Interesting post from Todd Emslie:
This week I was invited to take part on a 10-day Pacific Ocean Cruise Ship Holiday. The quoted total cost was $1,300, or $130 average per night. Now compared to motel accommodation including meals, and other travelling costs, $130 per night is considerably more affordable. I went on to decline the offer, but it provided pause for considering the merits of a Pacific Islands cruise ship DXpedition during the peak of the summer Es season. Some of the pros and cons of such a trip are delineated below:
1. With the exception of cruise ship ports, while the ship is out at sea, DXers benefit from a 360 degree azimuth view and 0 degree takeoff toward the horizon. This assists with low angle radiation propagation such as long haul Es, and double-hop Es. Tropo and MS modes can also potentially benefit.
2. Minimal local radio signal blockage. One exception might be a low power cruise ship FM broadcast, but this would be typically 1 watt or less, and on a single frequency. Some extra local signals might be available at ports, but the band will still be largely clear. At certain times, the band will likely be completely clear while out at sea.
3. Cruise ship routes extend beyond single-hop Es range of DXers' home locations. In my case, one would be able to monitor at least 2,000 km away from Sydney. Beyond ~ 2,000 km, countries such as Fiji, Tonga, Samoa, etc, are now in single-hop range. This ~ 2,000 km boundary also opens up the reduced possibility of 2Es DX, that would normally be classed as 3Es DX from back home.
4. By virtue of the ship being mostly in continual motion, DXers' can benefit from monitoring in several listening zones in the Pacific. This potentially translates to a greater variety of DX signals.
1. RF QRM from cruise ship and/or passenger electronic gear could be high enough to block certain DX channels. Although it seems that for some DXers such as Sam Dellit (ARDXC magazine report), RF QRM was still sufficiently low to allow some quality AM and FM DX.
2. Restrictions regarding DX gear volume and size allowable. A collapsible 3-el FM yagi + coax + PL-390 portable might be stretching the limit. Also how will the antenna be mounted? Portable tripod, collapsible mast? Probably a PL-390 + folded dipole will be practical in most situations on deck, but may feature enough RF gain for certain DXers.
3. Volume of passengers on deck: how will this impede a DX listening routine? Often it is prudent to a adopt a (who, what, where?) low profile approach when attempting to DX in a congested area. The last thing DXers want is to be graded an A-grade uber-geek nut while DXing.
4. DXing on board may not be practical during rain, wind, and stormy inclement weather conditions.
5. Cruise ship costs may be at a premium during the optimal late December and early January Es window.
Here is a case in point that combines the different elements of this post: back in November, 1979 when I first experience strong late evening Es reception of the Hedgehope, NZch1 TV1 BCNZ PM5544 test card via Es, an instant Polaroid camera colour photograph was taken. The test card reception was strong, but my photographic skills were weak. Nevertheless, with the excitement of the moment, I wanted to take the blurred colour photo to show to my next door neighbour (Ted Edwards). Ted had a technical background as a Telecom technician, and repeatedly stated both to my family and myself that long distance television reception from overseas was impossible. At close to 11 pm while the NZ TV Es reception was still going, I knocked on his front door and showed the test card photo to Ted. He finally had to admit it was possible. Ted was fortunately temporarily home from one of his cruise ship holidays that he conducted every six months with a certain Mrs. Mercer. Since Ted's home was vacant most months of the year, my family assumed that Ted was enjoying the last years of his life by splashing cash on cruise ship holidays while his health still permitted. He commenced the cruise ship holidays in 1978, and sure enough, in 1980 at 70 years of age he died of a fatal heart attack in his home. Mrs. Mercer dropped dead shortly after. Ted was smart enough to realise that procrastination was not a viable option during his twilight years. Indeed the last two years of his life were among the most enjoyable. The upshot for DXers is that procrastination when considering DX opportunities on cruise ships, or other exotic locations, could mean that these one-off limited opportunities will never be experienced.
Propagation questions, answers and general information
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Rx: Burkhardt Reuter RDR54D1, Elad FDM-S2, Airspace HF+ w/ CLP 5130 Log P ant on rooftop rotator V/H polarization options.