A Ham Radio course will be offered in Essex Junction on Saturday and Sunday, October 14-15, 8:30am until 6pm each day.

Amateur radio (also known as ham radio) allows access to the Amateur Radio Service frequencies and provides the opportunity to contact over 1 million other ham operators worldwide. Many amateur operators enjoy these conversations from their home, car, boat and even from work.

New changes have made it much easier to obtain an amateur radio license. The entry-level license, the Technician Class, requires only a 35-question test and no Morse code requirement. This license allows access to all amateur radio frequencies above 50 MHz (VHF). While VHF marine radio is configured for short range, ship to ship communications, VHF ham radio makes use of repeaters on mountains, allowing boaters in our area to communicate across Vermont. For example, a vessel in the lake near Burlington would have no trouble reaching other ham radio equipped vessels from the Champlain Canal up to the Richelieu River. In addition, boaters on the Intracoastal Waterway are always within range of a network of repeater stations which extend range and reliability.

The second level of ham license, the General Class, requires an additional 35-question test and ability to understand Morse code at 5 words per minute. This has been recently reduced from a harder 13 word per minute test. This license allows access to amateur radio frequencies which span the globe. High frequency, or short wave amateur radio equipment is an invaluable tool to the offshore mariner. Not only does it provide hours of communications with friends and loved ones for a fraction of the cost of commercial calls, it has saved the lives of hundreds of sailors over the years. No matter what time day or night, amateur operators are listening somewhere.

Just this year, amateur radio was instrumental in saving the life of 13-year old Willem van Tuijl, after he and his family were attacked by pirates in their sailing boat off of Honduras. Amateur operators got rescue efforts underway quickly and eventually arranged for Willem’s transfer to a U.S. hospital for needed medical care.

Ham radio equipment is comparable in cost to marine radio units. Part of the attraction of ham radio is attaining the knowledge to install and to do minor maintenance on the equipment. This can certainly be a lifesaver in a critical situation.

The Weekend Amateur Radio course presents an introduction to the Amateur Service and trains students to obtain their Technician Class or General Class license. In addition, there are demonstrations of communications, videos of amateur activity and discussion of Amateur Radio operation on boats. The course includes books and study materials with exams offered at the conclusion. It only takes a few days to get the license from the FCC, allowing you to have your ham radio license in time for next year’s season or winter cruising in warmer climates.

Pre-registration for the course is required and students should enroll as early as possible to receive course materials prior to the start of class. For information on the course, please contact Mitch Stern at 879-6589.