Welcome to the LARC HF page.
What is the fascination about HF Operation?
If you are new to HF here's a little bit of information about it.
Licensed amateur radio (ham) operators can operate on the HF (High Frequency) bands at 3.5, 7, 10, 14, 18, 21, 24 and 28 mhz (megahertz). Each band has its own bandwidth that can be used and there is almost always somewhere where you can operate. You can operate using CW or SSB.
The notion that one needs expensive radio equipment and huge antennas on large properties is not really true.
You can operate a modest station with modest antennas from your home and have lots of fun with amateur radio, making contacts all over the world with like-minded hams. You can make lasting friendships with some of those you talk to and in most cases if you travel and see a ham antenna and look for the owner, you will probably get a warm welcome as a fellow amateur radio operator.
I have been active on the ham bands for four months short of thirty six years, (as of January 2014) and in that time I have made thousands of contacts all over the world. I have spoken to at least one ham in every single country except for North Korea, Eritrea, Kampuchea, Vietnam and Bangladesh. Every one of those contacts has been a thrill! I still find it amazing that I can sit at a small desk in my basement and press the switch on my microphone and talk to someone in Russia, Australia, Japan, China, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, England, Denmark, the US, Canada and almost any other country in the world. Currently there are no active operators in North Korea, Eritrea, and Bangladesh, and because of the location of Kampuchea and Vietnam, making a contact, while not impossible, is very difficult from here to those countries because of the path the signals have to traverse to be heard in those countries. There is an area surrounding the North Pole through which signals to that area have to pass and making such contacts is dependent on the auroral conditions.
Sure, I can talk to people in any country via Skype, cell phone or by computer and other computer-aided modes, but the thrill of HF operation to me is that I can do this from my basement without connection to any phone lines, satellites, or computers. The signal I send out may skip off the ionosphere once, twice or three times and end up at some far away location and if someone happens to be listening and hears me on the frequency I'm transmitting on, I am able to have a contact with that person.
So what is a 'contact'? Well it can range from the simple exchange of identifying call signs, a signal report (relative strength and readability), and what equipment and antenna each party is using. It can also continue on into an exchange of weather reports, and end right there. Or it can continue on where occupations are discussed, information about the region you each live in, hobbies other than radio, and in fact the conversation can sometimes go off in directions you never thought about when you first made the contact. Of course hams tend not to discuss religion or politics, or to swear, all of which can lead to some explosive arguments that are better had face to face, not over the air, where anyone may be listening. Swearing can cost you the privilege of being able to operate, since the ham radio regulatory body (In our case in Canada, Industry Canada) can suspend your operating privileges and even seize your equipment. Carrying on long conversations is known as "rag-chewing."
There are lots more facets of operating on the HF bands. There are contests which some hams hate. I am not a ham who enters contests to win. I am a ham who has realized that for me, operating in contests sharpens my operating skills and allows me to get the attention of the true contest operator, make contact with him/her, receive and give the required information to make the contact valid for the contester, and complete the contact. That is, get in, get and give the required information and get out with the minimum of time spent and yet all the valid information has been sent and received. Useful training for ARES net operation.
On contest weekends anything but the WARC bands (12.17, and 24) are full of contesters. So instead of bemoaning the fact that you cannot make a QSO, join in the fun and improve your operating skills. If you do join in, make sure you know what the exchange is supposed to be so you do not come across as a LID! If you are new to HF, a LID is an operator who displays poor operating skills.
Then there is DXCC, or working 100 or more of the 344 entities ARRL recognizes as 'countries'. Some of these may be only unpopulated sand bars but they have to keep changing things to keep the interest up! When I started there were 318 entities. I need only 14 more entities to have them all worked. Of course, political changes can give rise to new countries such as when the USSR was dismantled.
Collecting QSL cards can be quite a lot of fun. It is said that the ultimate courtesy of completing a QSO is the sending of your QSL card. Nowadays for most QSL-ing you might opt to use the buro as more and more postage rates worldwide are getting to be very expensive and it is not unusual for a QSL card to cost as much as $5:00 by the time you factor in paying for your card, the two envelopes and the postage both ways. I just e-mailed an Italian ham asking what the postage rate for a card from Italy would be. The answer was 1.8 Euros. That translated into US$ 2:47. That meant I had to enclose US$ 3:00. The cost of postage to Italy from Michigan (I do all my QSL-ing from a US postal address because it is significantly cheaper and they do not charge 13% HST on stamps!!!!) was US$ 1:10 so by the time one factors in the cost of the two envelopes and the card, it is creeping up on $5:00 per card from anywhere outside North America. People will question the economics of going to the US to save on postage. I am in the US anyway at least twice per month so I may as well save my QSL mailing till I'm there and save a few cents on each card! It adds up over a year.
David VE3KGK (and for several years 6Y5KG)
New HF Band Plan Chart: RAC has announced revised band plans effective immediately. There's a new DX window on 40M, and a bigger one on 80M. Some HF nets may be changing because the frequency they use is now inappropriate in the new plan, so keep your "ears" open for changes. The full details can be found on the RAC website's HF Band Plan page and Present HF Band Chart .