Wednesday, January 2, 2013

U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Radio


On December 15, 2012, a number of radio amateurs who are members of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary took part in a DART Emergency Preparedness Drill, designed to support the active duty Coast Guard in the event of a local disaster, such as an earthquake, or a national emergency with portable, battery-powered radio communications.  The primary goal was to set up portable HF and VHF stations which could pass both voice and digital messages between Coast Guard assets, such as coastal bases and cutters.  All radio communication was done via NTIA government radio frequencies, rather than FCC amateur radio bands.

Gordo & I Checking Into The DART Exercise
Gordon West WB6NOA and I were assigned to the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Narwhal, based in Newport Beach, California.  We handled messages on VHF & HF (1.8-30 MHz) in both voice and digital modes via the MT63 protocol.  Once the assigned DART Test Message was received, we checked it for errors and then delivered a printed hard copy to the Officer of The Day, PO2 R. Ulrich, aboard the Cutter Narwhal.

Delivering The Hard Copy DART Message To PO2 R. Ulrich

The DART Test also gave us a chance to check out a new portable HF antenna called the Great Lakes All-Bander, designed by Danny Althouse N0BRN.

My "Car Trunk" Portable HF/VHF Station w/ Battery Backup
The All-Bander HF Antenna Is On The Roof - VHF On Trunk


The Great Lakes All-Bander is the first portable HF antenna of its kind to be designed SPECIFICALLY for MARS, USCG Auxiliary, Civil Air Patrol, SHARES, Red Cross, Marine SSB, and other frequencies that operate on high frequency (1.8-30 MHz) OUTSIDE the amateur radio bands.

Radios: Yaesu FT-897D HF & Vertex VX-4204 Part 90 VHF Radio
The Portable HT is a Vertex VX-929 VHF Part 90 Radio As Well 
The Dell Mini-9 Netbook Is Used For MT63 Digital Transmissions
HP Battery-Powered Printer Is Used For Printing MT63 Messages

The Great Lakes All-Bander antenna was a roaring success on both voice and digital modes.  It was extremely easy to load on the various "out-of-band" frequencies we used, by merely setting the two sets of jumpers for the "in between" bands (see photo below) and then "tweaking" with my LDG automatic antenna tuner. I easily got a 1:1 SWR reading on my specially NTIA-modified Yaesu FT-897D!  Although the total height of the antenna stands at about 9 feet (114 inches with mag mount), it is relatively light weight and is easily handled by the 5" Tram magnetic mount shown here.  On the amateur bands, the antenna performed equally well mounted on a heavy duty camera tripod, using four 16' counterpoise wires for a ground plane effect. Great Lakes Antennas sells a very nice machined aluminum TRIPOD MOUNT for $24.95 + Free Shipping ($19.95 when purchased with the All-Bander Antenna). The tripod mount includes a stainless steel 3/8 X 24 to SO-239 connector.

Great Lakes All-Bander w/ Its Dual Jumper Setup
Great Ground Plane w/ Mag Mount On Car Roof

The Coil Is Completely Sealed For Marine Use

Nine Foot All-Bander On A Heavy Tram-Browning 5" Magnetic Mount
Roof Mounting Provided A Great Ground Plane


The newly-improved 2013 model of the Great Lakes All-Bander Antenna (80-10 Meters) sells for $199.00 with Free Shipping + a 10% discount for members of MARS and the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. Available only from Improvements in the 2013 model of the “All-Bander” includes machined stainless steel end caps on the coil, enhanced waterproofing for marine applications, and more flexible band jumper wires.

The custom-designed machined aluminum tripod mount is $19.95 when purchased with the antenna -- $24.95 + Free Shipping, when purchased separately. The tripod mount includes a stainless steel 3/8 X 24 to SO-239 connector.

The Great Lakes “All-Bander Jr.” (40-10 Meters) will be made available for sale at a lower price sometime in March-April 2013.  Please feel free to email me at, should you have any questions or to be notified when this new version of the All-Bander becomes available.

BTW -- If you're a ham radio operator and would like to do something for your country and be a part of the "Homeland Security's Team Coast Guard," then the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary is just the ticket for you!  Click HERE for more information.  If you would like to learn more about Danny Alhouse's fantastic HF antennas, then please visit




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