My family has a small island on Lake of the Woods in Ontario, Canada. It is in Sabaskong Bay, about a mile nearly due west of the southern tip of the Nestor Falls airport runway. I go up there every year. There is just no other place like it, and nothing could ever replace it.
Since I have been a Ham radio operator I have taken my radios with me to operate from there. The Maidenhead Grid Locator on the island is EN39ad. This is a location designator Ham radio operators exchange on the VHF bands and higher. EN39 happens to be a rare place to operate from so I have a blast when I am up there!
This past trip I made all of my contacts on the 50mHz band (6 meters). I had more contacts this trip than all other trips COMBINED (that’s the previous 5 years). E-skip was great. I caught band openings from Washington state, down to Texas, and over to New England. It sure is fun to call “CQ 6 meters this is VE3/KC8QVO Echo-November 3-9″ and hear dozens and dozens of stations all calling ME! It is a very powerful, exciting feeling. That’s what makes all the effort of setting up the gear, and the expense, all worth it.
The equipment list is pretty extensive. I basically brought every radio and accessory I own, minus a few HF antennas and masts. I had both HF rigs – TS-2000 and IC-718. I took my IC-207H out of the truck and used it for weather band RX and monitoring the FM stuff – including the marine band. I even had my Cobra 29nwst CB on the table. There actually was quite a bit of activity on the Chicken Band. Every time I turned it on there were people talking. 2 meters was dead – no one on the band, and no repeaters to hit. My RCI-5054dx was used as a night-time 6m monitor. I didn’t want to leave the 2000 on all night. I ended up loosing the LED back lighting on the 5054 from continuous use, but the radio still works. That came in real handy when Es started up at weird times. They don’t call 6 meters “the magic band” for nothing. Power came from my Astron VS-35m. The rotator was my trusty G800-SA. The big box there with the two vernier drives is my AT1500CV tuner (read my post about “Antenna Tuners?” if you want to get in to that topic). That was supposed to be used on HF, but I never got around to running much HF. The mic is a GM-4 on a PL-2 boom and shock mount. The big brass thing is an RA P4 key.
I ended up using the TS-2000 the whole time. I had the 718 because I was planning on running a net on 40 meters so people would be able to set up scheduled contacts and know when I was on the air. Unfortunately, 40 meters had a lot of noise and was unusable. Same goes for the computer – that was for digital modes. Even though I could have run WSJT on 6 and 2 I didn’t have any way of setting a sked.
The antennas were my regular beam antennas. A50-5S on 6 meters, 13B2 on 2 meters, and A440-21ATV on 70cm (yes, that is M2’s ATV antenna but it does run fine at 432 also). Please see my section on the “Portable Rotatable Mast” for more information on how these were actually installed. For HF I had my Tarheel model 200 screwdriver. That also worked on 6 meters. Once I found out about the noise problem I scrapped the idea of a 1/4w vertical for 40. That would have been another 30 some feet of mast that would have had to be erected, and for a band with a lot of noise it just wasn’t worth the time and effort.
The trip wasn’t all radios, though. My grandfather lives here in the summer. He turned 80 years old when we were there so we had a nice birthday party with a lot of our family friends and locals. It was a good time. Other activities on the island include: gathering fire wood (yes, it is the middle of the summer and it does still get cold at night), maintenance (mother nature does a hell of a job in that climate), as well as other chores.
When the work is done and you need some relaxation there are lots of ways to do that! Being on the 7th largest lake in the world, there are unlimited places to explore and places to fish. Just make sure you have a GPS handy so you can route yourself back home. Its easy to get lost on the lake.