Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Ham Radio and Vacations

My XYL Diana and I recently returned from a Caribbean cruise, the first cruise we’ve taken in 13 years.  After last winter’s “polar vortex” and predictions for similar conditions this winter, we decided that getting away to some warmer weather was a great idea.  And it was - we had a wonderful time!

Shortly before we left, my good friend Dave N9GQ, one of our Saturday morning ham breakfast regulars, asked if I was bringing along a small station so that I could operate aboard ship.  He often takes his K2 along on trips and has operated from some beautiful locations.  Even though the idea is appealing, I didn’t hesitate to tell him that I wouldn’t be bringing a radio along.  I’ve seen posts on QRP-L from hams who frequently operate while cruising, and my reaction has always been Whiskey Tango Foxtrot?!?

No offense meant to those who enjoy this activity - different strokes for different folks - but I just can’t personally justify spending large sums of money to enjoy shipboard life and then using that time to play radio while stuck in a cabin or some out of the way spot on deck.  I’d return home almost as pale as when I left!  And of course there’s the ever-present potential of ill will generated between me and my spouse.  She’s always been very supportive of my hobby but, after all, this is her vacation too.  If I was going to spend my free time on the radio, she might as well go on a singles cruise.

One idea for combining vacations and ham radio that I do find very appealing is NE1RD’s 100 pound DXpedition.  His 2010 presentation at FDIM was a real eye opener for me.  The general concept is to combine a vacation in a tropical paradise with a popular contest or operating event.  Personally, I don't think that I'd want to do this during a major 2 day contest like CQWW, but something less intense would be ideal.  As the name suggests, a minimal station setup is brought along - perfect for us QRP types.  A small transceiver, a power supply, headset and paddles, a notebook computer for logging, a portable antenna or two and Zingo Bingo! ... I become the DX!

As I recall from his presentation, it goes something like this.  You rent private accommodations - perhaps a condo or villa with a good location and view - and plan your arrival a day or so ahead of the start of operations.  That gives you enough time to get settled and erect an antenna or two.  While your spouse is relaxing around the pool or out shopping, you can operate to your heart’s content.  Take a break every once in a while for a dip in the pool, grilling something for dinner, or cocktails at sunset.  Whatever suits your lifestyle, and many contests require some time off anyway.  Once the contest is over, the station is packed up and the remainder of the vacation is radio-free and enjoyable for both of you.

There’s more information on NE1RD’s website at http://www.bsandersen.com/, including his free PDF book that reviews in detail a number of antennas for a 100 pound DXpedition.  He also has a free PDF of posts from his now discontinued 100 pound DXpedition blog that is chock full of good information.  And, if you are a commercial Buddipole user, his Buddipole in the Field book is also available as a free PDF and is highly recommended to get the most out of the antenna.

72, Jim - K0RGI