Monthly Archive for February, 2010

Earthquake in Chile

At the request of the International Amateur Radio Union (IARU) and the Red Chilena Nor Austral Servicio (RECNA), all Amateurs are requested to keep all IARU Center of Activity Frequencies clear until further notice as health and welfare traffic is being passed to and from Chile. Call frequencies be avoided include  28300,28500,21200,21350,14200,14350,7050,7095,3738,3750 kHz.

Many thanks for your understanding,


Doug Mercer  VO1DTM
Vice President Field Services
Radio Amateurs of Canada

The joy of contesting

Contesting isn’t everyone’s cup of tea but it is one of the most popular activities on the amateur radio bands. Contesting on the high-frequency bands is heavily dependent on the 11-year sunspot cycle. During years of low sunspot activity the background noise levels fall and low bands such as 160 and 80 meters take on added importance. During periods of higher sunspot activity noise levels rise but the higher bands 40, 20, 15 and 10 become magical in their ability to propagate 100 signals around the world.

Case in point was last week’s ARRL DX CW contest. This is the grand old lady of contests always draws a big crowds. Conditions were pretty good but what happens for the vast majority of simple stations (100 watts into a tri-bander at 48 feet or a dipole in a tree) is after you’ve worked all the strongest stations on the band there’s nobody else to work. And then the propagation gods smiled on us and 15 meters opened big time to Europe early Sunday morning and it was like the good old days. It was easy to work a seemingly endless number of European stations running 100 watts into a dipole. Even QRP stations (5 watts) thundered into the logbook. There was even a brief opening on 10 meters.

If you’ve never tried contesting (and there are contests on every weekend), you might want to consider it.

To help you along, the Potomac Valley Radio Club is hosting an online webinar called “Inside the CQ WPX Contest” on Sunday March 14 at 20:00 UTC (3pm EST). The event is free but requires registering by going to

You can also go to and click the “Upcoming Webinars” link. Previous webinars are archived under the “Recorded Webinars” link.

The CQ WPX SSB contest will be held March 27 to 28 and the CW portion on May 29 to 30 from 0000 GMT Saturday and ends 2359 Sunday.

Need work? Apply here…

Yes you too can make the same amazing salary I make working for Radio Amateurs of Canada!

If you’re in the member services business (or want to learn), this might be your big chance to move on up to the big time as RAC is looking for the right someone to help assess members wants and needs, analyze the effectiveness of existing services and measure member satisfaction. Duties will include developing strategies to attract and maintain membersship. Best of all, the new position reports directly to Geoff Bawden, VE4BAW, the new president of RAC. To submit a resume just send it to Geoff at

So what’s the salary? It’s likely double what I make….which means I’m amply rewarded for my efforts solely be the satisfaction I get from helping the Canadian amateur radio community and so will this successful volunteer. :)

For even more satisfaction, RAC is looking for a volunteer with a background in insurance to help us administer and expand our insurance program. Anyone wishing more information is invited to contact Ian MacFarquhar, VE9IM, RAC’s first vice president at

RAC is also looking for a volunteer to help establish a philanthropy and grants program at RAC. Many other amateur radio associations (like the ARRL) have similar ways for members and their families to provide a lasting memorial that will help grow amateur radio. For more information on this exciting opportunity contact Ontario Northeast Director Bill Unger at

Finally, a paid position :)

RAC needs a client-focused, people-oriented individual to manage the member relations and sales side of things. This would include membership renewals, answering questions from members and prospective members. The position calls for someone who is proficient in both French and English, with a background in sales or marketing and is a licensed amateur radio operator. Hours are part-time to full-time at $13 per hour. Interested individuals should sent their resume to Geoff at

The best day

The best day of the month (well, it’s actually every 60 days) is the day when The Canadian Amateur arrives in my mailbox. What a gem of a publication! For a volunteer-run national organization like Radio Amateurs of Canada, TCA is one of the best benefits of membership. The January/February 2010 issue has 72 pages of articles and opinions of interest to Canadian amateurs. One of the articles I really enjoyed was by David, VE3KL, who talks about how you can build your own two-band trapped dipole antenna. And don’t be fooled by expensive commercially produced antennas. There is no magic that comes with laying out big bucks for commercially made antennas when you can make wire antennas yourself that perform identically for free. Commercially built antennas should last a long, long time and work well for many years. But so should well-made and carefully hung simple antennas like home-made dipoles and verticals and VHF/UHF beams. HF beams – well, not so much. I buy commercially made beams because they work and I don’t know enough about metal working to create my own.

Now my second best day is when my copy of QST arrives. QST is the official monthly magazine of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL). The March 2010 issue is devoted to – you guessed it – antennas. If you’re transmitting a signal on any band you need an antenna and QST has some great articles to help you put out a better signal. One of the best is a big product review article on remote antenna tuners. You can have amazing results from less than perfect antennas in less than perfect installations when using a remote antenna tuner. This article should be of interest to anyone who is space or neighbour-challenged when it comes to erecting the dream array.

Speaking of antennas: Rudy, N6LF, has an article that examines ground systems for HF verticals. It’s the ground system that makes verticals work. Anybody who tells you that their HF vertical is a quiet antenna should try laying out even a few ground radials. I think they’d hear the difference right away. At my QTH my homebrew 6-band vertical (looks a lot like a Butternut) has around 30 radial wires underneath it and on many occasions can outperform my Explorer beam (with 40-meter extensions) up at 16.6 meters. However, it isn’t what I’d call a quiet antenna. On the other hand I’ve worked tons of DX and broken through some huge pileups using it.

It seems to me that we get out of amateur radio what we put into it. Building antennas that work is one of the most rewarding aspects of the hobby.

CQ exhibit at Kelowna Museum

CHBC-TV has run an excellent news video on a new amateur radio exhibit that is currently running at the Kelowna Museum. The local Kelowna club should be congratulated. BTW there’s still time to see the exhibit as it runs through to July.

VA3STL: Review of Soldersmoke

Alan, VA3STL posts a nice ham-radio related blog at VA3STL’s Weblog. Writing out of Greely, Ontario (about 10 miles south of Ottawa),one of Alan’s big interests is QRP (low power) communications via amateur radio. In his most recent posting, he’s written a fabulous review of Bill Meara’s new book Soldersmoke the book. The book, as its title suggests, is a companion piece to Meara’s Soldersmoke podcast.

I won’t spoil the review here by doing another one but I do recommend you follow the links and see and hear for yourself the magic of Soldersmoke,

Police get Bill 118 wrong

An article in The Lindsay Post quotes an acting Staff Sergeant with the City of Kawartha Lakes Police saying that amateur radio was not covered by the ban on hand-held devices as mandated by Ontario’s Bill 118.

Of course, the officer has misspoken however this may not be the first or last time we will be faced with this sort of misinformation.

Radio Amateurs of Canada is contacting the police service and would encourage amateurs in other communities who face similar erroneous understanding of Bill 118 or similar legislation in their province to immediate contact their local police service and offer a clarification.

Here’s a PDF of Bill 118  HTA- ON. Reg 366.09 with the amateur radio exemption clearly noted.