Baja California Sur - 2005

NA164 – NA165

XE2K and his team have the goal of activating all of the IOTA island groups around Baja California and the Sea of Cortez. Many of these groups were very rare in the IOTA program. The two island groups in the northern part of Baja California Sur State were a challenge due to their distance from the Mexico – United States border. Plans to activate the Baja California Sur State North West (NA164) and North East (NA165) Groups were started in the Fall of 2004. The NA164 group consists of Ana, Asuncion, Chester Isis, Morro Hermoso, Natividad and San Roque. The NA165 group includes Carmen, Coronado, Danzante, El Racito, Las Tijeras, Montserrat, Pardo, San Cosme, San Damian, San Lldefonso, San Marcos, Santa Catalina, Santa Ines and Tortuga. Research was conducted for the best candidates. Many Mexican islands are in protected areas, so special permits must be obtained where necessary. After postponing the operation scheduled for December 2004, the core group of operators and team members started moving people and equipment towards the border on the 6th of January 2005. This group consisted of Hector (XE2K), Diana (XE2DN), Ray (XE2/N6VR), Norm (XE2/N6JV) and Fred (N6AWD). Late on the 7th, the operators and equipment from the U.S. side of the border passed through immigration and customs duties were paid on the transceivers coming into Mexico. In Mexicali, Hector’s large pickup was loaded with all the equipment for the next day’s trip. From other travelers, it was learned that the roads south of Mexicali had been badly damaged in recent storms and the route south would require a detour of several hundred miles to the west through Ensenada.

After spending the night in El Centro, California, we recrossed the border about 4 am and began the long trip south. We arrived just after dawn in Ensenada. After eating breakfast at Hector's favorite truck stop, we headed south on Highway 1 towards the border of Baja California Norte and Baja California Sur. The vegetation of Baja is very special and unique. Some types of desert trees are only found there. After traveling all day, the truck arrived in the town of Guerrero Negro. A distance of 680 miles had been traveled. Guerrero Negro is the largest city in this part of Baja. This is where the Biosphere Reserve El Vizcaino, which is the agency with the responsibility for the wildlife protection in this area, and where we obtained the written approval for the trip to Asuncion Island. Biol. Benito Bermudez A. was especially helpful in getting this approval. The detour had added several hours to the trip so it was decided to drive to Bahia Asuncion that evening and try to get on the island early in the morning. We needed the extra time to make sure we could operate two full days on Asuncion. Several hours later the truck limped into the small town of Bahia Asuncion. The last 60 km had been over dirt roads where the dirt was arranged mostly as holes, ruts and washboards. Bahia Asuncion is a town of about 800 people, so it wasn’t difficult to find the Internet Café and its owner, Jose Luis Ogawa, ex-XE2TT, who had helped us arrange transportation. We located the fisherman who would take us to the island the next morning. His name is Artemio Murillo but is known as "Pulga" which means "the flea". When not fishing, Pulga is also the "DJ Flea" at the very small local disco.

Isla Asuncion

Before dawn the crew was ready and on the beach. There are no docks or launching facilities. All the boats are pulled out on the sand with a communal one ton surplus army truck. Boats are launched by extending a pole from the truck and then shoving the boats into the water. The boat was loaded with gear and people and pushed into the bay. Isla Asuncion is about 2 miles from the town. It is a protected island and has a large population of seals and birds. At one time, there were people living there and the cement foundation of a small building is still present as well as some cement steps that have been set into the cliff. This is where we landed to the objections of several large seals that had been using the steps. Pulga had arranged to provide us with a helper to assist us in carrying all the gear up the cliff to the campsite. We had to restrict our activities to the area where we landed so as not to disturb the wildlife. The seagulls that occupied this area were not inconvenienced by our presence and seemed to accept us. Each morning the tents would be surrounded by sea gulls who took little interest in us. The gulls would decide to all take off at once several times a day. The noise from several hundred sea gulls all squaking at once as they passed over the tent, required a short QRX until they passed.

The main tent was placed near the old foundation with the A3S tribander on one side and a 30-foot mast with a 75/40 meter inverted V dipole on the other. The DX88 vertical with thirty-five 75-foot radials was placed about 100 feet south, as far as the coax would reach. The smaller tent was placed to the north with the generators in between. A pair of R7 verticals were placed to the north of the small tent to get maximum separation from the other vertical. An IC706 was used as the SSB station and a TS450S was used for CW in the main tent. The small tent had the second CW station using an IC706 Mk2. The main tent also had the use of a 400 watt amplifier borrowed from Mike, AD5A. Various filters were employed to cut down interference. As soon as the tribander was up, we were on 20 meter SSB. The first contact was with Fred, N6AWD. The SSB station and at least one CW station were on all day and night. Shifts on 40 meter CW insured the maximum number of stations in the log. The boat made extra trips to see how we were doing and brought some fresh food prepared by Pulga's wife. Fish and lobster tacos seem to be popular. Starvation was not a concern.

The weather was very clear and warm during the day, but the wind never ceased. During the night the small tent collapsed in the wind several times on top of the operator and required a QRX to tie things down. Chunks of concrete from the demolished building helped hold down tent pegs. In spite of the wind, the propagation was very good and exceptionally quiet. We had good openings into Europe on 40 and 20 meters. Europe was also worked on 75/80. By the second morning, the last European was in the 20 meter CW log. We had made a total of 5334 QSOs. The camp was disassembled and equipment hauled down to the beach. Sr. Pulga was back with another helper and the boat was loaded. This time it was low tide and there was great difficulty in getting the boat back into the open water. Everyone was in the water pushing the boat with each large wave. Once into the sea, it was a very slow trip as the swell was very high. After the truck pulled the boat onto the beach and everything was loaded onto the truck, we all had a nice meal as the guests of Sr. Pulga and his wife Suzy at their home. The trip across Baja took the rest of the day and we arrived in Santa Rosalia, an old French mining town and port, after traveling 160 miles. We had to present our permits to the local Port authority and inform them of our plans to stay on Santa Ines Island. The next day, we traveled the additional 40 miles south to Mulege.

The QSOs by band on NA164:


Breakdown of QSOs on NA164:

CENT/S. AM1914%

Isla Santa Ines

Mulege is a fishing and tourist town on the mouth of one of the few rivers in Baja. It is very tropical with many palm and fruit trees. Its mission was the first built in the Baja. An inspection of the sea confirmed what we had seen in Santa Rosalia. The weather was bad and it would be too dangerous to try to travel the 9 miles to the island. Arrangements with Jose Luis and Antonio Romero were made to take us to the island if weather permitted. We would stay a few days and see what happened. XE2TG, XE2Q and XE2UCT had planned on joining us for Santa Ines, but the poor weather convinced them that it wasn’t worth the risk and high expense of traveling by ferry from Guaymas in Sonora to Santa Rosalia in Baja Sur, an eight hour trip. Success at this point was very doubtful. Local accommodations and food were excellent, so we had a chance to recover from the last island. A local tour operator also showed us a web site where the sea swell could be predicted. There was the possibility of making it to Santa Ines the third day. All of the equipment and supplies were sorted so that only the minimum would be taken to the island. About one third of what was used before was left with the truck. All of the batteries were given a full charge in the motel room.

On the morning of the 14th of January the boat was loaded with gear and towed down to the launching area by the Mulege Lighthouse at the mouth of the river. It was smooth going until we hit the open sea. The swell was high and the boat kept dropping off one wave into the next. Life jackets were used, but only to sit on. It was a very rough trip. Once we were near the island, the sea became calmer and we had little trouble unloading everything on the beach. There are three islands in this group, but the other two were little more than small rocks. The south end of the island had a low ridge that afforded a little protection from the wind and a good place to set the beam up. As soon as the beam was up, a station was active on 20 meter SSB using battery power. Pat, VE7QCR, was the first contact. During this pile up, the main tent was built and placed over the operator. By noon, all the tents and antennas were up. Only one R7 was used on the south end of the camp and the DX88 as far north as possible. The 75 meter dipole was placed near the center by the generators. The coax for the tribander could reach either tent. The wind had followed us from the Pacific side of Baja to the Sea of Cortez side and never let up. The next day, the sea was very rough and we were getting nervous about the trip back.

The operating pattern that had worked so well at Asuncion was used on Santa Ines. Forty meters was on all night long. A good European opening on 20 meters in the morning worked well using the R7. The last morning we planned to use the tribander to make sure all the Europeans that wanted us had the best chance. During the early morning, there was a flare and 40 meters was very good long path to Europe. When 20 meters was tried, only a few Northern Europeans were heard. The sea was rough and the boat arrived early to try and get us off the island. AD5A was the last in the log for a total of 4458 QSOs. We began to tear down the camp as fast as possible. What once took us 4 hours, we did in 2. We were very tired and had to wade into the water to get lines on the boat so we could get it close enough to load. Equipment was carried out to the boat and stowed anywhere it would fit. Once the lines and anchor were secured, it was back into open water. The trip out was rough; the trip back was a twice as bad. We were wet when we got into the boat and managed to get a lot wetter. Nine miles had to be endured before we reached the river mouth at Mulege. If we and the boat’s Captain knew what we were going to be in for, we would never have gone out.

The QSOs by band on NA165:


Breakdown of QSOs on NA165:

CENT/S. AM1594%

Once the truck was packed and our stomachs had time to recover from the trip from the island, we had lunch and headed north. The weather was good and we made good time getting into Baja California Norte. The trip would have been uneventful except for the time after dark when we came over a hill and met a black cow standing in the middle of a black road. Hector did an evasive maneuver while heavily braking and fortunately so did the cow. Both the cow and we were a bit shaky after that. Hector managed to get us through 4 or 5 military checkpoints without unloading the truck. A good nights sleep in Ensenada helped and we were back in Mexicali about noon. Our last pesos were spent for the last toll road. The night of the 17th, the N6s were in Ventura at N6VR's house and by the next afternoon, N6JV was home in Sacramento. Total travel from Sacramento, California and back was 3,240 miles.

We would like to extend our special appreciation to Ing Moises G. Ramirez Rodriguez , Director de Emision de Licencias (COFETEL), for his assistance in obtaining the required licensing and Ramon, XE1KK, for his guidance in this complicated undertaking. The support of the Island Radio Expedition Foundation (IREF) made this trip possible. We would also like to thank those individuals who helped finance this operation: AB6QM, AD5A, K6DT, K9AJ, KB5GL, KD6WW, N5ET, N5UR, N6AWD, N6IC, N6KZ, N6PYN, N7RO, VE7QCR, VE7YL, W1DIG, W1NG, W4DKS, W5BOS, W6ED, W6YOO, WC6DX and G3ZAY. Special thanks to N6AWD who organized our financing, provided a generator and will be handling the QSLs. We hope that everyone who needed NA164 and NA165 made a QSO with us. We certainly made every effort to hear and work you.