Tag Archives: Portugal

VO1DR Portable in Portugal: Coffee, Cobblestones and Contacts!

Many thanks to Scott (VO1DR) who shares the following guest post:

Coffee, Cobblestones and Contacts – Portable in Portugal

by Scott Schillereff, (VO1DR), St. John’s, NL, Canada

On a recent trip throughout Portugal (May 29 – June 12), I operated /P QRP CW at five locations, with varying success.  Here are some details and pictures that you might find interesting.

Portugal and /P sites

Figure 1 shows a map of Portugal and the five locations where I operated.  On this trip, we were on the move a lot, so radio was tucked in here and there when I found some free time.

Figure 1 – Portugal and operating locations. 1 Lisbon, 2 Faro (Algarve region), 3 Foz do Duoro (near Porto), 4 Funchal (Madeira island; off coast of Morocco), 5 Monte Estoril (coast west of Lisbon).

QRP gear

I was packing the following gear in a small compartmented zip bag:

  • ATS-V5 CW transceiver for 15, 12, and 10 m (small-run kit from Steve Weber, KD1JV; fits into lid-less Altoids tin).  My max P(out) was 1.7 W on 15 m rising to 2.3 W on 10 m.
  • Homebrew whip antenna system.  2.54 m telescoping whip on top of a 2 m camera monopod; raised radial (coiled up to preset lengths to resonate on each band); no ATU; directly wired via 5 m of RG174 coax to choke at rig.
  • Homebrew common mode choke – RG174 coax threaded through five FT37-43 toroids and coiled around a larger unknown ferrite core (scavenged from TV).
  • Homebrew resistive SWR bridge – common design to null out an LED at low SWR; max tuning SWR 2:1; switchable in and out of Tx circuit; direct BNC connector to rig
  • 30,000 mA-hr Lithium-ion battery– car jump-starter; lightweight (284 g); 15V and 5V no-load outputs; 15V output through voltage controller to rig.  One charge did entire trip.
  • Homebrew Voltage Controller – simple design based on LM317T regulator and small V-A display (see article in SPRAT #195, p.24).  Vin max 40V; Vout 1.2-37V; Iout up to 1.5A.
  • Homebrew single paddle key, made with popsicle stick inside a plastic screw-top vial.

I chose a whip- versus a wire-based antenna system because I anticipated setups on hotel balconies, beaches or in city parks, not “off in the woods”.  Wire antennas are certainly more portable and could be taken in carry-on without worry, but might be more noticeable during setups in city parks.  Wire antennas are also not much good on beaches or balconies (without distant anchor points).  I wanted to be less conspicuous, and didn’t need to worry about weight.

Air travel with radio gear

I put all my QRP gear and antenna in my checked bag and had no trouble anywhere.  I added a note in English and Portuguese stating that this was amateur radio gear for hobby use, and included a copy of my Canadian licence. I probably could have taken the works in carry-on, but I was a bit uncertain about the metal monopod and whip (might be perceived as a weapon) so I just checked it all.

1. Lisbon Old Town

Due to a *two-day* travel disruption on the way to Portugal (thanks to Air Canada at Toronto Pearson airport; another story), we only had one night in Lisbon. Our hotel was a four-storey concrete and steel building in a narrow street. Our 3rd storey room had two little balconies about 3 m apart, with metal rails. To test the waters, I mounted the monopod and whip on one balcony and tied off the radial to the other balcony. The antenna impedance match was fine but, either due to band conditions, night time, or metal in the buildings, all three bands (15-10 m) were dead. Not a single signal; not even the ghoulish drone of digital signals; a total bust. Not a great start, but things improved later – read on!

Figure 2- Tram on steep street in Lisbon Old Town, close to our hotel

2. Faro (Algarve Region)

We travelled by wonderful inter-city Portuguese train to Faro in the Algarve.  Faro is a hub city in this sun-drenched and slow-moving southern region of Portugal; a region where everyone seems to be in second gear, and quite content there. Being a coastal city, I had hopes of good propagation.  Our schedule meant I could only play radio at our hotel late one afternoon. I set up in a quiet corner of a concrete-walled, 2nd storey courtyard with an open roof.  The top of the whip extended ~1 m above the concrete wall, but the radial was deployed entirely within the courtyard.  An improvement on the air – I could hear a number of stations, mainly on 15 m, and worked LY2NK (Lithuania, 3,119 km).  I was amazed at what 1.7 W and a whip antenna with a single raised radial could do!

Figure 3 – Walking street in Faro, 5 min from our hotel.
Figure 4 – Boats at Ilha da Culatra, on day trip out of Faro

3. Porto and Foz do Duoro (“mouth of the Duoro”)

We travelled on a delightful high-speed train (complete with coffee and snacks trolley down the aisle!) up to Porto in the north of Portugal.  Porto has a much different vibe than the Algarve.  A more working-class, energetic, commercial feel, and steeped in the wine- and port-making industry along the picturesque Duoro River. The Duoro Valley is a huge viticulture region and, yes, they still stomp grapes with bare feet on harvest day (don’t worry – in the making of port, fortification with 60% alcohol (aguardente) abruptly stops sugar fermentation and kills every living microbe in the batch!).

One afternoon, we took a clattering electric tram from downtown Porto west to Foz do Duoro, a seaport town 6 km away where the Duoro R. empties into the Atlantic.  After an espresso in an outdoor café, I set up the radio in a city park adjacent to the ocean – monopod lashed to a park bench and a radial tied off to a palm tree.  Figure 5 shows my park bench set up with a sea wall and Atlantic in the distance.  In QRP radio, as in real estate, “localização, localização, localização”!  Conditions were great here and I worked these stations on 15 m:  TM56JO (France; 1,087 km); HA0DD (Hungary; 2,476 km); OU5U (Denmark; 2,146 km); LY2PX (Lithuania, 2,903 km); and 9A2N (Croatia, 2,119 km).  Very exciting! And, again, passers-by  took no notice.

Figure 5 – Radio set up on park bench, Foz do Duoro, Portugal. View west to Atlantic Ocean in distance.
Figure 6 – Detail of my radio set up. Clockwise from L to R: paddle key in clear plastic vial; blue floss container with volume control for ear buds; ATS-V5 rig (green cover) in bottom of Altoids tin; oltage controller in bright blue Altoids tin; Li-ion battery pack (black rectangle); common mode choke (red sleeve); resistive SWR bridge (silver top with LED). Zippered back for this gear is immediately to right. The whip collapses to about 14 in and fits inside the camera monopod for transport.

4. Madeira

Air travel is fairly cheap within Portugal, so we detoured to Madeira, an autonomous Portuguese island in the Atlantic ocean ~1,000 km southwest of Lisbon.  The main city (Funchal) is about even with Casablanca on the Moroccan coast.  Madeira is a very rugged volcanic island with its highest point (Pico Ruivo) 1,862 m (6,109 ft) above sea level.  We were based in Funchal and toured around to see the sweeping vistas, mountain-scapes, and steep coastal cliffs. Continue reading VO1DR Portable in Portugal: Coffee, Cobblestones and Contacts!