Monday, January 23, 2012

How I became a HAM and I don't mean Pork.

I was widowed in 2002. The days dragged on for hours, only to be taken over by the nights that were even longer.
 I would try and stay awake at night so I would sleep in in the morning and shorten the empty time.

One day a friend said," Hey want to go to Burnaby for a swap meet.?"
 My first instinct was to say no. Then the thought struck me that there was no reason not to go.

Patty at the Swap Meet in Nanaimo
I live on an Island on the West Coast of Canada. If you go much farther west, you go swimming.

So at 6:30 in the AM we boarded a ferry boat for the 2 hour trip to Burnaby, which is very near Vancouver.

A Swap Meet in HAM terms is a big flea market of radio equipment of every kind.
 Stuff that is good for Boat Anchors all the way to sophisticated radio and electronic equipment.

We wandered  around for about 4 hours, looking at some things that resembled my CB days when we called out ** breaker, breaker good buddy, You got your ears on 10/9 ** to things I had absolutely no idea what they were.

 Then we decided it was time to eat. As we walked out and got in my friends truck, My friend handed me a bag and said,"You get your licence in 3 months of this comes back to me."

I opened the bag and saw a very compact little 2 meter radio.

I had 3 months to get my HAM certificate of proficiency or I had to give up the little Alinco.

Of course this was second hand and came without a manual, so we had to sort our way through programming  about 40 frequencies in this radio.

A frequency is not as straight forward as it sounds.  If all were simplex, that is call on one frequency and receive on the same one.

We had to program in repeater frequencies. This is where you call on one frequency, it hits a repeater is sent forward on a frequency that is either 600 mhz below or above the frequency.

This is a long range system. ( I won't get into IRLP)  Then there is a thing called a tone. This will make two frequencies that are close, ignore each other. Utilizing more of the band.

I joined a class of recruits in Duncan and duly passed my course and obtained the beginners licence.
Ride for the Disabled

This allowed my to talk to people on 2 meter.

I had my teeth into this communications thing now I wanted to go big time with HF. Some where along the bought an HF rig. This is the one you see in all the movies that you see the around the world conversations or CUSO's.

I could listen, but I couldn't talk, till I met one small requirement.. I had to pass my test for CW. That is continuous wave, or Morse Code.

Kenwood HF3000S
I had the radio and appropriate antenna hooked up beside my bed and would listen to my friends from all over BC and Alberta.

Of course they knew I was listening so were happily making snide  remarks.  AND I HAD to listen... I wanted that CW qualification so badly, I got it in 6 weeks, which is somewhat of a record.

Shortly after, they change the rules so you didn't have to use CW. But I am glad I got it the old way and joined the purists.

It changed my whole life. Instead of looking at the clock and thinking, it is too late to phone someone at 10PM. I could turn on my Kenwood 3000S and there was always someone to talk to.

A group of us always seemed to end up on a certain frequency and we known as the "44 crew.
Sometimes the conversations were technical in  nature and I learned a lot. Sometimes the nightly subjects would be light hearted and a lot of kidding and telling tales on each other in good fun.

After a few years, I moved to Victoria from Ladysmith and brought my HAM shack with me.

I used my skills to help in an Emergency Communications Centre, I volunteered to  help with The Royal Victoria Marathon for 7 years, I worked with the Victoria 10 K, bike aces, Ride for the disable, Mind over Mountain, CARHA hockey tournament and anywhere that communication is needed.

In an emergency, we can't always depend on phones and cells. The electricity may not be there to power the phones, cell towers may burn down as they did in our forest fires tat burned up large parts of our province.

My job in that was family reunification. If families were in different emergency shelters, the radio operator would radio me on the Island and I could phone an out of province relative and pass on messages of where different family members were safe and  well.

 We also passed messages to emergency response workers who had no other means of communication. people like forestry, medical aid, fire crews and community planners.

Each year we have something called a Field Day. This is where HAM from all over set up temporary sites and make contacts all over the world. In fact, I will let a friend tell you about it. he does a better job than I.
VE7ALB  at Field Day


Kenwood D700
I have a Kenwood D700 in my car hooked to a GPS, so friends can find out where I am at any given time.

I had a kenwood D7, that unfortunately got stolen, and for my birthday a few days ago, my friend John presented my with a brand new Icon T70A

73's  and 88's VA7PTY
Repeater site on My Brenton owned by CVARS

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