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Topics - gil


I am leaving for Spain on July 7th in an attempt to bring my sailboat Ragnar back to France. Hopefully the boat will be put back in the water on the 9th and I should set sail on the 10th. The problem is getting to Spain with ever changing restrictions on travel due to Covid-19. If all goes well and I can get there and leave port, the trip should last about ten days. The boat is a Havsfidra 20 built in Sweden, a good ocean-going full-keel double-ender sailboat.

As far as radios I think I will bring my Minion SDR and MTR3b; subject to change... The antenna will be the Chameleon MPAS with the whip. I am also carrying an inReach satellite beacon. You will be able to follow me at:

I am not sure if I will be able to be on the air during the day but I plan on following the coast and stop at night, so most likely will be on the air in the evening, starting at around 19:00Z. Frequencies will probably be 14300, and I might browse around 20m, 14285 and around. I should be also on 10123 CW. I'll have probably only one antenna so it will be 20 or 30m. I might bring a random wire with a 9:1 UNUN hung from the mast spreader, but not sure about that.

For those who might be living in the south of France, I will also listen to HAM VHF on coastal repeaters, as well as 145.5MHz. So far I have programmed only Toulon, but I will add more to my VX6. For those who might also be maritime mobile in the area, I will of course monitor marine VHF channel 16 as required by law. My MMSI is 227245060. I have an AIS receiver but no transponder, so the Garmin map will be the only way to follow my progress, or lack thereof.

I was planning on using JS8Call but could not get the hardware on time and my laptop crapped out, so no computer aboard.

What I would like is that you guys report any contact with me here. I won't be able to update this thread starting on the 7th.

I will be using a very short antenna but the Mediterranean ground plane should help ;-) My starting point is smack between Barcelona and Valencia, destination is Antibes.

This is a very exciting but also stressful endeavour for me after losing my previous boat Dagny in the Bahamas at the end of 2015. I am also not in optimal physical shape after this long confinent and I know it will be a very physically demanding trip on an unknown boat. Wish me luck... I will update this thread until the 6th, then it will be radio only. Also watch Twitter as I should be within phone network at times and might be able to update Facebook as well. You are welcome to repost here for those who do not use these applications.

General Discussion / Radio Prepper Maritime Mobile!
March 11, 2020, 11:20:26 am
Yep, it's done! I am utterly broke and a boat owner now :-)
Here is the video:

So I am already planning for radios of course, HF and VHF. VHF Marine with a Standard Horizon GX2200E and a handheld, which was included in the sale. There is a VHF in the boat but it does not have an AIS receiver, which I find indispensible for collision avoidance and to allow longer bouts of sleep while offshore.
I will also carry my Yaesu VX6 for HAM VHF/UHF. Maybe a tiny APRS 2m tracker as well, after what happened to my last boat...
For HF, I just ordered a QRPVer Minion SDR! That will be mainly for SSB.
I hope to get it before I go get the boat in Spain on April 27th. Hopefully there won't be any travel restrictions due to the Corona virus.
I will have a PRC-320 on board of course, but not to bring the boat back, because of airline issues with batteries and military gear, you never know...
My main HF radio will be a QRP CW rig on 30m, which one remains to be determined.
Also on the way is a Raspberry Pi and 7" 12V display for digital. I am adding a GPS/Glonass dongle and VHF/UHF SDR dongle for backup AIS reception. For naviation I will install OpenCPN with an AIS plugin. JS8Call and FLDigi for digital, as well as weatherfax decoding. I don't know if there is a Winlink software for Raspberry. For all that stuff I will need solar power, but I don't have much deck real-estate, that will be a challenge. I'll see about that after getting back. For now the inboard Volvo Penta 10hp single-cylinder diesel will serve as generator for the two batteries.

I should leave Spain on May 1st for a ten-day trip back to Antibes. Frequencies will be posted here, along with a link to my inReach satellite tracking map. Contacts should be reported here.

After what happened last time I am a bit stressed out, having to bring an unknown boat back over such a long distance (around 400nm). I will follow the coast of course, but still... I am sure radio contacts will be great morale boosters. Most likely, I will stop at night if time permits. Hopefully I won't have to hunker down in some port for days because of bad weather. There is an autopilot on board, but of the electric/tiller type, and although it is a RayMarine, I don't trust these gizmos. Nothing better that a mechanical wind-vane.

Stay tuned...

Morse Code / Waiting for a Norcal 40!
January 09, 2020, 05:19:35 am

Great news (for me), I found a Norcal 40A kit on Ebay! It isn't sold as a kit but as a PCB with a bag of components. I call that a kit, but oh well. The Norcal 40, precursor of the Elecraft K1, was designed by our member Wayne, co-founder of Elecraft; or was it K8IQY? I can't remember. The PCB files were released in the wild and some people made runs of the board. A club in England put a kit together for its members and apparently had some left over... I don't know if they have more but a quick search on Ebay for "Norcal 40" will answer that question.

The Norcal 40 is a single band CW transceiver with the amazing receive current of 15mA! Power output is around 2.5W, drawing around 200mA. It will run seemingly forever on most battery packs. It is in the same category as the Small Wonder Labs SW+ from Dave Benson.

There will be a video of course, if it works, and I don't see why not...
Anyone here has used one before?

General Discussion / Site update.
November 01, 2019, 06:22:01 pm
Hello, I have updated the site to a new branch of the SMF software. Please post in this thread if you encounter glitches, things that annoy you, or things you like better...
Due to spamming, I have re-implemented verification via radio related questions for signing-up and also verification of the first few posts for new members. I did try admin-approved-only sign-ups for two weeks, but there are too many (mostly spammers) and I do not have the time. Hopefully they won't bother answering the registration questions...


I can't help but share an interesting experience I had recently, operating my PRC-320 at a local park. I used the 2.5m whip with a counterpoise wire on the ground. Using the internal tuner I tuned for best output and got the needle on the meter at 12-O'Clock... That is a so-so match, and usually doesn't lead to a lot of contacts. A great match puts the needle at the 3-O'Clock position. Then I remembered the stream running nearby... Standing water really, home to quite a few rats and infested with mosquitoes but water nevertheless... Some connection must have been made between my remaining neurons because I threw the wire in the water... Bingo! 2:30 needle position on the dial! I got an immediate contact to Ukraine from the South on France using 25W into a short whip on 20m.

It's one thing to hear about the importance of grounding short verticals, but quite another to see the result before your eyes.

General Discussion / Radio Prepper on Thingiverse.
October 05, 2019, 05:16:09 pm
Hello. Since I started making 3D printed parts, I decided to publish my designs and some sent to me, on Thingiverse. The link is on the top of this page, on the right, bottom of the list.  :)

Hello guys, and girls I guess, if any. I hope you all had a merry Christmas. I have only been lurking in the shadows lately and removing spam, a lot of spam lately... Someone must have added the site to a bot list... I upped the security, and involuntarily the complexity to sign-up, but it was hard to avoid. The Radio Prepper channel is keeping me pretty busy, not to mention my move to the south of France. I brought very little radio gear with me but I do have plans, some of which involve vehicle radio setups, starting with CB! Living now in a tiny apartment I will also need to assess that issue, probably with a new magnetic loop.

I am now waiting for a VRM-5080 VHF tank radio and a President Grant II CB for my newly acquired Toyota Land Cruiser 1989 LJ-70. The antenna I picked is the Sirio 5000. Stay tuned for upcoming videos...

BTW I was watching a B series movie on Netflix the other night with Sandra Bulloch... No, I don't mean she was with me, only in the movie ;-) It was a story about evil entities you could not look at or you'd go crazy and kill yourself... Two hours of my life I won't get back, but it got me thinking about the necessity to educate people.

In the movie, after the SHTF, a group of survivors scavenges a bunch of FRSS/GMRS radios from a store. They call every day hoping to hear someone, and eventually they do... Someone who is presumably at least  48hrs away by river boat... Which in reality is very  unlikely to happen given the distance. I have seen the same thing happen in other series like "The Walking Dead." Walkie-Talkies as soon as they appear on the screen become quasi-sat-phones or super-duper NVIS HF handhelds... We know it's BS, but most people probably believe those lies, the same way they believe Hollywood guns hype. They think you just find a radio, any kind, and the world is at your fingertips. I would not be surprised if many preppers held similar beliefs. Many will only learn enough to use an SWR meter and make sure they don't fry their radio. No thought is given to antenna design and polarization, propagation modes, modulation modes or bands to use at different times or seasons. Sure, they might get lucky, but not always... You break down somewhere and try to call on a CB frequency during the solar-cycle low, as now, you probably won't cover but a 20 mile radius, if you're lucky. You can forget about your FRS or PMR little handheld...

It is our responsibility to educate, and not just other HAM operators... CBers, preppers, outdoor enthusiasts, can all benefit. We can do this without coming across as elitist pricks, which to my dismay is a reputation a few bad apples have brought upon the HAM community in some places.

On a more personal note, I am just coming out of a bad cold, and three weeks of moving, paperwork, new job, settling down hell I hope not to have to repeat too soon, and it's not quite over yet. That said, the region is beautiful, and much warmer than the north of France!

Antennas / Ground Tuning Unit.
November 19, 2018, 06:51:03 am

Here is an interesting document on a portable station using a ground tuning unit...
If someone could turn it into a PDF and email it to me: (switch for I can only open it on my phone but not my Mac...
Have anyone here used a ground tuner? Comments?
Thanks to Alex, VK2PRC for sending me this file.

Thank you!


Cryptocurrency and blockchain meet amateur radio. Not quite sure what to think of this one. I am always worried about the increasing level of complexity in disaster radio. It is nevertheless interesting to see new experiments involving radio.

Antennas / Successful Wire Antennas.
August 03, 2018, 03:10:37 am

Here is a great PDF file I found on wire antennas. They forgot the W3EDP, but otherwise, it is quite informative. The file is attached to this message.

DMR Radio / New Board: DMR Radio on Radio Preppers.
July 31, 2018, 09:48:00 am

We have a new board! I need to say that for prepping purposes DMR might and probably should not be very high on your priority list. We assume that during SHTF there would be no grid power, let alone any Internet service. That said, it does allow encryption, which is however illegal in normal times...

DMR has taken the amateur bands by storm, and for good reasons. It is an open source mode. Everyone can implement it into their radios. Although it was designed for commercial radio use, it does work well for amateurs, well enough anyway. There is a learning curve, but honestly, once you learn the vocabulary, it is pretty simple. What's the advantage? It is worldwide... You can talk to anyone anywhere there is a repeater connected to the Internet. Is it real radio? Well, only between the repeater and your handheld, otherwise, no. It's still better than network radio, which isn't radio at all and should be called something else.

In any case, it is hard to ignore DMR today. My take on it is that if you buy an analog radio, you might as well get a DMR/analog radio, since they all do both. So I decided to start this new board. Ya'll have fun now and keep it civil  ;)

First post in this new category!

Since I am using the Retevis RT3S dual band DMR radio, I wanted to import all worldwide users into its database. I found the following site:

Click on DMR User ID List, space separated fields (ID call name)

The format is not the same as what is used by the RT3S, though it is CSV, but the columns are different. I wrote a small Python program to convert it. The resulting file, which will be attached to this post, does import correctly into the Retevis software, and I suspect will work with other Retevis.TYT radios. I have not tried to insert my new file into the radio, but I don't expect any trouble. Stay tuned for an update and video!

I will update this file every few months...

VHF and Above / Important message!
July 19, 2018, 03:04:03 pm


Sent from my SM-G928F using Tapatalk


Anyone knows? This is the ex Hendricks kits website at
All the prices and Buy buttons have been taken out.
I wanted to buy an FT-Tuthill 160m CW Transceiver.
Very concerning... I emailed them, waiting for an answer...

Can anyone suggest another 160m CW transceiver kit?

General Discussion / Ham Radio on Z-Nation.
June 25, 2018, 03:53:22 pm
Hi, ever heard of Z Nation? It's a parody of a zombie series. It's funny and you get attached to the characters; not to be taken seriously. Radio is featured very often, including Ham radio. Of course, they are very liberal with what radio can do and calling a fast food interphone from a satellite isn't an issue, but it has the merit of showing some kind of radio operations after an SHTF situation, be it a zombie apocalypse...

If you get bored one evening give it a try. The first few episodes aren't good, but it gets better...

The trailer looks much more serious than it actually is, though season one tries to be serious. I think they gave up on that later... After all it is coming from the same people who made Sharknado... It is full of references, to other movies, politics, religion, even history. I am sure I didn't catch them all! Anyway, just something fun to watch that doesn't require too much thinking and has radio ops in it...

Have you seen it?

Morse Code / The One-Watt Magic Number.
June 15, 2018, 08:38:19 am

Trying to make a contact again with my Pixie and maybe 300mW, I recalled most of my past QRP and QRPp attempts using CW. Usually, anything a Watt and above is no trouble at all with a full-size antenna. I even made a contact once from Florida to Estonia (5K miles) using 1.3W! Even my Rock-Mite on 40m seemed to work fine, though the issue was more of a receiving one, because of the lack of selectivity. Then we get down to 500mW, where contacts are still possible, just a bit harder. Below half a Watt things become very dicey, though I have tested 100mW successfully on more than one occasion with Ray 820 miles away. For calling CQ however, one Watt seems to be the practical limit. It gets better from there on up, of course, up to five Watts or so, after which adding power doesn't seem to do much more, at least when conditions are somewhat favorable.

This brings me again to the conclusion that QRP radio designers know their business. Aside from Pixies, Rock-Mites and such, which are fun novelties, great practical radios start at around two Watts. I especially like the SW+ series (ME+ now), and of course, the Weber MTR rigs for QRO operations  ;) I would love to see a surface-mount SW+! Instead of adding current-hungry features, what don't we make radios smaller? We have the technology with SMT components. There should be rigs out there the size of a small box of matches. The limiting factor should be the connectors and controls.

Anyway, just rambling... I think a practical radio should have a minimum of around 2-3W to be safe, with 5W being great. One Watt could get the job done but I would not count on it. Below one Watt you're just having fun, and that's great. BTW the 817 with a less than a full battery outputs 2.5W and people make plenty of contacts with those, even using SSB.

What do you think is the practical power threshold for a CW-mode survival radio?

Digital Modes / I tried FT8 last night!
June 14, 2018, 05:01:34 am
Sure won't do that again! :o

I knew it probably wasn't for me, but with all the hooplah, I had to give it a try, at least to know what I'm talking about if ever that conversation pops up in good company... I even made one contact. For me, it's like watching paint dry, utterly useless and uninteresting. I'm not bashing FT8 users or even FT8 here, but it just isn't for me, by a very long shot.

I used the same software however for WSPR, to see my antenna radiation pattern, very useful, got Venezuela on 40m 2W. Of course with WSPR you don't put anything in your log, but I couldn't care less about my log. I actually only input contacts maybe half the time, when I don't lose my notes, forget to write the date or call signs...

Radio for me is about human interaction if only to ask what antenna someone is using... A few words about the weather, even a simple FB, exchanged between two people, make my day.