be considered as part of future operations.

The weather continued to be variable as the day progressed but seemed to clear as darkness fell. 80 metres finally opened up around 8pm and there was a fair interest generated in the operation of Castle Kirk. Operation on 80 was more relaxed and detailed information was passed Enda, EI3IS, and Steve, EI5DD operated this station. During one QSO there was a little difficulty in getting the castle name across to an operator in the UK. After spelling the castle name “KILO, INDIA, RADIO KILO” a couple of times without success, the additional bit “as in Captain James T” was added and amazingly the penny dropped at the other end. This became the catch phrase for the rest of the operation. 80 metre operation continued very well until 1 am when the conditions began to change. An uncomfortable night followed sleeping on the oak floor and also the midges stayed up late and continued to feast on the VHF Group operators.

A 7 am start had twenty metres up and running with Gerry EI8DRB on the mike . Conditions were very strange as stations from the UK were very strong and then the band would favour the USA and cycle back and forth from there onwards. 80 was dead to the world with some weak watery signals and 40 metres was not fantastic, but there was plenty of activity between the UK and Europe until about 10:30 am.

At one stage a G operator asked would he spot us on one of the DX clusters. Within 20 or so minutes of him posting a CQ Hen's Castle spot, the 20m station was on the receiving end of a pileup, with many R and U stations competing with the short-skip Gs for attention. A good few transatlantic contacts were logged during this period also, the most notable of which being a QRP station located in Maine. The highlight of the rush was definitely the YA station who after many patient attempts managed an exchange with us. Many of the stations contacted finished the QSO with a wry 73, enjoy your pileup.

Aside from the quick-fire exchanges with the more distant stations, there were plenty of more leisurely contacts with European stations interested in the Castle and her history. There were also many 'special event' calls and stations on the air, perhaps taking advantage of what often seems like one of the few contest-free weekends all summer.

20 metres continued on up until midday. The 80 metre station was tuned towards the IRTS news frequency about 10 minutes prior to the time of transmission. There was little evidence of stations tuning up on 3650 KHz and those that were heard were very weak. When the news was transmitted Sean, EI7CD, was weak to non-existent. Whilst the news was copied fully there was no hope of getting a call in to Sean with his high level of local noise at the time. This was the vital call as it is the only way to draw the attention of EI operators that one is going to be operating a little further up the band to give out the WAI or CASHOTA number. Several attempts were made to call in even with other stations relaying the call to Sean. Conditions were just not there to favour the contact.

At this point it was decided that it was time to eat and make the decision as to whether the operation continued or whether it was time to dismantle. Weather conditions were changing with a breeze beginning to strengthen and the safe journey back was considered. As with all these operations the dismantling of the station seemed to be a lot faster. The equipment was down to and loaded into the boat. The journey back was a little rough with choppy water, but uneventful. Once on the river the water became calm.

A debriefing session occurred in Maam over a long cool pint and a toasted sandwich. As always the Ham Radio Deluxe Logging program had worked well. There had been problems on the LF station with a level of noise from the power supply, which once disconnected, would disappear. The use of a noise-cancelling unit had reduced this to minimum but it was time to find another lap top computer at this stage. Steps to reduce the amount of cross talk between the two stations would have to be improved as this was creating a few problems but not overly serious. Despite the poor conditions over 400 contacts were made. As a group each operator had their own contribution to make towards the success of the event. Gerry had a great talent for producing tasty food from the basic resources. It was decided that this trip will be made on an annual basis.

A special card will be available for any that made contact with the Castle Kirk operation.

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