The Story

Overall QSO number: 32188 from the 6 HP IOTA's

HP0INT/1 - Naos Island, NA-072 (05/09/13 - 23h31z to 06/09/13 - 03h04z) - 3.5 hours

As soon as we arrived Panama city airport on Thursday evening (September 5th) we headed to our hotel on Naos island. This island is linked to the mainland by a causeway which is used by locals to exercise; walking, jogging or cycling.

Our stay on Naos was limited to only a few hours, as we had to take an early morning flight the following day to our next island.

The operation started rather late, around 20:00 local time, trying to stay awake as much as possible after a +10 hour flight and jet-lag.

We set up two stations, one on 30M CW and the other on 20M SSB. But soon we would discover that 20M would not be very usable in downtown Panama due a static level of S9.

Therefore we could only manage to make 979 QSOs in total from Naos. [see part II below]

 

HP0INT/3 - Boca Brava Island, NA-071 (06/09/13 - 16h33z to 08/09/13 - 17h37z) - 49 hours

We woke up early to catch a flight to David, which is far west Panama in the province of Chiriqui. After landing, a 1.5 hour trip by taxi to reach the coast and 15 minutes by boat would bring us finally to Boca Brava.

Unfortunately there weren’t beaches to set up antennas properly, but somehow we could find a few clear spots among the mangroves, next to the sea, which would hopefully put strong signals all over the world.

Despite an initial power issue just before starting to transmit, we were active from 40 to 12m using all main modes, and giving quite a big amount of slots to those who needed HP and the IOTA NA-071.

But we soon realised that the big guns were always band-slot chasing, preventing smaller stations the chance to log the island, or even Panama for a new one! For this reason we decided to limit our following activities to just one signal per band, trying to get the highest number of uniques.

6929 QSOs were achieved from NA-071


HP0INT/3 Photo Gallery

 

HP0INT/1 - Naos Island, NA-072 (part II) (09/09/13 - 01h04z to 09/09/13 - 07h35z) - 6.5 hours

Once again we arrived to Panama city late in the evening, just in time to meet our two local helpers (HP1DCP Rene and IZ6BRN Sergio) whom without their assistance this project would not have happened. Thank you, guys!

After a nice meal together we resumed transmissions around 23:00 hrs on 30M CW and 40M SSB (having learnt that 20M was unusable) staying awake, once again, for as long as possible, as the next trip on the following day was meant to be the most challenging in terms of getting there.

979 QSOs were achieved from this IOTA


HP0INT/1 Photo Gallery

 

HP0INT/2 - Ogobsibu Island, San Blas Archipelago, NA-170 (09/09/13 - 17h13z to 11/09/13 - 02h11z) - 33 hours

We left Naos island at 06:00 local time for the long journey by road and later by boat to Ogobsibu island, in the San Blas archipelago.

The trip from Panama city to Carti port (in Kuna Yala region) was quite eventful due to the incredible steepness and poorly repaired routes. It took the Jeep about 3 hours to arrive.

Once at Carti we quickly jumped on a boat which would take us to Ogobsibu, around 20 minutes sailing.

Our first impression after sighting the island was that we had arrived to paradise, with our hut just meters from the beach and crystal clear waters. Perfect for antennas!!

Once again we had power issues, and had to deal with the island’s chief to arrange a 1,5Kv generator that allowed us to operate barefoot. However, the location was so perfect with the salt-water and unobstructed paths to everywhere around the globe made the use of amplifiers not necessary.

San Blas islands lifestyle is still living in huts, without electric power and comfort, keeping with the Kuna Yala tradition. Therefore no air-con, or any other kind of luxuries were found, living for 2 and half days like they do for life. The food was something not to be experienced again!

Despite the troubles the signals were so loud from everywhere and made our stay easier and entertaining. During off-air time we took advantage to swim in the very warm and clear waters, snorkeling and generally enjoying the paradise.

The return to Panama city was once again unforgettable, travelling through the rainforests and the almost impossible steep inclines!

We made 6243 QSOs from NA-170


HP0INT/2 Photo Gallery

 

HP0INT/2 - Grande Island, NA-202 (11/09/13 - 23h34z to 13/09/13 - 10h48z) - 35 hours

Once we again arrived Panama city with the jeep from the Kuna Yala region, we rented a car and drove for about 2 hours to our next island destination, Grande isl. NA-203 on the Caribbean side of Panama.

We were a bit concerned not to find any place to stay, because we had not booked any hotel, and it was the low season period. But luckily the hotel, which our friend Sergio IZ6BRN recommended, was open - although there were no guests at all. Upon arrival the hotel manager informed he could not allow us to stay the night because he had scheduled a mosquito fumigation for that evening, and the chemicals could be hazardous to us.. But we would convince him that, despite the fumigation, we wanted to stay there, so in the end the activity started without problems.

We had no power issues at this hotel and could run stations with amplifiers, setting up verticals on the beach..but the problem was that the path was not open to Europe due to a hill nearby. For this reason our signals in EU were not as strong as before, but thankfully the amplifiers helped us a lot to achieve a good amount of QSOs.

In the end, 4125 QSOs were achieved from Isla Grande, NA-202


HP0INT/2 Photo Gallery

 

HP0INT/9 - Iguana Island, NA-203 (14/09/13 - 12h48z to 15/09/13 - 22h07z) - 33 hours

We drove from Grande island for about 6 hours to a little village called Pedasí, down in the Pacific coast of Panama. Driving along the Pan-American highway was also an experience by itself, but we arrived safely to the hotel around 4 o´clock in the evening, just in time to get on a boat and make a recce trip to the island, in order to decide the best location to set up the camp and the antennas.

The island is a Wildlife reserve where five Rangers protect it throughout the whole year. We were amazed to see so many iguanas, crabs and birds!

After a recce, and then setting up tents and antennas, we went back to mainland to have a so much needed rest to be fresh and ready for the next day just after sunrise.

As we arrived back to the island we only needed to set up the stations and start CQing….but after 30 minutes of activity the suitcase generator died on us. We had to phone the hotel to bring us urgently another, yet bigger, generator. (That was an unforseen extra expense which we hope to cover via donations.) Luckily, the wait lasted only 2 hours, which we took advantage to swim in the so wonderful beach and to cool off.

Fortunately, no more problems occurred after resuming, and we managed to make 6780 QSOs from Iguana island - the most wanted island of Panama.


HP0INT/9 Photo Gallery

 

HP0INT/4 - Colon Island, Bocas del Toro Archipelago, NA-088 (17/09/13 - 01h34z to 18/09/13 - 23h03z) - 46 hours

After another 6 hours travelling from Pedasí to Colon island, via Panama city airport and a flight, we got to the island upon sunset and just in time to set up the low band antennas for the last time. The pileups were as strong as the first days of the trip; we certainly noticed people were following us during the journey, and wanted to complete the full set of Panamanian IOTAs!

Just after the first 6 hours of operation, 2000 stations were already logged, and right after sunrise the 15-17-20 m antennas were ready for action in order to keep the good rate going.

Paths were also clear to all directions and we used the amplifier only for a few hours with the SSB station, in order to keep a better control of the pileup. Later, we ran barefoot, also because the hotel was powered with solar panels only.

The island was really wild, with a lot of flora and rare fauna, such as colibris, sloths, small colourful toads and even turtles. Actually, due to turtles, we were forced to bury the radials under the sand on the beach, otherwise we would face a fine from Wildlife officials.

So in the end we made the most amount of QSOs from this island with only 2 stations on the air. We achieved 7132 QSOs from Colon island, NA-088.


HP0INT/4 Photo Gallery

Station Setup

Tranceivers:
- Elecraft K3 (main CW) with Ameritron ALS500, 500w amplifier, All RTTY qso's were made with in build-in Elecraft K3 decoder, no computer used for RTTY
- Yaesu FT897 (main SSB) with Tokyo HyPower HL1.1Kfx, 600w amplifier
- Kenwood TS480HX (3rd station) 200w
- Elecraft K2 (backup, never unpacked during the whole expedition)
Antennas:
- 40m 1/4 wave vertical with 8 radials
- 30m 1/4 wave vertical with 8 radials
- 20m 1/4 wave vertical with 8 radials
- 17m VDA (vertical dipole array, used only on NA-203) and vertical dipole
- 15m VDA (vertical dipole array, used only on NA-170 & NA-203) and vertical dipole
- 12m vertical dipole

The detailed results and statistics of the HP0INT trip are available here:

Summary


F4BKV Vincent
"Organising a 6 island hopping tour in Panama was by no mean easy, but I'm proud we managed to achieved our goal. Pileups were above expectation and it was nice and challenging to face 6 differents location to install and operate our stations. A great learning event for all of us"

EA3NT Christian
"I never expected to run so heavy pileups day after day after day. Callers did not give us a break ! But it was a big satisfaction for me to give several new IOTAs to so many operators in so few days. Besides, Panama is a very nice country with good friends like Sergio and Rene. Gracias amigos. See you from the next one !"

EA5KA Raul
"Thanks to the team for letting me join them in this experience. A lot of flights to travel across the country in just 15 days was very hard, but the big pileups made it a very funny expediton. Thanks to everybody for calling !"

MM0NDX Col
"Never before has the DXCC entity of Panama had pileups which were 5-10 up, but that's exactly what happened during this terrific IOTA tour we carried out. Congrats to all ops who worked the six islands we activated - our mission is complete !"

The team kindly thanks all sponsors and donors for their terrific support which will help offset some unexpected costs we incurred

We look forward contacting you on our next activity

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