Click To
Visit ARRL Website
Click on the graphic above to visit the website of the American Radio Relay League (ARRL), where you can learn more about Amateur (HAM) Radio and how to become a member of this fine fraternity.

** Our Amateur Radio Page **

ARRL Life Member Logo Antenna

This page is dedicated to one of our other hobbies, which actually began long before our RVing adventures started. Bob has been a licensed Amateur Radio ("Ham Radio") operator since 1971, and Diane joined him in the hobby in 1988. Bob started out as a 'Technician' class operator, and quickly progressed up to 'General' and then 'Advanced' operator in 1976. Those were the days when you had to drive to an FCC Field Office in Manhattan to take the test in front of an FCC examiner! Bob recently achieved the highest class of Amateur Radio license, the 'Extra'. Nowadays, the tests are given by a group of trained Volunteer Examiners (VE's), sanctioned by one of several Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (VEC's), such as ARRL and W5YI. Bob's Extra Class examination was administered by VE's from the Mount Beacon Amateur Radio Club (MBARC) - Click [HERE] to visit their web site - , taking place on February 23, 2008 at the Poughkeepsie Galleria Community Room. About a dozen other individuals either earned their first Ham Radio license that day, or upgraded to a higher class of license. Today, there are only 3 classes of license; Technician, General and Extra. Bob's Advanced Class license had been "Grandfathered" after one of the several FCC restructuring events.

Diane started out as a 'Novice' operator in 1988 and soon progressed to 'Technician Plus'. Under the new restructuring, she is now a 'Technician' class operator, but did not lose any operating privileges. Both Bob and Diane had to pass tests in International Morse Code in order to become licensed; Bob at 13 words per minute (WPM) and Diane at 5 WPM. Today, the need to prove proficiency in sending and receiving the Morse Code has been totally eliminated. To become a Ham Radio Operator today, all you need to do is pass a written test of multiple choice questions on various topics, with the level of technical complexity increasing as you go higher up in class.

Bob is licensed with the Callsign WB2COY and Diane holds the Callsign N2ILI. You can see Diane's callsign on the license plate of our Motorhome, which was the genesis of our pet name for the RV; 'NILLIE', with the '2' being silent.

The Amateur Radio hobby melds well with RVing, as it is a way to meet people along the way on trips, get help if an emergency arises, or ask for assistance with finding our way around in unfamiliar areas. Granted, the advent of Cell Phones and GPS technology has taken some of the 'Need' for this away, but it is still nice to know that you have a backup plan if the Cell Phone doesn't get a signal.

It is also fun to set up a portable Ham Radio Station at a campsite and 'Work the World' as you sit back and relax on a vacation trip. Many Hams are looking to make contact with stations in certain specific locations, such as Counties within states, or even 'Grid Squares', which are locations based on a 2 degree latitude by 1 degree longitude 'square'. Hams can get awards for 'Working' (getting a confirmed contact with) another station in every County or Grid Square within a state or even the entire country! If your portable station can put a rare County or Grid Square on the air, you will be very popular.

RV HF Antenna 1 RV HF Antenna 2

This is the antenna setup we use most often when operating 'HF' (3.5 - 30 Mhz 'Shortwave') from a campground. This is a set of "Hustler" loading coils mounted on a special fixture so that four amateur bands can be operated without changing coils. The arrangement shown here covers 75, 20, 15 and 10 meters. It is mounted on the ladder on the portion that is parallel to the roof. The mount has a quick-disconnect for easy removal. We also have 'Hamsticks' that can be used for the 'WARC' bands, each of which is fitted with a matching quick-disconnect for easy changeover. We only operate from a fixed location -- never while moving.

Operating Position Ham Equipment

This is the operating position setup on the dining table in the galley section of the motorhome. It consists of an ICOM-IC7000 mobile HF/VHF/UHF transceiver, MFJ-945E Antenna Tuner, and SM-6 Microphone. Coax cable for the HF antenna has been routed through the wiring ducts from the outside, and power is obtained from the on-board converter or coach batteries, depending on the situation. During certain contests, extra points can be obtained when operating without commercial power, so the coach batteries would supply power in those cases. The VHF/UHF antenna is the same one used for the cockpit mounted dual-band transceiver, which is an MFJ 'through the glass' arrangement. This setup can generate up to a 100 watt signal on the HF bands and 50 watts on VHF/UHF. Another valuable piece of equipment we use, but is not shown here, is the MFJ-259B antenna analyzer, which we use for pre-setting the antenna tuner for minimum SWR on the various bands. This helps protect the transceiver from high-SWR conditions and also avoids putting unnecessary signals on the air while 'tuning-up'.

Bob's QSL Card

This is an example of a 'QSL' card, which is used to confirm a contact ('QSO') between two Ham Radio stations. The 'RST' reference is an indication of the other station's 'Readability', 'Signal Strength', and 'Tone' (for Morse Code or digital mode contacts). '73' means 'Best Wishes' in Ham jargon.

Bob's Ham Shack Photo

Here is Bob, at the Home Location, posing in the Ham Radio 'Shack', where everything comes together and reaches out to touch other people in our own country and throughout the world. Some may say, "Why do you bother with all this when you can contact other people over the internet in a chat room?" The Ham's answer to this is, "Should the time ever come that there is a catistrophic event which takes down the internet or phone system, a Ham can string a length of wire between two trees and contact the outside world". A perfect example was Hurricane Sandy in the Fall of 2012, which left much of the New York and New Jersey coastline isolated from the rest of the country. Ham Radio was instrumental in getting the word out about the extent of the damage, and to start rescue and recovery operations for people in the hardest hit areas, supplementing the communications capabilities of the first responders.

Bob's Ham Shack from 1976!

Here is Bob as he appeared in a newspaper article that was published in 1976 that stated the importance of Amateur Radio in providing emergency communications. Thanks to Herb Sweet, K2GBH for finding this article and converting it to digital format. Most of the equipment shown in the photo was manufactured in kit form by the former Heathkit Company.

Nillie's APRS Location

Another use of Amateur Radio is a system called APRS or Automatic Position Reporting System, which uses Packet Radio and a GPS receiver to pinpoint your location on a map. We use APRS while on the road so that family members can check on the internet to find out where we are along our route to a camping destination. We set up a handheld 2-meter 'Walkie Talkie', which has APRS capability built into it, connected to a handheld GPS receiver and a roof mounted antenna. Every 10 minutes, the radio sends a position report to a network of packet stations that pass the information along to the internet. We use Diane's callsign (N2ILI) for APRS, since that is the callsign that is on Nillie's license plate.

The map above shows our location (where RV-N2ILI is indicated) while we are at home.

By clicking HERE you can see exactly where we are at any given time, provided that we have the radio and GPS setup in operation.

Email Icon

This page last updated on December 11, 2012