When I was in Oslo, Norway in 2001, I visited my friend, Halvard Ericsson, LA7XK. He had a summer house with a ham station in the Hvaler Islands in the sourthern part of the country. Halvard invited me to spend a weekend with his family at the house and said that I could operate his station using my call sign, LA/4S7AB, since the IOTA contest would be taking place at that time.
It was my first contesting experience from Hvaler Islands (EU-061). The operation was casual, using little more than a paper log, but I made 300 QSOs as time permitted. I had prior experience handling pileups from operating in Sri Lanka, so the contest wasn't difficult.
The following year, I found myself in Stockholm, Sweden. Among the many Swedish hams I associated with were two remarkable gentlemen: Teemu, SMØWKA and Henryk, SMØJHF. Teemu is a serious contester; Henryk is not so serious, but he enjoys helping those who are.
I used to go to the big SKØUX multi-multi station with Teemu to watch him in action. (At the same time, I used the idle antennas and rigs to talk back to my home folks in Sri Lanka.) Henryk wasn't satisfied with just having me watch, however. At his urging I tried my hand at the CQWW SSB competition in 2001. Henryk offered transport, food and a radio for me to used from SKØUX. I was able to complete about 200 QSOs using my own call, SMØ/4S7AB. Europeans normally travel to DX locations for contests, so my presence in Sweden must have seemed a little odd. It caused a few contest contacts to turn into rag chews when I was asked why I wasn't in Sri Lanka!
That same year Henryk offered to take me to Musko Island (EU-081) for the IOTA contest. I accepted and made about 300 QSOs using his IC-746 transceiver and a long-wire antenna. All this time, Henryk was doing the hard work of cooking, burying radials and setting up the station. What a nice person!
Not long afterward, my work took me back to Sri Lanka. Would I be able to put my newly gained contest experience to use there?
During one of my business trips to Richardson, Texas, the Lone Star DX Association president Tom, WW5L, invited me to give a presentation about Amateur Radio activities in Sri Lanka. At the end of the meeting, there were door prizes for the participants. I was astonished to be the winner of a one-year free subscription to NCJ magazine. I wasn't sure whether the free offer was valid for overseas subscriptions, but I sent my certificate to ARRL HQ with my Sri Lankan addess. Imagine my surprise when I received the January/February 2006 NCJ in my mailbox!
I was reading the articles and came across the Contest Tips, Tricks and Techniques column by Gary, W9XT. The column grabbed my interest right away. I decided to take part in a contest and put 4S7 on the contesting map. The very next thing I did was check the contest calendar in NCJ. The CQ WW WPX SSB was coming up and I had two days to prepare.
This contest would be a challenge. Not only was propagation likely to be poor, I had to consider the fact that it was lightning and thunderstorm season in Sri Lanka. Due to lightning, my village power can trip off at the main transformer at any time. If it trips off on a rainy night, it might not be repaired until the following morning. My solution was to maintain two batteries on solar-panel chargers for alternative power.
For the complete version of this article as published in the NCJ, view the pdf version.