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My HAM Shack

Posted by Tom Benedict on 16/01/2012

While trying to set up a video downlink on my kite aerial photography rig, I wound up studying for and getting my HAM license. I’ve set the video link aside for the moment, but I’m already studying for the General license and eyeing used HF gear on Ebay and with the local club.

Meanwhile I picked up a small dual-band handheld transceiver so I could start to play.

My HAM Shack - January 2012

It’s a Baofeng UV-3R Mark II with a Nagoya NA-666 antenna on it. (Antenna of the beast!)

I haven’t joined in a conversation yet, but I’ve been using it to listen to the local traffic and hear what I can hear. To a seasoned HAM this may sound odd, but keep in mind I’m a wallflower at parties. I tend to stand around until I find a place I can sit down and listen. Eventually I’ll socialize, and eventually I’ll even become outgoing. But beginnings are hard. It’ll take some time.

I’m still getting a feel for the layout of the local repeaters. There are some good lists, even some maps, but they don’t always jive. I programmed in a bunch of them, and spent some time just scanning through them. At one point I picked up a very clear conversation while driving from Kailua-Kona to Waimea. The UV-3R doesn’t let you store text names for stored memory channels, so all I knew was the frequency, not which one it was. I figured it was some repeater up on Hualalai, and that I’d lose it as I drove further from Kona. Instead it stayed clear the entire time! It wasn’t until I got home that I learned it was a repeater on Maui, the next island over in the chain, about 65 miles away.

For an inexpensive little radio, the UV-3R isn’t too bad!

Ok, to be fair there’s some stuff I wish I had on it. It doesn’t have a keypad or any way to generate DTMF tones. So no autopatch from the local repeater, and no controlling anything remotely. That’s fine. Right now I have nothing to control, and I do carry a cell phone. It also doesn’t have any way to limit the frequency range or the memory range during scanning. Also fine by me. There are only 21 repeaters in range, so it’s not a huge list. (Though after picking up that repeater on Maui, I think I need to expand my list!) It’s got dual watch, but no real dual listen. Not a huge deal, but it’d be nice.

One feature I really wish this radio had, and that I will look for in my next one, is to be able to listen to the avionics frequencies. In particular I’d like to be able to pick up the local tower traffic when I’m out flying my kites so I can tell if I’m causing problems for anyone.

And when the day comes that I do pick up a second radio, the UV-3R will make a nice backup. Meanwhile, it’s my entire station.

– Tom

2 Responses to “My HAM Shack”

  1. Chris Lumsden said

    Hi Tom. Did not realize you have a ham license, good stuff ! I am also a ham operator, and happen to work for a big name two way radio company that makes lots of ham radios. Sorry, but I personally would not be choosing a Baofeng radio, there are much better quality ones out there for a bit more money. Cheers, Chris.

    • Tom Benedict said

      No apologies necessary. I originally got my license so I could responsibly (and legally!) operate a video transmitter/receiver on my kite aerial photography rig, then wound up getting sucked into 2m for a while. The 2m/70cm scene here is pretty limited, so I never really went much further. I had the opportunity to check out some other 2m radios, and I agree. The Baofeng I wrote about in this post is pretty limited, and the UV-5R I got to replace it wound up having a ridiculously fragile regulation circuit on it. (The voltage regulator died during normal charging. Answer? Buy another one. I chose to decline that option.)

      So for the sake of someone who’s not active on the airwaves, but would like to eventually replace my dead 5R with a better radio, what would you suggest?

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