Montserrat * 2 / working split (FT-847) = success!

Parrots on the dipole? These Monserrat boys know how to have a good time! (image from their QRZ page)

I managed to contact two members of the “Buddies in the Caribbean” mini-DXpedition group tonight on two separate bands, operating from the island paradise of Montserrat: Larry, VP2MLR on 17 meters; and Chris, VP2MYZ down on 20 meters.

Both gentlemen were working the pile-ups split, meaning they were transmitting on one frequency and listening to the pile-up on the other.

Now my rig does split just fine, but I always get nervous when working split because I fear I’ll be transmitting from the wrong VFO and get yelled at by an OM who sounds gruff, tired and hungry. I’d attempted split ops before on some rare DX stations, but had negative success.

The 847 doesn’t let me listen to both sides of the split; it’s my understanding more modern rigs allow you to listen to both frequencies. The basic procedure is to put the transmit VFO on the pile-up frequency and monitor the operator on the receive frequency. When he calls QRZ or CQ, jump in like it’s any other QSO. If you are heard, you’ll get called. In some respects, it’s more peaceful than a normal pile-up because I can’t hear all the big guns blowing me away.

Tonight I was in luck because I got through to VP2MLR on my first try. The band basically shut down not long after, and I was barely copying his signal to begin with, even with DSP, the pre-amp and a notch filter on. I don’t know how he heard me but he did!

I didn’t have as much luck with the other gentleman, as he had a rowdier crowd trying to contact him. I called about a dozen times, left and scanned 80 meters, 40 meters and finally back to 20 meters some minutes later. His signal was actually better when I returned — the interference from adjacent channels had subsided considerably — so I tossed my call out there a few times. He eventually responded with “November 4 Delta Sierra Delta” … I figured there probably weren’t any other “4DSD” stations on frequency, so I uttered my call in full again. Contact! 59 signal reports were exchanged and I found myself longing for a tall, rum-based alcoholic beverage (with a slice of pineapple and a tiny umbrella), some tacos and a good cigar.

Looking over my log tonight I realized I’d be halfway towards completing a mixed mode DXCC award, assuming I’d sent out QSL cards and received the returns. I do need to start using the ARRL QSL bureau, but I just like Logbook of the World so much better. Sure, when I got into this hobby, I really wanted to plaster my walls with colorful QSL cards, but with the cost of QSLing and postage, I’m fine with just using an electronic exchange like LoTW. I wish everyone used it, although I know some people are put off by the sign-up procedures and the extra effort required to sign and upload the logs.

Stations I attempted but didn’t successfully work tonight included a nice loud Saudi Arabian station, and an event station, W1MGY, honoring the 100 year anniversary sinking of the Titanic (The Titanic’s radio callsign was MGY. One of my best friends, a Titanic scholar, mentioned that to me tonight on the drive home).

Otherwise, a nice evening of DX!

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