Saturday, March 19, 2016

2015 in review, the Yaesu FT-817 redux and other things

I've been a very bad boy! I have not kept up with this blog as I should. I am going to try to do better henceforth.

OK, quite a few things have happened at the Bent Dipole Ranch over the last year. In June 2015 we lost our Aunt Betty (Pat's aunt). Betty was 83 and had suffered a broken ankle in Sept of 2014. She could no longer live with us so we bit the bullet and placed her in a very nice skilled nursing facility.

Pat and I had been Betty's care givers for 15 years. Betty was mentally challenged (she had the intellect of a 5-6 yr old) and required constant care and supervision. We took her into our home late 1999 after the nursing home she was in in Pennsylvania was deemed not fit for occupation due to extremely negligent owners/staff. She was "Our Betty", mental disability and all. Even with her special needs she was never a problem for Pat and me. We took her everywhere and even gave her her first flight in a commercial airliner when we went to visit our daughter, Gwen, when she gave birth to our grandson K.C.

The one thing that made Betty unique was her smile! You just couldn't help falling in love with her once she gave you that smile! Ask anyone who knew her what they liked most about Betty and the immediate answer was "her smile".

At her memorial service Pat gave a short eulogy saying that Betty came to the metro Atlanta area from Pennsylvania and conquered the South with her smile! Something no Union general accomplished during the Great War of Northern Aggression!!!

Pat and I both miss Betty. We would watch Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy after dinner and she would try and guess the answers. She loved to watch the "rowboats"....meaning that she liked to watch the robot wars on TV. She also liked Shooting USA and any of the shooting shows I liked to watch. Several times she accompanied Pat and I to the gun range just to watch us shoot. She loved it and we loved her. RIP and God Bless, Betty......we'll see you again sometime in the future.

As 2015 progressed I became more detached from the ham radio hobby. Earlier last year we had decided to sell our current home and move into an RV and do some traveling. This sounded good but in truth we came to realize that we would never be able to buy a new RF ($80K) and I want no part of a used RV. Too many problems.

In an effort to downsize our "stuff" (in preparation to move into the RV) I sold off my K3 station. I replaced the K3 with a new Yaesu FT-991, which is smaller, and more flexible than the K3/P3 combo. The 991 gives me 70 cms which the K3 does  not. So far I have not regretted that sale and I am more than satisfied with the 991.

A few weeks ago Pat and I sat down to discuss our upcoming procurement of an RV and we finally realized we were not flush enough money wise to go through with the idea. We have down scaled our plans to encompass purchasing a new 16 ft SCAMP trailer which we could pull with the Chev truck.

Dale Parfitt, W4OP, and I got together about a year or so ago. Dale is an absolute genius when it comes to homebrewing ham gear or restoring comm gear. I had procured three SBE 34 SSB transceivers along with a SBE-34 carcass to be used for parts. I gave him two of the 34s to restore. One for him and the other for me. I told Dale not to do a complete restoration, just get the rig working and I'd be stratified. Dale was OK with that and drove off with two SBE-34s and the carcass. I a month or two he e-mailed me stating that he  really didn't need to restore one for himself, but would restore one of the rigs for my use! WOW! A complete W4OP restoration for my shack!!!

It took a while but Dale did an outstanding job of restoring the SBE-34 that was manufactured by Linear Systems, the last producer of this series of radios. It looks spectacular and plays great. Dale also added all the factory mods including the circuitry for the power meter to act like an S-meter on receive. I cannot thank Dale enough for his gift to me. The other SBE rigs? They were given to several members of a group of boatanchor oriented hams for spare parts. Small price to pay for an outstanding example of an iconic 40+ year old radio! Thanks Dale!

About mid summer I was able to trade off a partially built Elecraft K2 w/options. I had procured this rig from a local ham when we lived in PA and had not competed the kit. I also received a non-working FT-817 withe the trade. I was told that it had suffered a "power incident" and it would receive but not transmit. I sent it off to Yaesu in California for repair. About 5 weeks later I got a call from the Yaesu service manager that the cost of the repair on my newly acquired FT-817 was a whopping $73 not counting return shipping. I was ready to plunk down up to $300 thinking it would be worth it for a factory restored 817. So the $73 price tag was music to my ears.

The 817 arrived in pristine shape. I now use it as my home rig, mostly for 2M FM. The other 817 (which is fully tricked out with the dual filter mods and a DSP unit by W4RT) is my go-rig and lives in a backpack with the accessories needed to play QRP mobile/portable.

OK that is it for now. I will do my best to keep posting on a regular basis. I have several topics that I need to place on this blog. So until then, Vy 73 and have fun on the air.

Rich  K7SZ