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9M0W - Spratly Islands - K1ZM

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    9M0W - Spratly Islands - K1ZM

    The decision to join 9M0W took place when K1LZ told me he was going to activate Scarborough Reef - I was pretty sure that was not where he was planning to go and later learned it was indeed SPRATLY.

    Once we got that straight, he said "You want to come?"

    I said -"Yeah - why not - as long as you and I can do 160m and not be required to operate on the higher bands..."

    Krassy called Hrane, YT5A, who was the TEAM LEADER of 9M0W who said it would be okay as long as Krassy and I were totally responsible for the setup of both 80m and 160m - and that we might focus on 160M ourselves in terms of on the air time. Let me note at this point the really incredible will and talent of Hrane in terms of making all of this happen - what he had to overcome every step of the way to secure permission and overcome unreal obstacles when the whole thing almost failed on Sabah - well - he deserves my thanks and total respect because he was tireless and just would not quit on us - and in the end he prevailed and got us there. And back...

    Planning commenced with invaluable assistance from Fred PY2XB - who added considerably with antenna recommendations, strategy and a checklist of everything that we might encounter from RFI, to site placement. While he never operated to my knowledge on Topband while we were at 9M0W - he was a part of the lowband team for sure.

    We divided things into assigned roles:

    Krassy brought 4 spider poles - two at about 75 feet tall for 160m and two for 80m at around 62 feet tall (or so). He brought also the support ropes, antenna wire (really strong strong stuff - silver wire inside the equivalent of phillystran) - and some wire for radials.

    I brought everything I have ever known in terms of F/E protection, antenna switching, 160M Rx bandpass filters, jumpers, a KD9SV preamp, power adapters, custom 5 outlet strips designed for both 220v and 110V, a 220-110V 200w stepdown xfmr, and a 2.5A/12V DC TRANSFORMER power supply to power needed accessory devices. Krassy and I both brought noise cancelling headphones. I also had coaxial adapters for eveything I have ever seen - with the one exception of not being able to adapt from something ELSE to an F male - that caused us some grief during setup. Eventually we found another way to do it.

    The list included So239 females with pre-attached pigtails, some Bymark 2:1 (50/25) Kw UNUNS which proved invaluable to avoid tuning hassles at vertical feedpoints, beverage and pennant matching transformers, 1000 feet of coax (not fun to lift that bag) - but needed for the 3/4 wave phasing lines planned for the 80m and 160m phased wire for a 160m bog and 1000 feet of ground radial wire/or a beverage.

    We had constant email reflector dialogues taking place and this helped us to eventually avoid making BIG mistakes. We wanted to go earlier in the year but the resort was closed - we were their first arrivals after opening.

    We desperately wanted the CONFERENCE ROOM at the western end of the complex - because from there coax runs are reasonable and might have allowed lowband RX systems that could have been reached with a coax run to acquire NA in reverse mode - while keeping the damned things as far away from man made noise as possible.

    Jeff Briggs
    73 Al 4L5A

    Krassy and I planned to fly together from Boston at 9PM on 02 March. via Doha/Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu (SABAH). Arrival would be 04 March, a TEAM MEETING for all on 05 March and a private charter flight to Layang Layang at 0545 hours on 06 March.

    On Wed Feb 28th I learned of the GIANT Nor'Easter that was going to hit BOSTON about our takeoff time on Friday.

    I called Krassy and we changed our departure to THURS night 0850 hours - at a mere additional cost of $800 per man to re-write our tickets.

    Departure was okay - we beat the storm and got to DOHA on time. In the re-write process of our tickets Krassy got a good ininerary - mine SUCKED in plain English - he got on a plane to KL - I had about a 9 hour layover and could not get on his plane(without paying another $280 which I decided not to do.)

    73 Al 4L5A



      Sunday 04 March

      Spent the day first chasing luggage with Air Malaysia - then touring with 9M6KOM, 9M6BOB, JT1CO and K1LZ.

      We went into the mountains and had a fantastic lunch overlooking KK from about 3500 feet up - a place called KOKOL HAVEN. You might look this one up on google - now this was what SHANGRI LA was supposed to be all about. Good food, good beer and I had a great HAWAIIAN PIZZA - best food I had eaten in several days!

      At night took a taxi out to the SHANGRI LA Tanjura resort on the ocean - talk about LIFESTYLES OF THE RICH AND FAMOUS!!!

      This was where JT1CO and K1LZ were staying - somehow the price of a room and the cost of anything (like drinks) was beyond my budget - especially after dumping $800 into an exchange of flight ticket. Yes I have trip insurance, but I am pretty sure since the BOSTON flight did leave after a delayed departure Friday night - that QATAR air will find some way to weasle out of paying for my trip modification - so again, its's Spratly - but no money for a $350 per night hotel room with Chak and Krassy (HI) But this place is 5 star +++++ if there is such a rating - look it up on google and you will see what I mean! (BRING MONEY - lots of it!)

      We happened to have dinner there last night - the bill was staggering (note that i DID NOT PAY IT!)

      Anyway Hrane asked about the status of my luggage, and he basically took charge of finding it. He is a bit like a bull in a china shop (but in a good way) - and he takes no prisoners.-

      He took my claim sheet and went out to the airport to both Malindo and Air Malaysia and the NEXT DAY - he accompanied me out to Air Malindo where we finally had my 160M stuff in hand again - and some CLEAN CLOTHES,

      This was DAY 5 - Monday 4 March.

      Our team meeting was set for Tues 05 March at 10:00AM which I will talk about next.
      73 Al 4L5A



        At 10AM we all met each other for the first time - it was a BIG TEAM with several great 9M6 local hams.

        Hrane went over all necessary departure logistics for our supposed departure on 06 MARCH FROM KK to Layang Layang.

        We ended our meeting pretty pumped as the day of departure was almost at hand - then MORE BAD NEWS.

        At 5PM Hrane came to my hotel to advise that our departure was CANCELLED for the next day - no specific reason - basically claiming unforseen complications - departure now set for 0545 on 07 March.

        I spent the day checking my luggage and just chilling - talking with my wife about all of this on SKYPE.

        Of course we all had to PAY for the extra night in our hotels - there was some possible compensation that some got from Layang Layang - I just wanted to GO.

        By the way - Hrane's reply to the "DEAR JOHN" letter he got from the resort as to the cancellation was a classic - and totally unfit for repeating here - it was pretty spirited to say the least.

        DAY 7 - and again, our hopes are DASHED - at 4PM Hrane advises we have been anulled again!

        This time my hotel tells me they are BOOKED SOLID - they have no room for me for the night - but eventually they come through with a smallish room - who cares I told them - it was BETTER than OUTSIDE on the street!

        Hrane calls to advise that NO BS - we will fly at 0545 Am - this being DAY 7 and 08 March.


        WD5COV and I start considering going home - my wife says play the hand out and I know she is right - so we wait to see if they deliver this time - but if there is no flight on 08 MARCH - it is probably time to think about going home.

        Jeff Briggs
        73 Al 4L5A



          We all met at 0400Am at KK airport and Hrane organized the MOUNTAIN of excess luggage going out to Spratly.

          We took a private charter run by Malaysian Air and took off at 0545. In a little over an hour we were over the reef and the lagoon was below us - landing formalities were quite professional and we all gathered in the lobby - to meet with Mark Peter, manager of the resort.

          MARK was tremendously accommodating - but there was some really bad news in his briefing:

          1) They were down to one generator - thus no power to the conference room - REAL BUMMER!

          2) They were to swap generators the next day from 80KW to something like 300KW - so there would be frequent brownouts - at unexpected times of their choosing.

          3) We would have to set up in the middle of the resort - to accommodate computer networking - and our planned antenna placement was basically torn up and we started 160m anternna planning anew with a blank sheet of paper.

          Our 160m plans were totally thrown out the window - and a new site plan was arranged. the real downside was that listening antennas would now be FAR TOO CLOSE to the hotel - but we really had no choice as we had no long coax runs that would get to where we really wanted to site the 160m listening stuff. BUMMER - but we were there at last!

          Between 0730AM and our sunset many teams all worked like madmen getting all of this stuff up - assisted in large measure by Mark Peter's loan of his maintenance staff to help us - they were a GODSEND as time was short - we had precious little time to get on the lowbands by dark.

          Here's what went up that single day:

          2 Rotary Yagis on 10m masts (one for 20/15/10 and one for the WARC bands) - a 4O3A KW triplexer and 6 4O3A Kw passband filters allowed sharing of the HF yagi on the upper bands

          A 4 square for 40m brought by Dusko ZL3WW was set up well away from the bldg

          Krassy, JT1CO, VK3FN, 9M0KOM and the Layang staff - helped erect two spider pole verticals for 160M - sited one at the shore and one to the SW near the runway - providing 5.5db bi-directional gain SE and NW - in the hopes of LP propagation into the USA East Coast.

          These were phased with 3/4 wave coaxial lines (electrical) that I brought - and then matched with the BYMARK ununs.

          KRASSY near sunset added a single 80m vertical for cw at the shoreline - which had a good SWR on 3503.

          Sunset was at 1030z and I missed it by a few minutes due to final antenna work with PY2XB - we tried a FLAG aimed SE and a PENNANT aimed to USA that I brought.

          Our plan was to primarily use the XMIT antenna for LP Rx with its gain - and directivity. The other RX stuff was PLAN B and backup.

          We made it on the air at about 1045z and DU7ET Bob was there as planned to announce on ON4KST our xmit and RX frequency. Bob was there every day to help out and I am especiually grateful for his being there to help us every sunset opening.

          DU7ET was also our first 160M qso - followed almost immediately by Don KH6DX.

          By 1130z - initial results were in - BUMMER! NO3M/AA1K and other ECJ's say they cannot even hear us - (we did not hear them either!)

          The first night included some West coast and N5DG I think - plus many JA's and quite a few EU stations.


          At least we were on the air and making some noise!
          73 Al 4L5A



            At sunrise after breakfast Krassy and I.wired in a 180 delay transformer that could be switched from the operating position to switch the 2 el array from BROADSIDE to end FIRE - and also to unidirectional NE or SW.

            Thus night 2 at 1030z was far better for us on Topband - DU7ET was there again and we were ON TIME at 1015z for our SUNSET at 1033z.. Instantly N4WW was worked with a respectable signal (this means we could hear.him at about RST 349.)

            Since Dragan YT3W has the logs and I am now doing this from memory, I do not remember if we then worked NO3M - or if it was the next night - but Eric became our Northeastern most qso on 160M - so congrats top Eric for hearing us and for making us be able to hear him (barely!) Water-weak like would aptly describe our side of this qso (HI)

            We worked quite a few USA mid-western and Far Western stations this night - plus at least 300 Europeans. My son Patrick KK6ZM had a great signal near his SR peakl - it was among the loudest signals we worked on night two.

            At SR after this night, Krassy and I decided to take down the runway 160M radiator, and use only the single 160m radiator - and we threw its 20 odd radials into the salt water lagoon.

            We moved this spider pole to the north side of the island and plavced it on the seawall - and used it fro 80M SSB thereafter.

            We also decided we had to try to find a way to get a beverage up on 160M for RX - even if it was only one that could be aimed at EU.

            ZL3WW came up with a scheme to use the 2nd abandoned vertical feedline for this beverage and by relocating the coax slightly we started at the runway and got a NW beverage straight for about 800 feet toward the seawall - then we crossed a pathway in the air - and ran it at least another 500 feet along the seawall.

            This turned out to be a real gem - as we ran the table for HOURS into EU after SR had passed in W6/W7. It made a huge difference in our ability to work the 2nd and 3rd tier EU callers.

            It worked so well that ZL3WW and I tried our hand the next afternoon on a USA beverage to the NE.

            The plan was to switch the feedline to the USA at our SS and then at 1 430 after W7 SR move the feedline over to the EU beverage again, This was easy to do at 10:30PM in the dark as it was an open field and with a flashlight it took all of 5 mins.

            This was a pretty fair beverage - about 650 feet long - straight as an arrow - but it also ran close to the hotel complex for most of its run. As I feared,this one was not stone cold quiet like the Eu beverage was - when I switched to it there was some kind of background hash that covered up most weaker signals. Listening on the EU beverage did not work well either towards NA - as while it was super quiet - it was at least 90 degrees off of a true NE shortpath NA heading - some USA signals could be heard on it - but not the East Coast weaker guys we desperately wanted to work.

            So night 4 we spent listening for NA on the single 160m vertical located at the seawall - and listened to EU on its quieter NW beverage.

            AGAIN Eu was bedlam all night long - 160M to NA was only so so - we worked into the mid west and then the NW USA at their SR pretty well.

            Near SR Krassy who had departed for 80CW late into the EU opening - went to sleep - and YT3W took over near our SR grayline peak.

            I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw his 80 CW Grayline contacts come onto my screen.

            In the space of 10 mins, he logged K1CP (Maine), N1RJ (also Maine) - and W1JR (NH) - followed by PY5EG - Atilano - and then the LP sunset peak had passed on the eastern seaboard of NA because we went into daylight on our side at SR.

            Next email I will talk about our final night on Topband - which was our last night at SS on Layang Layang.

            73 Al 4L5A



              At our SS time of 1033z, Bob DU7ET was again there to greet us and help out.;

              While it was quiet for 25 mins or so - I alone mislogged W4ZV as N4IS (this was entirely possible due to the doppler effect on this path on a RST 219 signal!) - me BAD - so sincere apologies to Bill - but I know he did not need the country - at least he now knows he was HEARD!

              We worked KJ9I and others - W5IZ was in for at least an hour and finally heard his report on a peak - congrats Alan - you were good copy the whole time and glad you finally heard US!

              As the sun marched across the US to the West coast - our noise (QRN) became unbearable and a few guys like AE6C we just could not put together amidst S9 incessant crashes.

              I heard C, I heard 6C but never could get the rest - I tried for a solid 10 mins with him - then he went into daylight - so sorry - I really tried hard on that one. Again, we only had the xmit antenna for RX into NA - and under that kind of noise (it was the storm coming at us!) - the final two hours into W7 and W6 were a major disappointment for us - we apologize for really being MORE THAN DEAF.

              Krassy and CHAK JT1CO took over for the final 4 hour EU run on 160m and worked at least another 150 stations. Eu signals compared to NA are about 3-4 s units louder on Spratly on Topband - it is always the way.

              About 3:45AM local time, we decided we had to abandon the EU pileup to take down our stuff - basically three verticals, a tribander and something for 40 came down in the rain in 2.5 hours - was packed and we prepared for our departure at 0700 hours local time.

              We thanked our host Mark Peter and his staff for their wonderful support and we only wish we could have worked more NA east coast. There really is not enough common darkness on 160m into W1` at this time of year - & while we hoped for AA1K in Delaware and N4RJ in GA - we just could not make that happen either - but we did try on all the right openings. I do know our PINGS were heard in NE - but not enuff signal to make QSO's -=pity!

              I'll do one more before heading to the KK airport.

              I understand yet another Nor-easter awaits me at Logan airport - GREAT! - three vicious East coast storms in 12 days - just what I needed on the way home to Cape Cod.

              Must be "Murphy's Law"

              73 Jeff for the 160m TEAM OF PY2XB/K1LZ/JT1CO/WD5COV
              73 Al 4L5A



                Here are a few random thoughts and suggestions for anyone else who tries to do this:

                1) If you are a HOUND chasing the FOX (THAT'S US!) and you hope to get in some Dx'pedition log on a tough path with noise and super weak signals

                PLEASE PLEASE do not call only once at 30 wpm and then not xmit again until you hear our next CQ

                What we are trying to do is PIECE together a letter or two of your call - so you have to do two things to help us:

                a) SLOW DOWN - PLEASE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! !!!!!

                b) Call over and over and over - and we will then have a chance to get ur callsign

                Calling once at a rabbit like speed - is not likely to get you in our log. Those that kept at it - usually will have a far better chance. It was maddening to hear a fairly good signal that we would try to respond to - who just waited as long as 2 mins to call again - PLS KEEP CALLING.

                2) If we blow ur call (it happened alot at 9M0W) - keep at us trying to get our attention to fix it on the fly. I blew KJ9I as KJ9B due to doppler fading - but he kept calling and he is in our log as a result - congrats on doing it right!

                3) If anyone ever goes out to Layang Layang again (I personally will not be doing this - Krassy and I have other things on the drawing boards)

                a) Get the conference room at the Western end of the complex - put your Rx antennas for Eu and NA - as FAR out into the open spaces that are out there as you possibly have coax feeders for - and then you probably can hear with a quiet noise floor.

                b) CONSIDER a K7TJR listening array and put it out there as an alternative to using beverages - again as far to the west as possible - and you will be rewarded as a result for doing os.

                WE WANTED THE CONFERENCE ROOM - but it was beyond our control - so we were compromised as a result - HUMAN devices make NOISE!

                +++++++++++++++++IF WE DID NOT WORK YOU FOR ANY OF THE ABOVE REASONS -

                +++++++++++++++++HERE ARE A FEW MORE TO LAUGH (CRY ABOUT!)

                Happiness is NOT having this happen at our exact SUNSET - or at other optimum listening times:

                1) Having the staff cut power at 1040z to swap generators (NOT GOOD!)

                2) Having one of the other ops shout something at the worst possible time during a listening cycle (we tried our best to maintain a quiet room)

                Sometimes the staff was rolling carts of our evening meal at 1015-1045z from the kitchen past us to the dining area - which was a great concentration breaker!

                3) Another unavoidable dilemma is almost getting a weak caller and then having a local area station decide to call us at the worst possible time - despite our pleas for NA NA NA NA only! (It happens!)

                Anyway - no complaints really - but this is what we had to deal with out there - and nothing is perfect - we tried as hard as we could and only wish we could have worked e a few more of you in NA on Topband.

                73 and thanks for the memories guys - we had fun trying to work you - I hope you had fun trying to hear and work us!

                CU from the next one - wherever that may be

                Jeff Briggs
                73 Al 4L5A