Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Great Cockup

In British English, a "cockup" is rude slang for a mistake, usually implying carelessness. Great Cockup is the name of a rather undistinguished grassy Wainwright summit near the northern edge of the English Lake District. I don't think there is any connection between the slang meaning and the name of the hill. But whilst my decision to go for a walk up Great Cockup on Bank Holiday Monday wasn't a mistake, from a radio point of view it wasn't a success either.

I parked the car near Overwater and set off on quiet lanes and then a grassy track on the western side of the fell with great views over Bassenthwaite Lake.

The summit was reached after about an hour of walking. Despite being the end of May a cold north westerly breeze was very much in evidence on the summit. By descending a few feet it was possible to get away from the breeze, but as soon as it dropped clouds of black insects appeared and covered everything. It was necessary to brave the full force of the wind in order to eat the lunch Olga had prepared without an accompaniment of fresh insects. Despite this one managed to find its way inside the Intek H-520 - it was still walking around the inside of the display window this morning!

Lunch over, I got the radios out. I had taken the Intek H-520 hoping to make some DX contacts on 10 metres, but despite making numerous calls on the 10m FM calling frequency, 29.600MHz, I had no takers. There was obviously some enhanced propagation as I heard a French station and also some activity on a repeater on 29.660MHz.

I heard a French station call CQ on 29.600 and when I replied to him he said "UK stations, please QSY to 29.205MHz." I was unable to oblige because a) my radio only tunes exact 10kHz multiples and b) when I did try to transmit anywhere near there the radio cut out due to the SWR being too high on that frequency. I'm afraid the H-520's intolerance to even moderate SWR renders it almost unfit for purpose and if I hadn't modified it to work on the 10m band I would probably consider returning it under warranty. As it is, probably the only option is to reset the power control to limit the power to 2W on the "4.0W" setting. As noted previously, when received the radio delivered less than 3.0W even on the UK CB band and I now suspect this was done deliberately by the manufacturer to try to mitigate this problem, knowing that the majority of CB users would be none the wiser.

While listening for the French station I heard what sounded like an APRS packet on 29.210MHz. I don't know if that is a recognized APRS frequency but it would be interesting to monitor that frequency with a decoder to see what is being transmitted.

I tried the Motorola GP300 on 2m with the 5/8 telescopic antenna but was unable to raise any contacts on that band either. I did hear some activity on the channel set up for GB3EV but which I suspect may be the GB3BT repeater on the north east coast which is on the same frequency.

Back home I heard and worked Colin 2E0XSD/P who was on Ling Fell (behind the 'hump' on the left of the middle photograph) using the H-520 inside the shack with the 4ft. whip antenna. On 2m I worked Derek 2E0MIX/P who was up on Scafell Pike, England's highest mountain. So had I gone out a bit later I would probably have made not just a couple of contacts, but a couple of summit to summits. Never mind. It was a pleasant walk and now I have the excuse to go again another time.
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