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09 April 2016

H Is For Ham Radio | Nancy Drew Investigates {A To Z Challenge}


During April, we're participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Every day (except Sundays), we'll be doing an alphabet themed post starting with "A is for Anchor" and ending with "Z is for Zodiac." Each post is an installment of "Nancy Drew Investigates the Case of the Missing Anchor" - so you may want to read the posts from the beginning, in order to follow along with the story (click here for the first post and here for an index of all the posts). At the end of each post, you'll also find some random thoughts on the day's particular topic. So, if Nancy isn't your thing, feel free to skip the story and go straight to the end.   

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When we last left you, the suspicious man aboard Party Time forced Nancy and her friends over into shallow waters, where they ended up grounding their boat.

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“What’s happened? Why aren’t we moving?” asked Bess. “It looks like the boat is grounded,” said her friend, Nancy. “That catamaran deliberately came alongside us so that we would be forced into shallow water.”

Marvin looked over the side of the boat and reassured Nancy, “Fortunately, it’s all soft mud around here, so everything should be fine.” He turned to his wife, Shelley and said, “I think if we wait for an hour or so the tide will come in, raise the water level and we’ll float off of the bottom.”

“That sounds like a good plan, honey. Why don’t we have an early supper while we wait? While I get everything ready, why don’t you get on the VHF and report the incident to the Coast Guard.”

While everyone headed down below, Bess had a look over her shoulder at the shore. “Wow, I can’t believe how close we are to the beach. How shallow is the water here?”

Nancy pointed at a monitor mounted near the companionway in the cockpit. “This tells you how deep the water is. It’s currently reading 5.2 feet. Shelley and Marvin’s keel is 5.5 feet, so we need the water to rise up a few inches so we can get off the bottom.”

“I heard Marvin say that we were in soft mud. What would have happened if we had grounded the boat on something else?” Bess asked.

“We were lucky. If we had hit a reef or run into rocks, we could have seriously damaged the boat. Then, we might be radioing the Coast Guard to rescue us, rather than just reporting the incident.”

“Re..re..rescue us?” Bess stammered. “I thought this weekend was supposed to be fun.”

Nancy gave Bess a quick hug. “Don’t worry. Everything’s fine and we’re going to have a wonderful time at the regatta. Come on. Let’s head down below for supper.”

Bess quickly forgot about grounding the boat when she saw the table with cold chicken, potato salad, coleslaw and buttered rolls on it. “This looks delicious,” she said as she sat down on one of the settees next to Nancy and her cousin, George.

“And don’t forget that we have brownies for dessert,” said George. “That should cheer you up.”

Marvin got up from the chart table and sat down on the other settee. “Well, I radioed the Coast Guard on the VHF and told them what happened. They’ll be on the lookout for the catamaran.”

“All right everyone, dig in,” said Shelley as she sat down. “Nancy, your father tells me that you got your ham radio license last summer.”

“Yes, I thought it would be a useful thing to have so that I can use the marine bands on an SSB radio. Plus, I can help out with the local ham radio club relaying information if there’s ever a natural disaster or emergency.”

Bess looked up from her plate of food and asked, “What’s a ham radio operator? Are there chicken and beef radio operators too?”

“No, silly,” said Nancy with a smile. “A ham radio license allows you to use certain amateur radio frequencies. Do you see that equipment next to the VHF radio? That’s an SSB radio. VHF is great when you’re close enough for someone to hear you, but an SSB radio allows you to communicate at much further distances.”

“Whatever you say, Nancy. It all sounds too complicated for me.” Bess reached across the table to get a second helping of potato salad.

“Be sure to save room for dessert,” Shelley said. As she went into the galley to get the brownies, the VHF crackled and they heard a voice say “This is sailing vessel Spider Sapphire calling all parties. This is sailing vessel Spider Sapphire calling all parties. Over.” “Spider Sapphire this is sailing vessel Double Jinx. Switch to channel 32. Over.”

Marvin got up from the table, went over to the VHF and switched the channel from 16 to 32 to listen in. “Spider Sapphire, this is Double Jinx. What seems to be the trouble?” “We’re at the beach at Moonstone Castle Cove and someone stole our dinghy while we were swimming. Now we’re stranded and can’t get back to our boat! I saw someone speeding away in our dinghy over to a white catamaran anchored at the entrance to the cove. Over.”

Tune in on Monday for the next installment of Nancy Drew Investigates – I is for Island.

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This is one of our VHF radios on board our boat. It sits next to other "Very Important, But Very Boring" items, like headlamps and binoculars.


Mmm....brownies! Boy, I sure wish we had brownies on our boat just now. There's nothing better than a plate of warm, chewy brownies fresh from the oven. Sadly, they're on my list of "Utterly Super Delicious, But Forbidden" foods just now. {Sigh} At least I can live vicariously through the brownies they ate onboard The Scarlet Slipper. The best thing about these virtual brownies is that they're calorie and fat free!

But, to get back to more "Educational and Important, But Extremely Dull Items", let's talk about VHF and SSB radios. We have two VHF radios on board our boat. One sits near the chart table down below (the one pictured above) and we have a handheld unit, which we keep in our ditch bag when not in use. We also have a RAM microphone up in the cockpit, which allows us to hear and talk on the VHF without having to go down below.

VHF radios are great, but they have a limited range. We have a dream of getting an SSB radio transceiver one of these days, which would enable us to better hear weather reports, talk to people and send and receive email. I even got my ham radio operator license so that we could use the free email service on an SSB radio.

But, like all things when it comes to cruising, we have had to make choices about what we buy now, versus later. SSB radio transceivers (which allow you to receive and transmit) are really expensive. So, we've settled for a simple, relatively inexpensive SSB receiver for now so that we can hear weather reports.

How about you - do you have a ham radio operator license? Do you have an SSB radio on your boat? Better yet, when's the last time you had brownies?  Describe them in tantalizing detail in the comments please.

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43 comments:

  1. You really have Bess's personality down, from what I can remember. :)

    No boat, sadly, and it's been a long time between brownies. Would chocolate cookies suffice?

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    1. Chocolate cookies will always suffice :-)

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  2. When's the last time I had brownies? I had oat crunchies the other day...that's the closest to brownies...I think?
    Writer In Transit

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    1. Oat crunchies sounds good to me :-)

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    2. P.S. Don't be afraid to put your name in the hat again. There are plenty more books to be won. :)

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    3. I wasn't sure if it was okay as I won one already - don't want to be greedy, but I love books, especially winning them!

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  3. Ooh the plot thickens :) My friend makes the best brownies ever, but I have a recipe that is almost as good - it uses a box brownie and just adds a little http://tashasthinkings.blogspot.co.uk/2015/11/how-to-cheat-your-way-to-most-amazing.html :)
    Tasha
    Tasha's Thinkings | Wittegen Press | FB3X (AC)

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    1. Just looked at the recipe. Those sound delicious, especially using a salted caramel mix as the base. Yum!

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  4. How fun. I'm loving this story, but like you I'm hungry now. For all the food you mentioned.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. I know - that's the problem with writing stories, they always make you hungry.

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  5. I want my chicken or beef radio operator's license!

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    1. I'm going to have to do some research (aka boat project procrastination) and find out where the term ham comes from. I wonder why they called a radio operator after ham. Maybe it stands for something else.

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  6. Our boat didn't come with an SSB radio and we never had one in eight years of cruising. They were way too expensive. Instead, we had an SSB receiver like you guys, to listen in on the weather, and when planning to cross the Pacific, we bought a sat phone for emergencies and to receive weather reports. Much cheaper, less parts and hassle and, in our opinion, more straightforward and useful than SSB radio equipment.

    We loved making chocolate cookies onboard. When you make them yourself from scratch, they are healthy, right? :-)

    Liesbet @ Roaming About – A Life Less Ordinary

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    1. Anytime you make something from scratch they're super healthy, especially if you put extra chocolate chips in them.

      We'll have to look more into sat phones vs SSB when the time comes.

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  7. This evil catamaran person seems so brazen!
    We don't have a ham license, or any type of SSB :-(. But we did have brownies last night. It didn't seem like they would be chocolatey enough, so we added chocolate chips and chocolate syrup. I like the edges, and Matt likes the center - a match made in heaven! - Lucy

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    1. I'm an edges person too. I like how you think - the more chocolate the better!

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  8. Catamaran people are devil's spawn!!! Hehehe!

    Meet My Imaginary Friends
    #AtoZchallenge http://www.kathleenvalentineblog.com/

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    1. He does seem like the devil's spawn, doesn't he?

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  9. We have three VHF radios aboard (2 permanent mounts and 1 handheld) and a SSB that's been unlocked to transmit on ham frequencies. Neither one of us have a license (didn't need one in New Zealand), but we don't use the SSB to transmit in the US so it's not something we've taken the time to correct (in other words, we're lazy!).

    As far as brownies go, I'm embarrassed to admit that it's been a while since I baked any but we did have some very nice chocolate cake last night!

    http://www.svcambria.com/2016/04/the-to-z-challenge-h-is-for-happy-home.html

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    1. Chocolate cake - yum! I hope it had chocolate frosting on it too.

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  10. The PO's of our boat put in the SSB send/receive, and then we installed new VHF, with a handheld, and bought a sat phone. Bill describes it on the blog under "things we have and use". http://svdenalirosenc43.blogspot.com/p/marine-radios-and-ham.html

    That might be dry reading, and our oven isn't working at the moment, but I love brownies. I found a recipe on Pinterest that takes a chocolate cake mix, add instant chocolate pudding, and milk Then you sprinkle the Heath toffee bits on top. OH MAN.....YUM, I also added walnuts, and it was delicious.

    Donna/Denali Rose

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    1. Heath coffee bits!! I'll be right over! - Lucy

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    2. Thanks for the link - I'll check it out.

      I'm with Lucy - the heath coffee bits sounds like an awesome addition. Save me a piece.

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  11. My husband likes to make brownies. I try not to eat them...but they are pretty irresistible. I don't know much about ham radio, but I do listen to a LOT of podcasts. That's kinda the modern-day version of operating a ham radio!

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    1. I love listening to podcasts when I'm working on projects!

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  12. Mmm .. I used to have a really good (and quick!) recipe for microwave brownies. But I lost the book a few years ago. And I haven't had brownies in months. When I was in university we had brownies every week or two while we watched our favourite show. We baked them just before and then put whipped cream on them just out of the oven. So good. But that was the days when we really didn't have to worry about calories :D

    Loving the story! But no experience with boats, so I can't chime in on any boat-related items.

    Tracy (Black Boots, Long Legs)

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    1. So true - calories are much more of a nuisance these days.

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  13. I know precious little about ham radio, although I do know a bit more than Bess (in that I know there are not chicken or beef radios) :)

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    1. I think everyone knows more than Bess. She's such a ditzy girl :-)

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  14. I was a ham long before I was a cruiser, so that was easy. I haven't been active on the radio in 12 years, but I kept my license up, and still have an SSB rig that we're planning to have aboard.
    But no brownies. I'm better at chocolate chip cookies...

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  15. What a great way to do A to Z! (and yes, I have to admit to a fondness for brownies!) Good luck on the rest of the challenge! We're doing “I’ve Got The Music In Me” this year on The Road We’ve Shared. – looking at how important music is in the Down syndrome community. I hope you’ll stop by and see/hear! http://theroadweveshared.com/category/a-to-z-blogging-challenge-2016

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    1. Thanks for popping by Stephanie. I'll definitely stop by your blog and check out your A to Z posts. Sounds like a wonderful theme.

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  16. Ham, potato salad and brownies. Now I'm hungry.

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    1. Food does tend to feature in my blog posts, perhaps a bit too much :-)

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  17. I've just caught up with the story and am loving it. I made brownies a few weeks ago. My husband was feeling under the weather and needed a gooey chocolate pick me up. It was hard not to join him.
    Elizabeth Hein - Scribbling in the Storage Room

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    1. Brownies are always a good pick me up. Hope he's feeling better.

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  18. Forcing people into shallow water AND stealing dinghies, that's just not nice!

    I love brownies, the gooeyer the better! :)
    Sophie
    Sophie's Thoughts & Fumbles | Wittegen Press | FB3X

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    1. He is an evil man - the devil's spawn as someone said in a comment above. I'm sure Nancy will sort him out in no time.

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  19. What memories! I adore Nancy Drew! Thanks for sharing!

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  20. I make a pretty darn good brownie. Dark chocolate. Nuts. It's a virtual health bar! I never had a ham radio license, but I did do CB radio back in the day. Fairy Godmother was my handle. LOL Ham radios are fascinating. Loved the movie FREQUENCY!

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    1. Fairy Godmother is a great handle! I never saw Frequency, I'll have to check it out.

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