Monday, June 13, 2016

Smart Answers to Dumb Questions About Amateur Radio


The following is rather long but a good read none the less. It is important to remember we are Ambassadors for our hobby and could make a difference in how we continue as hams and our organizations either grow or shrivel up and die.

By Don Keith, N4KC
You may as well accept the fact that eventually people will figure out that you are a licensed Amateur Radio operator. No matter how hard you try to hide it, they will sooner or later catch you. It may be the HT you monitor in your cubicle at work, the Ham Radio license plate on your old beater, the ninety-foot skyhook in the backyard, or the “Know Code” tee shirt you wear everywhere you go…except maybe to church. Regardless how they come to the conclusion, they will break your cover and deduce that you are, in reality, a real, live Ham nut.

And when they do, they will ask you questions. They will likely do so for one of four reasons:
1 – They are just being polite and don’t really care at all what your answers might be.
2 – Now that they have found you out, they are convinced that your station is the reason the picture on their TV freezes when they try to watch “Dancing with the Stars.”
3 – They want to sell you something, like vitamin supplements, plastic-ware, makeup, or timeshares, and now they have an excuse to talk with you.
4 – They actually have an interest in the hobby and want to learn more about it.
One thing you can count on, though. Many of the questions will be—at least to you—very basic and, frankly, dumb. Never assume your new friend knows enough about our hobby to even ask a cogent question. Don’t roll your eyes and let out a big sigh! Instead take the stance that the person is asking that dumb question because he or she actually wants to know the answer. Seize the opportunity to give a smart response and you may just be able to evangelize a bit about our great hobby.
To assist you in this effort, I am going to list below some of the really goofy questions folks have asked me through the years. Then I will give some of my own suggested answers. You can likely come up with your own better responses. But remember, don’t get too technical. Make your answers short and to the point so they can ask more if they are truly interested. Don’t lie or exaggerate. And try not to get wild-eyed and foam at the mouth in your eagerness to share with a potential new Ham your immense enthusiasm for the hobby.

So, here are the questions and possible answers:

Question #1: “How far can you talk on that thing?”

Ah, the “how far” question! Careful. Regardless your answer, this often leads to question #2 below so be prepared for that follow-up. Don’t worry, either, about whether the questioner is referring to the 2-meter HT on your belt or the five-element beam watching over the neighborhood from your backyard. The question is hypothetical.

You can be flip and say, “As far as I want to.” You certainly don’t want to break into a detailed explanation of ionospheric refraction or sporadic-E VHF propagation. I usually go for the “impress ‘em” answers, though.

“To the other side of the planet,” I proclaim. Hey, with Echolink or similar technology you can even use that HT to talk far beyond just the local repeater. Maybe even the other side of the planet. Technically it is true.

If their eyes don’t go blank and they don’t erupt into a gigantic yawn, I trudge on with, “I’ve talked with other Hams who were operating from an island in the middle of the Indian Ocean, almost exactly on the other side of the world from where you and I are standing right now.”

Even if you haven’t quite accomplished that feat yet, you can confidently make the same point by proclaiming, “Some Hams talk with other guys operating from the other side of the planet…”

If the person has not begun inspecting his car keys or picking lint from his sweater while he thinks of a way to courteously get away from me, I go even farther.

“Many Amateurs bounce their signals off the moon, off the Northern Lights, or off the tails of comets. We have Amateur Radio satellites orbiting over our heads right now and you can even talk with the astronauts in the International Space Station.”


You got him! There is the first sign of a spark of interest. Hopefully you can set the hook and reel him in. But don’t be surprised if he asks the next dumb question:

Question #2: “But what can you do with that radio of yours that I can’t do with my smart phone?”

Or tablet or laptop or two tin cans and a string? Yep, it’s the dreaded “smart phone texting Facebook Pinterest social media flavor of the day” question. “I don’t need a license or a radio or a big antenna to talk to people. I got me an Avocado SPF-7 with GPS, a mega-pixel mini-movie-screen, 30 watts of hi-fi stereo audio and a built-in bottle opener and belt-hole puncher right here on my hip.”

“Well, you certainly can talk on that bad boy. But Amateur Radio is far more than just talking to people. It’s communicating with others of a like mind, using a station that you put together yourself, using a wide array of technology, and doing so in such a way that you will often be surprised and fulfilled.”

Blank look? Move on and talk about something else. Or tell him or her bye bye. Still seems to be paying attention, though? Move on to the next part of the answer.

“You can also buy fish at the market so why do so many people purchase a boat, fishing tackle and beer and head out onto the lake? Golf? Just walk over and drop the ball into the hole. No need to whack at it a bunch of times with a club. See, you do these things because there is a challenge and a fulfilling reward if you try and succeed.”

Maybe it is at this point that you get the squinty-face look and the person responds with something like, “Okay, but it still seems like a lot of trouble just to be able to talk to somebody.”

So you shake your head sagely, put your forefinger to your chin, and issue a dare.

“Maybe so, but I’d like for you to try something for me. Take that smart phone and dial an international area code and random number. First, let’s see if you can even get an answer. If, by some miracle you do, and if that person just happens to speak your language, engage him or her in a half-hour conversation. What is the likelihood that this random call will net you somebody that not only is willing to chat with you and knows your language but that he or she immediately has some very strong common ground with you? I mean besides also being an owner of a smart phone. These sorts of communications happen all day ever day on the Amateur Radio bands. With a contact on the radio, you automatically have something very big and exciting in common. You are both Amateur Radio operators, members of the same fraternity. And whether or not either of you can explain the magic of that, you know it and you feel it.”

If the questioner doesn’t get that point, you are probably wasting your time.

Question #3: “Is Ham sort of like…what?...that radio Burt Reynolds and Sally Field used in that trucker movie? CB? That was it, right?”

Citizens Band had its day and you may as well admit it. Millions who would never have picked up a microphone jumped aboard CB over the years. Many still do. Do not make the mistake of instantly condemning the “Chicken Band,” all who have ever yakked on it, or the whole notion of people being able to “work skip” without a license. You might be surprised how many of the folks you admire and talk with regularly on the Ham bands actually began with a “handle” and an 11-meter radio.

“CB is one way many people first realize that they have an interest in a radio hobby,” you might answer. “But they want to learn and do far more than what that particular service offers. Some of our most avid Hams started out with a CB radio but moved beyond the low power, limited coverage, crowded frequencies, and lack of choices.”

Question #4: “You guys still use that Morse code, too, don’t you? And I heard you have to know how to send it to get a license to be a Ham.”

Depending on how you feel about CW, you may feel inclined to preach the gospel of “you ain’t a real Ham unless you know Morse!” But trust me, now is not the time to launch into that sermon. Temper your answer. You can convert the person to the paths of righteousness later on if you see that as your mission. The fact that this question even came up confirms that this particular person sees the code as a roadblock. First help him get past that for right now.

“Well, no! It is no longer required at all. Hasn’t been for years. You don’t need to know the code to do most of the fun things in our hobby either.” Pause for a breath. Let that sink in. Then do a low-key sales pitch. “I should tell you, though, that since the requirement went away, more and more Hams have started to learn and use Morse code, by choice and not because they have to. They see it as a fun thing to do. But that is totally up to you. Our hobby has lots of facets and options and learning and using Morse code is just one of them.”

Mentioning “facets and options” may well key dumb question number five.

Question #5: “Still seems like a lot of trouble just to talk to other Ham types. Is there other stuff a Ham license would let me do?”

Okay, that isn’t a dumb question at all. If I’m going to get interested in any kind of pastime I want to know what it involves.

“Absolutely!” you can chime in without fear of contradiction. “Not only is Amateur Radio just about the perfect hobby because you can do it regardless of age, gender, or physical or technical ability, but it offers such a wide area of possibilities.”

You can talk about your own interests here or find out what the questioner likes to do and hone your pitch. Don’t forget activities like contesting, kit building, DXing, tying radios and computers together for SDR, digital modes and more, working satellites, weather spotting, DIY/”maker,” public service, RVing, amateur television, hiking and activating mountains and islands, drones and other radio-controlled devices, experimenting with antennas, propagation, battery/solar power and other alternative energy sources…well, the list is lengthy. -- Practically endless, in my opinion.

While many Hams simply enjoy talking with other like-minded folks, there is plenty more to do with the hobby. And regardless of what other interests a person might have, there is a pretty good chance it marries well with Amateur Radio, enhancing your enjoyment of all of them.

Question #6: “It’s expensive, right? All that radio stuff and antennas?”

“Not necessarily. Like most hobbies, you can spend as much as you want to, but you can also get great satisfaction with a modest station.”

Invite the person to price a bass boat, trailer, motor, tackle box full of lures, a place to keep the boat, and all the other necessities to get involved seriously in fishing. Or check the cost of a decent set of golf clubs, club membership, greens and cart fees, lessons, and all the other things you need to become a golfer.

If pressed, you can honestly say that you can get on the air with a pretty good station for less than a thousand dollars. A thousand dollars! That is a lot of money!

Yeah, about four trips to WalMart for my family. Far less than that boat or golf club membership. And you have a station that will stand you in good stead the rest of your life. Plus, if you have someone who can help you find and evaluate used gear, you can get in even cheaper.

Question #7: “Oh, speaking of antennas, I doubt my homeowners’ association would ever allow me to put up a tower. How would I ever be able to get on the air?”

Wow! These questions are not only getting less and less dumb but also more and more difficult to answer. But answer you must. You now have your questioner asking about the right things.

“That is an issue for many Amateurs these days. There is even legislation pending in Congress right now that will make it easier for Hams to get HOAs to allow a reasonable antenna system. But there are plenty of ways to get on the air without having to put up an elaborate antenna or tall tower that will cause your neighbors throw rocks at you. There are many books and articles on the subject, too. Rest assured, Hams are pretty good at finding ways to pursue their hobby regardless the restrictions or impediments.”

Now, if you have done your job of answering the dumb questions without getting frighteningly animated or veering off subject, you may get the least-dumb question of all.

Question #8: “How do I get started? How can I learn what I need to know to pass the test?”

Bingo! You should be a salesman! Or politician! I hope you have a good reply ready for this strong “buying signal.”

But first, here is the wrong answer: “Don’t just learn the answers to the questions on the test. Learn all there is to know about radio and electronics before you even think about taking the exam.” Wrong, wrong, wrong! A Ham license is a license to learn. Encourage those interested to go ahead and study for the test but assure them they do not need to qualify for a degree in electronic engineering before actually taking it. If their experience is typical, they will start learning while getting ready for the licensing test and they will not stop until the day they go SK.

Many people—including those with a technical background or a real interest in the technical side of our hobby—are still a bit leery of learning enough to pass the exam. They shouldn’t be. And neither should you give them any reason to doubt their ability to pass it. Encourage them to get the ticket. They’ll have the rest of their lives to learn all there is to know.

“Our Amateur Radio club meets every third Thursday at the library, starting at 7 PM. You’d be welcomed by a friendly bunch of folks and we have licensing classes starting next week. You can also visit the American Radio Relay League’s web site. That’s our hobby’s national organization and their site can answer about any question you can think of.”

If the questioner’s response is, “Hey, you have done a pretty good job answering my questions,” then take pride in knowing you may have recruited yourself a new Ham.

Remember, too, what one of my school teachers used to say. “Mr. Keith, you will never pass my class unless you stop reading that Ham Radio magazine while I am lecturing.” Whoops. He did say that, but he also said, “The only dumb question is the one that is never asked.” I suspect we all asked even dumber questions than those above before we started out in the hobby. I know I did.

Thank goodness several very helpful Hams took the time and showed the patience to answer them for me. The result is not only a hobby that has given me endless enjoyment and gratification over the years, prepared me for a 45-year career in media and communications, but also led to many people approaching me with some of those same questions.

In many cases, I was able to answer them and those folks went on to become part of the greatest hobby on earth.

Friday, June 10, 2016

EAWA Minutes June 9, 2016

The June 9, 2016 meeting of The Ellsworth Amateur Wireless Association was called to order at 7:03 PM by President Mark Albee N1MEA. Evie KA1BRA made a motion to accept the May 12, 2016 Minutes as e-mailed. The motion was seconded by Rob W8HAP. Motion carried. Rob W8HAP made a motion to accept the Treasurer’s Report of Petty cash $297.54, Savings Account $1201.08,VE Account $18.82, and Repeater Fund $92.39. The motion was seconded by Chris AB1PZ. The motion carried.

VE Session    -Phil N1EP will be holding a VE test session on Sunday, June 12th at 9:00 AM at Meadow View Apartments IV Dining Complex on Tweedie Lane, Ellsworth. Walk ins will be welcome and all class exams will be available.

Field Day- Field Day is June 24-26th this year. Here's the scoop thus far:
Friday, June 24th  Set up any time after lunch. Mark N1MEA plus maybe more plan to stay overnight Friday with the gear.
Rigs: Mark's gear, EMA radio (s)
Power: Rob W8HAP urged us not to use the EMA propane generator because of the noise. Chris AB1PZ, EMA, and others have generators that can be used. Mark N1MEA and Chris AB1PZ will bring gas. Evie KA1BRA has propane for the grill. Rob W8HAP will also have solar.
Antennas: Phil N1EP suggested to Evie that each station have a vertical and a horizonal antenna in order to avoid interference with the other stations nearby. Several folks including the EMA have antennas, but maybe not all the ones needed to provide a vertical and horizontal as recommended by Phil N1EP.
Logging Program: Rob  W8HAp and Mark N1MEA will download the latest logging program for the event.
We are allowed to have one VHF as a "free" station this year. Mark N1MEA may try to get that going. We will be operating 2A--1 sideband, 1 CW, and 1GOTA station.

Other: Evie KA1BRA has brochures for a PR table. Dick W1KRP will do social media PR for Field Day. Andrew Sankey KB1TGL will be our Safety Officer.
Saturday about 5:00PM will be a pot luck supper. Breakfast and lunches will be provided as well as coffee and water. Please bring what other beverage(s)one might prefer to consume.
Operating: If one has a certain time that he/she would like to be on the air, please let me know. John KQ1P plans to CW the wee hours of Saturday night/Sunday morning. Rob W8HAP will CW when the station is free.

Rob W8HAP made a motion to adjourn. The motion was seconded by Chris AB1PZ. So done at 7:35 PM.
Respectfully submitted,
Evie Sargent KA1BRA, Treasurer/Secretary

Local Nets, Net Control Operators

EMCOMM repeater (Tuesdays, around 7:00 PM, 146.910, – 0.6 MHz offset with a tone of 151.4)       
                 June 14         Chris AB1PZ
                 June 21         Mark N1MEA        
                 June 28          Evie KA1BRA
                 July 5              Evie KA1BRA
                 July 12             Mark N1MEA

EAWA repeater (Wednesdays, 7:00 PM, 147.030, -0.6 MHz offset with a tone of 100.0 )             
                June 15            Chris AB1PZ       
                June 22            Mark N1MEA    
                June 29            Evie KA1BRA
                July 6                Evie KA1BRA
                July 13              Mark N1MEA

Put The WOW Back Into Ham Radio!

We have a couple of older Ham's {Licensed in the mid 70's} having what is a typical conversation of how the "newbies" have destroyed Amateur Radio, and the hobby is dying. The claim that "newbies" ruined the hobby by using computers to track propagation, useful tools such as DX Summit and these new fangled things called Grid Squares.
I started to think about this, do they have a point? A lot has changed since I got into the hobby, and we will see many more changes in the future, but the honest truth is that the hobby is not dying, it is growing and is in fact larger than it has been any time through out history. The simple truth is that "older hams" have been complaining about the "newbies" killing the hobby since the first Ham was licensed back in the spark gap days. When AM first started to come on the scene Spark Gap Operators complained about this new fangled mode of operating and how it was going to destroy the hobby, then few years later as SSB operating started to enter the picture those old AM operators complained about the Donald Duck Operators and how it was destroying the hobby and who can forget the day that CW was no longer required to gain a license, to hear from some old timers the planet Earth itself was going to stop rotating.

The simple truth it is the evolution of Amateur Radio that keeps us growing and the excitement and the WOW factor. Yes, it is true that today very few Hams build his or her own radio, the simple truth is that we no longer need too with more modern transceivers on the market today and it is also beyond the capability of home technicians today with modern advancements such as surface mount devices, etc. Let's face it the average Ham does not own and cannot afford wave solder technology nor do we have the scopes and super vision required to place micro-circuitry, so it is actually impossible to build you're own high end transceivers with modern features and functionality. And modern technology has opened up many new and exciting aspects of this hobby. Just modern filtering would amaze a Ham as little as 20 years ago.
What we need to do is embrace the changing technology and learn to use it. RETURN THE WOW FACTOR to the hobby. Here's a shocker for some of you. Ham Radio is COOL AND HAS A HUGE WOW FACTOR. We do really cool stuff with cool radios, I mean really how many hobbies let you talk to the International Space Station, Bounce signals off the moon to work stations around the world, play with Satellites, AND HOW MANY PEOPLE GET TO SAY "THEY CAN PLAY WITH METEORS." And this is just the fun stuff we get to do in Space; there is an entire host of exciting activities and innovation awaiting us on our very own planet. HAM RADIO HAS A LOT OF WOW FACTOR. No matter what your interest from Wood Working, Electrical, Kit building, Circuit Design, Antenna design and building it is all there in our exciting hobby. So to say the "hobbyist and experimenter" is gone from our hobby is out right false.

What we need to do is get all this WOW FACTOR out to New Hams, make sure they know they can do all so much more than simply talk through a Repeater on 2 meters.
WHEN YOU GET NEW HAMS OR INTERESTED INDIVIDUALS say WOW, then we will continue to grow the hobby, we will continue to appreciate ourselves what we can do within our hobby and we will continue to advance technology and capability of our hobby.

Ham Radio is a WOW HOBBY, and even the simple aspects of Amateur Radio can create some strong WOW factors. Take a Ham Radio Operator who has only experienced 2-meter Repeater use, introduce them to SSB 2 meter operation and show them how to work stations daily 100 to 200 miles on frequencies that the average ham believes is only good for 15 to 20 miles.
MODERN TECHNOLOGY has opened the doors to allow the average ham to enter new and exciting worlds. Today thanks to Digital Technology Hams today with modest stations can bounce signals off of the moon and talk around the globe. Modern Technology has opened the door to allow the average ham with a modest station communicate 1,000 to 1,500 miles by using the comet trails of passing comets.

LET'S CHANGE OUR ATTITUDES AND BREAK THE CYCLE OF NEGATIVITY. SUPPORT THE HOBBY WE LOVE BY SHARING THE WOW FACTOR and down the road rather than bemoaning change and advances in technology let's EMBRACE IT AND THE NEW HAMS ENTERING THE EXITING WORLD OF AMATEUR RADIO. Ask yourself, what have the guys who are always putting down the hobby and "newbies" and declaring it a dying hobby, just what have they done to promote and encourage growth in the hobby or themselves.

The next time someone ask you what Amateur Radio is reply, "WOW what is Amateur Radio NOT!" then share with excitement the ability to talk to the Space Station, bounce signals off the moon, of comet trails, talk to far away people and make good friends. I can truthfully say that some of my dearest friends came from this WONDERFUL HOBBY.
Written by Greg N5XO

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A Very Simple Tester for Coax Integrity from N1GY

          As I was browsing around the web this morning I saw a video by another ham in which he used what he called his coax tester. He did not explain the circuit for his tester but it gave me an idea. Obviously what he had was a form of continuity tester with specific design elements for attaching it to a newly installed coax connector. It took only a moment to come up with a workable circuit.
 The functionality of the tester is obvious. I have installed many PL-259s over the years and testing for a short with a regular digital meter sometimes seems to require three hands. This tester allows one to simply screw the PL-259 onto the tester to get an immediate “GO/NO GO” indication. If the LED lights up- you have a short circuit either in the coax or the connector. Start over. If the LED does not light up, the installation of the connector has no short circuit.
           I mounted the components in a small plastic box left over from a previous project and labeled the box with instructions on its use. I included a test button in the circuit so that the user could make sure that the unit would give a proper indication when used. The button momentarily short circuits the tester so the LED will light up. If it does not then it is probably time to replace the two 1.5 Volt AAA batteries that power the LED. The actual size of the batteries is not critical, AA or AAA will work just fine. The important thing is to power the unit with 3 volts DC. That way, no dropping resistor is required.
 If you want to use a 9 volt battery just add the appropriate dropping resistor to the circuit. A 330 Ohm 1/8 watt resistor will do the trick just fine for 9 volt power. I suggest the use of a battery holder to make exchanging the batteries as easy as possible.
​            A protective ring wall was installed around the test push button to prevent inadvertent short circuits while it is stored in a tool box, pocket, or go-kit. The ring wall is nothing more than a section of a PVC tubing connector, hot glued around the push button. It has to be higher than the button, but only by a fraction since you want to be easily able to operate the button when using the tester.
Parts List:
                        1          SO-239 connector 
                        1          Red LED  
                        1          Momentary Push Button (Normally Open)
                        1          Battery Holder for battery(ies) of choice
                        1          330 Ohm resistor (only needed if using a 9 volt battery for power)
                        1          Suitable enclosure
                        1          protective ring to go around push button (section of PVC connector)
                         Assorted hookup wire, hot glue, etc.
​            As you can see, the circuit is very simple. If there is a short circuit in the cable under test then voltage will be passed to the LED and it will light up. If the push button is activated then the circuit is also completed and the LED will light up.

The Importance of Training

W1KRP Personal Editorial:

At times it seems like all we do is train for something. Whether it’s for personal or business related issues…. we train. Yes it does get boring at times but its importance cannot be downplayed. Coming from a background in public service I can attest to the fact that those that train at even the most minor tasks, obtain success when the SHTF. Repetition is the only way to make a response a “action”, and not a “reaction” which can set you and others back and possibly lead to dangerous consequences. This plan falls within the scope of emergency communications as well as any other service. With training remember that just because it’s old to you its most likely new to a fellow member. Possibly when you see or hear someone having trouble reach out and offer to help them grasp the issue and move forward. I remember in EMS at my license level disliking what at the time was called RECERT/DECERT every three months. If you did not have at least three documented field uses of IV starts (intravenous catheter), ET tubes (endotracheal intubations) and cardiac defibrillations within that three month period you had to attend a RECERT/DECERT session and show your skills to an instructor and be signed off before you practiced in the field. I found these to be great experiences, after initial bitching about the inconveniences, when I was faced with implementing these skills in the field under most times adverse conditions. Practicing, training, field usage…all these terms come into play every day in what we do. Yes, Ham Radio is a hobby but when the SHTF and people depend on you make sure you provide a service that will leave a positive impression on either the victim(s) or the served agencies you are working with or for. Also remember a public service mantra. “Do no harm”. In other words train. 73~Dick W1KRP



Reliance upon repeaters or repeater systems for emergency communications is not wise. It is not uncommon for a repeater to fail, or be knocked out by some external force (e.g.- lightning, high winds, etc.). Repeaters can also be very "political."

Since the beginning of radio, the focus by most amateurs has been to see how far they can reach out with their signals. While DXing is an enjoyable pastime, it is rarely needed for EMCOMM, DON'T RULE IT OUT COMPLETELY FOR PUBLIC SERVICE! The ability to effectively pass traffic over long distances is often important, even lifesaving!

HF signals propagate either by a) line-of-sight; b) ground-wave (follows the contours of the earth); or c) sky-wave. Line-of-sight is usually good for a few miles.
Ground-wave is usually good from about 20 to 50 miles. NVIS sky-wave takes over at about 50 miles, and depending upon the frequency selected is good out to 500 miles. Beyond that, we are in the general area of low-angle DX.

Very often, a 40 meter signal at mid-day, can be heard near and far, all three types of propagation at the same time! To explain propagation, whether low-angle DX or NVIS, or somewhere in-between, I often use this illustration: Just as a billiard ball can be bounced toward a particular pocket by controlling the angle that it hits the bumper of the pool table, so do radio signals "bounce" (actually refract is more descriptive) off the ionosphere. Now, envision the earth as a round pool table with the ionosphere as the circumference or boundary. This "bumper" is constantly expanding and/or contracting in concentric circles, and varies in density often depending upon the time of day, the season, recent solar activity and/or the sun-spot cycle. This phenomenon is a science unto itself and is not the subject here. Just know that for local and regional EMCOMM, NVIS HF (usually in the 40 and 75/80 meter bands) can provide reliable communications over mountain ranges and under the most extreme conditions. The big advantage is that we are not dependent upon some remote mechanical device.

I (and others) have experimented with simple (1/2 wave doublet, G5RV, etc.) wire HF NVIS antennas as low as actually lying on the ground to 3 feet above ground, and they work amazingly well! A lot depends upon ground (earth) conductivity and how far down below the surface the moisture content may be. However, I recommend that any antenna be at least 8 ft. above the ground to prevent someone from tripping over it.

Remember that the higher you elevate a flat (horizontal) antenna (e.g. a simple wire doublet or G5RV) above earth ground, the more the NVIS effect will be lessened. A little height will allow for better line-of-sight and ground-wave propagation. I find that 25-30 ft above the earth works fairly well both near and far. Also the higher you go, the more directional it will be. An Inverted V antenna, at any height, will be less directional, but the NVIS effect will be less than a "flat-top."


Also, to avoid reliance upon repeater(s), don't rule out VHF simplex. Don't believe the myth that VHF is strictly "line-of-sight!" I routinely communicate PTP (Point-To-Point) over 50 miles on 2 meter FM simplex using only a simple ground plane antenna 20 ft. up...and with a mountain range between my station and the other! And over 100 miles routinely using a 13 element Yagi. I also communicate 300 miles on 2 meter SSB and/or CW using a 13 element Yagi (horizontal polarized). A skilled relay operator in the right location doubles these ranges! Also, consider six meters simplex FM, SSB, CW for EMCOMM.


There are so many variables, regular participation in nets will provide you with the experience and knowledge of what works and what doesn't!

As far as of lack of interest in serious EMCOMM by hams is concerned...I wish I had the answer! All you can do is to try to explain that skilled and disciplined operators become that way and also maintain their skills by regularly participating in regularly-scheduled properly-run (non-repeater) public service nets. If there isn't one in your area...why not start one?

Drawn from:


"Make Good Operating Procedures A Habit"
From the April 2005 issue of EMCOMM MONTHLY

Let's face reality, folks. When push comes to shove, and when the chips are down, the majority of emergency communications will be voice (radiotelephone). At least in the United States. 100 years ago it was all in Morse. Spark gap was the mode-of-the-day...then later CW dominated. That was all there was. If you weren't a Morse didn't communicate. 60 years ago, a reasonable guess might be that the ratio was 50% Morse and 50% AM 'phone, plus perhaps a little SSB and FM.
It makes no difference if your favorite mode is CW or digital, or that voice is the least efficient mode. The reality is that most emcomm is done by voice...and will probably remain like that for a long time. CW, digital, and other modes are more effective in many ways and still have their place, and they can (and will) be used very effectively to supplement voice communications in certain situations and for specific functions. However, the reality it or not...voice is where we are at.
We all learned to talk before we entered kindergarten. By the time we left grammar school, most of us could read and write fairly well. By the end of high school, we all (should have, at least) mastered basic verbal and written language skills. While some of us had learned the Morse language by that time, most had not, and struggled to learn it later in life. Many hams learned just enough Morse to pass an exam...and unfortunately never or rarely use it. SSB and FM prevail.
In all public service, good communication skills are essential. But, unfortunately, what we hear on the usually NOT a good example of effective communication skills. As EMCOMM operators, we must NOT allow ourselves to become mediocre (or worse) voice communicators. Sadly, many operators emulate what they hear on the air. And what they hear, from both newcomers and old timers alike, is often improper, sloppy and/or inefficient.
So how does a skilled voice radio operator...operate?


1. ALWAYS makes sure that his/her transceiver is properly adjusted. Mic gain level, on the proper frequency, not using excessive power, etc.
2. ALWAYS speaks clearly and succinctly...and not too fast (or too slow).
3. Establishes two-way contact and obtains a signal report before starting a transmission. (If you want a radio check take your radio to a repair shop.)
4. Avoids talking directly into a microphone. But rather talks "across the mic".
5. Knows and uses ITU PHONETICS
6. Uses ROGER solely to indicate that a transmission has been received and is understood. (ROGER is the voice equivalent of R in Morse.)
7. Does not use ROGER for "yes", "affirmative", or "I agree with you" and does not say: "That's a big ROGER" or some other similar slang term.
8. Says AFFIRMATIVE for "yes" and does not use it in place of ROGER. (They are not the same.)
9. Says NEGATIVE for "no". "Nega-tory" (or other similar slang terms) is not in his or her vocabulary.
10. Uses SAY AGAIN when they need something repeated. "Repeat" or "please repeat" may be confused with "received."
11. Says the call sign of the station he/she is turning the contact over to, followed by their call sign, followed by OVER. (Same as K or KN in Morse.)
12. Allows a one-second pause before transmitting. (If you wait too long...someone may butt in and say something like: "it's been passed to you.")
13. Keeps their transmissions reasonably short.
14. Pays attention and practices "TLC"...("To Listen Carefully").
15. Knows where (s)he is located and knows how to effectively communicate that location to another station.
16. On 'phone says: "Say your location" or "What is your location?" Never: "What's your QTH?", "What's your 10-20", or (worse yet) "What's yer twenty?". (Note: Law enforcement uses the "10 code" and their own phonetics. Amateur, commercial, maritime, aeronautical and other operators use the ITU standard prowords.)
17. Stays in a net (and pays attention) unless checked in and checked out.
18. Does not ask another operator to "check me in" (to a net) unless he/she plans to remain in radio contact with the relaying station during a net period. Telephone, email, Internet and other landline circuit relays are not radio...and do not count. Nor does: "Check me in to the net tonight. I'm going bowling." This puts the other operator on the spot and is worthless.
19. NEVER whistles, says "hell - oh", or blows into a mic when transmitting. (Use a dummy load instead.)
20. NEVER keys down on a frequency that is in use to adjust an antenna matching unit, and NEVER fails to identify when tuning up or testing.
21. NEVER slurs his or her call sign when identifying in voice.
22. NEVER "quick keys." On 'phone, always allow a pause of 0.5 to 1.0 seconds before PTT in order to allow another station break in. Then allow another 0.5 to 1.0 seconds before speaking. (This prevents cutting off the first few letters or words of your transmission.)
23. NEVER transmits using excessive power.
24. ALWAYS identifies at the end of each communication, and at least every ten minutes during a communication. (Part 97.119)
25. ALWAYS remains courteous and respectful of others on the air. (Even if the other operator is "a world class lid".)
Here are some transmissions that have actually been heard...during public service nets:
(After "doubling" on a net control station.): "Net? Is there a net on? What time is it? What frequency am I on?"
"BREAK!" (NCS says): "Go ahead". The "breaker" then asks: "Is the club breakfast this Saturday or next?"
"Uhh, in...Juarez!"
"Uhh, in...José."


Monday, June 6, 2016

Maine ARES Emergency Frequency List


Purpose: In order to provide frequencies which volunteers from outside of the respective counties can contact local hams during periods of emergency the following frequency assignments have been made. The frequencies are those designated for simplex use by the New England Spectrum Management Council. These frequencies are to be used for all emergencies and emergency exercises.

County and use Frequency

Piscataquis-Primary 146.400

Cumberland-Primary/Aroostook Secondary 146.415

Waldo-Primary/Somerset Secondary 146.430

Knox Secondary/York Secondary 146.445

Androscoggin-Primary/Washington Secondary 146.460

Aroostook-Primary/Kennebec Secondary 146.475

Sagadahoc-Primary 146.490

Lincoln Secondary 146.505

Statewide Call Frequency 146.520

Franklin-Primary/Cumberland Admin. 146.535

Oxford-Primary 146.550

Hancock Primary 146.565

Penobscot-Primary/Androscoggin Secondary 146.580

Somerset-Primary 147.420

Oxford Secondary 147.435

Piscataquis Secondary 147.450

Waldo Secondary 147.465

Kennebec-Primary 147.480

Hancock Secondary 147.495

Lincoln-Primary 147.510

Washington-Primary/Cumberland-Secondary 147.525

Knox-Primary 147.540

Penobscot Secondary/Sagadahoc Secondary 147.555

York Primary/Franklin Secondary 147.570


Maine Section HF Frequencies: 3940 kHz (night) 7262 kHz (day)


Additional Maine Emergency Frequencies:

52.525 6 meter coordination

223.50 1 ¼ meter coordination

446.00 70 centimeter coordination

Monthly EAWA Meeting

Ellsworth Amateur Wireless Association  (EAWA) W1TU, will hold it's monthly meeting on Thursday, June 9th at 7 PM at the Phase 4 Dining Hall of Meadow View Apartments in Ellsworth. Any licensed Ham and anyone interested in getting their Amateur Radio License is urged to attend. This month there will be discussion on getting prepared for the upcoming ARRL Field Day which will be June 25 and 26 at SERC (Schoodic Education and Research Center ) located at the old Winter Harbor Navy Base on Schoodic Point in Winter Harbor. Meadow View Dining Hall is located at 25 Tweedie Lane, Ellsworth. For further information contact Evie KA1BRA at or Dick W1KRP at


ARRL Field Day 2016

June 25 and 26 local Ellsworth Amateur Wireless Association (EAWA) ham radio operators will be participating in the annual ARRL Field Day event which is being held at the SERC (Schoodic Education and Research Center ) located at the decommissioned Navy Base on Schoodic Point in Winter Harbor. Operation will be 1400 hrs Saturday June 25 through 1400 hrs Sunday June 26. Licensed operators are invited to attend and it is open to the general public as well enabling people to see what Amateur Radio is all about. There will be a GOTA (Get On The Air) station as well where operators with limited exposure to HF operations can hone their skills and unlicensed people, public included, can try their hand at Ham Radio! For further information email Evie KA1BRA at, Dick W1KRP at  or go to to find a site