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

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 

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 

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!