A Trip to Vietnam
Robert Voss, N4CD
It's fun to have DX chase you. How about a Ham vacation to an exotic location Vietnam?
Some might ask why Vietnam? Since 1990, Vietnam has turned to a stable economic growth-oriented society, once again allowing Amateur Radio. There are only a dozen licensed Hams in the entire country.
Many of you who read Worldradio know that I am a County Hunter, who zips around the country giving out counties on SSB and CW. Every now and then, the travel bug bites. As a county hunter, counties count no matter where you are operating, even as DX!
If you check the web and ads in the radio magazines you will find a dozen 'rent-a-shacks' around the world. Hiroo, JA2EZD, set up the station in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
Preparations for the trip began back in May, as the necessary procedures take months. Hau, 3W6LI, who maintains the station walked me through the necessary steps to get my 3W license.
First you must get a visa from the Vietnamese consulate - a 30 day process and $65. Of course, you need a valid passport ($80), and plane tickets ($$$). Hau arranged the licensing in Vietnam ($80). Visitors are usually only licensed for 10-, 15-, and 20-meter operation in HCM city. At other locations, 40M operation is allowed (7000-7100). I wish I could have had official license to operate WARC bands, but as far as I can tell, they do not currently issue licenses for those bands. The locals said the government really doesn't care where you operate, but rather than jeopardize future chances to officially get permission, I just listened occasionally on the WARC bands.
At the end of September, it was off to the airport and over 9,000 miles of flying from Dallas, Texas to arrive in Ho Chi Minh City. With the rental places, all you need to bring is yourself, and your logging material/computer. There are no hassles with radio equipment' through customs as it is all there. Some countries are easy to bring in equipment while others are near impossible, and equipment is sometimes impounded or confiscated.
Hau met me at the airport. He held up a sign with my U.S. call and my Vietnam Call, 3W2DC. We were then off to the Hotel Kimdo. There, you get a regular hotel room, plus full 24 hour a day use of the Amateur Radio station located upstairs' in a separate room on the top floor. The station antenna is a tri-bander up 150 feet and the rig is a Yaesu FT900 with an available SB200 amplifier. Within minutes of arriving, 3W2DC made the first contact with BI5Q on 15M SSB.
Never having operated from the "other side of the world," which is 12 time zones different from Texas time, I expected things to be different, and they were! Lots of exotic calls came through - JT, DU, VR, YC, all calling me! Everything but Ws, Ks, and N calls. After a few contacts, it was time to sleep and recover from 36 hours of non-stop travel, only a few hours of sleep, and the big jet lag! Tomorrow would be the start of 10 days of intensive radio operations and some sightseeing.
One quickly discovers how different the bands sound. People call CQ on 14.020 on SSB. On 40M, it's hard to find CW signals most of the time, and harder to find an English language QSO. The 10M band is full of extremely loud birdies and other garbage much of the day, making QSOs very difficult. The splatter you sometimes hear in the U.S. on 10M is 20 over S9 and all over.
During the day, when the band is open out a few thousand miles, you discover there aren't too many stations in Mongolia, Siberia, Indonesia, and those other exotic countries to work, especially on weekdays. All the real action comes when the band opens 5,000-10,000 miles in the evenings, and on the weekends. At 9 p.m. local time, the band opened to Europe for three hours. In the background, U.S. stations occasionally made it through. Special attention and calling "CQ USA" resulted in stronger U.S. stations making it through.
I was determined to give out Vietnam for those in the U.S. who needed it. That turned out to be a very tough assignment. The QTH is located right in downtown Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. Lots of local QRN made digging signals out challenging, but 200 U.S. stations went in the log over the 10-day period during the few daily hours of openings back to the states. Over 5,000 contacts were logged, mostly on CW due to the high noise. On CW, the S meter never dropped below S4, and on SSB, never below S7-8. And that was in the good' directions. Noise seems to be a big problem in third world countries!
While there, I did a few days of sightseeing around the city and nearby. Motorbikes by the millions, everywhere! Pedicabs are used for local nearby destinations. While not known as a tourist destination' for many U.S. folks, a fair number of Japanese and Europeans come and enjoy the year-round tropical weather.
In October, it rained every afternoon or evening for a while, making it necessary at times to QRT due to lightning. Saigon is a hustling, bustling port city with many factories to churn out textiles, electronics, and other products for the west. All sorts of good food, just about any variety you want is readily available and inexpensive.
There are many "starter" Ham radio clubs in Vietnam. For most locals, equipment is very expensive based upon an office worker's typical $100/month salary. The 2-meter band is assigned to taxi cabs, end to end (not Hams). (Don't bring your HT - there wont be anyone to talk to, and you obviously won't get a license to use it!)
The pileups never ended, but my two weeks were soon up, and I headed back home to start answering the piles of QSL cards headed my way! Yes, it was definitely different and exotic. One quickly learns to appreciate the difficult job of working DX (the USA) from far away locations. Maybe the secret is to not go so far away, but still to 'rare' locations. That should make it a lot easier to work the U.S. stations!
Reprinted from WORLDRADIO
The most difficult marathon
Brad Sacca, KC5SKE & Alex F. Burr, K5XY
On the 1st of April, the Mesilla Valley Radio Club, Las Cruces, NM, helped provide communications for the Bataan Memorial Death March marathon. This marathon may well be the most difficult in the world. With over 3,200 participants from 45 states and five countries, it certainly is the largest event with which the MVRC is connected.
Held as a memorial for the event which took place at the beginning of WWII, the marathon covers 26.2 miles of high desert starting at 4,000 feet and climbing over 1,000 feet to circle a mountain, crossing arroyos and deep sand, before returning to the starting point at the headquarters of the White Sands Missile Test Range.
The preliminary information sent out by the organizers warned that, besides the possibility of unexploded ordinance alongside the trail, the local wild life came complete with fangs, claws, and in some cases poison. One paragraph said "If you have a medical condition, please legibly write down the information, place it in a zip lock bag and pin the bag to your marching outfit. That way if you are one of the dozen of so people each year who pass out on the route, we have then a better idea of how to care for you." They said last year about 150 participants got so dehydrated they required IV's and about 400 participants had severe blisters requiring medical treatment.
One of the important duties of the radio club members was to help ensure that the medical aid and those needing it got together. To do this Hams were stationed at each of the 13 water points and medical stations spaced out along the course as well as at the command post. The furthest distance between Hams was about eight miles. All communications were carried out on 146.550 MHz simplex with a power of between 1-10 watts. This 2M operation proved to be extremely reliable.
Brad Sacca, KC5SKE, who organized the amateurs, was the first to arrive at the command post at 5:15 a.m., with the other communicators arriving at their posts soon thereafter. The first messages soon started to come in. The first "crisis" involved sending range personnel to unlock a back gate so the volunteers could get to waterpoint 7 and to locate the missing water cans and shelter. About an hour after the 6:30 a.m. start, the calls for serious medical aid started. Hams handled medical aid requests which ranged from blister troubles to chest pains, a broken ankle and heat stroke. Other messages involved participant locations, lost items, and re-supply issues.
Even the Hams' cell phones were used by the participants to phone family members reporting that they were running late and in one case to call a locksmith when a search for a lost car key on the course came up empty handed. That result was not unexpected because the key was most likely lost during the first three miles and was probably trampled on by several thousand feet.
Not only did the club provide much needed communications, but some of the Hams and their spouses got involved in other ways.
Richard Johnson, KC5EVR, and his wife Charlotte, KC5KWI, pitched in and handed out cups of water and fruit when their waterpoint was overwhelmed with participants. Jim Leverett, WA2NIJ, and Joe San Filippo, WZ5R, shuttled five gallon cans of water between waterpoints when the tanker at their point ran dry.
Brad, KC5SKE, was one of the last to leave at 7 p.m. after almost 14 hours. That made a pretty long day, but all of the Hams enjoyed the operation and many said they were eager to come back next year.
The amateurs and friends who provided communications included Bill Hickey KD5IKT; Bill Barnett, KC5QHZ; Richard Johnson, KC5EVR, Charlotte Johnson, KC5KWI; Ted Hipkins, W3FFB; John Beakley, WK5C; Jim Leverett, WA2NIJ; Marnie Leverett, KA2FVO; Joe San Filippo, WZ5R; Lou Cabot, KC5IEC; Joe Ostrowski, KI5FJ; David Glasscock, KD5MAT; Bruce Bryant, KC7ENB; Jennifer Sacca, and Brad Sacca, KC5SKE.
Reprinted from WorldRadio
GRUMMAN AMATEUR RADIO CLUB
MINUTES OF GENERAL MEETING 10/15/03
by Pete, N2PYV
The meeting was called to order by Pat at 5:36 p.m.
All present introduced themselves.
Finances continue to be in good shape.
Gordon was absent so Pat reported that the roof repair job at Plant 14 still had not been accomplished because the contractor needed at least three days of clear weather ending on a weekend to do the job. This has not happened for about six weeks. Pat and Gordon went up on the roof and looked at the possibility of installing a temporary antenna and moving the repeater to the GARC trailer. This does not look like an easy job because it will require about 400 feet of lead-in wire and a run of about 75 feet down the side of the building.
The Sunday Morning 40-Meter Net was good this week. Mike, KJ6XE, ran the net. The Wednesday Noon 20-Meter Net had about four check-ins and was reasonably good. The Thursday Night 2-Meter Net will continue to be held on 146.745 simplex at 8:30 and switch to the Hauppaugue Repeater at 8:45 p.m
There was one applicant and three VEs present. The applicant passed the Technician license requirements.
Pat reported that NGC is leasing back the top floor of Plant 35 on Stuart Avenue. It appears that Briarcliff College will be moving out of the building.
Pat announced that GARC elections will be held at the next meeting. Marty, NN2C has been selected as Election Chairman and will prepare a slate of officers and trustees to be voted on at the next meeting. If you would like to volunteer to be an officer or trustee or would like to nominate some one else in the club, please contact Marty.
Pat announced that the Ham Radio University 2004 will be held at the Eastwood Academy in Oyster Bay as it was this year. The date is January 18, 2004.
Pat reported that he had received an email from WX2OX stating that Sky Warn weather spotting courses will be given at the Freeport Fire Department on October 15.
Frank Fallon, N2FF, ARRL Hudson Division Director, was the speaker. He reviewed some of the
ARRL programs that are ongoing. He stressed the importance of the BPL Defense Fund. He also asked members to vote for him in the elections for Hudson Division Director.