Amateur radio at play

wpid-20140607_130937.jpgI’ve been getting ready for the ARRL Field Day. I’ve participated in Field Day almost every year since becoming a Ham in 1995. This year, however, I’ve been trying to find a little time to get back into the hobby for more than just one event per year.

Earlier in the year, I purchased some Baofeng radios (the UV-5RA and 888-s). They were really inexpensive ($30 and $18, respectively) and computer programmable. I also learned about CHIRP, a software package meant to program many different makes and models of radio (including these two). CHIRP became extremely valuable when I learned that Repeater Book exports their listings in CHIRP format. This made programming these radios much easier and much less prone to errors.

I do live in a rather hard to reach area for radio signals, though. There are several repeaters in Seattle that I’d like to reach, but Bainbridge Island has a hill between my house and the beautiful line-of-sight view of the city. Fortunately, antennas don’t really deteriorate over time. This means that I can use all of my 2 meter antennas that I built in Boise, along with some newer antennas that I purchased on line.

I have these little connectors that I picked up in different junk piles over the years that are made to split a BNC connector into a positive and negative lead. I originally made a coat hanger dipole by connecting the lead terminals to lengths of coat hanger that were tuned (cut to length) to the middle of the 2m band. This made an excellent antenna for my Standard 158A, but not for my new dual band Baofeng UV-5RA.

For the UV-5RA, I bought a 10 watt maximum magnetic mount dual band antenna. The nice thing about the radios being so low priced is that the accessories for them are low priced, so that they don’t cost more than the radio. I mounted this on a BBQ tray meant for grilling salmon and set it on a high bookshelf on the second floor of my house. And, bingo, you’ve got a dual band antenna.

Sometimes, I just want to use the 888-s on 70cm. Taking the 2m coat-hanger dipole, and trimming down the length, I’ve created a 70cm dipole that connects to a nice SMA to BNC pigtail that I bought online. To mount this, I used some IKEA cable clips and a coax extension.

What’s been really fun about this is that I’ve been having fun spending a few bucks here and there without spending a lot of money all at once. However, this week, I bought an FT-857D and ATAS-120 to install in my truck. These two items are much more expensive. I’ll post how that experiment goes when I get it installed.

Hopefully, that will be before Field Day 2014. 🙂