Our IOTA Adventure to Tangier Island, Virginia
By Bill McCourt - WF1L and Pieter Engelbrecht - AI2P

Leaving the house Friday morning, at the early hour of 6:00 AM, I loaded the XYL and our 3-year-old grandson into the truck and we headed off for Great Falls, VA and our rendezvous point.

We arrived first and were shortly met by Pieter Engelbrecht - AI2P, with his wife and family, and Svetly Gerashev - W4/LZ3SM. We set up a talking frequency of 147.48 for comms and then departed for Crisfield, MD and the ferryboat that's to take us, and all our gear, to Tangier Island.

After a long, but uneventful, ride to Crisfield, we unloaded our gear and suitcases, only to be told that we couldn't bring the gasoline driven generator set onboard the boat. This is a large blow to our plans, because we were planning to use the generator set to power a second station on the south end of the island, while I work from a separate location, at the hotel, using commercial power.

Pieter attempts to win over the crew with explanations about the contest and that was the reason for our coming etc, but the Captain is unmoved, and we put the generator set back into the truck.

In the meantime, it has been raining steadily for the last hour and the air is thick with moisture.

We board the ferry and depart on schedule, arriving at the island in about 40 minutes. Pieter secures a rental golf-cart for our transportation and the hotel shuttle and our rental cart are soon loaded with all our stuff, less the generator set, and we head off to the hotel. The weather on the island has been the same as onshore only, with the island just above sea level, there are large amounts of standing water everywhere and the air is thicker on the island than ashore.



Once checked into our rooms and enjoying an air-conditioned break from the heat and humidity, we scout out the available space and set up our antenna farm.

Our antenna farm went up quickly. Each was oriented North-South and supported by 7-meter paint roller extension handles. We check out the installation with a borrowed MFJ Analyzer - thanks to SPARC member - Bill Lawrence.

THe 20 Meter "Ham-Stik" Dipole.

Here is the G5RV.

This is the 40 Meter Inverted Vee.

We fire up the rigs to prove the antennas and are immediately subject to about 2 hours of pile-ups,
worked mostly by Svetly, with Pieter and I filling in with the logging and listening on SSB phone.


We secure for the evening and go to dinner. But, later Svetly stays up through the evening working CW on 20 meters and 40.

Saturday morning dawns hot and sticky and after an excellent breakfast with our hosts, we activate the stations for the contest and begin working. Svetly (W4/LZ3SM) and I man the stations until Pieter (AI2P) relieves Svetly to go to bed.

We're able to make some contacts but things are slow so we alternate taking a tour of the island and the gift shops with our families and working the contest. While Pieter is gone, I am able to perk up some interest in our location and hold forth with a pileup for almost an hour, before things die down. With nearly 60 new phone contacts in the log, I take a break and Pieter and Svetly take over for the evening.

Svetly and Pieter work into the evening while the XYL and I go off to dinner. After dinner I relieve Pieter and work a couple more stations on phone while Svetly continues to rack up numerous CW contacts. The 80, 40 and 15-meter bands seem to have closed up, although Svetly continues to make CW contacts on 20 meters.

Our day has also been interrupted by passing thundershowers, requiring station shutdowns, and a change of 20-meter antennas from my "Ham-Stik" dipole to an inverted vee, which seems to improve our situation.

Even though we are using a screened enclosure, the onslaught of biting critters is intense. Pieter comes back out and I retire for the evening.

During the night, we're overcome by yet another thunderstorm and we tear down the stations, put the gear back into the rooms and hit the sack.

After breakfast, we take down the antennas, all the while being bitten by the local fauna and repackage our effects for the trip back to the mainland.

We take a respite at the beach with our families and then have a large buffet dinner, with all the local specialties, before heading to the ferry landing and our drive back home.


All told, we have made approximately 470 CW contacts (Svetly) and Pieter and I made 42 and 72 SSB phone contacts respectively.

While our contest output was not prodigious, we, and our families, all had fun, which was the main focus of the trip. We all arrived home tired, sunburned and scratching, from all the bug bites.