TE6DX DXpedition to Uvita Island IOTA NA-155 In June, 2018, a group of hams known as the TI DX Club decided to activate Uvita Island, IOTA NA 155. Uvita is on the Caribbean side of Costa Rica - a mere 700 meters from the tip of the port of Limon on the coast. Charlie, TI2CDA, a highly energetic ham from San Jose put the trip together and invited the same group of hams from last year's successful expedition to Chira Island TE8DX. Joining Charlie, would be Carlos TI2CC, Jim KM4HI and WRTC 2018 participant Kam N3KS. Jeff TI2JCC, a veteran of the TE8DX expedition in 2017 broke his hip shortly before the expedition and would not be able join. Our group meeting point was San Jose, and a 6am departure was planned in order to try and beat the notorious traffic jams of that city - we would need to pass through San Jose on the four hour drive to Limon. Traffic was surprisingly heavy at that hour, but we managed to get through OK. Upon reaching Limon, it became apparent that our plans were in flux. Charlie had arranged with Jacky, a boat owner to transport us and our equipment to Uvita Isl, but somehow the agreed meeting point was changed by Jacky at the last minute. The new meeting point turned out to be a small dock where fishermen brought in their catches. It was quickly obvious that one could fairly consider it to be ‘on the wrong side of the tracks.’ Further ‘investigation’ revealed that the dock was pretty much controlled by one guy. His name was Banana (at least that's how we were introduced to him) but he was certainly not shaped that way. Banana was a huge man, and apparently nothing happened in his territory without his say so. After our introductions, we got the idea that he thought we were crazy enough to need his ‘protection’ and through an intermediary he indicated that he'd make sure nobody gave us trouble. There were quite a few dudes just hanging around and with Bananas permission they started to load our gear into Jacky’s boat. It would take three trips to get all the gear from the dock to the island. In the meantime, the change in venue meant we now had to find a new place to park our three cars. Since Carlos’s car was the first to be emptied, and Carlos had went with the first boatload of gear to Uvita, Charlie and Kam took his car in search of a garage. We managed to find one that we hoped rather than felt would be secure and dropped the car there and jogged back to the dock. The process was repeated again when the final two cars were emptied. By this time Jacky was getting antsy as a storm could be seen on the horizon. Charlie and Kam jumped in the boat with the last load of gear and headed to Uvita. Jacky’s fears were founded, for just as Charlie and Kam arrived at the island the swell picked up and docking the boat took considerable skill and effort on the part of the captain Roberto. However we unloaded uneventfully and brought our gear to the shell of a structure that used to house the administrator of the island. Much of the roof was missing, and what wasn't missing was leaky… however we did find just enough dry space for a radio room and sleeping areas. First order of business was setting up the generators, which fortunately went quite smoothly. Our calculated gas usage anticipated filling up two 15 gallon containers with gas each day and a half. We were extremely fortunate it turns out, that our consumption was less than half of that. Next up was the Hy Gain all band vertical which was mounted on a sea wall. It played well and we used that antenna the first night (Thursday night local.) But we were exhausted after an extremely long day, so turned in so that we could get an early start on the antennas Friday morning. Sleep was fitful though as a squall came through and shook what remained of the house structure quite a bit. And Jim KM4HI, who pitched his tent near the cooking area discovered that there were bold raccoons willing to take whatever they wanted. He would constantly battle with them each night. Friday started with bad news - the squall had broken the anchor mooring line of Jacky’s boat and it was imperative that it immediately be moved away somewhere before it became a victim of the rocks. That somewhere would have to be Banana’s dock. The seas were rough, and it took considerable effort to get the good captain Roberto and the boat safely away in a driving rain, but we managed with only a few scratches to the boat. Afterwards it was time to turn our attention to the assembly and raising of the Hex Beam , The mast was only 20ft high, but we hoped that it would play well with all the salt water around. It ended up performing decently. Later when started to assembly the Spider Beam a storm got stuck into the island and we decided to leave her alone for this dxpedition and to use only the Vertical, Hex Beam and a 30mts and 40mts Dipole Carlos TI2CC put earlier in order to save time and continue logging qsos. Friday afternoon and night were good radio wise, and simultaneous efforts were underway to get the FT8 station up and running. Due to various corollaries of Murphy’s Law, we didn't get FT8 working until Saturday. In the meantime one of our amplifiers died Saturday, and was irreparable in the field so we were now low power on one station. Our setup consisted of two K3 radios with two Acom 1010 amplifiers, as well as an IC7300 for FT8. Friday brought more bad news, Jacky determined that the seas were forecast be too rough for us to depart with our equipment on our planned departure day of Monday and that Tuesday was more likely. Saturday night seemed calm but at about 1am a storm front packing heavy winds blew through. It took off even more of the roof, and tore away our rain protection tarp. We huddled in one section of the ‘house’ trying to ride it out. It was pretty rough. Fortunately nobody got hurt. When daylight arrived we saw that our Hy Gain vertical had been blown over. Somehow the Hex Beam survived - the extremely low height apparently being beneficial. The generators were a mess but still functioning. The storm had ripped off big chunks of the ‘house’ roof and everything was subject to weather exposure. It was apparent that for safety’s sake we should depart at the first opportunity. However the seas were too rough for us to use Jackys boat, and in any case it was no longer with us, did not have an anchor, and apparently had developed a small leak according to word from the shore. But, as luck would have it, the southeast point of Uvita is a world famous surfing spot, considered one of the best if not the best in the Caribbean. The high surf had brought out the elite surfers, and they used a larger more powerful boat to come out and play. We managed to contact the captain and he agreed to take us off the island. It would take two trips even with the bigger boat. So we started our teardown of equipment and proceeded to pack to leave. The surfer boat used a different dock so three of us were dropped off at Banana’s dock so we could get the cars and drive to the new dock. It all went smoothly, nobody hurt and nothing broken in transit, so in the end it was an experience to remember with a smile.SR/SS: 11:25Z / 23:07Z Last QSO in database: 2018-06-10 04:56:15
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