Sunday 10th April 2016 began with me spending 15 minutes hacking the most stubborn ice off my windscreen I have experienced in over two years. In the second week of April. Drove across town to pick Ed 2E0NSR up then back home to add Jimmy M0HGY. 90 minutes or so later we were pulling into the car park at the rear of the highly rated* Norbreck Castle Hotel in Blackpool. [* Over 300 positive reviews on Trip Advisor].
The next hour saw the team, now bolstered with Audrey, Rob G4RQJ, Barry GM4TOE, Andy MM0FMF, Geoff G6MZX, Mark G0VOF, Colin M1BUU (and apologies to anyone I've missed) raising the new SOTA banner and setting out the displays, quizzes, handouts, merchandise and cakes. Well it was, as usual, mainly Audrey doing everything, while all us men stood around pretending to look important and busy.
We were busy as usual and Simon G4TJC and Jonathan GW2HFR added to the manpower. the SOTA stalwarts and other interested parties calling at the stand included Richard G3CWI, John G4YSS, Roy G4SSH, Nick G4OOE, Peter G1FOA, Andrew M0LKB, Dave G6LKB, Carolyn G6WRW, Helen M0YHB, Gerald MW0WML, John G4LGX, Alma 2E11HS, Caroline M3ZCB, Martyn M1MAJ, Carl 2E0HPI, Kevin M0XLT, Aled MW0UPH, Paul G4MD, Keith G0OXV, Allan GW4VPX, Marcus MM0ZIF, Glenn G6HFF, Neil M0WBG, Emily 2E1AEQ, Ray G0DMV, Geoff GM4WHA, John G0TDM, Bob G6ODU, Val G6MML, Dave G4DRX, Adrian G4AZS, Ian G4WTF, Keith G8HXE, George M0SSD, Terry G0VWP, Dave G3TQQ, Peter M1CNL, Graham G7WFK, Neil G0WPO, Gareth M0MOL and David G0EVV.
Thanks to all that congregated around the SOTA stand during the course of the rally, and of course those that prepared and staffed it. Congratulations to Jonathan GW2HFR for winning the construction competition and attracting the very favourable remarks from Dr John Gould G3WKL.
After packaway, it was time for Jimmy, Ed and I to undertake our traditional activation of Billinge Hill G/SP-017 on the way home. We parked at the start of the access road to the cottages and transmitter compounds, and made our way up the short PROW from there to the summit. Jimmy and Edward did 2m FM and both qualified without difficulty, despite the occasional efforts of the local QRM. I was using the HB1B and Micro Z tuner, but my Palm Paddle / Code Cube was playing up. I could trigger the CQ calls from the memory, but the paddles themselves weren't working - all I could get was a continuous tone from the 'dah' lever. Nothing else for it, I just used that as a straight key. Hence the confused spot from Manuel EA2DT about the unfeasable difference between my receiving speed and sending speed!
I made 4 QSOs on 30m CW before deciding that was more than enough and packing up. While I was doing so, the lads had found Eleri MW3NYR/P QRV on 2m FM from Moel y Gamelin GW/NW-042. We all worked her for the S2S before packing up and descending. The SOTA day was rounded off in traditional SOTA style with a take-out from the Weston Balti Raj.