|Our Last RANV Meeting||The Prez Sez||Contest Corner|
|Field Day||VT QSO Party||All About IRC's|
|Marine VHF||The Onion Fox Hunt||From a New Fox Hunter|
Join us for a very special evening as Mike N1JEZ and Beau N1MJD present details on VHF roving and their well-appointed Rover-mobile. Roving is a special class of operating in VHF contests in which participants move to different locations during the contest. The goal is to not only hit high elevation spots in each grid square but to also be able to make contacts while enroute. Mike and Beau gained experience in several mountaintop expeditions, including our annual bash on Mt. Equinox. In 1997, they set out on a rover expedition and were hopelessly hooked - so much so, that they do this four times a year!
In the talk, they will discuss the concepts behind VHF contesting and why rover stations try to get to as many grid squares as possible. They even have pictures of some of the spots they frequent. The next part of the talk entails details on what equipment is used to put the station on the air. Anyone who has seen our 4-band operation on Mt. Equinox knows just how complicated all the equipment and computers can get. Finally, they will have the N1MJD Rover mobile on exhibit outside for you to see just how all this goes together. This talk was given at Milton this year, and was very popular, so you'll want to get to the meeting early and get a good seat!
We kick off with Snax-at-Zack's (pizza) at 6pm May 11th with the meeting at 7pm at the O'Brien Center, 113 Patchen Road, South Burlington.
Hosstraders is this weekend, May 7-8th. The fest opens up for early admission at 9am on Friday and runs until early afternoon on Saturday.
To get there, take I-89 to its end at I-93 in New Hampshire and go North about 2 miles to Exit 15, I-393. This is a short spur around Concord which will end on Route 4/9/202. Go east on this road and continue to follow the turn-offs for Route 202 for about 30 miles into Rochester. In Rochester, pass under the Spaulding Turnpike, go 4 blocks to Hoover Street, make a right and follow the fence to the main gate.
Repeater activity will be on 145.15 to Exit 15 in NH, then 146.88 and 147.00 MHz (official hamfest repeater). At the fest, check in on the local 146.67 repeater where all the troublemakers will be gathered.
Admission is $5. To bring a vehicle into the selling area, it is an extra $10. Before 3pm on Friday, an additional $5 is charged. Hosstraders now has a Web Site: http://www.qsl.net/k1rqg.
On Saturday, May 29th, we will provide support for the Essex Memorial Parade. We will be marshalls and provide communications to coordinate a full parade of 10 Divisions with marching bands, wild floats and screaming kids! Not only is this an exciting parade, but we also enter a "float" (actually my van, which will hopefully be washed). This gets us a ton of publicity and good PR with the people in this community. A little effort on our part goes a long way.
We start around 7:30am and finish up by noon, so not much time is needed. All that is needed is an HT (with spare batteries!) and YOU. The parade is an easy 1-mile stroll. We need 12-15 people for this event, so please consider helping out. Contact Mitch for sign-up.
The meeting of April 13th had us thinking about other hams. Richard WN1HJW bought along a card for us to sign, to go to Al Mongeon WA1DKW, who is in poor health. Richard later told me that Al received the card, and liked it very much. We also found that we had 3 recent graduates from Mitch's class.
Our featured guest speaker was Louie Manno of radio station WKDR. Louie came to talk about broadcast radio. As a youngster, Louie actually went to a radio announcer school that had an admissions test, but apparently they let everyone in anyway. He then landed the first of several radio disc jockey jobs and even taught at the announcer school for a while. Eventually ending up in the Burlington area, Louie worked at WQCR, now WOKO. He had a good time there, but the format was ahead of its time and not long for this world. Later, Jack Barry asked Louie to fill in for a couple of weeks at WKDR. Louie obliged and was actually hired at the station soon afterwards. It didn't take him long to convince the station manager to hire several local, out of work radio announcers.
In 1990, Louie joined up with Mark Johnson and Jim Condon to purchase WKDR, even though they were severely under-capitalized. They did not draw paychecks for the first few years and supported their families with part time jobs. They struggled along building the station into what it is today. Then, Rush Limbaugh came along and changed talk radio dramatically. The station has been on the upswing since then. Recently, Ken Squire of WDEV bought it and wants to keep it a hometown radio station.
Louie's other love is old time radio shows. He owns several tapes of old radio shows and even has a segment on WKDR for it. It is a popular feature of the station now. "Radio has changed subtly over the years", Louie said at one point and towards the end he expressed his fear that, "Radio, in the next few years, is going to become less and less local." Let's hope not. WKDR is a great local talk station, even if some of their shows don't appeal to everyone.
Thanks to Louie for coming over and sharing another side of radio with us; we enjoyed it very much.
It was good to connect Louie Manno's face with the voice I have heard for years on WKDR. Broadcast radio is not strictly amateur, however those who do it well have a great love for radio. Very few radio personalities make a lot of money.
Broadcast radio has been facing some new challenges. New technology makes automation, telephones, and program editing easier. Most broadcast radio is now put together centrally and shipped all around the country. Radio stations often band together to take advantage of economies of scale. For example, many stations in a group may use one news report. In the growth of technology, ham radio faces similar challenges as broadcast radio, although the impact is different.
One of the challenges in many communities now is that people are fragmenting their available time. Broadcast radio takes advantage of this by reaching people while they drive or while they work. They tailor the programming to be less rigid and to encourage people to drift in and out of the program. Most TV programs, like most clubs, require people to set aside specific time and give pretty full attention.
We have discussed the possibility of having Steering Wheel meetings after the regular meetings. We think that this is too much of a good thing. After the Snax-at-Zachs and the regular meeting we are looking at over 3 hours. Some of us ragchew after the meeting already. Therefore we will continue the separate meeting on Wednesday.
The purpose of the Steering Wheel is to chew over ideas for future meetings and we keep it very informal. The agenda is usually limited to looking over the mail, figuring out whatever is next, and just talking. It was once held Friday nights, but weekends are too precious, so it moved to Wednesday nights. If anyone has interest in these meetings but is bothered by the schedule, please speak up. We have already moved the hour later some months so that all could attend. I would be very pleased if we could get some more folks to sit in on these. Like a good talk radio show, you can drift on us anytime we are there. The restaurant has been very nice about letting us gather folks around a table even if they don't eat.
Last month we talked about QSL cards and loop antennas and stared at some catalogs, and then did the other business. The meeting idea this month was easy for us, because N1JEZ and N1MJD had already agreed to come and share their hard work, which should be fun.
Please be warned the parking next to the O'Brien Center may be very busy this month. If the wonderful weather holds we may need to park carefully because of activity at the ball field.
The spring months are not filled with as much worldwide contesting as the winter months were. I took time out from contesting to make some antenna improvements and get things done around the house. I even missed the Florida QSO Party, even though I just received a certificate for last year's first place, low power, Vermont finish. Still, I hope that some of you got on the air for a few minutes this month and handed out some Vermont points.
In May, we have two hamfests to keep us occupied, as well as a few state QSO Parties to hand out valuable Vermont contacts. The states to look for this month are CT, MA, IN, NV, OR, and TX. Don't forget, if you are working on your Worked All States, this is a great way to get those rare ones. It's also a good way to practice your Search & Pounce skills (a Field Day plus).
The big contest for the month, which I encourage all members to get on for, is the CQWW WPX CW Contest. Now, I know that this high speed CW stuff is scary to most of you but, if you listen to the guy's call sign about 15 times, you can copy it down. Then, send your call sign at a slower speed, and the station should slow down for you. Plus, after listening to him for a few times, you'll know what QSO number he's up to anyway. This is a great way to enhance your CW operating skills. I used this very contest last year to bone up for the Field Day CW, and it was only my second Field Day ever! Plus, I took first place for Rookie Class. I just wish that there were more than 4 U.S. hams that submitted logs.
For the Tech Plus members in our club, there is the Band Restricted category. You can enter as All Band, or just 10 meters. Ten meters might be a better choice, because there are not a lot of contesters in the Novice portions of 15, 40, and 80 meters but, there are a lot of contesters on ten. Complete rules can be found in the March QST, page 96. Anyway that you can do it, please get on and make contacts. Your callsign prefix is the multiplier.
I have a new Delta Loop for 10 through 80 meters, a new balun on my 160-meter dipole, a new version of the NA logging software, and an old 486 computer with a well-grounded case that somebody was disposing of. It's much quieter into my older Ten-Tec. This is the last year that I can enter as Rookie Class, so I'm hoping to do much better than last year, although it's hard to compare with the point change for this year. This year, stateside contacts are worth one point. Last year, they were just worth a multiplier, so it discouraged hams from giving multipliers to other U.S. hams who were calling CQ.
Next month, we have two VHF Contests, and Field Day. Plus, who is the IARU?
It's not too early to start planning your involvement in Field Day 1999. Field Day takes place on June 25-27th. Not only do we need a lot of help, but we encourage everyone, especially newcomers, to participate in some aspect of Field Day. For those who are new, Field Day is a national exercise in which amateurs set up stations in the field, under emergency conditions. The stations are then used to make contacts with each other.
Like any complex undertaking, Field Day entails extremely detailed logistics and many, many jobs. You make think that the only thing happening is a bunch of people calling CQ, but there are hours of work and planning which have to take place before the very first CQ is uttered. We're sure you will find some part of Field Day to your liking.
Field Day is the best ham radio classroom you can attend! With arguably one of the best Field Day operations in the country, we provide valuable training which would be hard to find anywhere else. For free! You will learn all there is to know about setting up all sorts of antennas, including open-wire dipoles, monoband yagis, satellite antennas and the mysterious delta loop. You'll learn useful things like connecting the coax before raising the antenna! You will also learn just how complex a ham station can be. There is also good training in the care and feeding of gasoline generators. Finally, when we start operating, you will get to see how some of the best in business pour on the contacts.
All of this takes place at the Field Day site on Redmond Road in Williston. Setup is 2-9pm on Friday and 10am-2pm on Saturday. Operating starts 2pm on Saturday and breakdown commences 2pm on Sunday. Try to sample all of the above periods. Or, better yet, kiss the family good-bye and join us for the whole weekend! Thankfully, this fun only occurs once per year.
If you would like to join us, please contact Mitch via phone or E-mail. It is best if you let me know ahead of time you interest in Field Day so things can be planned. Hope to see you at the end of June!
The results of the 1999 Vermont QSO Party are out and what a horse race it turned out to be!
Operating as single operator using WB1GQR, I ended up with 262k points, down a little from the all-time high posted last year. The Twin State Radio Club again travelled up to Essex County to put multiop W1FN on, and they showed a marked improvement up to 259k. And W1B, running multi-multi posted 205k points while operating in semi-contest mode. The top three scores were all above 200k. Wow!
While there was a lot of interest outside Vermont, there were, unfortunately, only 3 other Vermont entries. Many were tied up with W1B and some just didn't send in logs. I know it's a lot of fun - I've been running up big scores in it for 10 years. Let's shoot for more activity next year!
Let's say that you just worked some rare DX. You really want a QSL card from this station. So, you ask for QSL information, or you find it through another source. You discover that the station prefers that you QSL direct, rather than using the QSL Bureau. You think to yourself, "How can I be sure that the operator will reply when he or she receives my card?" You could send some U.S. stamps - probably pretty useless in a foreign country. You could send a green stamp (dollar bill) - might get stolen along the way, with the card being discarded or destroyed. You could send just the card, hoping that the station will fill out your address and pay for the expensive postage. Hmmm, what's a ham to do in a situation like this?
One of the useful items that we have to use comes from the Post Office. The IRC, or International Reply Coupon, is available as a form of international postage. Reply coupons are sold and exchangeable for postage stamps at post offices in member countries of the Universal Postal Union. The period of exchange on or after January 1, 1975 is unlimited. You just include one or two of these coupons in the envelope with your QSL card and your self addressed return envelope. The ham operator then takes the coupon to his own neighborhood post office and redeems it for postage for one letter. One coupon is exchangeable in any other member country for the minimum postage on an unregistered air letter. The cost to buy one here in the United States is $1.05. If you receive one in the mail, as I recently did, it is exchangeable for 60 cents in postage, irrespective of the country where it was purchased. This is the exact amount of postage needed to send a letter overseas.
The post office tells me that they are very popular with students studying abroad. I guess their parents send them to their loved ones, to encourage them to write back (and ask for money). The front of the item is printed in French, in blue ink, on paper that has the letters "UPU" in large letters in the watermark. The reverse side of the coupon shows the text relating to its use in German, English, Arabic, Chinese, Spanish, and Russian.
So, the next time you work some rare DX, and want to be sure of getting a QSL card, you can march yourself down to the local Post Office and get an IRC. Get a few extra while you're there. And when the postal clerk says "IRC! What's that?", you'll have the answer.
A lot of water traffic uses the 108 channels reserved for Marine VHF. Some channels are part of duplex pairs for marine telephone. The channels have designated purposes. Channel 16 at 156.8 MHz is the distress calling frequency and 156.3 and 156.65 MHz are for intership safety communication. Channel 15 at 156.75 MHz is used by some old emergency beacons. A listing is available at www.panix.com/clay/scanning/frequencies/marine-vhf.shtml or you can scan from 156 to 162 MHz.
The visit from Captain Mark got me to thinking about marine radio. Recently, the monitoring of the old CW frequencies like 500KHz was replaced by newer systems. The yachtsmen in some of the world races are getting quick response when they founder. All ships and many smaller vessels now carry automatic emergency beacons called Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRB). These come in a variety of types.
The older beacons on 121.5 and 243 MHz are used by aircraft, boat, and manual beacons. These have to be DF'ed by satellite, aircraft or on the surface. They have limited range and a 99.8% false alarm rate so they must be observed on successive satellite passes before any action is taken. This can take about 6 hours.
Some VHF beacons still use the Marine FM frequencies. These are about to be phased out and ignored. They broadcast a short burst on channel 16, and a homing signal on channel 15. This helps to keep channel 16 free as a calling channel.
The newer beacons send a signal on 406 MHz that is watched for by several satellite systems and are now among the primary Marine Distress systems. The simpler ones can be located by satellite to within a few miles after a couple of passes. The better models have GPS units built in to give location to within a few hundred feet. All of these also have a 121.5MHz beacon, which can be used to guide in rescuers who don't have fancy new equipment.
The newer devices broadcast a registration number. This permits authorities to take a good guess at who it is and can help speed up disposition of false alarms. If the number is registered the notice goes directly to the dispatch center. Unregistered beacons are checked if they persist. I guess this is good incentive to register and to keep the batteries replaced on time.
InMarsat E offers a special 1646 MHz beacon that works a lot like the 406 MHz beacons, but his is not offered in the US.
Beacons may be tested briefly during the first 5 minutes of each hour. False activation on purpose or by negligence is punishable by the FCC with fines up to $10,000. Registered beacons are cut some slack in case of accidental activation. The signal can be detected by a cheap AM/FM radio if it is held near the antenna.
The satellites used are INMARSAT E which is a geostationary commercial system that covers from 70 degrees north latitude to 70 degrees south latitude. The GOES geostationary weather satellites also monitor. These will hear a signal immediately. Alternate coverage is provided by COSPAS and SARSAT, the Russian and joint Western nation satellites that run in polar orbits and listen on all 3-beacon frequencies. They cover the whole earth but are in low orbits, so it takes several hours.
The first RANV Fox Hunt of 1999 started with hints of Murphy lurking in the corners. The hunt was preceded by a VE Session at 6pm,creating some tight timing. I had planned to hide under the Winooski Bridge, which would have really given the hunters fits. But, with a balmy 40-degree evening and the wind whipping, I thought better of this and headed to my second hiding spot. The hiding spot was interesting. It was in Winooski, right up from the city reservoir, along I-89. The initial clues were, "Williston Road plus the Adirondack Northway." Simple math would have yielded Route 2 + Route 87 = Route 89. The other clue was the sign which read, Burlington 2 - Montpelier 42. Hunters spent a lot of time trying to measure mileage from Burlington or Montpelier, but to see this sign, you had to be in the southbound lane of I-89! Then,if you were on the Interstate, you could not get to the Fox. In fact, there were only two streets going to the Fox, and if you didn't find these streets, you would have ended up close to the Fox, but not there. Many hunters experienced this frustration.
The experienced team of Mike N1UWT and Dan N1PEF were not to be fooled. They headed up I-89 and quickly figured out the location of the Fox and arrived at 8:12.And then things got very quiet. As the Fox went through his planned selections of readings and pre-recorded entertainment, the other hunters got very frustrated, ending up dead-end streets. While this was going on, we all learned about delta loop antennas from selected readings from Practical Wire Antennas. Finally, at 10:01, a car came up the road. Then another. And another. And another? Wait, there are only 4 hunters, who is in the fifth car? The Winooksi, Police, that's who! They were satisfied with our story, but they did think we were strange!
Look for the next Fox Hunt on Friday night, June 18th, with masters of ceremonies, N1UWT and N1PEF.
|1.||8:12||N1UWT & N1PEF|
I had planned to participate in the fox hunt, but a meeting interfered. However, my meeting ended sometime after 8pm and I half-heartedly tuned the HTX-202 to 145.15 MHz only to be accosted by some "windy-mouthed fellow" spouting off about exponentials of this's and that's, angles and dangles. So much so that I was convinced the bottle of beer I had enjoyed at the meeting might have contained something a bit different than alcohol. But, as I listened a bit more, a distinguishing accent, then a word or two, then an absolutely diabolical giggle and a cackle came through the speaker, and I knew "Sir Mitch of FoxHamlet" was still out and about, and the Hounds of RANV had not yet been successful.
With paper clip and HT in hand, I proceeded to home in on the elusive signal. Up to Watertower Hill I sped in my trusty, rusty Westphalia only to realize I hadn't listened carefully enough to the clues - the one which had "onion" in it had somehow eluded me. So, down the hill I rolled and headed over to my favorite "onion ring" purveyor's spot on Severance Road - where I got an excellent reading, by the way. I proceeded towards Essex, heading toward the fox's lair. I recalled reading that one of his more imaginative hideouts had been at his home. This wasn't to be and thanks to Mitch the Navigator, I was able to get turned around before I barged into an assumedly alarmed abode and got arrested. I ended up at the Costco parking lot. The kids collecting shopping carts surely were prepared to call the mental health folks as I wandered away from my vehicle with a ham radio using a paper clip for an antenna. In fact, three of them came to within 10 feet of me as I turned slowly around listening to and watching the HT. Oh yes, I neglected to mention that emitting from the speaker was someone's voice yelling at someone to "Mind Your Own Gawd Damn Business", which was the show currently playing on the repeater. I decided to head back up the road to the hill behind Libby's, looking for any elevation which would allow me to see Williston Road (RT 2), the Northway (I-87), and Exit 16 on I-89, all mentioned in clues. "Aaah", said I as I sped through the parking lot nearly running over 12 fleeing elder folks. "Get outta the way", I screamed blasphemously to the slow moving, blue-haired folks, "I'm on a fox hunt!" At that point, I was truly beginning to wonder why no one had ever bothered to write about just how boisterous and crazy one can get chasing the elusive fox.
As I rounded the last bend into the highest point, I spied it! There - just as I had competently and certainly known - there was Mitch's van - and I was the only one there. "Aha", I said to myself as I jammed the brakes and clanked to a squeaky, clutch-out, stalling stop. "I've got you!"
You guessed it. 'Twasn't Mitch in that van, but it was another guy with - well, she was cute - at least the parts I saw, as they hastily covered the window with what might have been a pair of trousers. "Gawd," I muttered, as I thought about collecting hazardous duty pay for being on a fox hunt.
Paul AA1SU and I met one another and we sped over the line into Winooski. I went behind the high school and ran out of road, after barely missing someone's favorite cats doing what cats do in the middle the road. With Sir Mitch snarkling and taunting me to his site, up the hill into a parking lot I drove and saw the Exit 16 sign through the trees, turned into the parking lot and voila! There was the fox and the hunters, all chortling and having a laugh at the newcomer.
What a rush! And, for the perfect finale, we were soon joined by one of Winooski's finest! Out stepped a well-dressed man in a uniform - with a gun - wondering how many kids he was going to have to bust. I heard Paul explaining that we are a bunch of serious ham radio operators having a fox hunt. I can just imagine what that cop thought... "A Fox Hunt? Radio? In Winooski?" But, he listened and then stepped back to his car muttering, "I've got to radio this in." I heard him tell the dispatcher, "I'm OK - it's guys with radios trying to find themselves."
I've gotta tell 'ya - this was fun! I hope it doesn't get any better than this. My wife barely believes this story. She expected me home by 8:30. After recounting this tale, I don't think she will believe another about ham radio and fox hunts.
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