XF1K IOTA Dxpedition to Islas Todos Santos (NA-162), 4-8 Sep 2003
The Islands On The Air (IOTA) operating program has made going to remote islands the destination of choice for Dxers on all seven continents. Mexico has many IOTAs, but one hardly hears them on due to the lack of IOTA interest among Mexican amateurs, until recently. The limitation of licensing privileges for visiting hams as well as the logistical difficulties of obtaining landing permission and approval has kept the Mexican IOTAs rare and at the top of the North American needed list. The Baja California State Northwest Group (IOTA designation NA-162) contains three, separate island archipelagos: Todos Santos, the Coronado Islands, and San Martin Island. The Todos Santos islands are made of two islands (Isla Norte and Isla Sur) about 20 km (12 miles) west of Ensenada, which is about 80 miles south of the US-Mexico border. For this operation, Hector, XE2K,requested the call sign XF1K, same callsign as his previous NA-167 operation (XF prefix is for Mexican islands). The team would be made up of six operators, three from Mexico and three from the United States. This would be a large enough team to physically set up antennas in the difficult island terrain, operate the multiple HF/VHF/Satellite stations and to work a large number US, JA, and EU stations. The Mexican operators consisted of Hector, XE2K (Dxpedition leader), Emilio, XE2ZY, also K6EG, (SSB operator), and Roman, XE2ED (satellite and VHF operator). All three were skilled hams with previous experience on trips to Mexican IOTAs or up to the tops of Mexican Mountain peaks to activate rare grid squares. The US operators consisted of Ray, N6VR (backup leader and CW operator), Dave, N6AN / XE1NTT (contest SSB/CW operator), and Jim, N6KZ (experienced California IOTA organizer and CW operator). Hector, Emilio and Ray had teamed up previously operating XF1K on NA-167. The entire XF1K team first met up in Tijuana, Mexico the evening of 3 September 03, at the home of Roman, XE2ED. We then drove to a local Mexican food restaurant and sampled the local cuisine (hot stuff). We made one final stop in Tijuana to purchase water, food and of course, beer. Fully loaded in three vehicles, we drove one hour in the darkness to the port city of Ensenada, Mexico, located about 80 miles south on the western coast of Baja California. Early the next morning (5am), we drove the short distance to the quiet, dark Ensenada harbor to load our gear onto the good ship Juanitos, a 32-foot charter fishing boat. With the rising sun just peaking over the eastern Mexican Mountains, we slowly sailed out of the harbor into gently rolling seas, on to the Todos Santos Islands. After a trip lasting about 1 hour we arrived at Isla Sur (Southern Island) at a commercial fish camp (ranch house). This would be our home and operating area for the next four days. Hector, XE2K had previously contacted the owner-operators of this camp, explaining our purpose and requested access to stay in their main camp. Permission was granted so we actually had beds to sleep in and a kitchen to use. On the island, there were two, separate stations, one above the fish camp on a ridge (upper) and one set up slightly below the fish camp (lower). The upper station was established on a 50-meter high ridge above the ranch house in a large tent. This station had two HF stations, the satellite station, and the VHF (6 meter) station. Antennas were two, three-element yagis (HyGainTH-3 and Cushcraft A-3), mounted upon 30- and 25-foot vertical masts, respectively. The satellite antennas (AO-40) were mounted upon a short roof tower, ground mounted. A Cushcraft R-7 vertical mast-mounted on the edge of the sea cliff, 30m above the ocean was used on several WARC bands. A 40-foot mast with inverted vee dipoles for 40 and 80 meters completed the upper station. Power was provided by four 12 VDC batteries charged with an 1800 watt portable generator. The lower station operating position was set up at the ranch house, with the GAP vertical just a few meters above the ocean with a clear shot from north, east to south Despite the long drive, the sea voyage, and the difficult conditions encountered setting up the two operating locations (heat, sun, and limited access to drinking water) the equipment and antennas seemed to be working well. Stations were quickly worked in EU, JA, and, of course, all over the US and Canada. The remaining three days fell into a slow, hot routine of operating, eating, sleeping and enjoying the Pacific Ocean views. By Saturday evening, our last night on the island, we had over 5K QSOs and decided to begin taking down our stations to be ready for the 9 am arrival of our boat on Sunday morning. Everything came down just fine (we were blessed by a wet sea fog that morning) so we loaded the equipment and ourselves onto the Juanitos for the return voyage through the quiet sea back to Ensenada. The results of the XF1K operation were most satisfying considering the only fair band conditions. The continent and mode breakdown is as follows: Continent QSOs Percent Mode QSOs Percent US 3150 57% CW 3231 59% EU 931 17% SSB 2238 41% JA 756 14% Total 5469 Others 635 12% The entire XF1K Team would like to thank Mr. Eric Pederson for his fine hospitality that allowed us to stay at his commercial fish camp. We give many thanks for the support of the IREF and those who contribute to it. We also thank Roger Balaster, G3KMA - RSGB IOTA Chairman for his review and accreditation of our Dxpedition documentation for this trip. Finally, we would like to recognize the continuing efforts of our QSL manager, Fred, N6AWD for his support. Without his help and encouragement, none of the recent XE IOTAs may have ever begun! We hope that you worked us on NA162, Todos Santos Islands and look for us from another rare Mexican IOTA sometime soon!