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February Fun

January 26, 2024

Let's put some ham radio fun into February! There are all sorts of things you can do in your shack in the month of February as you avoid the Great Outdoors, fresh air and the winter chill. Here are a few suggestions:

Shake things up, let your hair down if you have any, and just have some fun!

Potty Mouth

Jan 11, 2024

Listening to the local 2-meter repeaters and simplex in my area, I have noticed a rather significant increase in profanity on the band. We all slip now and then, but this is not an accidental slip of the tongue I have observed. It is the common practice among a few operators. Most hams know this potty mouth trend is not just on VHF. It is also becoming more prevalent on HF conversations and even on nets.

Amateur radio is regulated by the FCC and it states that profanity is prohibited on the amateur radio frequencies. There probably isn’t a licensed ham that doesn’t know that rule. They choose to ignore it. I have heard folk say that the FCC rules are antiquated and we should just reflect society. Really? I see what society has become in recent decades and if that is what ham radio should be then it will be a lot less enjoyable for many.

Ham radio is supposed to be family-friendly. When my granddaughter was younger, I stopped leaving my radio on 3940 kHz all day, which I had enjoyed doing. But the many lapses among hams there caused me to cease this practice. I scan or monitor VHF all the time now so that I can welcome new hams to the hobby and chat with my friends when I hear them on-the-ar. But I often have company over. Do I need to start shutting down my dual bander as well. There are other radio services that are not regulated and perhaps they are the better format for the potty mouths to congregate and cuss up a storm if that is their desire.

End rant.

Scanning Memory Banks!

Jan 4, 2024

What can I do to persuade you into routinely scanning the memory channels of your VHF/UHF transceiver? Eighty percent of new hams give up for some reason within the first year of earning their ticket. One of those reasons may be because whenever they put their calls out on local repeaters and simplex frequencies, no one answers them! EVERYONE acknowleges that 2m band use is down in the past few years. Why? This happened in the mid 90s and we nearly lost the band due to under use and commercial entities interest in 2-meters. If you scan or monitor the frequencies and you hear a "KC1" or any other ham, please answer them. If you are stretched for time just give them a signal report. Please don't let them hear only silence. BUT, if we are not scanning or monitoring, we will never hear them. For the future of ham radio, let's scan the band and make these new hams feel welcome. Let's communicate!


January 1, 2024

I had a blast, actually I still am, in ARRL Straight Key Night. It goes on for a few more hours yet. I am taking a short break. I really enjoyed making Navy Flameproof to Navy Flameproof contacts with my two friends, Jeff KA1DBE, and Dave WA1BXM, both on 80 meters. The Navy flameproof is proving to be my favorite straight key. (Sorry Begali Blade but you are still my second in command!) hi hi.

All Hands On Deck!

December 23, 2023

During my Navy career we used the term "All Hands On Deck!" for when we needed a maximum effort by everyone to get something important done quickly. That is what we need in amateur radio now!

Fred Kemmerer, AB1OC, the New England ARRL Division Director, shared in a recent division cabinet meeting that 80 percent of new Technician hams disappear within the first year of being licensed. Eighty percent!!!

That figure is staggering. What does that say for the future of amateur radio? We already know that the average age of hams seems to be getting higher and it is no easy task recruiting youth into the hobby. Can we really afford to stand by and watch 80% seemingly give up, do nothing with their license and just vanish from the ham radio scene? These are the same hams that 10 years later allow their amateur radio licenses to expire, never or rarely having used it after so deservedly earning it.

There are many reasons for this 80/20 problem. Here are a few that I have heard:

We MUST turn this around immediately! Here is what I plan to do in Maine. YOU can help as well.

  1. VE Teams are a critical first step in congratulating and offering assistance/ guidance to new hams and upgrades. I will make brochures and other resources available to all Volunteer Examiner Teams. Even though VE teams do not fall under the Maine section of the field services division, I will strive to communicate and assist all teams in Maine.
  2. I admit, I got busy and behind on sending out my monthly welcome letters to new hams. The past few days I have been catching up. ARRL-affiliated club presidents also have access to "New Amateur Reports" on the ARRL web site. If I, as section manager, send out an initial welcome letter to a new ham, offering information and assistance, and then club presidents did something similar a month or so later to new hams in their area, that would give the new amateur two opportunities to seek assistance if they need it. And let's be honest, most new hams will need some guidance from a mentor (Elmer) to get them started. A third letter would also be appropriate three or four months later. Perhaps the ARES/RACES team could reach out to them at that point? ARES teams need to recruit and train volunteers for the future of their own public service teams, right? Or Section Traffic Manager (NTS) or other section cabinet members could also pitch in.
  3. Over the next few weeks I will develop a brochure that will be made available to VE teams, clubs, ARES/RACES, and others with a space for local contacts. These can be handed out at the VE exam or at hamfests, meetings, or mailed.
  4. Example welcome and assistance-offer letters will be posted on my web site so that club officers and others can use them to customize their own communication to new hams and potential club members. Check www.n1ep.com in the coming weeks. The brochure and letters will be available to any club or ham, not just ones in Maine. check here

What can other hams do to help out?

Constant harping is not needed. But initial welcomes and followups is absolutely essential! Let's do an about face and save our hobby. If not 100 percent, we need at least 80 percent of new hams to stick with it, participate, and thoroughly enjoy this amazing hobby and public service.

Do you have suggestions on how to address this problem, and are you willing to help? Send me an email n1ep@arrl.org and be part of the solution!

Maine Ham Community Energized in 2021

March 28, 2021

Exciting things are happening within the Maine ham radio community. Statewide HF nets are seeing more check-ins and traffic. A new MHRS RadioActive YouTube channel is promoting the hobby and Maine ham radio events. There are new web pages documenting popular nets, their present day operations and rich history.

Cory Golob KU1U and Joe Grace W1SK have created a new comprehensive web site for the Maine ARRL section: http://mainearrl.org where you can find all sorts of information on Maine nets, districts, and news updates.

The Maine Seagull Net has a new web site at https://maineseagull.net. The Maine Public Service Net has a web page available on the new Maine ARRL site. The official Maine ARRL page at http://http://www.arrl.org/sections/view/maine also has updated info on ham radio exams and more.

The Maine Ham Radio Society has created a YoutTube channel called MHRS RadioActive and features great videos related to Maine ham radio, including the history of the Maine Seagull Net, the fun of Morse code, straight keys, and portable operations, and the fun kids and adults can have soldering and building kits.

MHRS is also sponsoring a Ham Radio Technician class on-line starting in April. The pandemic might have put a damper on some ham radio activities last year, but here in 2021 the Maine ham radio community is fighting back and many are having a blast in spite of the pandemic. You can too. Check into the nets, participate in on-air activities, and support hamfests and club field days!

Pet Peeves

March 24, 2021

Here are some of my pet peeves regarding ham radio and some operators habits. Granted, some are trivial, but still, let us get it out there. What are your pet peeves relating to the amateur radio community?

Winter Field Day Fun!

Feb 10, 2021

Winter Field Day turned out to be a whole lot of fun for me. Perhaps I did not dive in with the "winter spirit" of the event, as I operated category 1H ME (indoors in the comfort of my home shack on commercial power, using my regular station equipment and installed antennas!!) Plus I was only able to operate about 4 hours of the 24-hour event. But those 4 hours were fun. I worked a few pile-ups and made 207 contacts. Hanging my head in shame -- only 1 of those contacts was using CW! Well, that certainly leaves room for progress. If I make 2 CW contacts next year, I will have doubled that accomplishment. Impressive!

Most of my contacts were on 20 meters, and a few on 40m and 75m. I was surprised at how many winter field day stations I heard on the air, especially on 20m. I remember several years ago when few hams seemed to participate. This year it was on par with the regular summertime ARRL Field Day. Amazing!

I am not a big contester, but Winter Field Day has wetted my appetite for more. Now I am looking forward to the International DX CW (Feb 20-21) and Phone (Mar 6-7) contests. I am also anticipating the summertime Field Day, and pandemic or not, I will participate in some way. I may set up a tent in the back 80 acres and perhaps even attempt QRP. That would certainly be challenging!

Ham Socializing In Covid-19 Era

Jan 18, 2021

Covid-19 has been impacting all aspects of our lives for nearly a year now. This includes our ham radio social events that many of us love and miss. Ham radio breakfasts and supper events, clandestine coffee meetings, and in-person club meetings are just a few examples. When will it end?

Ten months ago there were no known cases of the Covid here in Washington County, yet we started implementing social distancing. Now we have had more than 500 cases here in this county with 331 active cases as of today, and sadly, we have had 7 deaths here in Washington County. Obviously it looks like social isolation will continue for some time, at least until the vaccines become more readilbly available and we see the numbers falling.

I know many hams that are not abiding by the guidelines put out by the federal and state governments. That is their choice to risk catching or spreading the virus. Not everyone has high risk factors that I do, so I choose to be more cautious. I still go out to eat at our local restaurant on occasion, and go into stores, etc, wearing my mask. You can't stop living, after all. But I will also not invite disaster. I stay home waaaay more than I used to in the pre-covid times. I save gas money and other expenses that I can use to buy more ham radio gear, ha ha.

Getting on the air and using our ham radio frequencies is a super way to spend time in this new era. As I write this, I am listening to AB1PZ chat with AC1BS on the 146.910 repeater AND listening to several folks chatting on 3940khz on the HF rig. I'll jump in on the conversations in just a minute. I plan on getting my digital gear humming in a bit as I prepare a presentation for an upcoming Zoom meeting.

So, let's not let this Covid-19 keep us from socializing with our ham friends over the air. Power up or shut up? Hi Hi

Publicizing Ham Radio Test Sessions

Dec 11, 2019

I have noticed it is getting more challenging in getting ham radio test session press releases accepted in Downeast Maine's weekly newspapers. Facebook appears to be the most common way of getting the word out. It would help if every ham in the test area would "share" any test session posts they see on Facebook. The more it gets shared, the more people, including potential hams, see the information. When I post test sessions I try to make sure the post is "public" so that it can be shared, and not restricted by a privavcy setting.

Recruiting New Hams

Until I get my blog up and running, I would like to use this space to call attention to something that I think is important. We need new blood in the amateur radio community. As a volunteer examiner, I know that VE teams around the country are doing just that. But i think we need to put more emphasis on that goal. We not only need more new hams, but many more from the category of 'Not Yet Over The Hill!'

Nothing against all the more mature (and I use that term loosely) hams, because I am included in that bunch, but our hobby and service needs some younger generations of hams. It would be nice to have a lot of teenage people licensed hams, but when I go to hamfests, club meetings, and chat with people on the air, I find very few people that are in their 20s, 30s, and even 40s. Yes, they are busy raising families and juggling jobs, for sure, but there must be a way to demonstrate that there is something attractive in the hobby to these age groups, and that the time they commit to it is totally up to them.

For instance, ham radio can, and should be promoted as a family fun hobby. Ham Radio 'sporting' activities may draw some interest, as well as the newest digital modes, getting some club members to demonstrate space communications, incorporating the Raspberry Pi computer into ham radio, and more.

Let us start sharing our ideas and then start acting on some and recruit some fresh DNA into the hobby! Who is with me?