My name is Phil McBride.
I’ve been into radio and RF-related activities since my childhood. At my behest (and after significant begging), my Dad bought me my first CB Radio when I was 8 years old. It was an old Cobra 40 channel mobile unit. He went to Radio Shack and bought a little 12VDC 5A power supply and a 5/8″ whip that he mounted to our eaves trough (gutter) and I was on the air. I upgraded a few times after that, finally ending up with a Radio Shack Realistic 40 channel base unit with built-in power supply.
When I turned 9, I started playing with 2 kids around the corner, and I noticed there was a really big antenna in their backyard. When I finally got to go inside their house and look around, I saw their dad in a little corner of the basement with a whole lot of really cool looking stuff. I asked him what it all was, and thus began my first exposure to Amateur Radio.
A few years later, I was browsing Radio Shack and saw a brand new toy: the HTX-202 VHF 2M FM HT. I wanted it, but Terry, the store manager, told me that I needed an Amateur Radio license. So I gave him some money and put the unit on layaway. It took a year, and 4 stabs at the exam, but I finally passed my Basic and got my first callsign, VA3KPJ, at the age of 14 on May 5, 1994. From there, I became very active in my local club, very heavily involved with ARES and eventually became the RAC ARES EC for my area. I got into APRS, digital modes (mainly packet at the time) and operated mobile almost exclusively.
Once I’d moved out on my own, my old high school electronics teacher called me and told me that they were pitching all of the old Amateur Radio Gear that the previous electronics teacher (Al, VE3FFZ) had left behind and asked if I wanted it. That was a dumb question. So off I went to get my trunk filled to the brim with goodies. It was almost exclusively Heathkit gear, among it all, an HW-101. I trotted everything up to my apartment where I turned on my laptop and started looking for help restoring it. After about 2 weeks, I had it up, running, and calibrated. But I was unable to use HF with my license class at the time. So I spent every extra minute of the next 3 weeks working on my CW. I got my CW endorsement in 2003 and I was on HF with that 101, and a 165′ random wire antenna going out my 2nd floor apartment window to a tree in the adjacent lot; the local impound lot. I also applied for, and received, my 2-letter suffix callsign, VA3QR, which I use as my primary.
As time went on, I went through several radios, mostly Icom and Kenwood. I’ve built a fully integrated and power-independent QRP portable kit, built and maintained a packet radio BBS with HF and UHF data links to other networks, worked the FM satellites with an Arrow antenna and my HT…. the great thing about this hobby is that there’s so many little sub-hobbies, you don’t get bored.
At present, I hold an Advanced license (highest Amateur Radio license available in Canada), which enables me to operate QRO. The man who introduced me to this hobby all those years ago, VE3RCJ/VE3YU, lives just down the road from my house, and I’m still in touch with most of the guys who helped be grow in the hobby. I am active on HF, both from home and mobile, and am on VHF/UHF whenever something is going on. I have been active in Emergency Communications from the beginning of my Amateur Radio journey; I have been Emergency Coordinator for Halton Hills/Milton, Ontario, and the Asst. Sec. Manager. for Ontario. I am currently an active member of the Canadian Forces Affiliate Radio System (CFARS – the Canadian equivilent of MARS) and ALL of my equipment, including the Flex and mobile gear, has been modified to allow their use in CFARS. I also host the VE3YAP APRS Digipeater, and Layer 2 APRS Server for Ontario. Sometimes, you’ll find me on the ONTARS Net on 3.755MHz LSB. On September 3, 2015, I was elected Director – Ontario South for the Radio Amateurs of/du Canada, and on October 14, 2015, I passed my RAC Certified Emergency Coordinator exam and received my CEC designation.
Between August 18 and 29, 2016, I went on my first DXPedition as a member and licensee of the CY9C St. Paul Island DXPedition team, where I operated from the North East Point. You can read all about my journey right here on my website.
My station at home consists of a Flex 5000A with 2nd Independent RX, Integrated ATU and the Integrated 2M/70CM Module, an Ameritron ALS-1300X 1.2kW 160M-10M amp, MFJ-998 1.5kW ATU, Heros CAT-Tracking Preselector, Arlan Radiosport RS60CF Headset, SCS PTCIII-USB Pactor TNC, Ameritron RCS-12L Remote Antenna Switch, and 3 HF antennas: TGM Communications MQ-36SR Hybrid Quad Minibeam, Hustler 6-BTV Vertical with ALL the DX-Engineering Mods, and a Homebrew QRO Magnetic Longwire Balun feeding 150′ Random Wire. For the upper bands, I have a Cushcraft A270-10S 2M/70CM beam, as well as a Comet CX-333 2M/1.25M/70CM vertical at the top of my tower. I also have a Kenwood TM-D700A going to a 2nd Comet CX-333 mounted on my hydro inlet as a VHF/UHF backup. I am capable of all modes on all bands from 160M-70CM (excl. 1.25M). I also host a dedicated, 24/7 Automatic Link Establishment station consisting of a Kenwood TS-480HX running 200W, an LDG AT-200ProII Autotuner and a Homebrew Magnetic Longwire Balun feeding a 100′ Random Wire antenna. The radio is controlled by MARS-ALE v3.0, and scans several channels, including HFLink data assignments, at 2 or 5 channels/second. The whole station is protected by an APC 2200XL UPS.
The station in my ’04 Dodge Ram 1500 consists of a Kenwood TS-480SAT with a Tennatronix Screwdriver ATU feeding a Little Tarheel II Screwdriver Antenna for HF. For VHF/UHF, I use a Kenwood TM-D710A feeding a Comet SB-15 for VHF/UHF, although the SB-15 goes through a diplexer to allow the TS-480 to use it for 6M communications. I am capable of all modes on all bands from 80M-70CM (excl. 1.25M).
My portable station consists of a Yaesu FT-897D, with an LDG AT-897 auto-tuner and a Signalink SL-1+ USB, and an Arlan Radiosport RS0CF Headset. The antennas are an Alpha Antenna Senior DX NVIS vertical, and a VHF/UHF wire J-Pole. I can power the unit from commercial mains using an Alinco DM-330MV power supply, using a solar panel and batteries using two homemade 60W flexible solar panels and a Nautilis power pack, or by the two internal batteries inside the FT-897D. I can charge the batteries individually by interfacing the solar panel to the CD-24 battery charger. I am capable of all modes on 80M-10M, 2M and 70CM, and the station was built with both contesting and emergency communications in mind.
I try to log all of my contacts, home and mobile, and I regularly upload to LoTW and eQSL. I also send/receive paper cards; usually through the bureau, but sometimes I’ll pay the money for the really rare ones, or for DXPedition cards, depending on how rare the entity is.
Throughout my Amateur Radio “career,” one person has done more to help me along than anyone else. His name is John and his callsign is VE3NEC. I’m not entirely sure I’d be where I am today without his help, guidance and patience (because he’s been elmer’ing me since I was 15 and let’s be honest: teenagers can be a real pain in the ass). So thanks to him, and to everyone else who has helped me on my journey. I hope it lasts for many more years to come. I’m also very grateful to my wife for putting up with the amount of metal I’ve put in the air at our home.
I decided to start this blog to post about stuff I’m involved in, as well as interesting tid-bits that I find around the web, operating tips, experiences and opinions.
Feel free to contact me should you have questions. I hope you enjoy reading.
vy 73 de VA3QR