Tarantula

Tarantula
The 1st one of many

Saturday, 13 October 2018

                                      Amateur Radio Reboot 2018


Its been a great amateur radio year for me and a year that has not only seen me get more involved with my hobby but one that has taught me a lot of new skills as well. If I add the completing of three things off my amateur radio bucket list Its been a pretty good year, and its not over yet.

I have recently read and heard from some fellow operators that the new mode of FT8 is the downfall of amateur radio and the same old comments that CW is now dead and done as a mode.

Had I been an outsider to the hobby I may have said that I agree with those comments but as amateur radio is my main hobby and I follow many groups and resources I think its fair to say that these remarks  on FT8 and CW are not correct at all. 

Those of you who have read previous articles on this blog will know that while I am now a full licence operator the journey that I have been on has been one of great challenge and often frustration but it has all led to where I am now.

So CW has been a target of mine since I first became licenced in 2007 and now in 2018 I am  still making good progress towards that first CW qso. Now I know many operators who are doing the same thing and challenging themselves to learn something new,  We do it because we can.

FT8 and I love it
So what's all the fuss about FT8 is it the death of amateur radio as we know it! or is it just another mode that has captured the attention of almost every radio amateur in the world. Being a huge fan of data modes and spending an awful lot of time on PSK and JT modes FT8 falls into my lap very nicely. Now I don't know if I am on my own here but I cannot get used to the automatic mode, I time manage my 15 seconds and manually move on to the next macro. Its just a fast and fun way to enjoy amateur radio and while it has its objectors I think its  mode that is here to stay.

                                         Amateur Radio Bucket List

So I think that most of us are now familiar with the idea of having a Bucket List and while I have many things that I would like to do in my lifetime, I have some specific ones that I would like to achieve with my Amateur Radio hobby and this year that list became a lot shorter.

                                                      Friedrichshafen Amateur Radio Show


Since becoming licenced back in 2007 I have read and seen many references to how good this show was, often compared to Dayton with many of our USA friends even suggesting that it may be equal or even better.
So with only one way to find out I had to go. With the assistance of my wife Julie M6TKI we planned a 5 day road trip from Portishead UK to Friedrichshafen, staying at an Airbnb very close to the centre and we had three fantastic days at the show. It was really as good as I had hoped and we met some wonderful people and talked a lot of amateur radio. I would definitely recommend going and I am sure that you will have a great time.
Its not an event that I would go to every year but we have certainly pencilled it in again for the 2020 show when we would like to take a trip on the Zeppelin while we are in the area, this looks amazing.

Number 2 on my Amateur radio bucket list was a visit to the biggest UK amateur radio show at Newark  the National hamfest , We planned to attend this show with a trip to Bletchley Park on the way home, so another Airbnb was booked and away we went. I had already purchased an antenna online from Nigel at M0VCO antennas  it was a HW 40 HP  and arranged for it to be collected at the show. This antenna has great reviews and should be just what I am after in my new qth. I will do a review on this once I get it installed and working. As always with Nigel the antenna was left for me as described and with no problems at all.
So how good was the Newark National Hamfest I think I may have been spoilt a little by Friedrichshafen because quite frankly it was a little bigger than some of the club rallies I go to but it wasn't great. Did I enjoy it? Yes I did enjoy it as I could talk radio with numerous people and I did get a few antenna related items that I was looking for and will I be going again? Probably not! but it was another item off my bucket list which was great.

What the visit to Newark did do was to set up a visit to the National Radio Centre at Bletchley Park the home of the codebreakers. The NRC was on my list not only to visit but to operate from as well if it was quiet enough to do so. 

After looking around the Park which was all the better for it being a 1940s weekend we finally arrived at the NRC and we were immediately welcomed by the staff who were operating the station  GB3RS. After a short chat I was able to operate from GB3RS and that gave me my third item from my bucket list in only a few months.
Bletchley Park has to be on every operators list to visit, we had a really good day and met some really nice friendly people. One advantage for me was that as a RSGB member I was able to get free entry with a downloaded voucher. Although Julie had to pay full price that also entitled her to return for free for a whole year. So its a great day and a lot to see, you will enjoy this.

So that's it for October 2018 and its been a year so far that I could have only dreamed of a few years ago. Now we are looking to move to a new qth I have many Amateur Radio ideas that I look forward to attempting with the top of the list being CW.





Friday, 12 October 2018

Its 2017 and its been Amateur Radio FUN!

What a great first half of 2017 its been really busy in my world of amateur radio and I have been having a great time. Read on and I will tell you more.


It started getting good when in 2016 I applied to our local council for planning permission to install a vertical antenna on to the rear of our property. And guess what! they only went and approved it to the amazement of me and all of my friends and radio buddies. So I was on the hunt for a vertical antenna that would not break the bank but would get my signal out.


Now after reading a lot about how poor vertical antennas are I came across a review for a Moonraker GP2500 a solid and inexpensive performer. I like the sound of this but what got me more interested was the reviewers comments about the antenna not causing any problems for the immediate neighbours despite having a postage stamp garden.

This had to be worth a go and fitted the conditions of my planning consent perfectly.


So here it is, up with a lot of help from my wife who was a fantastic help with anything above floor level!

So is it any good! If I judge it against all of the temporary antennas I have used from my qth over the last 10 years yes its really good if I was to compare it against a 60ft tower bla bla bla then its not going to win. Am I pleased with it, yes for the first time I can actually go into my shack and switch on

Sunday, 9 August 2015

How fast has this year gone!

Its true its been a crazy fast year and as far as I am concerned for all the right reasons.

Following on from my last 2 years or so recovering from a double bleed on the brain its amazing how things can turn around and become more positive as each day,week and month go by.

In May of this year I went back into hospital for a scan to see how the Gamma Knife Surgery has done on the AVM that was the cause of both bleeds.The news was good, the blood vessels that were the problem have reduced significantly but not yet gone. The consultants would like the Gamma Knife to work for another year with further scans in May 2016

As you can read in my previous blog posts the bleeds left me in a pretty tough place. I was unable to walk and my left arm was alien to me. Its amazing how heavy a arm can feel when its attached to your body but your mind does not recognize that it actually belongs to you and the only way to move it was to pick it up with my right hand/arm and move it that way.

At 48 years old you really do not want to have to learn how to walk again but with a brain trauma as large as the one I experienced I had the whole left  side of my body knocked out, I left hospital after nearly 4 months in a wheelchair so I had no option but to learn to walk again, how hard was that! but how good does it feel to have achieved the level of recovery that you can see in the short video below.


It is amazing to me that I am walking as well as I am and as you can see in the video that after 2 years of hard work I am almost back to normal I have a little more to do but what a good feeling to see this great video clip. It is amazingly awesome to watch and I must have watched it a hundred times. I am still stunned by how my recovery has gone and the words of my consultant in Sheffield, who said  "I would expect a significant recovery" well I can now say with all honesty I think that recovery has happened.

I cant be complacent and I cant stop the physical workouts that I do every day but what I can say for certain is that with hard work and support from my wonderful wife and family I now have a real chance to get past this "wobble" as we now call the whole episode and move on to a normal life again.

Its been a challenge and I have more work to do but "Life is Good"

Monday, 5 January 2015

Mevagissey Christmas Time



It was the first year that we did not have our two daughters home for Christmas and as it was going to be just the two of us here so we decided to see about renting a cottage over the Christmas period. We had rented a cottage the year before but that was for the four of us and our daughters partners, the cottage then was in Brecon one of my favourite places and a place were we all had a great fun time and also the subject of an earlier blog.

So choosing a new location to spend Christmas in would for a lot of couples be a difficult task but not us!
     Mevagissey is my wifes favourite place ahead of our other favourites like Brecon,Combe Martin and Illfracombe and as its a location that I also love Mevagissey was a very easy choice this year.

We choose a fishing cottage just above the harbour and this turned out to be a great choice even though the access to it was up a fairly steep path and the cottage itself was on 3 floors. We managed it all very well and by the end of the trip it was all really easy going.
The cottage booking was simple and the cottage was very clean and well equipped, we were very pleased with the cottage and the company we booked it with.

 One of the great things about the location is that just at the end of the path to the cottage was a great little pub the Fountain Inn that had great beer and food and was a very friendly place made better by the wonderful coal fire that was in the bar area. It was just a perfect little pub and a place we spent many a warm cosy few hours playing Uno and drinking lots of great beer. I will add at this time that Julie my wife plays a mean game of Uno and after countless games over the week I was well and truly beaten.

One of the great things with a location like Mevagissey is that you can really relax with very few distractions. The location has very poor phone signal but enough to make a phone call which was great and little or no wireless access. Having no wireless access was something that I really thought would be a pain but it was actually nice not to think about the website, blog or Twitter for a few days and on our trips to nearby St Austell  and Truro we managed to find enough signal to do what we needed.

The majority of the stay was spent walking around the harbour which is a wonderful place to just sit and watch the boats come and go. It is a wonderful picturesque location with plenty to see and a lot of relaxing to do. We spent time taking photographs and watching yes we did a lot of sitting and watching! often in the Wheelhouse cafe having coffee and taking shelter from the sharp icy winter wind that occasionally tagged us on our walks. Visiting friends and being visited was a great part of the Christmas fun and of course enjoying the local shops and cafes and not forgetting the wonderful meal we had on Christmas Eve at the Salamander restaurant which exceeded all expectations with both food and service.

The whole trip was a great success and even being woken by the local resident seagull who we named "Gissey" seemed to fit in very nicely with this trip allthough it was  pretty loud and probably the one thing I will not miss. Back home here in Portishead we are often subjected to the same screaming gull noise from early spring to summer so I guess it was like a home from home really.




 

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Challenges Ahead



One of the results of 3 months in hospital was that my muscles suffered a lot of muscle wastage especially in my calves. I have been working out a lot in the past year or so as part of my physiotherapy and although I am walking again I still have weak muscles in my legs.

I think that this is part of the reason that I have not been able to start running again as I still don’t feel fully confident that my legs are working like they should be, they need some work!

It is a real goal to run again maybe not the 5/10K that I was doing before this incident but just to step off and run.

When I realised that I couldn’t walk during this illness it was a huge mental blow but I was determined that I would walk again and I did.
I reached a point in my recovery where I thought I can walk. In my mind it was easy, but in reality I just couldn’t take that first step.

That first step was probably one of the hardest things that I have ever done but once achieved it was all go and within 6/8 weeks with the aid of a walking stick and a few falls I was walking again.
Walking has become a real thrill and something that I will never take for granted.

So, I can walk but can I run?

Even though I suffered two serious brain traumas, after months of operations, treatment and therapy all seems fine in that department. So, my thought process is working fine but I still can’t run because I mentally cannot take that first step to start running!

So why not?

 It’s not because I am afraid of falling I have done that many times before, I know I can walk as I do this every day, so what is keeping this big wall up? 

                                            

Morse code a new language

                                                



 I still have a great interest in learning Morsecode its been a thought of mine to learn the code since becoming an Amateur Radio operator in 2007.

Even though I progressed through all the licence levels I still never managed to learn Morse Code.

Now I am really going to learn it! 2014 is the year that I will give it my best shot it’s another challenge that I want to complete and I look forward with great anticipation to the day I attempt to make my first QSO using CW.

Many people have told me it’s like learning a new language and its important to hear the dah dits not just learn the code from paper but learn the code by sound.

I listen to a lot of music and I have always have music of some sort in my day so I am hoping that I have the ear to get to grips with this.

If I had started to learn this 20 years ago it probably would have been much easier but life is full of challenges.



The other snippet of advice I was given on numerous occasions is to never try sending until you are confident in receiving. Now that makes a lot of sense
                                                                   



                       So here I go on this great new challenge, wish me luck!

Saturday, 12 April 2014

A fantastic Exmoor Trip

We have just returned from a great weeks trip to Exmoor having spent the week Geocaching and I played a lot of amateur radio operating portable from our caravan that we stayed in. Caravans make a really good /P operating base with all the comforts like hot water, heating and red wine. It was a great week and keeping to my physio recovery I walked the most I have done since leaving hospital last year so that was a real big positive for me.
On the radio front I had some really good contacts with my Kenwood 480 sat running 100W and a homemade 5meter vertical antenna! this got me all around Europe and even into Brazil on SSB, some great contacts on numerous bands.

 I had been lucky in finding good conditions on the 10 and 17 meter bands which along with 20 meter gave me good conditions for plenty of calls.
I am still trying to get my motivation going on morse code but I am finding it hard to get a positive start but I will keep trying as I am sure my contacts would double in numbers and distance without any real effort at all.

What I like about operating /P from Exmoor is the noise levels on the bands are very low almost zero on some bands it is a real treat to operate from here.Inbetween the HF operating I had the handheld radio listening to the local bands and its amazing to hear how active the bands are on some days, amateur radio is certainly well and active.

Geocaching is another of our favourite hobbies and its something that we have enjoyed all around the worldsince 2008 and it has taken us to many great places that we probably would have never seen or even heard of but we have found them with geocaching.
We have even done talks at clubs on how to start geocaching and we have brought many new members into the hobby. It is a great hobby for all types of people young and old and if your the outdoor type of person it really is a hobby for you or at the very least giving it a go.