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Dora Bay | Ham Radio | People

By , on Saturday, August 18th, 2012

TIME: Daily, 0630 Alaska time; 0730 Pacific Time, summer months
FREQUENCY: 3870 KHz Lower Sideband
REQUIREMENTS: Operator must have an amateur radio license

Darlene and Floyd Minor

“Good Morning, this is Darlene, KL0YC, along with Floyd, WL7CUO, northern net control for the Great Northern Boaters Net.”

Each morning at 0630 hours, as regular as clockwork, Darlene and Floyd Minor host an informal ham radio net to pass messages and information and keep boaters who are ham radio operators in touch with each other. Usually, Darlene starts by calling for cruisers who are underway or preparing to get underway, followed by a general call for anyone who wants to check in to the net.

Having sailed around Southeast Alaska themselves, the Darlene and Floyd’s familiarity with the local cruising environment gives them a unique ability to be conversant with boaters about the weather, sea conditions, intentions and reports of any problems.

More than just a roll call, the net has a “feel” similar to a conversation with friends over morning coffee. Many of the boaters return to Alaska waters year after year, and the radio net is a vehicle for forging new friendships as well as staying in touch with old-timers. Darlene’s radio conversation is interspersed with comments like, “Love you guys,” “Hugs,” and “73 and 88” (from Morse Code prosigns for “best wishes” and “hugs.”)

Both refer to their home on an island in Dora Bay as “The Shack,” another carryover from ham radio operators, who commonly refer to their radio room as the “ham shack.” Darlene and Floyd regularly invite folks who check in on the net to stop and visit “the shack” in Dora Bay when in the area.

At the end of a half hour–at 0700 hours Alaska time, Floyd and Darlene close the northern portion of the net, allowing the southern portion of the net to begin on the same frequency. The southern portion covers the British Columbia and Washington portions of the inside passage, as well as a roll call for offshore (ocean) cruisers. The southern portion is a bit more formal, covering more populated areas with more folks checking in.

Although hams can use up to 1500 watts of power, Floyd and Darlene find about 100 watts to be adequate during normal operation. Floyd recently erected a custom-built full-wave 80-meter wire loop antenna in the tall trees around the house, and there are no close neighbors to cause radio interference–a winning combination when trying to communicate over long distances.

Often, boaters do not check in to the radio net when they are in various ports, partly due to busier schedules in town, but also because busy harbors often have electrical interference from battery chargers, fluorescent lights and other sources of static that adversely affect radio signals.

Boaters (and other hams) can check in from anywhere, but Darlene reports that the dividing line between the northern and southern portions of the net seems to be around the Cape Caution area (just north of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.) South of Cape Caution, communications with Dora Bay are less reliable.

When asked, Darlene said that recent years have seen a slight decline in the number of boaters checking in regularly, probably the result of the increasing popularity of sat-phones and radio email to stay in touch with friends and family. Still, the ham radio net survives because of the diligent efforts of people like Floyd and Darlene who enjoy meeting new people, staying in touch, and having a conversation with friends over morning coffee.

(Click here to learn more about the Great Northern Boaters Net.)


5 comments to Ham Radio Net
Great Northern Boaters Net keeps cruisers in touch

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