From the time that the word 'Ramsey' was first uttered by Rob MW0RLJ, it ignited a spark in the gut of the the whole Strumble Head Contest & DX Group. It wasn't exotic, it wasn't that rare (only in Asia), but nevertheless to be successful in getting on this Island would be a great achievement for the group who's main roots were in this area of Wales. Ramsey Island is owned by the RSPB and is currently run under the watchful eye of Head Warden Greg Morgan. Greg quite rightly kept an eye on our antics throughout our stay and was a fantastic source of information and help for the group.
Ramsey is named after Saint David (Dewi Sant) and is the Patron Saint of Wales. It was also the home of his Confessor Saint Justinian. The Island is less than 2 miles long and its highest point is 136M (446ft) above sea level. It is renowned mainly for its Seabird Colonies as well as its steep Cliffs and other wonderful scenery. It also has the most important Grey Seal Colony in Southern britain today.
The Birds using the Island are wideranging and include the Raven, Common Buzzard, Peregrines, Northern Wheatears, Gulls, Auks, Guillimots, Manx Shearwaters and 8 breeding pairs of the rare Chough. I also saw at least one pair of Oyster Catchers but sadly, no Puffins on Ramsey.
The water between Ramsey Island and the Welsh Coast is squeezed over the sea bed which changes height dramatically. During tide changes this water can race and reach in excess of 13mph. It is further squeezed when it meets the infamous and deadly rocks called 'The Bitches' . The condition of the sea at these times is treacherous and has to be given upmost respect. Larger boats avoid the area at all costs but the extreme currents, whirlpools and standing waves are a mecca for the Kayak enthusiasts. many boats and lives have been lost in this area of Ramsey Sound and one culprit is an underwater spire called Horse Rock. It is however an amazing sight to see as the tide rushes in both the ebb and flow of the tides.
Ramsey is surrounded by approx. 19 other smaller Islands and is totally uninhabited apart from the RSPB Warden and his Wife that we mentioned earlier. Livestock on the Island include 200 Ewes, 5 Ponies, Deer and the latest arrivals are Welsh Black Cattle. Grass and heathland cover most of the rocky island with foxgloves and many ferns amongst the most common plantlife. The range of colours on the island throughout the seasons are said to be breathtaking
Our trip to Ramsey started when we left the MC0SHL Clubhouse at Strumble head on Thursday lunch time and travelled the short distance to St. Davids where we were to take the the short five minute trip across from the mainland to Ramsey. All went well and after initial intrepidations as regards the amount of gear we had, we were all pretty excited about getting across. Travelling down the steep cliffs at St. Justinians was very daunting but with the assistance of RSPB, RNLI & National Park Staff we loaded the 'lift' a dozen times and this transported most of the gear down the Lifeboat Slipway. Seeing the other boats arriving back with tourists having been for sightseeing tours, some of them visibly throwing up started to panic Tim M0URX somewhat. Tim already had a worry about sea travel but in the end all was ok and the crossing went with ease despite the formidable ''Bitches'' living up to their awesome reputation.
Again stepping foot on the Island went well where again we were met by RSPB Staff who were all eager (hi!) to help us with the 6 generators and the rest of our equipment up the huge climb to what would be our accomodation. The climb was steep, far worse than we were told (Thanks Rob - not!), and I was extremely tired as was Chris G1VDP, no marathons for us i fear this Year!
Accomodation is an old barn in the farmhouse where we quickly stored the gear, helped Jane access her foof and cooking gear and then we started work on assembling the Hexbeams. Both had been prepared by Ant (MW0JZE) and assembly therefore would not take too long. After initial issues with one rotator both Hex were up and working by 2200 but after a break for a BBQ, we were fast losing light and wanted to prepare at least a 40M Dipole before we finished for the night. Working with torches we got sorted and antennas were good to go.
During this mele, Tim M0URX had been running around like a blue bottomed fly 'fetch this, fetch that Tim' and in between he had already made good progress setting up our three stations which consisted of 2 x Elecraft K3, Yaesu FT2000D, 3 x Acom 1000 Amplifiers. All of the stations were operational by midnight and initial test proved fruitful this being the first time the Hex had seen some RF. Morning saw Tim & Ant up early having had little sleep. They blamed snoring but we never heard any! MC0SHL was on air from 0800, my first Qso being with my good friend Izi 4Z5PG and his brother visiting him from the USA. Pile ups became very good on 20M all wanting a shot at EU-124 (IOTA) and GWFF-072 (World Flora Fauna). We left one station running and using 20 and then a little later 17m. By lunch time we had 850 q's logged and all going well - bring on the Contest!
The following morning all seemed great and we couldn't wait to get to Contest time. Everything was working and performing as we expected and from very early on we had pile-ups on 20M. Bands were not great but we had good propagation to JA & eastern Europe started from 0500! Ant MW0JZE, Tim M0URX and myself had worked about 650 q's on the 20M Hexbeam/Elecraft K3 station and on the second Hex Oliver, MW0JRX worked a good amount on the higher bands and in particular Sporadic E on 10M (2nd K3). Chris G1VDP was on the FT2K/Wire and had added several hundred to our amount on the 40M station. All we had to do was top interface all the PC's & Laptops to accept N1MM and so they were capable of 'talking to each other'. The Contest was drawing ever closer and then - Disaster! (Number 1).
We hadn't anticpated interfacing the PC's as all had gone stright foreward in previous Contests back at the Clubhouse. This time we had added into the equasion at least one PC that was running Windows Vista. After working for many hours on it, Oliver could not make progress even after help from our 2nd technical Guru Viliam OM0AAO at home in Slovakia and who hadn't been able to make this trip. Because of this N1MM was shelved and we decided to go to our back-up facility of WinTest - Disaster (Number 2). Although we had WinTest installed, we were unable to register all our P.C's as the main server was down. This made things even worse and due to that we were up the creek without a paddle, literally. Not all was lost (almost!) but we had a chat and re-evaluated our plan of attack.
We decided to run with three stations all using 'MW9W' and due to the fact that this was against Contest rules technically, we decided that we would only submit a 'checklog' instead and not seek to be part of the reults. Potentially it would prove to be the highest checklog they had ever seen hi! Our thoughts in reaching that decision meant that we could firstly use the Call sign that we had widely publicised and which the Hams were expecting and also, it would still give the Island (IOTA) away to those requiring it. After all that, the Contest went well and as we were less tired than predicted, it gave us valuable time on air for 24 hours after the Contest where we concentrated on the none-contest Bands.
From a radio prospective and with a laid back casual approach to our operating, we worked over 5.5 thousand contacts from Ramsey in the few days we were active. Conditions were poor and a measly 85 DXCC overall reflects that. By Band data is as follows:-
10M - 33 DXCC, 15M - 45 DXCC, 17M - 39 DXCC, 20M - 76 DXCC, 40M - 46 DXCC & 80M - 28 DXCC. Its hard to guage what interest was achieved by WFF Chasers for Ramsey itself. However, in the days prior to the trip, over 1.4 thousand q's were logged by the 5 GWFF activations on the mainland which gave an overall total for the trip of just under 7K, a very happy result all round!
Travelling for the members of the group is wide ranging from different areas in the UK and the total mileage for us all to get to Ramsey and back home was just over 1750 miles. I can't even begin to work out fuel costs! On that note we used just over 100 litres of fuel in the 5 generators we had, for the period we were active on the Island.
Being part of this trip to Ramsey was indeed a privilage. From start to finish we had numerous problems, some resolved immediately, some took time whereas others remained unacheivable and left us disappointed. None of the MC0SHL Team had experienced this sort of thing before so it was indeed a challenge. Not being accustomed to packing equipment for boat transfers and overcoming these sort of issues left us more experienced than when we went for sure.
On behalf of us all i would like to thank the RSPB, National park and all the other Staff that helped us in every way possible, from both the outset right up to the conclusion of our trip. Also, we would like to say a big thanks to all of you for supporting this event and for being patient in the pile-ups! We hope we gave you what you expected of us and certainly we were very pleased with the responses and comments from you. We hope we can learn from our experiences here and move on to bigger and better aims in the future.
If you would like to see more photographs from the trip then please click here or navigate through the Menu above to the Gallery where many more images will be uploaded and if you have any comments good or bad, drop me a line or write into Guestbook which again is accessible via the Menu above.
Listen out for MC0SHL/M0OXO on the air and give us a call, you will always be welcomed into our Shack!
(Click dates shown here for activity reports from subsequent visits to Ramsey Island, Wales) ;
You may also wish to see the accounts of all my trips around the UK Islands by selecting from the list below ;
73 de Charles