Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Amateur Radio: My First Net Check-In

Tonight I managed to successfully check into the 2m net for the Nevada County Amateur Radio Club. Originally I just intended to listen in and check in on the later 10m net. I figured I had a better chance of getting in to that, since VHF hasn't worked well for me previously.

So I tried to monitor the 2m net from inside next to my HF rig. First with my Yaesu FT-250R handie-talkie and its rubber duck antenna, then with my old Kenwood TS-700A and a ground plane antenna. The Kenwood's S-meter was seeing a signal, but I wasn't getting any audio.

So I disconnected the ground plane from the Kenwood, hunted up a short length of decent coax, and a broom handle. Yes, an actual broom handle. Or a mop, it's pretty universal.

Two large broccoli-bunch rubber bands later, I had the ground plane antenna mounted on the broom handle and with a nice little BNC adapter I had that hooked up to my Yaesu HT. Then I went out in the driveway and walked around.

Me with the amazing 2m broomstick antenna boom.
How I Did It. 40m dipole strung from tree to mast on roof, 2m Yagi 20' above garage roof, two Kenwood base stations. First net check in: 5W HT with a ground plane on a broom stick handheld in the driveway.

Now, I've tried to do this before to get in to the Grass Valley repeater, but it hasn't worked. In the past I had always looked for the strongest signal on the S-meter from the repeater while someone is talking. This time I figured I was just going to listen, so I went looking for the lowest noise level. I was getting the signal pretty well, with some cutting out here and there as I walked around. Once I found a spot with a pretty good signal, I'd walk around and see how much I could cut out the noise.

After a bit, as the check-ins went on, I had narrowed it down to two spots. I tried out each and decided it was pretty much even, so I stayed at the one closest to the house, figuring I'd be a bit less likely to kick a skunk where I had a bit of light. The HT and broomstick antenna was a two-handed affair, so there was no room left for a flashlight (besides, I was hoping there might be some aurora showing in the north tonight.)

I listened in on the check-ins, wondering why I was standing out in the dark and cold, wishing I'd worn the jacket with the gloves in the pocket as my hands got colder and number with each call sign that went by. I tried to help myself along by trying to figure out how long it might be until they got to the end of the list, but the list order appeared to be "the order they're written in", since there didn't seem to be the usual order by suffix or anything that I've heard used on the daytime 40m nets I've listened in on.

Checking In

Finally, the net control called for late check-ins and other club members. I decided to give it a try, someone else keyed up just as I was pressing PTT, so I let up and listened through their check-in. Another call for late club member check-ins, I gave it a try.

Net control couldn't make my call on the first go, but asked for me to repeat it with phonetics. I did so, he asked for a report on what I've been up to on HF, and I did that and turned it back over again. He got my call and my report and noted my check-in. I'd done it! Freezing in the dark with a wire ground plane on a broomstick and a 1.1 meter cable to my HT, with two adapters in the line (PL-259 to BNC, BNC to SMC.)

Now I've made my first contact outside the driveway, not counting a prior attempt to contact this repeater where they could hear me but couldn't copy.

10m Net: Good Thing I Didn't Wait

Once the 2m net was over, I went inside to see if I could check in on a second net on 10m. I had the HF rig already set up, but didn't hear anyone come on. After a while W6PD started calling CQ Grass Valley. I waited, after a bit he called CQ anyone and I tried to answer. He heard me calling, but couldn't pull me out of the noise even after I turned my power up all the way (100 watts.) I'm sure my 40m antenna, its orientation (Grass Valley is end-on, pretty much), its location and its poor parentage all contributed to the unsuccessful contact.

Which I why I'm hoping to get something else up soon. Nobody's answered my CQs on 40m, perhaps I'm not getting a signal out there to speak of, either. I might send my kid (KJ6TFT) out with my HT and my short wave radio, perhaps, and see if she can hear me then report back on 2m (I'll have the Kenwood here, which should be able to work FM simplex across town. Maybe.)

So, almost 2 months from license to first net check-in. With some wires on the end of a broomstick. :D

1 comment:

  1. You're mind kind of ham sir! There's nothing wrong with experimenting and having fun coming up with the craziest way to get on the air. It's what makes this hobby so much fun!