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Waxing Poetic

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  • K8MHZ
    To those of you getting this on the MCARES Reflector, please note that this is one of the last posts of general amateur interest that will be made to that
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 14, 2006
      To those of you getting this on the MCARES Reflector, please note that this is one of the last posts of general amateur interest that will be made to that reflector.
      In the very near future, all posts of this nature will be placed on the fast growing, wildly popular WestMichiganHams Reflector.
      If you are not a member yet, I urge you to join ASAP.  We don't want anyone to get lost in the shuffle when we finally make the MCARES Reflector restricted only to MCARES messages.
      Here is the form again to join:
      Subscribe to WestMichiganHams
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      Now on with the story....
      Waxing Poetic
      The Chandos Portrait
      Finally, after over a decade in the hobby, I feel like a real ham.  Not to say that I felt less than a ham before but since I joined the amateur radio hobby to get into emergency services I centered my interests around what it took to perform emergency communications.  Last Fall, after having a license for over a decade, I decided to upgrade in order to take advantage of amateur HF privileges.  I bought an HF rig and made some antennas.
      Once I started not only hearing distant stations, but making contact with them, I soon wondered if I could improve my station's performance without sinking a ton of money into it.  I originally just wanted a marginal station, one that would work if I needed it.  I really had no interest in chatting with strangers.  But to think that I could actually measure my skill as an antenna builder and erector by making contacts farther and farther away intrigued me.  I was very surprised to see that my home made antennas were sufficient to make contacts in Florida, Texas, the Virginias....as far away as Calgary, Alberta.  My radio is pretty average, it puts out 100 watts.  A pair of car headlights puts more power into the air than my radio does.  I was amazed to think that such a small signal could be heard that far away....but could it be better?  I might not be able to shine my car's headlights on the QTH's that I have contacted, but I sure could drive my car there in a few hours. 
      I wanted to expand my horizons.  I wanted to do it in a manner that I enjoy, making the most of what I had.  I was not satisfied with the height of my home made bazooka antenna.  So on Kid's day my 12 year old daughter KØLEY and I managed to gain about 12 feet of height by re-rigging the antenna to it's supporting tree.  I also was not happy with my makeshift ground.  It took punching a hole in the block in the basement wall to get the short connection I needed, but I managed to cut 10 feet or so out of my grounding electrode conductor making a very nice RF ground, with the length of the conductor to the earth itself now only 20 or so inches long.  The result was a very quiet system.  The static level on all bands was reduced with 40 meters showing the best improvement.
      But it was 20 meters that was really stretched out.  I was now hearing stations in South America and Europe coming in...and actually moving the needle on my S-meter.  What were the chances that any of them could hear me?
      The voice coming in on 20 meters the day before yesterday was distinctly British.  I listened as he spoke with a 9 call here in the states.  They finished their QSO, said their 73's and I was wondering if there was a chance to make a contact.  I called MØRAD and to my surprise he answered back.
      It was that QSO that made me realize the true romance of HF communications.  In a way that really is quite unforgettable.  You see, the gentleman that answered my call was in England.  Stratford-upon-Avon to be precise.  The home of William Shakespeare, he said, writer of the most well known romance of all, Romeo and Juliet. 
      Michael, MØRAD and I had a very short QSO, most of which was getting my call to him correctly.  He did manage to tell me about William Shakespeare.  He also told me that it was one thing to make a long distance contact using a 1.5 kilowatt station and large beams, but doing it with a stock radio and a home brew antenna was part of the art of ham radio.   The romance, if you will. The romance of HF radio had been presented to me from the home of the world's most famous romance itself, Stratford-upon-Avon, England.  He also told me that he would 'give his right arm' to have a call like mine.  That put a big smile on my face...they must not have vanity calls in England.
      Others will use different measures, but making that trans-oceanic contact using an antenna that was built, tuned and hung by my ham daughter and myself was what made me feel like a real ham.  The antenna was made from scrap pieces of coax, the radio was not connected to an amplifier and was powered by two car batteries being charged by a small power supply given to me by another ham, W8AMZ.  I am sure smaller stations have made farther contacts, but this one, 3000 miles or so on less than an ampere of current was remarkable to me.
      Although I don't have a home brew rig, I did get a taste of the accomplishment felt by those that do build their own.  I think it is safe to say that the happiest hams go the farthest with the least. 
      The bands will start to open up soon.  If you don't have an HF rig, it might be fun to get a small short-wave receiver and listen to what is out there.  I am also planning on working HF into emergency communications.  More on that later.
      Mark K8MHZ
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