I had the opportunity to see Geoff's presentation on PJ2T at Dayton Hamvention 2011, and he graciously agreed to share this story with NCJ readers. While I have taken it for granted that PJ2T would always be there on multiple bands in each year's DX contests, I did not realize how much hard work has been necessary to keep this station on the air over the years. The contest community owes Geoff and the many people who have helped him over the years a debt of gratitude for their personal sacrifices. - Al Dewey, KØAD
What will it take to keep PJ2T on the air for another decade? The devil is in the details, of course. PJ2T is in its second decade of high-volume contesting, and the 25 members of the club now face the challenge of keeping up with the detailed, frustrating dirty work needed to sustain the station for another 10 years.
It's heady, fun stuff, running multiop rates that can exceed 1000 contacts per hour while gazing out at the 85 degree turquoise Caribbean Sea - especially when it's -10 degrees F in New England, and the snow is three feet deep in Buffalo. We've posted quite a few #1 world wins over the past decade, including a couple of new world records. You might be surprised to learn, though, that we owe our success not so much to big aluminum, proficient ops or a magical location as to being good at sanding, grinding, scraping, digging, painting, cleaning and filing. This article will give you a taste of what we've been up against in order to be able to deliver snappy "599 9" reports so many times and to so many stations - and what we'll need to keep doing it in the future.
When we bought the W1BIH/PJ9JT site in 2000 the initial concept was to start small and see what happened. Some radio assets already were on site: A 50 foot tilt-over aluminum tower, a tribander, miscellaneous parts and tools and a rather sorry-looking linear that turned out to be a real powerhouse. After a reasonable showing in the November 2000 CQ World Wide CW with three operators using wires and the low tribander, the bug bit hard, and we wanted more. By the following April we had marshalled an incredible pile of tower, antenna, and support parts in W8AV's barn in Ohio - some 5000 individual pieces in all, nearly all second-hand, begged and borrowed stuff - and we'd figured out how to put it on a boat and get it to the station.
The buildout that followed netted two Rohn 45 and 55 towers, more that a dozen hard line-fed Yagis and greatly expanded infrastructure inside the shack. Antenna improvements and refinements followed, including the incorporation of two superb Beverages inspired by W8UVZ, a wire beam for 80, a serious Ethernet guided by NWØL and lots more indoor equipment. As the antennas went higher, so did our scores. Our enthusiasm and energy were on the way up too, and PJ2T took on a life of its own. We had proven to ourselves that we could put on a high-profile operation on a decidedly low-profile shoestring budget, and we saw few limits to sustainability. PJ2T was here to stay, and the fun factor was unbelievable.
Then, part of an antenna fell down and transceivers failed after only months on the island. Computers flaked out after turning brown inside from corrosion. Amplifiers literally exploded like clockwork. Silver towers became brown towers. Supposedly UV-safe plastic parts crumbled to dust, stainless steel got stained and some grades of aluminum literally dissolved into a wet, salty mush. While our computer mice dried, the furry type thrived in the kitchen cabinets. Insects took over. The toilets clogged, the septic tank overflowed, faucets sprang leaks, the island caretaker turned out not to be able to take care, vandals visited our off-site antennas and the easy long-term sustainability of PJ2T appeared in doubt.
The first aluminum rain consisted of the reflector and about five feet of boom from the Europe 15 meter monobander. It didn't take long to discover that the galvinized U-bolt attached to an overhead boom truss coupled with a liberal coating of salt and water and stressed mechanically by the incessant tropical easterly trade winds had resulted in a classic case of dissimilar metal corrosion. The U-bolt had literally eaten into the boom, and the wind did the rest. A quick inspection of the remaining antennas revealed scores of similar problems on all three towers, and panic began to set in. This was an emergency! Failing a quick fix, the whole suite of antennas soon would fall apart.
For the complete version of this article, with corrections of the version published in the NCJ, view the pdf version.