Baja California Sur – 2006


After six successful IOTA operations off both coasts of Baja California and in the Sea of Cortez by the XF1K team, the last group in the area that was high on the needed list and that did not require special logistical arrangements was the Baja California Sur State South East group, NA-124. This group consists of Ballena, Cerralvo, Espiritu Santo, Gallina, Gallo, Partida, Reina, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose and Santa Cruz. In order to determine the best choice for activation, Hector (XE2K) and Diana (XE2DN) and their son Alberto traveled 1600 km in their pickup truck from Hector’s home in Mexicali to La Paz, Baja Sur and arrived on January 30, 2006. The pickup had been loaded with all the antennas, generators, tents and supplies, and most of the transceivers. Fred (N6AWD) and Ray (N6VR) had hauled gear to Mexicali a few weeks before. In La Paz, Hector met with Bernardo (XE2HWB), a local resident, and studied the most suitable choices of islands and transportation. Cerralvo Island was chosen because of the available transportation and known beaches to operate from. Other islands that were close had poor landings and doubtful operating sites. Cerralvo is about 35 km long, 8 km wide and very steep hills and cliffs straight into the ocean. There are few beaches and no population except for herds of wild goats. About 50 km east of La Paz on the Sea of Cortez, is the small fishing village of El Sargento. A local fisherman was hired to haul the crew and gear across to Cerralvo Island.

Because of the long distances to La Paz, the rest of the group decided to fly in. On February 1, Norm (XE2/N6JV) and Ray (XE2/N6VR) flew from Los Angeles to Hermosillo, Sonora where they met Marco (XE2TG) and the three flew to La Paz. A reception committee was waiting at the La Paz airport. Hector had made hotel reservations for everyone for the three nights they would be in La Paz. The following day, El Sargento was visited and the shopping centers of La Paz provided the required food and extra camping equipment. The radio gear was sorted and readied for the trip the next day.

Before dawn, Hector's truck and Bernardo’s car transported everyone to El Sargento and the 5.5 m fiberglass fishing boat, loaded with gear and the 5 operators, was pushed into the water. The sea was very calm and smooth. The landing beach was near the north end of the island and was about 23 km from El Sargento. The sandy beach made it easy to unload the gear. When everything was on the beach, the A3S tribander was erected and a temporary station was set up in the sand on 20 meters SSB using battery power. K9PPY was the first in the log, SM3CXS was the first European, UA9YE the first Asian, NH6NY was first from Oceania and EA8AKN the first from Africa. South America wasn’t worked until the next day when HK3JJH made the log. Propagation had not been good, so when Europeans were heard, as many as possible were logged. There was no guarantee that conditions would hold.

The beach we landed on was about 125 m long and 25 m deep at the widest and ending at a high vertical cliff or hill. The main operating tent was placed on the northern end and the smaller tent that was the second CW position and sleeping tent to the south about 35 m. The two 1800 watt generators were in the middle near some large rocks that provided some noise protection. A DX88 vertical with several of its radials running into the ocean was placed south of the CW tent for maximum separation. To the north of the main tent, a R7 vertical, an A3WS 17/12 meter yagi and a mast for low band dipoles was placed. As there were no trees available, a handy cactus held up a wire antenna. Small cacti had to just hang on where they could. The A3S was near the generators. An IC706, a FT847 and a TS450S were used in the main tent and an IC706 Mk2 was used in the CW tent. Hector, Bernardo and Marco kept the SSB rigs busy and Ray operated one rig on CW from the main tent. The main tent had the option of using AD5A’s 400 watt amplifier if needed. Norm stayed down the beach in the smaller tent on CW using the DX88. This tent also had three air mattresses for sleeping. Computers were used for logging at all positions. At times all four rigs were on at once with one SSB and one CW rig active at all times. The high cliff behind the beach shielded South America and Africa, but operating options were limited and the site provided a good path to Europe, North America and the Pacific.

Being interested in making contacts, food was not a high priority. The morning meal was mostly dry cereal with packaged milk or breakfast bars along with hot coffee. For lunch and dinner we ate some prepared sandwiches but also heated cans of stew and beans. At all hours we were able to snack on a very large bag of beef jerky that Marco had brought from Hermosillo.

The weather was perfect with no high winds or uncomfortable temperature. High waves did threaten the DX88 on the second day, but the sea calmed by Sunday. Only a few contacts were made above 17 meters due to low sun spot activity. Big pile-ups were encountered on 17 through 75 meters with many Europeans worked. The location was especially good to Asia and many QRP stations went into the log. A total of 6068 QSOs were made including 965 in Europe.


Continent breakdown


On Sunday morning we started taking down some of the antennas and the small tent. The gear was packed in waterproof plastic bags and carried to the landing area. There were still Europeans being heard on 20 meters, so one station and antenna remained on until the last. When the boat arrived on schedule, the last station and antenna were taked down and loaded for the return trip to El Sargento. This included 2 large bags full of trash. The return trip was smooth and no one got too wet landing the boat. Diana returned with the truck, and when everything was loaded, the group was invited to the QTH of Antonio (XE2HWH) and Justina in El Sargento where we were treated to a barbecue. As food preparation wasn’t a high priority on the island, vast quantities of food and drink (beer) were consumed throughout the afternoon. When we arrived at the hotel, much needed showers and shaves made everyone feel more human. Before passing out that night, the computer files were downloaded and extra copies of the log files were made. Early the next morning, Bernardo drove Marco to the airport for his flight to Hermosillo and Hector took Norm and Ray to the airport for their flight at 2:00 pm to Los Angeles. Norm next flew to Sacramento and arrived at 5:30. With their vacation/expedition completed, Hector, Diana and Alberto headed north to Mexicali, 1600 km and 2 days away.

The XF1K team would like to thank Ing. Moises Ramirez (COFETEL) for his assistance with the licensing. We would also like to thank the Island Radio Expedition Foundation (IREF) for their support as well as the many amateurs who made donations for this trip: 7K3EOP, AA5AT, AA7AV, AB6QM, AD5A, JA1EY, JA1BPA, JA1SKE, JE1DXC, JG1OWV, JG1UKW, JA2AYP/1, JE2QYZ, JA3BKP, JA3UCO, JE3GUG, JI3MJK, JL3CRS, JA4UQY, JH4FRP, JF4VZT, JA5IU, JI5RPT/7, JN6RZM, JA7BWT, JA7DHJ/1, JE7JIS, JN7VUJ, JA8MS, JA9IFF, JR0DLU/1, K1HT, K3FN, K6DT, K8NA, K8SIX, K9AJ, KB5RHD, KD6WW, N5ET, N5UR, N6AWD, N6IC, N6KZ, N6PYN, N6VS, VE7QCR, VE7YL, W0BBT, W4DKS, W5BOS, W5BXX, W5PF, W6ED, W6UC, W6YOO, WA5VGI, WB2YQH, WF1N, XE1KK and XE2WWW. N6AWD and JN6RZM organized this fund raising. QSLs will be printed soon, so please send your cards to N6AWD. We were trying to work everyone who needed NA-124 and hope we were successful.