We were parked at Skidaway Island State Park for an overnight and awaiting the Carolina vs Kentucky game (boo hoo hoo). Oh well, only eight teams played this past weekend in the mens’ NCAA tournament and our team was there even if we didn’t quite beat Kentucky. Go HEELS!
Yesterday afternoon I raised our trailer’s roof-top antenna to vertical. I turned on our small ham radio and started listening. Lots and lots of hams were on all the bands. I decided to start with fifteen meters and selected 21.5 mHz, one of the highest frequencies my mobile antenna (High Sierra 1800 Pro) will tune.
Within seconds I heard DQ8N, a German club station, looking for contacts. We had a brief exchange and I tuned down a little.
Within only five minutes I completed an exchange with M6T, a club station in Martlesham, England.
Five minutes later I reached SK2T, a club station in Umea, Sweden.
Two more minutes before I connected with P40M in Minnetonka, MN, then one minute later I reached HK1R in Atlantico, Colombia.
And finally, only eighteen minutes after I first tuned up, I reached CR3A on Madeira, an island known as “the Pearl of the Atlantic” 2000 kilometers west of Morrocco and only 400 km north of Canary Islands.
Only eighteen minutes and I made contacts with six countries, distances ranging from 1,500 to 4,700 miles. It takes longer than that to reach any of our children. I had fun looking up their stations’ locations, determining where they are. Ham radio is slowly improving my knowledge of countries, and I’m learning names of islands I never knew about.
All contacts were made with a very small Yaesu amateur radio (FT-857d) operating on batteries only while we were sitting at our dinette, on 15 meters, between 0730 and 0800 universal time. This is neither rocket science nor is it at all unusual for ham radio. It’s fun and easy and a little surprising for me because I don’t usually get such diverse international contacts in such a short time period.
Yesterday afternoon was the second day of a ham radio contest during which many many more hams than usual are active on the bands. The contacts I made were extremely short in duration and in information exchange, only enough to prove we made successful two-way information communication. Literally, we exchange call sign, signal strength, and contest contact number.
Many times I make a contact with lots of jaw-boning, sometimes lasting up to 45 minutes. More usual is a five or ten minute get-to-know you conversation with another ham. And, especially during contest periods, many contacts last less than a minute. It’s fun to see how far we can reach and still maintain clear and understandable voice, and more fun yet to do so to countries or islands we might not have reached before.
This past weekend I was surprised to have five of six consecutive contacts in Europe, South America, and Africa and to have 5/9 or clear communication reports from all of six. My radio setup is nice but small and simple, and I operated only 100 watts and with a mobile antenna. Many many stations have far more antenna “power” and some have amplifiers of up to 1,500 watts too. I was pleased to do so well with my modest setup and surprised to do it so quickly and easily.
Ham radio can be really fun when things click like they did yesterday afternoon. Even when it doesn’t work this well, you can still find neat contacts like late one night when I picked up a New Zealand station, or one early morning (0620 UTC) this past February when I had super-clear contacts with two stations in California and one in Oklahoma, all from Sarasota FL.
Every new contact I can make reduces my cost per contact, right? And my enjoyment per dollar is going up still, almost every time I turn on the radio. Unlike cellphone and data plans, all my conversations are free of any incremental cost no matter how long I talk. I might not know who is going to answer my call, but someone always does, somewhere.
I would like to break the 4,700 mile barrier though. I think it will happen this year or next, as propagation improves radio signal bouncing around the globe. How cool is that?
When all else fails, Ham Radio!