Beginner’s Corner April 2018

Ragchewing and a Breath of Fresh Air


   Ragchewing is the art of amateur radio conversation. It is more than just a quick contact (QSO) on the air and wishing someone “73” (best regards).  It is the art of having a lengthy conversation with either a friend or a stranger who happens to be on the air the same time as you are.

   Ragchewing can take place on any amateur band, and can be done by a voice contact, or it can be done digitally.  Some of my most memorable moments spend on the air have been ragchewing conversations. I recall talking on the 20-meter band with a station in Texas one summer evening.  We chatted for twenty to thirty minutes until the band closed.  I do not recall what we discussed, but I still have warm feelings when I remember talking to him.

   Several other times I have been on one of the Atlanta area repeaters and have had nice long conversations with local area hams.  Sometimes we talked about radio, and sometimes we talked about other subjects, but each time creates a special memory for me.  Amateur radio is the original social network and is the best place to make new friends with whom you share a common interest.

   This column is about ragchewing and a breath of fresh air.  What do these things have in common?  Well, the weather is getting warmer and the pollen levels will decrease.  That makes it a perfect time to go to a park or somewhere similar, bring your handy talkie (HT) or other radio and get on the air.  This can be done day or night, depending on your schedule.

   I can go to the park by myself if I have to.  I have a portable external antenna that I can throw up into a tree and work the local repeaters or get on a simplex channel.  It is even better, however, to go to a park with a friend or spouse.  My wife (XYL) is a licensed amateur radio operator, too.  She is artistically, not technically minded, yet she loves to talk on the radio, especially with me.  We both take radios to local parks, find a vacant spot on the dial and ragchew. We have sat on opposite sides of several parks and talked to each other for up to 45 minutes.  It is a lot of fun.  It gives my wife a chance to get on the air and learn proper operating procedures like identifying call signs every ten minutes and at the end of a QSO. We have been at several parks and gotten on several repeaters as well as simplex frequencies.  We have tried to visit different parks in Gwinnett County.  We have even thought of having a “Worked all Gwinnett County Parks Award.”  One time we were on 442.100 and someone who was monitoring the repeater joined us.  This was great!  We enjoyed adding him to our conversation.  It became a roundtable discussion.

   In 2016, the American Radio Relay League (ARRL) sponsored a “National Parks on the Air” (NPOTA) event that celebrated the 100th year of our National Park System.  It was an overwhelming success.  Yes, it was done on the HF bands, but if there was a control operator around, Technician Class operators and even non-hams could participate.  I was fortunate to be able to attend two events with GARS and had a great time.

   NPOTA sparked a great interest in activating parks. Now there is a “Parks on the Air” (POTA) program,   As far as I know contacts do not have to be on HF.  VHF, UHF, or higher frequencies should be perfectly acceptable.  Check out the web site.

   Back to the fresh air.  Sometimes we amateur radio operators limit our activities to our “shack” (radio room or operating area) or to our vehicles.  Why not take your radio outdoors and make contacts while getting some fresh air? 

73 de KJ4CMY