Operating from South Western France

Thanks to C.E.P.T. Recommendation T/R 61-01, and the fact that I'm a regular visitor to the Lot Valley, South Western France, I have the opportunity to stick a "F" on the front of my callsign and get the chance to operate from a place with a lot of space and little or no R.F. noise.

My first time!

For the first trip, I decided not to bring anything more sophisticated than the SDR Dongle with the intention of just seeing what was around. As I've never done anything with radio from this QTH, I though it prudent to have a listen and see exactly what activity there may (or may not) be around here.

The first thing you notice is just how quiet it is. I don't mean the lack of V.H.F. or U.H.F. amateur activity; I mean the spectrum in general. At first glance, you wonder if the receiver has suffered a terminal bump on the head during the 800 plus mile journey.

Eventually, you do begin to hear things and, to my surprise, three or four 2M repeaters are clearly heard on a makeshift dipole at about 15ft above the ground.

Now my French is far from adequate and I don't have any real intention of working the locals; H.F. is the real reason for looking in to the possibilities of what I can do from down here and, from what I can see so far, it's going to be very interesting, especially if the H.F. noise floor is as low as the rest of the spectrum.

Quadrifilar Helix for 137Mhz NOAA Satellites

We knocked together a very rough and ready quadrifilar helix antenna to try and grab some NOAA Weather Satellite images. With quite a lot of guesswork, and much gaffer tape, I was very impressed with performance and, had the computers been up to the job, the results would have been excellent.

No noise, no pager towers and a virtually clear panoramic view, the signals were excellent in both level and duration.

Unfortunately, the main PC died a death and the laptops we had available didn't do a very good job due to the limitations of their sound cards. However, the quadrifilar is stored away safely, ready for the next trip and I'll have the images to prove the success on my next visit.

More to follow as and when it happens.

UPDATE - July 2013

It's been a long time coming but we have finally manage to get some radio time in the South of France.

We, Dad and I, decided a bit of building was called for and decided to go ahead and try a 3 band vertical design I came across on the net. The heart of the thing was a rather nice looking coil, a real thing of beauty. Putting this at the bottom of a 10Mtr fibreglass pole supporting a wire as the main radiator seemed like a good idea at the time.

Making the coil was fun and really easy once you get the hang of it. Unfortunately, while it loaded up on 40Mtrs quite well, we just couldn't get it to perform on any other band. Nice idea but perhaps a bit ambitious for our first attempt.

Having come to our senses and remembered the old adage of KISS - "Keep It Simple Stupid", we very quickly knocked together a simple half-wave wire dipole for 20Mtrs.

A quick hunt for something to use as a center support and, in a little more then 5 minutes, we had a working antenna. Not exactly what I'd imagined we would end up with but, checking it for resonance, it worked first time, with no adjustment and gave a very respectable SWR of around 1.3 across most of the band.

Now this is the bit that you may find hard to believe but I promise, it's 100% true and as it happened. I tuned around 20Mtrs for a few minutes and, as predicted, the noise was low... very low. The band was active and there were plenty of stations on air with good strong signals coming in from most of Europe. Canada was also good at times but with quite a bit of QSB.

Anyhow, here goes... first call in to S753DX, rather optimistic I thought but lets give it a go anyway. The very first call from the new location with a simple dipole and 5W from the FT-817 and we got a 5/6 report back! Once I'd recovered from the shock, SF2013WE and HA5MA/P (SOTA) were worked in quick succession, both with good reports.

Liking a challenge and keeping the KISS principle very much in mind, I measured out 33ft of wire, wound it round the 10M fibreglass pole and strapped on 3 random lengths of wire to act as a ground.

40Mtrs was alive! The lack of local QRM is really quite unnerving. Your first instinct is that you have forgotten to connect the PL259 but, once you start to tune around, you soon realise that all is well and you can hear things you haven't heard before.

Again, I came across a station with an S9 calling CQ and though I'd give it a try. One call and Jean, PA3GEG in Antwerp, came back with a fantastic report of S8. My little 817 and 33ft of wire was working better than I could have hoped for and I'm well and truly bitten by the bug once more.

So, there you have it; out in the wilds of South Western France, where there is little in the way of local noise, a simple bit of wire and a handful of watts is all you need to get a real kick out of this hobby.

I'm off to play radio!

You should check out the Picard Triple and see just how good this location really is!

Error correction!

September 2017 and I received a Contact Form Submission from PA3GEG, as mentioned above, telling me he doesn't live in Antwerp and his name isn't Jean! Obviously something went wrong there but I'm happy to set the record straight. It could have been a pirate but I could simply have made a mistake. My apologies to Gerald, the real PA3GEG who actually lives in Aadorp and look forward to working him, in person, in the future.