ESPcat Marine Radio

In 1953 the Korean War ended with an armistice agreement.  The last of the war veterans returned home and I was just a youngster in primary school.  Three of the vets who had been radio operators during the war,  decided to get their Amateur Radio licenses.  Remember that back in those days, radio was on the cutting edge of technology and you could buy all this amazing military surplus gear for next to nothing.  My mum saw the advertisement they put in the local newspaper saying that they were starting a group with the aim of getting their licenses. These wonderful guys took me under their wing and I managed to get my Amateur Radio License at the tender age of 12 years old, one of the youngest licensees in the country.  I could never repay those men for their kindness to me.

This is what my very first radio transmitter looked like.  It only transmitted in code.  It was only later that I graduated to an AM voice transmitter.military surpluss radio

Yes I was a fully fledged geek.  Radio was my entree into the world of electronics and a life long career as an electronics engineer.  So when one of the boys from The Boy’s Lunch asked me last Friday if I had a radio, I had to admit that I had one but it was in my workshop, not on the ESPcat.

To make matters worse, one of the other Boys, Vaughn, chastised me even further by pointing out that the Coast Guard folks get really pissed off when someone gets into trouble but can’t even ask for help because they have no radio.  I decided to act.  Gallagher had already given me a VHF marine radio for my birthday. Uniden Radio

I went out and purchased some test equipment from China to go with it.


The meter on the left is a power meter with an SWR function that allows you to see how well your antenna is matched to the transmitter.  The cylindrical thing on the right above is a dummy load that acts like a perfectly matched, 50 ohm antenna for test purposes.  Now all I need is an antenna to test so I made one.

Here it is running up the wall.  Yes it looks like a piece of wire but I can assure you blog buddies that it is much more than that.  What you are looking at is a 3/4 wavelength, collinear vertical antenna with a gain of 3 db.  This antenna also has a balun to match the balanced load of the antenna to the unbalanced coax feed line to the radio (something most VHF antennas don’t have).  DSC_0167

One nice thing about having the antenna inside is that you don’t have to worry about it blowing away in a storm when you need it most.

Ok it doesn’t look like much but this antenna works very well.  All the boaties can be heard making their trip reports from all over the Hauraki Gulf.  I called Coastguard for a radio check and they responded with a “loud and clear” report.  I even tried it again on low power (1 watt) and still got a “loud and clear” report.  Thank you again and again to those Korean War veterans.  You are fondly remembered.

4 thoughts on “ESPcat Marine Radio

  1. Here is your sister speaking. When you were 12 years old I was 16 years old and just graduating from high school. I wasn’t quite 17. Our entire family was very proud of you for learning the entire Morse code and for becoming the youngest ham radio operator in the state of Maine. I even remember your call numbers: IBY -Oh maybe I forgot the numbers that followed. And I remember you upstairs in that big closet that was made into your reception room in the attic. I also remember you and Mr. Marquis standing under our very tall elm tree, throwing a wire with something heavy on the end of it up into the Elmtree for hours until you got it as high as you possibly could so that you would have an antenna.


  2. Hi Deb. Yes my call sign was K1IBY. I remember the tree and the radio room in the large closet. I even did some Amateur radio here in New Zealand. My call sign is ZL1CLG. I ran some courses in Amateur Radio at the Uxbridge Community Centre to help others get licensed. The one who helped me the most when I was young was Walter Kenney who lived further out on the Litchfield Road.


  3. I just found you email in the “spam” box! Nice website and blog! We hope to get down to NZ in the next couple of years and look forward to seeing your boat.
    My steam locomotive is coming along, but slowly. I began the valve timing process this week. As soon as I have the valves timed properly, then I can set the boiler in place and begin to plumb it up. Maybe light a fire in it by February and rail test it by April.


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