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



Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Exciting World of Ham Radio


Yep, you got it! There's Amateur Radio's old fashioned point-to-point, antenna-to-antenna Marconi-style communication.  Got a tornado, hurricane or tsunami? Get ham radio! In every community across this great country of ours and in most countries around the world, you'll find ordinary folks like you and me playing around with radios! This is the "shocking" hobby I love. A hobby which, I might add, has also become an avocation of sorts, keeping me involved in my own community with close friends and family.  Its a hobby where you can meet new friends, help out in the event of an emergency, and keep your brain active by always learning something new.

Gordon West WB6NOA Helps A New Ham Get "On The Air"
And the nice thing about Amateur Radio is that there's something in it for everyone -- young and old, novice or experienced radio operators.  Attention military veterans! You can serve your country as part of MARS -- the Military Affiliate Radio Service -- or as a Telecommunications Specialist in the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary.  Sound good? Click HERE to learn more!

Get Involved! Join CERT!

You can be a part of a vital, life-saving team in times of natural disasters or emergencies, providing radio communications for your community's fire, paramedics, police agencies, or the American Red Cross. You can teach ham radio classes, become a volunteer FCC license examiner, or you can become an "Elmer" or mentor to a newly-licensed ham whose just getting started, like my friend Gordon West WB6NOA in the photo above. You can visit  "Gordo's" own website by clicking HERE.

Or you can just sit back, relax, and key your microphone into a whole world of new friends -- amateur radio operators or "hams," as we liked to be called -- from virtually every country on the planet!

Tony Ashlin KI6DZV Got His Worldwide Station For Less Than $200!
Imagine talking to a college student in Germany one minute, then tuning across the band and "making contact" with a sheep rancher in New Zealand moments later! Now THAT'S exciting. That's Amateur Radio!

Ham Radio Has Certainly Come A Long Way!
Follow my posts below to learn about what hams in Southern California are up to these days. You can also find out about the basics and history of this world of electronic excitement, which we call "Ham Radio," by clicking on the link below.

What Is Ham Radio All About?



BTW Morse Code Is
 No Longer Required!
 But It's Fun To Learn!