This is what ham radio (and QRP) is all about

If you haven’t seen this You Tube video of the Eagle Cap SOTA Expedition you should take 20 minutes and sit back and enjoy.

This is what amateur radio is supposed to be all about. Having fun. And in this case having fun with QRP. (The video also shows how to make a Buddy Pole Antenna work really well using taps and tuned radials.)

Wish collectively we were having this much fun in Canada!

Double Trouble

Time to check (or add to) the antenna system before the snow flys.

It was then I noticed the 80/40 dipole wasn’t working. High SWR and loss of signal strength had me thinking mechanical fault.

Sure enough a close inspection showed one leg of the antenna had separated from the centre connector. After fixing it I thought I should check everything else before hoisting the antenna back into position.

Sure enough the coax fitting into the centre conductor had broken its ground so new coax was the quick solution.

I find that if an antenna has been up long enough to have a mechanical breakdown in one place it’s likely to have more weak points ready to let go sometime in late January.

Now with the new coaxial run I’ve got a 150-foot run of buried cable from the antenna switch located on the tower in the backyard running past the side of the house to the front yard.

Bet I could put a 40-meter vertical in the pine trees at the front of the yard and nobody would notice.

I don’t “need” another 40 meter antenna (and I might consider an 80-meter vertical if it’s not all shiny aluminum) but “need” should never be an issue when it comes to one more antenna installation IMHO.

A new level of cheap

Remember when handhelds first hit the scene. They cost hundreds of dollars and were literally the size of a construction brick and weighed about the same.

Now from China comes the Baofeng dual-band VHF/UHF tiny handheld with 2 watts and 99 memories.

Oh the price? Steady yourself Bucko it’s $46.50 shipped from Hong Kong.

The rig ships with two antennas (VHF/UHF) but a dual band antenna is available as a $12 option.

John, VA3BL, who now owns this unit, say they’re basically copies of the VX-3r from Yaesu. $49! Amazing and it sounded pretty good.

The Joys of DX

One of the big problems with being a contester and a mostly QRP contester at that is the quality of the contesting experience is highly dependent upon band conditions.

Sure there are some guys who will slug it out for 48-hours of listening to a class-m or x solar flare but boy does that get old fast especially with headphones.

Now I’m  not saying I won’t be found at the bottom of the pileup (It’s amazing how even a five-watt signal can do it.) but I’m expanding my Amateur Radio experience and looking to become a DXer as well.

I just ordered The DX Magazine and the emailed QRZ DX newsletter.

Carl Smith, N4AA is the publisher and he couldn’t have been nicer (or quicker) I sent in my PayPal subscription and I got an immediate personal reply from Carl. Your experience may vary but fabulous service and great info.

I also have a subscription to The Daily DX and it’s great. I got my first subscription as a door prize at the Contesters’s Dinner at the Dayton Hamvention and have renewed every year since then (right after Dayton just in case I win again).

If you want to get into DXing you need this kind of information.

How to save $10K in 10 Years

That’s a thousand a year! Right on bucko. In 10 years you could buy the rig of your dreams.

So how do you do it? If you’re within 100 miles of a bunch of TV stations you’re likely able to get your TV off air.

Now not everyone is as fortunate as those of us who live in the Golden Horseshoe of southern Ontario but we’re up to our field strength meter in TV signals from the extended GTA and Buffalo stations.

So after much conversation emphasizing the annual savings I took my two four-bay TV antennas off my 6-meter tower where they weren’t working well and reinstalled them on a 10-foot mast in the centre of my roof.

Now I get around 30 high-definition uncompressed TV channels from as far away as Kingston and south Buffalo. There’s a couple of sort-of-there channels and I might add a masthead pre-amp and low-loss coax but for now I’m very happy and even better VE3HEN (SWMBO*) is thrilled.

So it’s bye, bye cable and all those channels that we never watch.

BTW we’re so happy with our new Sharp 19″ Aquos TVs from Costco (26 hours from online ordering to delivery at the door) that we ordered another one for my home office desk. Now we have three TVs (all of which double as monitors) in our home office and all are on the hi-def off-air antennas.

* SWMBO comes from the British TV comedy Rumple of the Bailey where Rumple makes that reference to his wife Hilda.

Waldo and Pogo

I’ve been staying out of the discussions involving our national Amateur Radio organization as I think I’m seeing the endgame beginning to take place as Canadian amateurs in their thousands elect not to run for the many official offices and unofficial jobs that are coming up for re-election and reappointment next month.

Such is the lack of response to calls for nominations that a letter to the Amateur Radio community from RAC ends up pleading to members with this concluding line:

“Remember, Radio Amateurs of Canada belong (sic) to each of you as members. Perhaps it is time to put a little more into the shaping and direction of the organization than just being a member. This is your opportunity to make a difference.”

How entirely galling and offensive.

Wasn’t this exactly what was attempted a year ago when many of us called for changes in the structure of governance of Radio Amateurs of Canada?

New lines of communications between the board, executive and real members were created. Many members came forward volunteering to get involved. RAC and its future was the topic of conversation at clubs across Canada.

But a grand vision meeting held a year ago in Ottawa was a flop as members were barred from the discussions and given no opportunity to be directly involved. The open blog was gutted and turned into an official bulletin board with the comment section closed to members. A second attempt to run an open RAC blog was abandoned shortly after its introduction.

Even our annual general meeting held a few weeks ago failed to attract any real attendance either at the meeting itself or via an online national feed which featured commentary almost solely from the chief officer and no others.

Most recently here in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada the Amateur Radio Emergency Service which is administered by RAC is in turmoil and divisive decisions have caused some dedicated volunteers to question their own involvement.

So this last year what we didn’t get was any real way for members to be involved in the future of Radio Amateurs of Canada. This is a failure of the governance structure and for that we are all responsible.

Remember John Barlett, VE1OZ/HK3OZ’s CQ Canada website and his search for Waldo (It took me a little while to figure out that Waldo was really all of us. Kind of like Pogo’s revelation that “We have met the enemy and he is us.”)?

So how will this all end?

Sadly I think.