Zero Beat

Here we are a week past Halcyon’s launch date and (as far as I know) she is still in the marina yard. Due to unforeseen circumstances the marina is late getting the boats in the water this year. On the other hand as someone said to me, “At least you’re going in this year.” True, but now we wait impatiently for the call saying our boat is floating in her slip.

John and I have not been idle. A few weeks ago we both passed our amateur radio General Class license tests. Phew! I don’t do well on multiple choice tests no matter how well I know the material. All the answers look correct to me unless you throw in one that is so clearly wrong I deserve to be laughed at by the examiner if I choose it. Therefore, if an answer choice is “Donald Duck,” that leaves only three answers that look correct to me.

So now that we each have this license, what will we do with them? My original purpose was to use it on Next Boat. My plan was (and still is) to participate on the HF cruising nets once we’re out there. I also wanted to be able to communicate with a designated family member back home when we are out of Internet or cell phone range. All part of the Next Boat Project Plan. Another task completed.

Then things sorta got away from us. Me. Us. OK. If it wasn’t for me, John wouldn’t have done this at all.

Last year I bought a Kaito shortwave receiver. Inexpensive. Small. I wanted to listen even if (at the time) I couldn’t transmit without a license. Wandering around the yard excitedly listening to the crackle of static and proud that I heard even that, I somehow managed to get the little radio to receive a signal from an African radio station. That led me to ask John to dig into his tool bag in his truck where he found some hot pink (!) 14 gauge wire. He went onto the roof of the house and attached one end of the wire to the top of a tree. We soldered a connector on to the other end and Voila! Not the most elegant antenna but it works. I haven’t been able to tune into that same radio show but I can sometimes hear the Maritime Mobile Service Network in the afternoons.

Moving on.

Mid-way through studying for the General Class license test a friend loaned us his HF radio and power supply after I expressed an interest in buying a transceiver for the house. He was nice enough to let me try before I put a lot of money into new equipment so I can make sure this is an investment I want to make. These two pieces of equipment are heavy. The radio is a Kenwood TS-450S and the Astron RS-35M power supply has different colored beefy cables attached to it. Both are a bit intimidating. His last words to us before we drove away were, “Don’t turn it on before connecting the antenna!”

By the time we took our test I was terrified to turn on the loaner equipment. After reading how too much of this would fry that, I had myself convinced that I would end up replacing it all after flipping the “on” switch sent out a puff of smoke and sparks. After expressing my concerns, being told to “Just get the antenna up and turn it on!” did nothing to make me worry less. It’s always so easy to the person who has been doing something for 50 years.

In the meantime John was excited in an inner 7-year old in a toy store way about getting a dipole antenna into the trees before the leaves come out. This involved using a bow and arrow over the course of two weekends to get the line up high enough. The small diameter string he first used caused the arrows to get hung up in the branches. Someone suggested fishing line would cause less friction and that was the key. Arrow went up and over, arrow came down. Two trees are now sprouting arrows, string, and fishing line but he was successful. Our next steps are to hoist the antenna and solder the connectors to the coax and I’ll be set! She says confidently.



It doesn’t end there. Oh, how I wish it could. Oh, how I wish it wasn’t my idea.

John plans to install a dedicated electric panel for the radio equipment (that part is his idea). I’m trying to figure out power cord management as I look at the spaghetti bowl of cords and cables already connected to my computer. I have not one but two multimeters. John wasn’t happy with the meter he bought me for Valentine’s Day so he bought a second. I know I need to purchase other meters and analyzers and whatnot to ensure things don’t go pop and sizzle. Various connectors are floating around the room in their packaging. Clearly I also need a tool and small bits storage system. I decided that I want to power the radio equipment using solar panels. Another friend is putting together lithium battery packs that I will buy from him when he’s ready.

I think perhaps I’d also like a vertical antenna installed on the deck. Then I’ll be done.

Lest you wonder, “What happened to using the radio on the boat?” I haven’t forgotten but we do need to buy the boat first. In the meantime, I believe I want to name Next Boat Zero Beat.

One Response to “Zero Beat”

  1. Dave Skolnick (S/V Auspicious) Says:

    Plug the Astron into the wall. Plug the 12 VDC power run from the Astron to the Kenwood. Plug the antenna into the Kenwood. Turn everything on. Sorted. 73 es sail fast de dave KO4MI

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