Ham Radio

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( Member of FISTS CW Club and ARRL )

--  N4UDE   --

    That's my callsign.   It's for a General Class Amateur Radio License.  In moving toward "The Dream" getting my ham ticket was an important element on my list.

    When Jane and I are out on the ocean we just might want to communicate with others (like our daughter, Michelle) at least once in a while.  Also I might want to send a message (e-mail) to friends to give them an update on where we are and to let them know everything is alright.  I will probably also want to know the weather forecast for tomorrow.

    Fortunately, all of the above may be accomplished with the little radio pictured above.  Actually, it's a picture of an older model of the radio I have (I have the IC-706MkIIG).  The rig will transmit on all ham bands in all modes between 160m and 2m, plus 70 cm.  It puts out 100 watts of power.  With a simple dipole (a wire tied to a couple trees) I've been able to talk from here in Virginia to Australia; and you can't get much further away than that!

    I was first bitten by the ham radio bug back in 1974.  We were stationed at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma then.  I spent a couple months studying and learning Morse code (got up to about 18 wpm).   Then I hopped on my motorcycle and cruised down to Dallas (the nearest FCC test site) to take the test.  I remember arriving in Dallas the evening before the test.   I located the Federal Building in the heart of downtown (that's where one had to take the test back then).  Then I motored out of town; turned off the main road onto a side road leading out into a field; turned off that onto a dirt path; turned off that into the grass.   There I pitched a lean-to from by bike to the ground.  I crawled in and slept quite well till morning.

    I took and passed the General Class tests.  I didn't want no stinking Novice or Technician level license.   I figured if I was going to do this, I'd do it right the first time.  This would later prove to be a bit of a problem for me.

    Soon the license arrived in the mail:  N5BRF

    I held that license for 20 years and never, not once, owned a radio or even transmitted a single dit, much less a dah, nor even said 'hello world.'  It was just cool in my head to have that ticket.

    Then, 25 years later, came "The Dream."  And with it came an excellent excuse to buy a ham radio.  But wait: the license had expired... Damn!  There was a provision for Novice and Tech licensees to not have to take the Morse Code test (the most difficult element of the test).  But I never held one of those; I'd skipped that step and gone directly to General Class.   I thought I was too cool for that lower-class license stuff.  Now the joke was on me.

    So it was back to the books and code practice.  This time it was a lot easier.  First of all, the test questions are available over the Internet (something about the Freedom of Information Act?).  Secondly practice quizzes are available over the Internet.  Thirdly Morse Code programs are available over the Internet (is there a trend here?) which really help with learning "the code."  I found that I remembered most of the characters.  And learning what I had forgotten didn't take long at all.  Studying for the written test was just a matter of reading the 800 possible questions and remembering their answers.   In no time I was ready.  I drove out to Middletown, VA (about an hour West of here) and took the test one hot June day.  I passed all parts.

    So, I was once again a Ham: KG4IJF

    But you know, you can get a 'vanity' license for just a couple bucks, so I changed it to 'N4UDE' just because I could and because it fit my cruising style.

    Now I'm learning all about digital radio communication (like PSK31) and weather fax programs and the like.  I've already talked to people all over the country( including a trucker on the NE-WY line (Tom, VE6GT, my very first contact)) and to people clear around the world.   I'm ready to load up the boat and head out, knowing we won't really be so alone.

    One more thing checked off the list...

    Ahhh...  Even the journey toward the dream is a kick...  Life is good.