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2013 CY0P Sable Island DXpedition
Gary, VE1RGB and Murray, WA4DAN are pleased to announce a DXpedition to Sable Island from October 1- October 11, 2013. Approvals are in hand from Parks Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard. We have chartered with Maritime Air Charter LTD to provide the Britten Norman Islander aircraft for landing on the beach. The call CY0P has been issued for the October DXpedition. The CY0P (Parks) call was chosen in recognition of the newest National Park in Canada. VE1RGB is a veteran of two previous CY0 DXpeditions and is a top CW contester. WA4DAN has coordinated two previous CY0 DXpeditions, including the October 2012 DXpedition that was cut short due to Hurricane Sandy. An all-band, 160-10 meter, CW/SSB/RTTY operation is planned. More details to follow in the coming months.
THE 2012 SABLE ISLAND CY0 DXPEDITION
The 2012 Sable Island DXpedition was the culmination of four years of planning to make it happen. The initial idea of going back to CY0 had been in my mind for years. I was able to lead a team of five ops on the very successful CY0XX Dxpedition in October 1996. We made 25,652 Q's at the bottom of the sunspot cycle. I first approached Ron AA4VK and Randy N0TG in January 2009 about going to Sable in October 2009. Ron and Randy signed-on and the team was set. Ron quickly set up a DXpedition website at www.cy0dxpedition.com. Since it had been awhile since our last DXpedition, we decided to have a practice run, or as we called it, a "simulation test". We called it that as we decided to do the test from an island very similar to Sable on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. We scheduled a trip to Core Banks, part of the IOTA NA-67 island group. We picked early May (2009) as that worked well with all of our schedules. I had operated many times from NA-67 so I knew about the logistical requirements. Randy flew into Raleigh, NC and was met by Ron at the airport. They proceeded to drive to the coast where I met up with them. Going to Core Banks requires a ferry trip so I had made the reservations for the three of us. The weather was ideal and we had a wonderful ride on the ferry. After arriving on IOTA NA-67, we quickly got settled in and started building antennas. We specifically wanted to test two types of vertical antennas. We also wanted to test our new Icom 756 Pro 111's for any inter-station problems. We even took our Dunestar bandpass filters. This felt like the real thing and not a test! There is no power on the island so I supplied my trusty Honda 2500-watt generator. This would easily power three HF radios. Our tests were very successful and provided the much needed answers to our antenna questions. Above all of that, it was great being back as a team with a DXpediton to CY0 to look forward to.
Unfortunately, by the summer of 2009, Randy had a very serious family medical issue that would preclude his being able to participate. Being a team, we all decided to postpone the DXpedition until 2010. Working all of the logistical details was an on-going process. We continued to fine-tune antennas and equipment. Ron and I each purchased Tokyo HL 1.1 solid state amplifiers. Randy had the same amp so now the three of us had identical stations. We set our sights on October 2010 for CY0. Unfortunately, with both Ron and Murray owning and operating their own companies, business commitments arose that would prevent them from going in October. Randy recruited two other operators and the CY0 DXpedition was back on track. The new team consisted of Randy, Gary VE1RGB and Rick AI5P. They gathered in Halifax, Nova Scotia to prepare for the trip to Sable. Unfortunately for the new team, the aircraft that was to fly them to Sable developed an axle problem and the DXpedition had to again be postponed. A new target date of December 2010 was selected, just six weeks away. Murray and Ron were able to clear their business commitments and December 6th was selected for the start of the DXpedition. The team again consisted of Murray, Ron and Randy.
The original team arrived in Halifax on the weekend before the flight on Monday. The weather was good but that quickly changed! Sunday evening a large winter storm hit the Canadian Maritimes and Sable Island. Ron, Randy and I arrived at the Maritime Air facility and met with our pilots,Ted and Debbie Brekelmans. We looked at every piece of weather information available. The word from Sable Island was really discouraging.The beach "runway" on Sable was completely flooded to the extent that no flights would be possible for weeks. We were all very disappointed. As we sat at the hotel, we discussed scheduling options for 2011. We then booked flights back to our respective homes in the US. After recovering from the disappointment of the postponement, we decided to try again in March, 2011. Again, business commitments arose that would prevent Murray and Ron from participating. Randy was able to recruit K8LEE and N1SNB. Finally, on the third attempt, they were able to make it to Sable on March 5, 2011. They operated until March 14th and made 24,117 Q's.
Murray and Ron still had a desire to go to Sable. We decided we would make another attempt in December 2011. We tried to recruit a third operator but were unsuccessful. We kept plugging away, undaunted by the delays, postponements and scheduling conflicts. We selected the period after Christmas, specifically Dec 28th. We fondly remember our Desecheo KP5 DXpedition, which started on the same date in 1992. We were very hopeful and optimistic! We again traveled to Halifax the weekend before the 28th. Unbelievably, another winter storm hit the Maritimes that weekend and the landing area flooded once again. Ron and I were extremely disappointed. Everything was beyond our control. Foiled again! We discussed what to do and we basically decided to forget about Sable for awhile. We had invested so much time, energy and resources into this effort. We were completely bummed out.
Hope springs eternal! As the spring of 2012 arrived, Ron and I began discussing Sable again. What should we do? Do we quit and give up or do we try again? We decided we would make one final attempt. October 2012 was the target. Maybe the third time would be the charm? We again tried to recruit a third operator. We approached two, Hall-of-Fame DX'ers, but neither one could go. We asked other well known, experienced DXpeditioners, but no one could go. We began to think there was bad mo-jo associated with going to Sable Island! With all of the rejections and disappointments, we kept our heads up. We were determined we would make it this time. It would have been easy to quit and throw in towel.
Gary, VE1RGB, was a tremendous asset to us in the local Halifax, Nova Scotia area. Gary became our "Go To" person. As departure day drew closer, we began to ship gear and antennas to him. Gary would advise us as each package arrived. Gary even greeted us at the Halifax International airport as we arrived from North Carolina. Gary drove us to his house to pick up our gear and then to our hotel near the Maritime Air facility.
The night before departure day on any DXpedition is an anxious time. Have we forgotten anything? Are we going to fly in the morning? The answer was yes, but not before another delay. Gerry, OIC on Sable, advised they were experiencing generator problems on the island and he needed to get some technicians out to the island first thing in the morning. Bottom line question to Ron and I, can we delay our departure until early afternoon? Without hesitation, we agree to wait. We have waited almost four years for this day to finally get here, what's another three hours! Fortunately the weather is very good and stable and both flights were successful. I can't even describe the feelings running through our minds as we began to realize we would finally make it to the island. After carefully weighing all gear, we loaded it onto the Britten Norman Islander aircraft. The loading took awhile as the weight distribution is critical. This is a small aircraft and we utilized just about every square inch of available space. The flight to the island was exciting but uneventful. About 20 miles from Sable we began to see the beautiful crescent shape outline of the island. I'm sure Ron had to wonder if Sable really existed! Now he could see it quickly approaching. As we flew over the west end of the island we began to see the famous Sable horses as well as the thousands of seals. What a sight!
After a very smooth landing, we met Gerry and unloaded the aircraft. After watching Maritime Air depart back to Halifax, we headed to our quarters and our home for the next ten days. After Gerry gave us a brief orientation, we began to organize our gear and plan for the antenna installation. Since it was late in the afternoon, we did not commence radio operations until the next day, October 23. Ron and I worked on assembling antennas until 0700Z. We were so tired from a long, but exciting day. We were up first thing in the morning and Ron erected the 10-meter yagi. While he worked on that, I assembled the 15-meter yagi. Finally, we were ready to hit the bands.We were met with very large pile-ups on 10, 12, 15 and 17 meters. We focused on these bands as they had the highest demand. The pile-ups had to be spread 10 KHz due to the number of stations calling. Ron and I discussed the size of the pile-ups we experienced. The pile-ups rivaled those we encountered at Navassa Island KP1 in January 1992. I was a team member of the 1993 Mellish Reef Dxpedition (VK9MM) and we did not have pile-ups nearly as large as Sable 2012!
We used a combination of antennas. Gap Antenna Company worked closely with us and assisted us with the purchase of five of the GAP mono-band Verticals (10-20 meters). We used two yagi antennas. Ron obtained a Cushcraft 10-meter yagi and I obtained a Hy-gain 15-meter yagi. We also had an assortment of single band dipoles. A lot of DX'ers have commented on our strong signals. Ron and I had identical stations. The stations consisted of two Icom 756 Pro 111's with two Tokyo HL-1.1 solid state amplifiers. The equipment performed flawlessly. We used Dunestar single band bandpass filters to help alleviate any inter-station problems. Again, the Dunestar filters were fantastic.
Even though the pile-ups were very large,they were very well behaved. The band conditions were fantastic. Flux levels started off around 140 and hung around 135 for a few days. Ten meters opened up just like clock-work around daybreak. It only took a few minutes of operating transceive before we had to go split. We really tried to limit the listening range to five KHz. Our Q rates were really slow with the number of stations calling. It soon became apparent we would need to expand the range to ten KHz. With this spread, our Q rates soared. Ron and I quickly settled into a routine. It became obvious we would need to go non-stop, all day long on the bands. This amounted to 12-14 hours of continuous operating per day, per person. Ron set the trend by not taking a single break on Wednesday, October 24th. He was like a machine. I took note and decided there was no time for lunch on Sable!
After a couple of days of the DXpedition, we started getting reports about Hurricane Sandy. At first, we weren't overly concerned with the news. Sandy was in the Caribbean and a long way from Sable Island. As the week progressed, the reports grew more troublesome. Sable Island is in a very vulnerable location for Atlantic hurricanes. We continued to work the pile-ups with excellent results. As time went by, more and more stations were warning us about Sandy. By Friday, we had some discussions with Gerry Forbes, Officer-in-Charge-Sable Island. It was now likely that we may be forced to leave the island on Saturday. What was problematic was the condition of the sand "runway" by the beach. If it were to flood, we could be stranded on the island for weeks. We knew that scenario all too well. This is what kept us from going to Sable in 2010 and 2011.
Even with all of the events unfolding, we were very diligent about working the pile-ups. The band conditions were very good and all parts of the world were being worked. We were still fine-tuning the antennas as well. On Friday evening, we erected the 17 meter antenna in the dark and the cold wind. Did I mention wind! The wind is relentless on Sable. We had to double-stake our antenna mast guy wire supports. I kept looking out to make sure our antennas were vertical!
By Saturday morning, October 27th, we soon found out from Gerry Forbes, the Officer-in-Charge, that Maritime Air would be leaving Halifax by late morning to bring out an emergency generator. All power on Sable is produced by generators. During the week, the generator in use developed a problem. The Sable station really needed this new generator before the storm. We had further discussions with Gerry about the weather and what we should do. It was decided that we would wait until the Maritime Air flight arrived. At that point, Gerry, Ron, Murray and Debbie with Maritime Air could discuss the situation. After Debbie arrived, we all gathered and discussed the two options. We could head back to Halifax and beat the storm or stay and risk being stranded for weeks. Both Debbie and Gerry were straight-forward with us. They deal with these scenarios a lot. Sable is in a very treacherous location. Safety is foremost and paramount in all of their decisions.
Ron and I discussed the options. As much as we wanted to stay and continue working the pile-ups, we knew deep-down that the only sensible choice was to leave. The last contact was logged on 12 meters at 1645Z on Saturday, October 27th. We worked quickly to pack our stations and to take the antennas down. As a DXpeditioner, it was very disappointing to have to depart early.
By the time we got to the beach landing area, we could see the very large breakers hitting the beach. The landing area was beginning to flood and Gerry advised it was just low tide! We knew then we had made the right decision. Ron and I settled in for the two hour flight back to Halifax. For me, sitting in one of the rear seats, it was a time of reflection on the whole DXpedition. After quite a number of DXpeditions in the 1990's, it was good to participate in another DXpedition. A lot of things have changed since we activated Navassa Island KP1 in 1992, Desecheo Island KP5 in 1992/93, Mellish Reef VK9MM in 1993, St Paul's Island CY9 in 1995 and Sable Island CY0XX in 1996. We noted those changes and will be even more prepared for the next DXpedition experience, where-ever that might be!
We concluded the 4 days of operating with 12, 240 contacts. We had 853 contacts to Japan which we are most proud. This is a very difficult propagation path for the JA DX'ers. We want to thank all DX'ers for their patience and fine operating skills. It was a pleasure working everyone. We hope we gave many a new band country. Surprisingly, some DX'ers have noted we were their first CY0 contact. One DX'er noted that with his CY0 QSO, he needed only Navassa KP1 (sorry we missed you in1992!) to have worked every DXCC country! Another DX'er noted that Sable was DXCC country #337 for him. One well known JA DX'er advised we were the strongest CY0 station he had ever heard! A stateside DX'er noted that he always enjoys our DX operations. Thanks for remembering our previous DXpeditions! Thanks to all of the DX'ers worldwide for making the 2012 Sable Island DXpedition such a wonderful experience.
We would like to thank the following for helping make the October 2012 Sable Island DXpedition possible: Parks Canada, Canadian Coast Guard, Gerry Forbes, Officer-in-Charge-Sable Island, Environment Canada and Ted/Debbie Brekelmans of Maritime Air Charter Ltd.
Thanks to Richard and Chris of Gap Antennas and Ron with Dunestar Systems. Our equipment and antennas performed flawlessly.
Thanks to Gary VE1RGB for the local logistical support in the Hailifax area. We really appreciate your invaluable assistance.
Thanks to the following individuals who supported our DXpedition in many different ways: N0TG, JA1ELY, N4AA, W3UR, NG3K and KB8NW.
Now, the most pressing issue, where do we go next?
A side note on the weather and the condition of the beach landing area. If we had not departed the island as recommended on Saturday, October 27th, we would have been stranded for three weeks! We were in communication with Maritime Air and Gerry Forbes, OIC, after the DXpedition. The beach landing area did indeed flood and no flights were possible for three weeks. Our original plans were to have concluded our DXpedition on October 31st and depart the island. This was to have coincided with the Officer-in-Charge change-over that takes place every three months. Because of the flooding, Gerry Forbes was stranded on Sable!
On a personal note from Murray WA4DAN.........
The initial planning for the Sable Island DXpedition began in January 2009. During that time, I experienced a number of personal challenges and losses. In August 2009, my brother lost his wife of 32 years to cancer. In January 2010, my wife Cindy had major brain surgery. Thankfully, she got through that. She means the world to me! In September 2010, Cindy's dad, George, passed away. In December 2010, my dad, Heber W4GDF, passed away. Then just a few weeks before our planned departure for Sable, my mom, Lucy WA4BVH, passed away on September 26th, after a stroke. Talk about perspective! After the 1992 Navassa DXpedition, my mom mentioned to me how she and my dad enjoyed listening to the pile-ups during that week. She specifically mentioned the Saturday (January 18, 1992) I was on 15 meters and had a pile-up spread out between 21.300 to 21.320. Therefore, the CY0 DXpedition truly was a bittersweet time for me personally.