Sunday, 11 July
We flew on Aero Perlas to Contadora Island, 50 miles south of Panama City, to the home of Susanne and Guenter, HP1XVH. His ham-radio antenna farm has 2 elements on 80m, 4 elements on 40m and a Force 12 multiband beam with some 14 elements... and the "shack" has a wall full of "New Record This" and "World Record That" plaques.
Contadora Island is served by a 90 minute boat ride or a 15 minute flight in an Aero Perlas Twin Otter or Cessna 208 Caravan. The runway is only 2300 feet long and extends all the way across the island. Sailboats anchored off one end of the runway have been asked to move because their masts stuck up into the flight path. The island is probably a few hundred acres; the highest point might be about 100 feet above sea level. It's tropical, with lush vegetation, white sand beaches and warm water.
There are perhaps 50 homes there, occupied on weekends by Panama City residents, including their President, along with a mini-market or two, a night-club and a hotel. The hotel is the big deal, offering all-inclusive two and three day packages for those looking for swimming, diving, fishing and some general R&R.
Monday, 12 July
I attended the last meeting of the Radio Club de Panama and was introduced to the club by the president, Cam, HP1AC, a contact made through Jack, N6XQ, in San Diego. They honored me with a small plaque, made from a circuit board mounted on a piece of wood and a "third hand", made from a clothes-line clip glued to a board. A rather handy device, actually.
The club is planning on activating HP2L as a commemorative "Lighthouse Day" station on August 21st and 22nd. The frequency they have chosen, 14.140, is below bottom of the US phone band on 20m.
The ham population of Panama is down to about 400, from a high of 3000. All of the former 2m FM types have gone to cell-phones. Only about 40 of the 400 remaining are active on HF.
Tuesday, 13 July
Visited high-rise apartments along the beach front in Paitilla, a trip cut short by the disappearance of my wallet. Fortunately, we had been using one taxi driver on a regular basis. He found it in the back seat of his cab and took it back to the hotel.
Wednesday, 14 July
We rented a Cessna 172 (with an instructor) and I flew to El Porvenir in the San Blas Islands, off the Caribbean coast. It was a beautiful day with only a few scattered clouds. (The visibility the day before went to zero in HEAVY rain.) Our route took us along the canal, over a new bridge being built across it, and over Gamboa. Panama is incredibly green when seen from the air at a low altitude.
The island is not much bigger than the runway, which, at 1600 feet in length, isn't very big either. It's quite isolated, with no phones or electricity, but it's muy tranquillo! Five Kuna Indian women paddled over from an adjacent island, offering to sell molas, but not the decorative little cloth squares we hoped to find. They wanted to sell the clothes they were wearing!
Did a touch-and-go at Tocumen, the commercial International airport, on the way home.
Thursday, 15 July
Got the Flu
Friday 16 July
Kept the Flu
Saturday 17 July
Kicked the Flu.