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Author Topic: Amateur Radio is hard(2)  (Read 2110 times)

Posts: 8

« on: May 18, 2010, 04:17:26 PM »

Hi Guys. Great site.

Will 'Elmers' do as the complete noob's forum? Sorry about the long first post.

Odd story. I find myself the owner of a UK Full Licence - but with little idea what to do with it. Passed the Radio Amateur Exam a looong time ago. May 1988 (yes), when I dug out my pass certificates. Sent 'em off recently, more in hope than expectation, and got an M0 calsign back by return.

Done quite a bit of operating (as a sort of 2 yr ROTC cadet/part-time reservist) in Army Signals in the 70's. Restored a WW2 mil set, only to find it useless for AR listening - unless you count a few AM 160m local contacts, so became a SWL instead. Failed to build an 'advanced' superhet from a magazine. Got into FM CB. Bought a FRG-7700. Sat the RAE exam. CW compulsory then for Class A licence, so got to a shaky 12wpm. Didn't sit the Morse test..and then kinda got sidetracked by life. Haven't touched a radio since, although I've kept up a bit of hobby electronics and kit building with the kids.

Plus points: The Yaesu works straight out of the box after 20+ years. And I found its ATU and the VHF converter. Own a) 62ft x 7ft of 10mm steel plate roof on my boat on the rural inland waterways of middle England with about 1000Ah of batteries inside - perfect. b) also, a well used 2m multimode I picked up on e-bay. c) plus a 27ft telescopic fibreglass monopole mast, e-bay too, although I can't remember why I thought I needed it. d) Basic workshop & electronic tools, plenty - even some of my old junk box. e) A bank account marginally less inadequate than when I passed that exam.

Minuses: Radio skills, nil. CW speed 0 wpm. Residual construction ability, probably much less good than I think, say 1/10. A bit of spare time only.

I know one ham only, a 50yr licensee. Advised me to 'do a lot of listening first'. Live in central London, the AR clubs don't (commute probably impractical). The current RSGB Operating Manual is out of print everywhere. My new ARRL Handbook arrived with all the pages busted out, so gone back to the vendor.

I'm really keen to get started but completely adrift with this rediscovered interest. Saturday was the national 3watt 'Backpacker Portable' 144MHz contest here. Several 59+ stations near my boat. Itching to call them but didn't dare. What IS the correct procedure for contests? Would they have wanted to hear from me?

The world, I guess, is my oyster now. Ideas and suggestions to actually do something, please.

You know those dreams when you're really an imposter and charlatan? And you're just about to get found out? This is it.

Thanks for your patience.

Posts: 72

« Reply #1 on: May 18, 2010, 06:04:06 PM »

Alaistar -

Welcome back!  I'll throw in my tuppence worth of advice, since I was in a similar situation, about ten years ago.  I was a G0 long ago in the UK, then moved to Colorado and got back in the hobby.  It is way easier to be a Ham in the Far West, since there's a lot more room for antennas (aerials...) and stuff.  I'm in Texas now.

(1)   On VHF (just me...) you'll get the "locals" and if there aren't any - like it sounds in your case - it will be dispiriting.  However, I've had a real blast doing satellite with an HT and a handheld yagi.  From the UK, I bet you'd get some F / DL / PA  operators as well...  I, personally, just love shortwave and I think if you can get your hands on an HF rig you'll have way more fun.

(2)   Try digital!  Get on the HF bands and give PSK31 a go.  I work Europe daily from here with 30W

(3)   Seriously, learn CW and you can talk to the world.  Honestly, not that hard.  Do 20 mins practice every day (hey, it's a hobby!) and before you know it we'll be ragchewing across the ocean.

(4)   If you're lost as to how to start, the ARRL is a lot more helpful than RSGB (sorry, it's true!).  Have a look at "Getting on the air" and "Your first contact"

I'm lucky, since in Houston there's a number of good clubs.  We mostly "meet" on the air on 2M.  If you can't find a friendly local club, welcome to eHam!

Mni 73 de David, AB0Z

Posts: 8911


« Reply #2 on: May 18, 2010, 06:06:13 PM »

I actually like VHF/UHF SSB quite a bit and there's barely even any activity around here that I can access with my low antennas.  Why not build a small lightweight 2m beam of some sort that the 27m pole can bear at reasonable height?

I'm always a little jealous of the level of VHF activity that seems to go on in the cluster when conditions are decent in Europe, though maybe a lot of that is on the continent.

You've got a ticket, a radio, an antenna, and you didn't call some stations?  They do want to hear from you.  You can find the contest info ... the "exchange" you should give, by Googling the contest name.  And honestly, in a VHF contest, if they call CQ a couple times with no answers, they'd be willing to tell you the exchange you need to give them to make the contact.  Maybe they'd be a little less tolerant if the contest is purely distance scored, but what are they going to do, dunk your radio in the drink?

As far as the rest goes?  Maybe don't worry about that yet.      There's a lot of "HF as real amateur radio" culture in our ranks, but I got my start doing "DX" on 2m FM.  I lived on a hill overlooking Lake Erie and I could hit repeaters in Canada... my first amateur radio contact was conducted from the driveway of my parents' house on a handheld... the first station I worked was a whole other DXCC country Grin.  I wish I'd had a multi-mode rig back then.  

Might as well run what you've got and see if it sticks.  "Listen a lot" seems reasonable advice regarding HF if you've got a working receiver and a thing to hang a wire on.



Monkey/silicon cyborg, beeping at rocks since 1995.

Posts: 3746

« Reply #3 on: May 18, 2010, 09:05:51 PM »


take a look at this 2m Moxon antanna, takes up less space
and similar gain as a 2 element  Yagi, it is direct fed with
50 ohm coax, no matching needed.

for SSB use it horizontal or for FM use it vertical.

inexpensive and easy to build gets you on the air fast.

73 james

Posts: 6601

« Reply #4 on: May 19, 2010, 04:39:40 AM »

Sounds like you are making it hard.
Let's see... you have the license, you have some eqpt, you just need a helping hand with setting everything up and operating it.
I would recommend getting hold of an ARRL Operating manual (or RSGB equiv.) and finding a local "Elmer" to help out.  Getting on the local repeaters and finding a local club would do wonders.  Does the RSGB website have a club listing like the ARRL does?


Posts: 646

« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2010, 12:54:45 AM »

try  theres a few guys on there that love vhf operating .. its a good site with lots of help on all manner of things..

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