On air on vacation - Across Sicily by bike

The 'big' VHF contests on 2m have accompanied me my whole radio operator life, thus for nearly 50 years. The fascination has hardly decreased until today, but the equipment and other hobbies have changed a lot. For example, motorcycle riding was added a few years ago. So how can I combine these two interests? Sure - VHF Contest from on the road with the bike!


This year, Sicily (IT9) was on the agenda, combined with a visit to my radio friend Joe, IT9BLB in Palermo. Joe was kind enough to find me an almost perfect VHF site for the contest in September 2022.

Located on the north coast of Sicily, it is easy to reach via a well-maintained road, with good take-off in all directions of interest (north +- 90°). The location is at an altitude of almost 1000m and offers - with good visibility - a fantastic view over the Tyrrhenian Sea and the archipelago of the Lipari islands (Alicudi, Filicudi, Salina etc.).

On the motorcycle, of course, I don't have much transport capacity, which makes planning for portable radio equipment particularly challenging. My ideal goal is to fit everything into the "top case". That means a maximum length of about 35cm! Well, it didn't quite fit, so this year the antenna, a 10m GRP mast, and a comfortable camping chair went in the back again. But all the other "radio stuff" was actually stored in the top case.

The antenna was - like last year in the south of France - the SOTA antenna from WiMo, so 5 elements LogPer, dual band 2m/70cm. It has a slightly better gain, weight and space ratio than a dual band HB9CV or similar design. As mast, comes the small "shock cord mast" from Buddipole (270cm high), plus 4 of the short Buddipole dipole arms with a 28cm length. All these parts have a 3/8" thread and are robust enough to carry a small antenna. At the very top sits a homemade pole to which the antenna is attached.

So all in all, the whole mast is about almost 4m high. A very light guy wire is also included. The H-155 coax cable (2 x BNC) is 5m long, so the transceiver has to stay close to the antenna. As for a radio, this year again, an Icom IC-705 came along. With it I had three batteries (2x BP-2xx, 1x BP-307). That is enough energy for several hours, with 5 watts transmitting power. Also, a light headphone, a small morse key, and the microphone were in the luggage. As a logger, I used Cloudlog on the Android phone for the first time this year.

The first thing I do at a new location is first observe the beacons. As expected, this went quite well over the sea, I immediately heard signals from the area of Rome. That is about 400 km. Also on 70cm many signals were heard, about the same distances. During the VHF contest on 2m I used both SSB and CW. Of course, CW went better, the ODX was a S5 station with about 860 km distance. Not bad for 5 watts! Of course the large antenna and the good ears of the opposite side and the excellent location helped, but nevertheless... IS0 (Sardinia), TK (Corsica), France, and, of course, the entire south and central Italy were added to the log.Heard, but not reached I EA, EA6 (Balearic Islands) and various Greek stations (SV6, SV8). So the receiver of the small transceiver is also very usable on 2m, although at this location there is a VHF broadcast station only 30m away. So there were no stuffing effects to observe.

The rest of the week, I was of course still operating from the accommodation, both on VHF and shortwave. As an antenna on KW I used a piece of wire about 21 m long as an inverted-V on the 10m Spiderbeam mast, adapted with a mAT-705 tuner. On Tuesday evening, I participated in the VHF activity evening, even if the location was not quite as brilliant as the one for the contest. The large number of participants that evening was striking. Again, almost the entire western Mediterranean basin was heard and working with good signals. So here you can't complain at all that there is nothing going on on 2m, the activity is good.

All in all, amateur radio was again great fun during this vacation, enriching my time even though the island actually has enough to offer already. The small IC-705 transceiver is almost ideal if you can handle QRP power. With only a few accessories, operation on all bands is easy and stress-free and always leads to great experiences on the road.

73, Ekki, IT9/DF4OR, September 2022

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