For our summer holiday in 1997 I thought that a combination of tourism an amateur radio would be excellent. Early January we already decided on Scotland as our destination because baking in the south European sun is not really our 'cup of tea'.
We would hope for but not count on blue skies an sunshine. During the preparation of our holiday it seemed to me that when making a tour of Scotland we would come rather close to several islands.... now if there would just be a few nice sights or interesting places on a few of them..... The Isle of Lewis and the Isle of Harris together make up one large island in the Outer Hebrides and count for IOTA as EU-010 .
They offer wild and rough terrain with good roads, decent accommodation and are connected to the mainland by a 3 and a half hour ferry crossing. While not really exceptional any activation should attract newcomers to the IOTA program for a QSO. After a quick look on the map we learned that returning to the mainland could be done via another island. There is a ferry link from the Isle of Harris to the Isle of Skye . Once again there were a few things on Skye worth visiting so plans were made to go there too. Unfortunately EU-008 (Skye) has been activated so often that pileups would be out of the question.
So after careful planning, booking hotels and ferries we were on our way...
Everything went as planned. The P&O ferry left Zeebrugge around 18:30 local time and after dinner and a quick look around the ship and enjoying the warm summer breeze on deck for a while we went to our cabin. It was still VERY early when we were woken up by the ships' intercom. We were just in time to have breakfast and pack our stuff when the ship docked in Hull .
Customs didn't give us a hard time and before long we were on our way north. I just listened on 2 meter for a while until I felt confident enough driving on the wrong side of the road and then put the Outbacker Perth on it's mount when we stopped at a restaurant along the 'Motorway'.
I once again started listening on 20 meter. I had the 'Belgian travelers frequency' (14.306) programmed in and made the first QSO from G-land. Propagation was not as expected on 20 meter to Belgium so not a lot of calling was done until I was far enough from Belgium. Around 16.00 we arrived in our hotel in Inverkeithing (North of Edinburgh) and settled down. After dinner I went to the car on the parking lot and caught up with F/ON4UA, Ben, on holiday in France. The radio part of the holiday had begun. From then on I got on 14.306 every morning when we left the hotel. ON4ACM, Kamiel, ran the holiday makers net with stations in EA, CT, F, I and 'lonely me' in GM. It was great fun to keep in touch with the home QTH on a daily basis. At 11.30 UK summertime skeds were maintained with ON7YY, Luc, on 7055 kHz during his lunch break. This time there was a setback. The antenna would not tune on 40 meter. SWR was 1.8:1 on 7099.9 kHz rising when the frequency was lowered. The TS-50S only put out 40 Watts on 7080 and less on 7055. Later I would attach a peace of copper wire to the top of the antenna with masking tape. The TS-50S would then happily deliver 150 Watts on 40 meter. Whenever I was near the car at sked time we could have our QSO and (after the mutual weather reports) news from ON and our progress in GM was exchanged.
Nessie !! As our trip lead us through the Scotland we stopped at Loch Ness for a cruise to search for Nessie... We were lucky...
Finally the IOTA operation could start. After driving all around town (about 5 minutes did the trick) we settled into our hotel. After dinner I went to the car on the parking lot for a quick 'spin of the dial' on 20 meter. It was a bit disappointing to see that not a lot of people needed EU-010.... or was it propagation? Only 20 QSO's were made in 45 minutes. Sometimes I had to call several minutes without getting replies then a few stations answered at the same time. The following morning We went on our way to see the sights of Lewis. While driving I first held my sked on 14.306 with the ON-gang and afterwards I went to the 14.250-14.270 window for some QSO's. This time the pileup went well and my wife (who does the logging) sometimes had a hard time keeping up with the flow of call signs. Most of the QSO's were in a 2000 mile (3200 Km radius with the odd longer range QSO in between. The next day we had the same scenario and by evening I decided to try 17 meter. I had tried several times to call on 18Mhz but it seemed that no one was listening or my mobile signal was just not strong enough. That evening I worked several close-range stations (G, DL, ON, GJ) and a few a bit further away (9K6, JY). The strange part was that I had to go and find stations instead of calling CQ and answering calls. In QSO's with other IOTA stations I learned that the WARC bands hardly generate traffic. I wonder why......
Around noon on August 2nd we boarded the ferry again and left for Skye (EU-008). This must be one of the most activated Islands of Scotland...As this ferry was smaller than the one to Lewis some of the cars (including ours) was parked outdoors so I put the antenna on the car while still on board. The moment we left the ferry I switched on the TS-50 and called CQ..... Instant pileup.... SP7EXJ was first with Jack, OH3GZ a close second. This time it seemed propagation path to North America was open resulting in several W and VE QSO's.
I only made 475 Qso's during our 3 week trip (most of them on the islands). During the rest of the holiday I mainly made QSO's with ON stations on 20 and 40 meter. 46 DXCC countries were worked in 10 WAZones an 12 ITU zones. 185 different prefixes got in the log.