NCJ profile: VA7ST

The National Contest Journal ran a story about my radio activity in Nov.-Dec. 2010.

Read the NCJ profile

Here’s my general ham radio biography

I was born in Taupo, New Zealand, in 1965, but have lived in Canada since ’76.

My wife Kim and I have two sons — Andrew, 14 15 16 18 21 23 27 and Daniel, 12 13 14 16 19 21 25 (at last check).

I am the only ham in the family. Having another radio buff around the house might help get me a better antenna budget, so I am slowly trying to convince at least one of the kids to study for his ticket.

No luck so far.

A Radio Awakening

I first discovered amateur radio as a 10-year-old reading Thor Heyerdahl’s book Kon-Tiki, and re-discovered it in high school. In the 10th grade, my friend Scott Sheppard and I were fortunate to have two teachers (Ron Taylor, VE7DKV, and Gordon Davis, VE7QL) who helped create what would become for both of us a lasting passion for ham radio.

I passed the basic exam (and 10 wpm Morse code) at the age of 16. The day I got my licence — April 8, 1982 — I had dad rush me home from the Dept. of Communications office with my new VE7EIE ticket in hand.

My First QSO
First on-air activity was a CQ call on 20 meters CW (CW is ham lingo for Morse code, and it stands for “continuous wave”). I was quite scared someone would answer so I stopped after just three calls, nervously hunched over an old brass key and the FT-DX100 rig my folks acquired for me from Harvey Bell, VE7YH, in Vernon, B.C. To my utter relief, no one returned my call.

Because it had been drummed into me that keeping a station record is very important, I dutifully wrote “Called CQ” as my first-ever log entry, noting the time and frequency.

Two days later, someone did answer my CQ call and I worked my first QSO with Charlie, K5JEZ. We had a nice chat.

One day I saw on QRZ.com that Charlie’s callsign had become unassigned. After posting a note about that here, in November 2005 I received a very nice note from Will Teague, W5CX in Weatherford, Texas. Will wrote:

“Came across your website and read the info on K5JEZ. You were asking if anyone knew what ever happened to him. Well I am originally from San Angelo, TX and knew Charles back then. We were both members of the San Angelo ARC. I was K5GKD during that time.”

Thanks to Will for reading the note about Charlie and being kind enough to let me know about him.

Sadly, Charlie passed away in San Angelo in 1990 while at the radio working CW.

Early Radio Years
My friend Scott was first licensed as VE7EKT. We had great fun on the air making CW QSOs across town on every ham band our radios would tune. After being licensed for six months and getting our 10M phone privileges, we chatted on 10M instead. Antennas and the fancy new radios (at the time, the FT-ONE and TS930S rigs were all the rage) were hot topics.

After high school, Scott moved away to be a police officer. I stayed closer to home, leaving for a while but eventually returning with my wife Kim to raise our family in Winfield.

Scott is a long-standing member of the RCMP, and was first stationed in Manitoba, then B.C., and then Ontario for several years. In the summer of 2006 he moved West once again, to Prince George, B.C.

Wish I could remember all his various callsigns across the country… there was a VE4, then VE7ARS, VA3ZW, and VE7AX (a call now held by fellow contester Don Mullis, who is a frequent operator at VE7UF’s contest station near Courtenay, B.C.).

In 2008, Scott moved to RCMP HQ in Ottawa, Ontario. His call was VA3IED. Now, Scott is commanding officer of the RCMP in Yukon Territory — based in Whitehorse, with the appropriate callsign VY1CO. We’re working on getting him hoked on contesting from the super-rare “YT” multiplier.

Back in the Fold
I was off the air during my suitably unstructured college years, but ham radio was never far from my mind. I eventually decided a career in journalism was a good path for me, and I found a good job learning the newspaper business from the ground up.

Along the way, I stumbled across news that the Dept. of Communications had eased the licensing requirements for Basic, and as a result they were grandfathering previous Basic class amateurs into the Advanced class. Full HF privileges.

That was enough to get me interested again and I picked up the callsign VE7ASK in 1987. I figured “ASK” was a great call for someone employed as an inquisitive newspaper reporter. Ironically, Tom W7WHY has become a good contesting pal over the years.

The Lure of PSK: Catching the Bug Again
I was on the air from time to time. At one point, I arrived home from our honeymoon with not only a lovely new wife but also a used (and sorta lovely) TS-430S, seeing as one of our stops was in a city with a honest-to-goodness ham store.

I puttered around on the air once in a while but I didn’t really get back on the air regularly for another 12 years — following a long-distance phone chat with Scott in 2002. He told me how much fun this new PSK mode was.

That same night, I jury-rigged a few wires to hook up my now-aging TS-430S and the computer, and worked a few PSK contacts on 20M. What a blast. With just 10 watts I was working the entire West Coast on a ground-mounted vertical!

Contests and Antennas
Within days, I was fully geared up with the best one-wire multiband antenna I could build and raise quickly: a half-sized G5RV for 40M-10M. Tried my first-ever RTTY (radio teletype) contest — ANARTS, the Australian RTTY society’s annual contest — in June 2002 (2nd place for VE7) and never looked back.

I am a CW and RTTY operator who doesn’t get much excitement from talking into a microphone. These days, I’m OK rattling along with morse code at 40 words per minute or even faster bursts in contests, as long as I don’t have to manually send it.

Bought an FT920 in March 2003 as my first-ever new rig. Raised a 102′ G5RV between a couple of young maple trees to supplement the 25-year-old HyGain 18AVT/WB vertical, and away I went.

I am a chronic antenna builder. Can’t leave the darn things alone. Love to string wires — and have built most of the designs I’ve run across, including an extended Lazy-H for 40m, double-sized G5RVs, bazookas, a pair of 80m delta loops, giant Vee beams, and wire yagis such as a bamboo-spreader 5-band hex beam and a homebrew DF4SA Spider Beam.

What I Do for a Living
Current status: retired and enjoying life. At times I didn’t think I would make it 🙂

From 1990 to 1999, I was a reporter and later the editor of Lake Country’s community newspaper of record. After a decade, I left newspaper journalism to try my hand in corporate communications.

From mid-1999 to mid-2005, I was communications coordinator and later director of marketing for a public company in the “dot com” world. I had a great time in an exciting industry, with a fast-growing new-economy company that made a difference in peoples’ lives and still does.

I joined the University of British Columbia’s brand-new Okanagan campus on its opening day, July 4, 2005, as communications coordinator and later manager of public affairs. I became director of university relations in 2011.

I decided to retire in January 2021, and have more time for the things I most enjoy. Oh, and apparently more yard work.

A little photo history

The banner graphic from my original website was made from a photo of the portable setup at mom and dad’s ranch near Summerland, BC, for CQWW CW, Nov. 2003. I used a similar setup at that site for CQWW WPX RTTY in February 2004.

Equipment was a Pentium III laptop running N1MM Logger, an aging Versakeyer (see May 1979 QST) homebuilt by Norm VE7EGO (SK) in Vernon, BC, and purchased when I was 16, and a Yaesu FT-920 tranceiver.

The nicely homebrewed brass and steel paddles were purchased for $25 from an oldtimer at the Summerland annual ham swap and shop in April 2002.

At that contest location, I was able to raise a pair of 80M delta loops to 80′, with phased feeders to reverse direction. Only used them pointing S-SE into the U.S. and Caribbean, though. Never did find out how they would play into Japan on the reverse heading.

Also ran two double-size (204′) G5RVs up about 60′ in an X configuration for four-direction coverage, and a two-element wire tribander hanging from a tree (from VE7CA’s design in Nov. 2001 QST).

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