Monday, December 4, 2017

K0D Part I: The Idea

So back at the end of October 2017, I was staring at my AMSAT grid map. It looks a little something like this:

I had made a lot of great strides in the world of grid chasing, thanks to a bunch of really great rovers. Alex (N7AGF) Doug (N6UA) Clayton (W5PFG) and Paul (N1PEB) had managed to knock out several of the stragglers in random places around the map that were proving difficult earlier in the fall, then Patrick (WD9EWK) got a couple for me on his way to Reno for the AMSAT symposium, and Gabe (NJ7H, now AL6D) finished out a few of my far western grid pairs on his way to Alaska for a new job. That left me with just a big hole along the DN/EN field line thru the Dakotas, and EM41 to finish out my CONUS map on Satellite. EM41 would come in due time, but figuring out how to deal with that void in the Dakotas was going to be tricky. I could wait for someone else go rove thru the area - which might take years - Or I could take matters into my own hands. I've spent months building a properly function remote station here in EM34 that works well enough in most directions. I'm also a fairly accomplished rover in my own rights, so activating all the grids and 'working myself' was definitely going to be possible. That said, I was going to need help.

I took the idea to Wyatt, AC0RA, one of the most accomplished rovers in the AMSAT and VHF/UHF community today, and also a good friend. I discussed the possibility of roving to each of the grids I needed over the course of a couple of days, using my parent's QTH in EN21 as kind of a 'home base' due to it's relative closeness to the grids needed. He thought the idea was solid, and agreed to help - I made a map of how to navigate the highways and byways to hit all the grids needed, in the shortest amount of time possible and we had our plan. Then of course, we started adding extras :)

Anyone who's been following this blog has been watching my slowly growing fascination with 6m Meteor Scatter. Since these grids were so rare on Satellites, it figured that some might be rare on 6m too. Well, they are. Quite a few actually are in the '3rd rarest' category (yellow) on the FFMA chaser board. Since this rove was going to occur in November, chances of e-skip were basically slim to none, but meteor scatter could work. Also a few of the local big guns in the /0 region (K0SIX especially) needed some of these grids in their final 50 for 6m FFMA. Wyatt knew this too, and suggested the possibility of taking his Rover truck with a modest 6m beam on it so we could do both Satellites and 6. As icing on the cake, since there would be 2 licensed hams in the truck we could theoretically operate in motion with 1 driver and 1 operator. This was something that Wyatt had told me he was interested in trying at some point anyway - as for contests he normally goes out solo. With that it was settled and on the morning of November 9th, 2017 we would head north from EN21 and begin a nearly 2000 mile trip to activate 13 of my 14 remaining AMSAT grids needed to complete the KG5CCI 488 map. We would also operate 6 Meter MSK144 Meteor Scatter in motion, and from certain fixed locations on the rarest grid lines. I applied for the K0D 1x1 special event callsign. Since there were 2 hams, and I would be keep my personal callsign for my Arkansas station, it would make everything easier from a logging perspective and keep everything on the up and up.  I acquired LOTW certs, and setup a simple QRZ page with details for what we were up to. We were set for the rove.

The final piece of the puzzle was how to work 'myself' since I would physically be in North Dakota with Wyatt, using the K0D callsign, and in all likelihood out in the middle of nowhere lacking cell phone reception to remote into KG5CCI myself. I was going to need more help. Luckily another ham friend, Clayton (W5PFG), answered the call, and agreed to operate my station remote during the passes required. We tested the station multiple times to make sure remote operation was functioning correctly, and felt like it was ready.

The idea was simple enough, and the plan was set. The K0D expedition was on.

To be continued.. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

My AMSAT Etiquette - Rule 3

Rule 3: I don't jump in the pile when I don't need the grid.

This is one of my personal biggest beefs on the Satellites. I think it bugs me so much, because it's something that is done almost exclusively by operators that should know better, but choose to do it anyway. 

If a rare grid (or a rare DX for that matter) is active on a pass, and you already have their grid or entity confirmed, you should exercise that RTL (release to listen) button, kick back, and enjoy the show. If you instead choose to immediately jump into the inevitable pileup, likely using all the watts you have, you're taking up precious time that the DX could be responding to others, giving them a new grid or new entity. Choosing the option to work a DX a 2nd time, makes you a showoff, a jerk, and otherwise makes active rovers who might also be listening less inclined to give you the time of day next time they're somewhere rare. In short, use that Situational Awareness skill that is always getting brought up, and make sure you're not screwing someone else out of a new contact, just to show others on the pass how awesome you are... cause - pro-tip - You're not. 

Exceptions: Obvious exception is that if there IS no pile and the rare DX is calling CQ, by all means give them a call. I will usually listen for at least 2 CQ sequences with no takers, before I make a QSO with someone rare I've already got logged. I will also cut a little bit of slack to people calling someone right at the edge of their footprint. Sometimes you just have seconds to determine who a caller is - that's OK too.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Meteors and EM43

So, in my last article talking about 6 meters, I mentioned EM43 and the desire for it to get activated. Well, since then I've done just that - twice now actually. So let me tell you my tale, first though, a quick precursor on grid chasing in the land of Six.

In my little part of the world, grids on Six are not that uncommon. Unlike Satellites, there are a LOT of people that do Six, and anyone with a dipole and 100W during Sporadic E season can make contacts pretty fast. There are also several contests each year where Six is a big part of the score, and rovers specially build themselves to cover lots of ground and make as many contacts as they can on VHF bands that include 6 meters. None of this stuff happens on Satellites. So as a general rule, if people live somewhere, there are usually at least some sort of active Six operators there. Well, that takes me to EM43. This grid is primarily in the River Delta area of Arkansas and Mississippi. There are not a whole lot of people out there, and it's not a particularly well to do region financially. That said it is beautiful in its own way, and has some of the best southern cooking you'll find.. so I enjoy trips there when the opportunity arises. EM43 also happens to be one of the only 2 grids near me that greater than 25% of the 'FFMA Leaders' need in their chase. Switch gears back to Satellites real quick, and the state of Mississippi is one of the rarest on the birds. It is often on people's "last to work" list for WAS, so I make it a point to go portable down there with an arrow at least a few times a year. With these two things in mind, a mission was cooked up to activate EM43 on Six, and activate the state of Mississippi on the birds. A date was chosen, and we were off.

Part I - The Perseids

I got up at 4AM on August 12th and headed southeast. It was going to be just shy of a 2 hour drive, and I wanted to be onsite an operating by 6AM. I had packed all my gear the night before, so I stumbled to the Mustang, turned on APRS, and hit the road. About an hour down the road I exited the pine forests and hit the true delta country - while there was some fog, the drive was mostly easy going. K9CT was emailing about every 15 minutes watching my progress, especially once I crossed into EM43 waiting for me to setup. I crossed the Mississippi river at the Greenville crossing, found my spot, and got the Moxon up in the air.

As soon as I turned on the radio I could hear the telltale sounds of MSK144, and I figured K9CT was already calling me. As I got WSJT-X booted, sure enough he was there, and I quickly answered him. At this point, Problem 1 reared it's ugly head. The sounds came back after my first call, and I could tell I should be decoding them, yet nothing was happening on my screen... I noticed my fast waterfall display wasn't moving.. the wsjtx program was working, but it wasn't decoding clearly audible signal. I rebooted the program after 2 or 3 sequences where nothing was happening, and it promptly decoded Craig's R-01 report. I started sending my RRR, but after 2 or 3 sequences, noticed the waterfall stopped moving again. I rebooted the program, again, and as it came up I got his 73 message. So, QSO complete. Yay.. first new one handed out. Meanwhile though, WSJT-X was freaking out, and I didn't know why. This problem continued the entire morning and I never did fully solve it.. let me tell you, restarting the program every couple sequences got real old.

Despite the software problems, I was making QSOs, so I kept at it. Problem 2 occurred after working N8OC I got back out to spin the Moxon around to the south, and as I doing so something went 'snap' above my head, and I looked up to see my Moxon wire hanging loose on the back right corner.. not good. I promptly too it down and started looking it over. The wire had snapped right on the corner where the stress support connects. I seriously considered calling it a day, but figured I'd see what I could do. I had thrown in a small butane torch, a roll of solder, and my coax crimpers, to compliment my normal road-trip tool bag and lifetime supply of duct tape I carry everywhere, so I got busy... after 5 minutes of some very crude repair work I got the wire back together, and duct taped it to the mast. It wouldn't survive being taken apart again, but I just needed it work for another couple hours.... and it did. Every QSO I made after 1200z, was made on a busted, field patched antenna held together with globs of solder and 12 foot of duct tape. Moral of this story - ALWAYS bring tools with you to the field.

After Murphy was beaten down twice, things started getting better. The rocks were falling, and the pings were coming. I was fighting some weird noise at 50.283, but a QSY to 50.263 solved most of those issues. Pingjockey worked well as a place to announce my spots, and folks did a good job adjusting as I had to. While running several skeds with people, I activated auto-seq and got out to work some AMSAT, making 38 QSOs on 4 passes on the birds, so it really was a multi-mode rove with lots of happy chasers all around. Along with my 8 QSOs I made on the meteors, I wasn't unhappy for my trial attempt at 6m roving, but it left me wanting more.Oh yea, I of course did some live periscope too.

Part II: Upgrades, and a Retry

I was hooked - but before a re-attempt, I needed an upgrade. The homemade moxon and PVC mast on a speaker stand tripod worked, but it didn't work well. The flimsiness of everything, un-optimized runs of coax, and of course the lack of gain needed to be dealt with. So, first order of business was a proper beam. Thru some wheeling and dealing I managed to score an MFJ-1762 for next to nothing. I acquired some military surplus 'Camo Netting Supports' which are 4' long aluminum interlocking mast sections that easily will support a small beam at anywhere from 16'-24' feet, but are small enough to fit in the mustang. I got some scrap iron together and had a Ham buddy weld me up a 'drive over, tilt down' base that also fit in the Stang's trunk, but still be a nice solid place to put my mast. Finally I measured out a run of LMR400uf that would run to the new antenna on my portable mast and be just right to fit back inside the car so the RF was only going the distance required, and no more, thru some quality coax. I tested everything out at home, and it was working good - so I picked another date to try again. October 14th, 2017 at 4AM I was on the road again.

I didn't have to travel quite as far this time, as activating Mississippi wasn't the goal, just the EM43 grid. So I stopped in EM43FV in the town of Mitchelleville, AR where there is a large grain elevator, with a huge gravel parking lot for the rice trucks to park and wait. Luckily it wasn't rice season, so the parking lot was completely clear, and provided a nice spot to park and operate. It took about 10 minutes to get the base/beam/mast fully assembled and up 20' in the air, which was a little bit longer than the Moxon, but it paid off big. I immediately was hearing much bigger signals that I had with the Moxon, and the contacts were coming much faster.

The cooler morning was working better too, as the rig was staying chill, and the laptop was running fine. I was making contacts with people that were further away, and making contacts with people running smaller stations. For example, I picked up Jim K5ND over in EM12 my 3 Elements and 100W to his Moxon and 100W in about 13 minutes - which is pretty fantastic considering the size of our stations. While running rocks, I also did setup the Sat station and work a few passes, considering there's always new folks on the birds. 

I operated for a few hours, made 17 contacts and decided to call it a day. My improved setup had done everything I'd hoped it would, and I was happy with its performance, based on what I'd invested in it. Obviously a bigger beam and more power would yield more contacts faster, but that's down the road. What matters now, is I think I've become a somewhat successful 6m rover. And that's definitely another tool in my Ham belt.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Home Station Build - New Beams!

Now that I'm wrapped up with school, I'm going to try and get back on the blogging wagon. One of the biggest developments at KG5CCI the past few months, has been the setup and deployment of some new Innovantennas X-Pol Yagis for Satellites. As you've seen from some of my other pictures, I had been using an Arrow mounted to the cross beam on the G-5500. It sorta worked, but there is something like a 30db difference in signal on the VHF/UHF frequencies if you get polarity mismatched - so sorta working didn't cut it. A buddy of mine (KB1PVH) had put up some LFA Loop, Cross polarized Yagis, designed and manufactured by Justin, G0KSC, and had been very happy with them. They were the size I was looking for, manufacturing and shipping was relatively inexpensive (especially considering they came from England) and the performance looked good. I decided to give them a go. A few months after sending the necessary emails and exchanging the required funds, they arrived. 

Packaging was well done, all the pieces survived the trip across the pond well. 

There was a ton of plastic wrap to cut thru. Not a bad thing, but have the razor knife handy :)

The day was hot, so I setup my portable tripod inside my shop and cranked the A/C to maximum. I knew I'd be sweating putting everything together. It got a little crowed, but it was nice to keep everything out of the weather until I was ready to test. The instructions were straight forward, and the assembly was easy. I sorted all the elements out in a line on the ground, matching size for number, and started in. Everything fit in place smoothly, and while my power screwdriver was nice, it all could have been easily assembled with a hand powered one too. The bolts that held the elements themselves in place were chosen well, with an 'under-flush' design that completely hid the nut from view, and then was covered with a plastic shield. The plastic end caps on the elements were also a nice touch, though both them and the shields that went into the nut holes were a little tricky to get in place. I ended up using a small plastic mallet I have for aluminum gunsmithing work to get the plastic in place, without dinging anything up - and it worked beautifully - though I question if that's a standard tool in most Ham's inventory. 

If I had a complaint about the assembly, it would be the match/balun configuration - especially on the 70cm side. I would guess that the balun was made for a non cross-polarized beam, because when attaching the horizontal, the vertical driven element got in the way. When attaching the vertical, the horizontal got the in way. The actual pigtails coming off the balun were also the same size - indicating that they were MEANT to go straight back, and not off to an angle, but off to an angle was the only direction they would go. I asked KB1PVH if he had the same issue, and he did - he said just run the balun however it will go, then use coax to loop it back around to the polarity switch, which I did. The pigtails got a little smooshed, but they seemed to handle it OK. 

I also really didn't like that I had to stack multiple nuts on top of the oversize bolt to clear the boom (it just felt dirty.. I can't explain why) but I suppose it's no different from having a slightly extended pigtail on coax feed. I also found out that Innovantenna makes a longer balun, so you don't have to cut your own coax and have an extra connector in there - In retrospect, I totally should have done that. Making my own jumper to run between the balun and the coax switch wasn't a big deal, but with weak signal stuff, every .02db matters. If there's any modifications I might make the future, it would be rolling my own match with offset pigtails, and cut exactly to the length 

The 2 Meter side went a lot smoother, bigger waves means bigger parts and a big more room to navigate around. I still didn't really care for the balun construction, but at least I didn't feel like was stressing the pigtails. Once both sides were assembled I hooked up my coax and my relays (more on that later) and took them outside for testing and tuning with my assistant..ermm.. uh.. assisting. 

If you've never messed with an LFA loop before, G0KSC build them with a sliding tube inside a large tube, that is then held together with pipe clamps. This makes it easy to loosen the clamp, and then make the loop larger or smaller. This may actually be my favorite 'feature' of Justin's design. It is super easy to fine tune your drive element to the exact operating frequency for the AMSAT band. I pointed the beams straight up and adjusted until the analyzer was closer, then fine tuned them a smidge more once I got them up in the air. 

My first mast was only about 8' up but I've got it on a 14' 6065 Aluminum mast now, and plan to take it take it even higher soon. They work great. 

All in all, I would definitely buy another G0KSC designed antenna. There are a few things I didn't like about them, but they sounds great, went together easy, and weren't overly priced. I had a few issues with actually ordering them (emails got crossed, delivery time was a bit longer than I expected) but the design is solid.  If you're looking for a great set of cross polarized yagi's for 2m/70cm - I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Atomic AMSAT Roadtrip - Part III

After departing ground Zero, we began what was a crazy long day of driving, but we had lots of things to see and do, and a finite amount of time to do it. We headed north back to US380, headed east to Carrizozo and then south on US54 until we got to Alamogordo. It was the 'long way round' but those were the conditions of driving onto the White Sands Missile Range. In Alamogoordo at the suggestion of Gabe, we stopped at the Hi-D-Ho Drive In to get some burgers.

This place, was quite simply awesome. Epic Burgers, every topping known to man, sweet potato fries, drinks and shakes.. This place was the drive in of olden days that you would stop at on Route 66 Traveling the American Southwest. While chowing down on a burger I used the good signal to attempt to work AO-7 from my home station, via remote for some new grids. While zoned out on my table and headphones though, I missed the part where the rest of my crew (we met with some of Gabe's friends there, like 8 people at the table) got up and paid. After my pass was over everyone was ready to hit the road, so we bailed.... it wasn't until 15 miles down the road I realized I didn't pay for my burger. Well that sucks...  So we went back, fessed up to the mistake, and left a massive tip for the waitress. She didn't even realize I had walked out without paying, but said she definitely would have figured it out when she cashed out at the end of the day.

We left the Hi-D-Ho for a second time, and west in search of a clear western Horizon to work SO-50, from the DM62/DM72 Line. NJ7H already had these grids in his rover list, but I didn't... so after making a handful of quick Q's with some west coasters, We got back on the road and headed for El Paso. Now, for those of you who don't know Gabe, he has an obsession with crossing as many international borders as many times as he can. Since we were within, like, 4 hours of Mexico, we had to go there.. the rules of roving demanded it. So, we located a strategic parking lot in the Chamizal Natl. Memorial, and started walking towards the bridge to Juarez.

As our APRS tracks indicate, it wasn't exactly a smooth journey. The goal was to find some place to buy some genuine Mexican booze, and then come back...  we wandered around the Chamizal Park for a while, before eventually we found a convenience store, bought as much tequila and rum as we were legally allowed to bring back into the states, hit up a local grocery, bought a bunch of Mexican candy and a plaster Minion (for the kiddo) and headed back to the border. Walking INTO Mexico was a piece of cake, no one even glanced at us... walking back on the other, was a bit trickier. We had to wait at US customs for some time, and explain to the ICE agent why exactly we went to Mexico for 2 hours, then came back. The explanation of booze hunting seemed to be accepted. He did however ask specifically "What was in the Minion" and I promptly turned white thinking of what it looked like carrying a hollowed out plaster toy back from FRIGGING JUAREZ into the United States. My reply of 'God I hope nothing' seemed to satisfy him, and I had to run said minion thru a handy dandy x-ray scanner nearby I'm sure for just such occasions. No contraband was scanned and after a quick duty payment to the Texas State Alcohol Control board and we were safe and sound in 'Merica again.  The goal was to make it into Juarez, score some booze, and get out before dark. This goal was accomplished. Still hungry though, we headed to local hangout 'Chicos Tacos' for one of the strangest, yet tasty, ethnic Mexican dishes I've ever had.While there, of course we did a Satellite pass from the parking lot, and acted like a bunch of giant lids:

After our satisfying dinner and satisfying periscope, we headed into one of the more remote regions of the Lower 48, The TransPecos Texas Panhandle, our destination - Project Gnome:

Along the way we stopped for a Satellite Pass on the DM71/72 Line, which also happened to be on the TX/NM state line. Of course we live periscoped that too... courtesy of Jacket Guy as the camera man. 
We made it to Carlsbad after several hours driving thru the desert at night, gassed up and headed thru "Nuclear Alley" to the site of Project Gnome, our next stop on the Atomic AMSAT roadtrip. It was well after midnight at this point, and there were only a few decent passes coming up. But we still operated on a western FO29 and made quite a few contacts. We also posed with a picture at the Ground Zero plaque, this time with an arrow.

Even though there was basically nothing around, I would have liked that have spent more time in extreme Southeast New Mexico. The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant was just a few miles from where we were - and taking some pictures of the sign near it would have been a welcome stop on the Atomic Roadtrip. The National Enrichment Facility, where the industry enriches uranium for power plant use, and Waste Control Specialists where low level Nuclear Waste is stored are also within 30 minutes drive of Gnome. It's really becoming the region where the US goes to dabble in Nuclear Technology, and is a fascinating place.

After a fun time at Gnome, we headed east again. With no more stops on the road trip planned, we drove until we couldn't drive any more, found a nice oil derrick off the side of the road, and crashed for a few hours in the car. We were woken up by a strange noise a few hours later, rain! A rare thing in this part of the country indeed. We got back on the road, and winded our way thru west Texas, up to Wichita Falls for lunch, and back to OKC mid-afternoon. We posed for one final picture with our collected booty for the camera, and went our separate ways. The Atomic AMSAT Road Trip, was in the books.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Adventures in Six

I dabble in 6 meters, but it's never been a passion like Satellites have for me. Like in the AMSAT world, one of the ultimate goals of a 6 meter op, is getting the 488 grids in the continental US confirmed. In the 6 meter world, this is known as the Fred Fish Memorial Award (FFMA) and there is an entire sub-culture of Ham radio operators dedicated to just this thing. There are rovers that travel to some of those rare grids for 6 meter operations, just like there are on Sats. Therefore, I pay close attention to what's happening in the 6 meter world, cause you never know when you'll have a cross-mode rover somewhere.

Before this summer, all the 6 meter contacts I've ever made myself have just been for a laugh. I'll make them on the whip in my Jeep while driving thru the country, or I'll take a dipole to a SOTA peak during a big opening, things like that. This spring though I decided to up my game just a smidge, and built a Moxon. I had plenty of wire, and after seeing some 'stressed' leg designs, I figure I could do something out of some spare parts I had lying around the shop. I fired up a Moxon Calculator and went to work. A few hours later the project was finished, and I just needed to wait for the epoxy to dry. The next day I set it up on my push up fiberglass mast, and was pleased to see the calculator was almost spot on, giving me < 1.3:1 from 50mhz to about 51mhz. And then, as promptly as it went up, it came back down again.. waiting for the right time for it to be deployed..

A little while later, just at the start of the Sporadic E season, the mailing list dedicated to the FFMA came to life. There are a handful of chasers that only need 3-4 more grids to complete their 488 list. There are another big group that only need 20-30 more grids. One of the gentlemen that was in that 20-30 category reached out to me, to ask about grid EM43, which is about 90 miles southeast. It's a grid I rove to probably once a year for Satellites, and I'm familiar with the area. This particular request was about 6 meters though, specifically the propagation type known as Meteor Scatter, using a digital mode called MSK144. I've messed around a bit with PSK31, and I'm no stranger to using computers to control my radios, but this was a new thing for me. This new mode required me installed a piece of software known as WSJT-X, and it contained several very interesting weak signal modes.

I slowly worked thru getting everything setup, and we set our first schedule on a Saturday afternoon from the house. It took a while (about 45 minutes) to make the QSO, but it was a success! Now I just need to find a time to get to EM43. Soon™ - I promise :)

Of course since I had the WSJT-X software now installed, I began exploring the other modes too. I discovered JT65, and was instantly hooked. I could make QSOs, via my remote station, while at work multi-tasking on project? Fantastic! Several very good openings in June netted a good number of QSOs, and as of the date of this blog, I have actually completed 6m VUCC, with a pretty massive help from the WSJT-X software.

6 Meters has been a good time time this summer. I got a new award, and made a fair number of fun new contacts.  My heart in this hobby still belongs to the Satellites, but once in a while, it's fun to take an Adventure to a different band, and see what fun you can have.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Notes from Belize

I got back from Belize 2 weeks ago, I've just been swamped with work and school since I got back, so this blog will be short.

We spent a full week in Belize, primarily on Ambergris Caye, with a few trips to the mainland. The house we had was in grid EK67, and the majority of the passes were done from there. However EK68 and EK57 are accessible on the Caye as well, though via several miles of golf cart mobile gravel roads. I managed to activate EK57 on SO-50 one afternoon, and went to EK68 for 2 different FO-29 passes. I feel good about getting as many people worked as I possibly could.

I ended up making 98 QSOs, worked 9 countries, as as of last count, had 68 grids confirmed in LOTW as V31CI. I didn't think that was too bad at all for a vacation style satellite operation.

I also brought equipment to work some HF and 6M, but after one particularly bad squall blew through, the Inverted-v I had hung from a palm tree no longer would tune. I wasn't able to figure what happened until I got back to Arkansas, and still am slightly unsure what went down.. I just know after re-soldering all my links on the dipole it's working again now. It was disappointing going that far, and not making a single QSO on HF/6M during decent atmospheric conditions, but it is what it is. Travel is hell on equipment.

On the topic of squalls, the weather in the Caribbean, while many consider it paradise, is hell on radio work. On the beach, the wind only dropped blow 20kts a couple times during the trip, and mostly was between 20 and 30, which occasional gusts one day close to 45kts, or tropical storm strength winds. There were 15 ft waves that day off shore, and the fishing and ferry boats weren't operating. It rained every day, though mostly for just 20-30 minute periods.. and with all the rain, getting away from the coast, the mosquitoes would carry you away. For chilling and relaxing, it was just fine.. for operating radios, conditions sucked. 

The good things about Belize though definitely outweighed the weather difficulties. The food was amazing, the scenery was gorgeous, the people were nice, and the rum was cheap. The XYL and me took one day and went inland and hiked to the Lamanai Archaeological Site, where we got to climb some old Mayan temples. That was probably the highlight of the trip for me. Seeing 4000 some odd year old temples was awesome. I will definitely go back again to see this sort of thing. 

So, Remember your noise cancelling can style headphones, otherwise you won't be able to hear in the wind. Make sure to not leave ANYTHING outside in the elements (even well build wire dipoles). And most importantly, enjoy your time in this beautiful country. There's nothing else quite like Belize.