K3EL’s Radio Bio: Started playing with radio in the early 1970s as a kid. First home-made radio was a crystal set, then a one-valve (tube) regenerative shortwave kit from HAC (Heard All Continents), followed by a Codar Multiband-6 transistor trf kit. Started out as a broadcast-band SWL; listening to Radio Moscow and Voice of America and the BBC in the ’70s was fascinating. Then I began to listen to the amateur bands, which quickly lead to getting an operating permit. First licensed as G4HJT in the 1970s in Bath, England, at that time I used a Yaesu “twins” set up, an FR-50B and an FL-50B. With the FL-50B running only about 50 W input, CW was a much more effective mode for me than SSB, and bitten by the CW bug, that’s been my favorite mode ever since. Having CW conversations with young Russian and US hams made an interesting counterpoint to listening to the state-sponsored broadcast stations on the short-wave bands.
After a year or so operating with wire antennas, the antenna “farm” at G4HJT was considerably improved with the addition of a HQ1 minibeam, purchased from my good friend Gordon, G4HWD, who was moving on to full-size aluminium (one of the interesting things about ham radio is that it cuts across many boundaries, including age – although I was a youngster and Gordon a middle-aged guy we learned a lot from each other on radio and on life). The antenna mast was constructed from old boiler tubes from a steam locomotive. They were transported home from a nearby scrapyard, strapped on the handlebars and seat of a bicycle (thanks, dad, for all the help in pushing the bike, digging the hole, and inspiring and supporting the interest in radio). The mast and antenna are now long gone, but I still occasionally operate from this location using a sloping dipole slung from a top floor window.
I spent several years at the University of York learning caving (spelunking, in American), Physics and Chemistry, when radio took a back seat. I moved to the USA in 1989, and have been this side of the pond ever since. First licensed over ‘ere in VE2, a wire dipole on a downtown Montreal balcony didn’t bag much DX, but did get my interest in radio going once more. We moved to the US again in the late 90’s, and after a short spell in Pennsylvania as AA3PV, took advantage of the vanity callsign program to get a more CW-friendly call, K3EL. The PA QTH had plenty of room to put up switchable Vee-beams, which worked great on 40 m and the higher bands. Unfortunately work moved us to NJ a few years later, and again there was a long break from radio until around 2007. A windom antenna was ok for a few qsos, but an advert for a minibeam on the QRZ.com swapmeet saw a better antenna mounted on the house and an increased interest in radio.
This was ok, but the big breakthrough came in March of 2010, when a storm took down several of our trees including the one supporting the windom.
I don’t like cutting down trees, but, hey, if one falls down and you have a space in the woods, what do you do? Well, you put up a tower in the space the trees left! Hudson Valley Towers were a great company to work with to put up a modest Rohn 25G tower with a Steppir on top.
Having a half-way decent antenna system piqued my interest in the more competitive aspects of ham radio. These days, I play from time to time in contests (mostly CW) and am a member of the Frankford Radio Club, one of the premier contest clubs in the US. I still start salivating at the prospect of an all-time new one coming on the bands (although these are few and far between). I mostly enjoy a CW ragchew, dabbling in digital modes, and can even figure out where to plug in the microphone from time to time. Operating from other locations is also fun, G4HJT gets activated from time to time and I’ve also been QRV from various other EU countries. I also enjoy SOTA and DXpeditioning, and there are several pages on this site devoted to these topics. I was a member of the ZL9HR team which operated from sub-Antarctic Campbell Island in November 2012, operated from the Austral Islands as TX5RV and Tahiti as FO/K3EL in Oct/Nov 2013, and was a member of the VK9MT Mellish Reef DXpedition in March/April 2014. Next planned DXpedition is VK0EK – Heard Island – at the end of 2015.
See you in the pile-ups… 73! Dave