For the past three months, in Okeechobee, I have spent a little time every few days listening and answering calls on the radio. The antenna and radio have worked out better than I could have hoped. Previously our ham radio antenna was beside the truck’s fender, mounted to the frame. It worked, but not very well. On top of the trailer, with almost twenty-three feet by eight feet of aluminum roof as counterpoise, the antenna works beautifully.
I have made contacts with hams in ten countries on 20 meters, eight on 40 meters, and have worked four islands (Azores, Bahamas, Bonaire, and Galveston Island). This is pretty modest by amateur radio standards. Some operators make more contacts in a weekend than I’ve ever made. I am having fun reaching as many countries as I can. This map picture displays the contacts I’ve made in the past ninety days.
All my contacts are catalogued and sorted, and I have exchanged QSL cards already on some. Some hams post their received QSL cards on the walls of their radio room, or “shack”. Debbie and I haven’t discussed this (and won’t unless/until I have a room). I am receiving the cards electronically from some hams and in the mail from others. The snail mail cards I scan and save in the electronic folder with the emailed ones. This really nice looking card from CU2JT, while he was in the Azores, came to me through email.
I operate only intermittently. Most of my time I am golfing, playing tennis, shuffleboarding, swimming, reading, sleeping or just sitting around. Sometimes, for an hour or two, I enjoy listening and talking on the ham radio. And I will, each week at least, check into the RV Service Net to update our location, listen to weather and road conditions throughout the east and midwest, and hear how other members are doing.
I am using 100 watts, less than one-tenth the power of some operators who use amplifiers. Some radio operators, from clear across the country, sound like they are next door. They have so much amplifier power and it just about completely covers up my signal. Whenever I hear a pile-up on a frequency I have a relatively slim chance of making the contact compared to the big stations. Sometimes, through persistence and patience, I make it through.
And while very good, my antenna is nothing compared to some permanent stations. Many seem to have high gain directional antennas, and I hear a few of them so clearly from California, British Columbia, Lithuania, and Portugal. Our present site conditions seem far less than optimal. We are sitting in a low site, are eight feet from an metal-roofed park model, and our vertical motorized antenna just peaks out above the park model’s roof ridge. Still, I have made contacts in all these and more countries from our spot in this resort.
We’ll leave this resort site in a few days. I’ll miss the connectivity I’ve had from here because I’m accustomed to it. And I am very interested in seeing how my ham radio system will work from other (and hopefully more favorable) site conditions.