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Youth@HamRadio.Fun: Canadian QSO Party


On December 27, 2008, thousands of amateurs stood by for the start of another Radio Amateurs of Canada (RAC) Winter Contest. Held every year toward the end of December, the contest encourages clubs all across Canada to get on the air and contact fellow hams all over the world; however, one club in Newfoundland takes advantage of this event for recruiting purposes.

A good friend of mine, Matthew Gillie, VO1GXG (18 years old), took part. Matthew, who is 18, is a member of the Society of Newfoundland Radio Amateurs (SONRA). The club used call sign VO1RAC as a Headquarters Station. The significance of SONRA's operation this year was the youth turnout! They had three young hams on site the entire event, racking up the points and handing out a Headquarters multiplier to all stations. Garreth McGrath, VO1PWN, and David Bartlett VO1EBH, helped out; Garreth is17 and David is 24. These guys worked shifts during the slow morning hours. I was fortunate enough to talk to Matthew about the contest and he gave me a rundown of the day's events.

"Saturday morning I woke up around 7:00 knowing I had a 45 minute drive to the station in 6 degree (Fahrenheit) weather," Matthew told me. While mobile, he said he heard some VE3s on 75 meters, giving him some hope for the band conditions, even at the bottom of a sunspot cycle. The station, located in the city of Mount Pearl, holds some historical significance: It is a World War I Marconi radio site that operated under the call sign BZM. Today it is used for contesting purposes, and amateurs operating there use the call VO1BZM when activating the station.

Matthew said that in Newfoundland and Labrador, "there are not many youth involved in the Amateur Radio -- there are plenty who are licensed but they are not active." For that reason, he said he was especially happy with the youth turnout for the Winter Contest. Throughout the morning, activities included the three young men operating, and of course, "taking our turns eating the food that was provided, including a delicious batch of baked beans made by Cal Tucker, VO1NY."

Overall, Matthew said they were able to maintain a "small but effective" pile-up of Canadians, Americans and Europeans during the contest and ended up scoring around 11,000 points. With good efforts and score in mind, Matthew put it best: "Here in Newfoundland and Labrador, it does not matter if we win or lose; just playing radio is good enough."

Special thanks to Matthew Gillie, VO1GXG, for the story and pictures. Matthew has been licensed since April 2007 and is the most active young ham in Newfoundland.

Ashby Contacts Santa

In late 2008, I wrote an article about Mickey Hicks WO6T. Mickey is famous for operating as Santa, W6S, a week before Christmas. If you ever get the chance to talk to him on the air, you will find his personality to be very cheery and friendly, truly fit for playing Santa!

I contacted Mickey a week or two after the event to ask how it had gone. Besides poor band conditions most of the time, he reported being busier than ever with plenty of children to talk to. His favorite contact this year was with Ashby Bird, KJ4EGJ, age 12, of Andersonville, Tennessee.

I was able to contact Ashby's mother Robin, AJ4IJ, after Mickey sent me a link to a blog post about the QSO. Robin was very impressed with how outgoing Mickey was, and told me that contact lasted a good 10 minutes, with the conversation drifting from sea food to Santa's new diet.

I'd like to say a personal thank you Mickey who for years has operated W6S and spread the Christmas cheer on the bands.

Upcoming Events

Desecheo Island DXpedition. Desecheo is an island located 14 miles of the coast of Puerto Rico. Despite it being so close to civilization, it is an extremely rare entity. Desecheo is a part of the US Fish and Wildlife Service's Caribbean National Wildlife Refuge Complex (CNWR) and is very hard to gain access to. The team led by Bob Allphin, K4UEE, and Glen Johnson, W0GJ, will be active using the call K5D from February 12-26. This is a rare chance to log an entity that is the Number 7 on DX Magazine's Most Wanted list.

The ARRL School Club Round-Up: This semi-annual event kicks off on Friday, February 13. This is a great opportunity to get on the air and contact kids your age, or get a station at your school and get your classmates on the air! Suggested frequencies for 40 and 20 meters are 7.225-7.255 MHz and 14.250-14.280 MHz. The event begins Monday, February 9 at 1300 UTC and runs until Friday, February 9 at 2400 UTC.

The ARRL International DX Contest (CW): On the third full weekend of February, get geared up for the ARRL International DX Contest. This CW contest is a great event for those getting interested in Morse code, or those who already operate to hear the bands come alive with DX. Whether you know code or not; I encourage you to get on the air and listen to all the activity. This is the contest that got me to work on my CW speed -- maybe it will be enough for you too! The contest runs from 0000 UTC Saturday, February 21 (Friday night here in the US) until 2400 UTC Sunday, February 22. The exchange will be different depending on where you are geographically, so make sure to check the ARRL's Contest Web site for details!

Remember: If you operate any of those events, or even something else, please feel free to send me an e-mail with a write-up and some pictures!

I hope that your New Year is off to a great start!

73, Duncan MacLachlan, KU0DM

Duncan MacLachlan, KU0DM
ARRL Youth Editor



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