Ham Radio and motorhoming
Most motor-homers have experienced the ease of which we share sunset-wine with campers from other nations on sites. As we all have touring and camping in common, this can lead to long happy discussions reminiscing a vast range of experiences. I will never forget the MMM story I wrote earlier, 'Magic on a clifftop.' Language barriers were non-existent and as the sun went down, so did the levels of red wine. The foregoing was not an isolated event as newcomers will soon discover for themselves... As my wife observed, some motor-homers, me included, can talk the hind leg off a donkey.
This year Coronavirus has prevented us from visiting our beloved Spain, Portugal and France. The motorhome is waiting forlornly in the driveway and we run it once a fortnight to keep it in good form. We have even tried our favourite campsite near Truro for a couple of days but it wasn't the same. Everyone observed the social distancing rules yet the social atmosphere was very subdued. The vans were parked well apart and there was very little in the way of the impromptu giggly gatherings at sunset. I missed the chat, the magic had evaporated. We used our mobile phones to chat to friends and relatives but the spark between strangers that many of us were used to was missing ... I found a solution for me, let me explain...
In 1982 I passed my Amateur Radio examinations and was granted the station call-sign G4PCK. For some years I enjoyed the hobby making many fellow amateur-radio friends throughout the world. At that time I lived in one of the highest places in Torquay with my antenna in the clear. Sceptics may say that it is easier to pick up an iPhone and have instant global contact, true, but there are differences which can make the hobby captivating and enjoyable during these troubled times.
When a Ham radio operator seeks another station he calls, "CQ". Invariably someone will respond, you will then be connected to another station, literally, anywhere in the world to someone sharing the same hobby. Accordingly, one is off to a flying start with discussions leading onto many other joint interests, you may be joined by several other radio hams, you have now formed a 'net'. Quite often these 'nets' coalesce into many common interests such as motorhoming, photography and after these chats, I often feel as one might, after a happy social evening over a drink and invariably much happier.
During March when we were all in 'lockdown' I returned to the hobby and am glad I did. Old friends were reacquainted, new ones made and all for very little investment. I bought a used HF transceiver for £145.00 and a brand new VHF hand-held for a fraction of that price. So now when we can take our motorhome overseas I can still be in touch with the world of amateur radio on the odd rainy day.
Some people start by using a CB set, this might be fun, but it is well worth the study to do the job properly and obtain an Ofcom Amateur Radio Licence. I find learning fascinating and if you are interested there are many clubs around which are very welcoming to newcomers. I joined the Torbay Amateur Radio Society many years ago and, over the years, have learned from older member's guidance and experience.
I recently made contact with a radio ham in Scotland then discovered that he used to live in Torquay so we had much to talk about, I was reminded of a similar experience in 1982. In that momentous year, I had passed my radio and morse test, paid my fee and was waiting for my licence to arrive. My Yaesu transmitter and antenna were ready to go, on the transceiver I could hear the club members and many others throughout the world but was unable to join in.
Daily I was watching the mail for my Radio licence, when it finally arrived I spent an amazing day enjoying the hobby to the full. As the weeks went by I made many foreign friends but never the desired furthest contact, when… One evening an Australian answered my CQ call, I was thrilled, called out to my wife to witness this momentous event. The astounding part was that it turned out that he, before emigrating, had lived barely two hundred yards away from my home... It's a small world.
Recently, I had prepared the van for a short trip to a local high point beauty-spot in Devon. Sylvia regarded me with raised eyebrows as I loaded my trusty transceiver. After an enjoyable walk we returned for a good meal in our motorhome. As the sun went down, I connected my wire antenna which had an attached tennis ball to its end enabling me to throw it over a nearby tree branch. I called CQ and was delighted when a Spanish station replied. Luckily he had very good English and whilst we were chatting other listening stations joined in. They were German, French, Irish and another UK. caravanner. The wine mellowed my mood as the 'net' grew in size. Night time is best for long-distance communication as the ionosphere reflects the radio signal extraordinary long distances on the frequencies we were using.
Eventually Sylvia said that it was time to put the table away so she could make the beds and drink my horlicks, I seem to remember as I dozed off that she said something about me being very happy...