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N4A - Cape Lookout Island Activation - Part 2

NR3X – NC Contesters

Welcome to the NR3X site for its IOTA expeditions as N4A. The rotating(on refresh) heading photos are pulled from expeditions over the past few years. Enjoy, and thanks for the QSO's!

2008 Cape Lookout Expedition: July 25-28th

N4A 2008 Extended Soapbox  
2008 N4A Photographs

Updated August 1st 2008

The 2008 N4A operation was a huge success. We were able to improve upon 2007’s results, and learned quite a bit in the course of the operation.  he weather was far better this year, which was also a big boost for the operators stamina. The temperatures during station set up on Friday afternoon were mild by North Carolina standards for July. The lower humidity levels made the sea breeze pleasant. K4CZ joined the expedition this year, and the extra set of hands made the work much easier.

The accomodations are somewhat spartan, but much better than merely camping in the sand. We rented a small cabin from the National Park Service. The cabins there are equipped to be powered by generator, as there is no elecricity service to the island. The cabin luxuries include both running water and a gas stove and water heater, so hot showers were available – and needed!

Access to the island is by private ferry service now seperate from the park accomodations. Reservations for each are made seperately. Ice is also no longer available on the island, but it can be ordered from the vendor running the ferry service, for dockside pickup. The ferry has a capacity for four vehicles, but four wheel drive is recommended. There are no paved roads on the island, only sand trails and the beachfront.

After arriving on site the first order of business was to set up the mast for the main station antennas. Those were a 40m dipole favoring the direction of Europe, and an 80 meter dipole at right angles to the 40. Both dipoles were really vees, and we fed them with 450 ohm ladder line. In the shack, the feedlines were tuned by two MFJ tuners. This allowed us to use the the antennas as doublets on all bands.

The main station was an Elecraft K2, set up with a laptop running Writelog, a LogiKey CMOS 4 keyer, and a set of Kent paddles. The backup radio was a TenTec Delta, and it was used with a Butternut vertical for a mult station during the IOTA contest. The second radio was also used for most of the Qso’s logged outside of the contest period.

Conditions Friday evening were good, and several hundred Qso’s were logged. Plans to operate 10m and 6m did not materialize as expected. We did not have a six meter rig available, and 10m was disappointingly quiet(as expected). So we turned Qso machine N4YDU loose. He and K4CZ racked up a respectable number of Q’s, proving that the Butternut, driven by the Delta, would indeed radiate with a 2:1 SWR. Everyone was tired from a long day, so we all hit the sack for some much needed rest.

Dawn brought a beautiful sunrise, and after shaking loose the cobwebs and servicing the generator, we assembled our wits for the start of the IOTA contest. The conditions seemed slightly better than those of 2007 during the morning and afternoon. Our rates were slow, but much better than the previous summer’s expedition. The rate remained steady through the daylight hours, with the bulk of the Qso’s being USA stations.

As 21:00z apporoached we were beginning to hear a few European stations on 40m at the mult station, but they were not hearing us with only 100w into a vertical. Chaos soon followed, as there was a sudden increase in rate on 20m CW – with the accompanying high speed CW. Again, it was an obvious time to turn the Qso machine loose, and N4YDU rose to meet the challenge. The biggest problem ‘YDU had was not being able to turn the keyer up to a speed above 30wpm.

20m supplied a slow but steady supply of Qso’s during the daylight hours, and accounted for most of the SSB Qso’s. 20m also popped open to Europe rather spectacularly as sunset approached(2400z) on the island. 40m was disappointing, but supplied us with a decent number of CW Qso’s. 80m was very nearly worthless. Both bands were plagued by high noise. Sunday morning brought low rates, and an imminent need to tear everything apart for a noon appointment with the ferry.

The IOTA activation was a learning experience, as are all field operations. It was also a great deal of fun. Thanks for the QSO’s.

N4A  –  2008 Krewe of Operators:

N4A will operate again in 2008 from Cape Lookout National Seashore at the end of July, over the same weekend as the RSGB IOTA contest.

  • IOTA number NA-067
  • gridsquare FM14tt
  • Carteret County, NC

N4A 2007 ExPedition Soapbox

2007 N4A Photos

As always, working with N4YDU was a blast.

Setting up for operations was a chore. The heat and humidity beat the two operators down mercilessly. We only made a handfull of QSO’s after the station was set up, and spent much of the time we had Friday evening debugging station set up problems.

The start of the IOTA contest brought in a steady flow of QSO’s, which declined as the day wore on.  By 1600z the rates had plummeted, with no decent propagation to Europe, not even on 20m, and few US stations operating the contest.  10 and 15 meters never offered up much in the way of Q’s nor mults.  20 meters did not really begin to show life to Europe until nearly 1800z.

N4YDU had a couple of hours of decent rate from EU on CW then, with most 20m signals very strong.  Nate switched over to 40m CW fairly early, as 40m was showing signs of good conditions also.  He had a really strong run there on 40CW, with the 10 minute rate meter showing over 200/hr several times.  Not much SSB action on 40m SSB.

80m was really tough sledding, as the random wire was showing high noise, and was causing the main run station problems, allowing us to operate with only about 40 watts output.  We really could have done better there.

Run Station: Ten Tec Delta into tuner and ladder line 40m dipole
Mult Station: Yaesu F-100D into 15m quarter wave vertical and Hy-gain 18AVT Vertical
Entry Class: Multi-op, Mixed mode, all band low power, Iota Island Expedition

Great contest, and thanks for the QSO’s. This contest is sure to be on the “Must Operate” list when propagation comes back!

2007 Cape Lookout Expedition: July 27-30th

N4A  –  2007 Krewe of Operators:

  •   N4YDU, Nate
  •   W4KAZ, Keith

N4A operated in 2007 from Cape Lookout National Seashore