Annual UBA Meeting 2013

And now for something completely different yet ham radio related. After skipping two editions it was time to attend this year’s UBA meeting. I’m not really fond of the official part in which the UBA’s kingpins jabber on about statistics, past activities etc. Information we already know most of the time. Either through the official channels or through the grapevine. So that’s the boring part.

The reason I like to go there is mainly to meet and talk to old radio friends. Sure they’re getting old(er), just like me, but it amazes me that so many faces are still around. With ‘around’ I don’t mean alive but active on the air and still passionate about the hobby. And just like when I’m on my yearly pilgrimage to a major ham fest, I felt like a politician attending a public event. Even just outside the parking lot I get greeted, shake hands and exchange ‘long time no sees’ or ‘glad to see you again’. Gee I really know a lot of hams! Isn’t that also a great aspect of this hobby of ours? And since I have absolutely nothing to offer or fix, I assume there is no hidden agenda behind the familiarity. Another reason I attend the event is to collect my yearly dose of contest plaques. There were three this year. Finding space in the shack for these trophies becomes troublesome.

ON4BHQ and XYL kindly offered me a ride. The trip took us about eighty minutes or so. It wasn’t really in the backyard to Belgian size standards but in the extreme northwestern part of Belgium, near the North Sea and close to the PA border. My guess is that this scared a lot of possible attendees coming from the eastern part of the country. It soon becomes a long ride to those same Belgian standards. That might explain the poor turnout. A wet finger headcount accounted for about sixty people – ballpark figure. I seem to remember more than hundred (120?) people attended the event in 2009. By any means it’s a small number for a society with two thousand nine hundred members. Since I don’t go every year I’m guilty there too. Many hams don’t have an interest in going there, so why would you? Fuel is expensive and don’t get me started on the Belgian railways (bad schedules, expensive fares, massive delays). Moreover Belgians are hard to move and chase out of their homes. I plead guilty as charged there too! A few weeks ago I was looking at some photos of an NCCC meeting. It was held on a Monday – a Monday! And yet there were many people present. I always notice that when looking at online photo albums, especially from American clubs. But maybe everything is in balance proportionally to the number of hams?

UBA Board of Directors
UBA Board of Directors – May 2013

Upon arrival ON7SS (UBA contest manager) wanted to enroll me in the vote counting office. Since he told me this would take at least an hour and quite possibly longer, I kindly turned him down. Now that I came this far, I wanted to socialize with my peers and not count ballots for the UBA officials’ election. I went to greet my neighbor ON4KV who put up a strand for the BRARC (Belgian Railways Amateur Radio Club). He left on Friday by car. You see, even the railway’s own employees travel by car to arrive on time – or arrive at all 😉

ON7RU talks about 9U4U
ON7RU talks about 9U4U

The first activity was a presentation by ON7RU. In little under an hour he showed us many nice pictures and told us all about the recent 9U4U DXpedition. I was glad to be there and support him since I had to skip his T32C presentation a few months ago. My mind soon got floating away: massive pile ups should be fun and being part of this team would be great. I know almost all of them in person and apart from being nice and fun guys, they’re all dedicated and passionate DXers/contesters. Great operators and tons of technical skills seasoned with a lot of experience. But then someone in the crowd raised the question of how much this trip costs and the answer put me back down on Planet Earth. Me who doesn’t like to travel… I got invited in the past (9Q50ON) but changing my own mind to actually pack my bags and join ‘m is useless since my job as a teacher limits my holidays to the official school holidays.

ON7RU talks about 9U4U
ON7RU talks about 9U4U. Two microphones poking in his face, an insult to the dedicated CW operator 😉

Anyway I digress. In the audience I spotted ON4WW and we had a short chat afterwards.

DX Globetrotter of the past meets current / future DX globetrotter. Man in the middle stays home alone and tries to work the DX. Too bad most of ON4WW’s DXpeditions were before my time.
The ‘hands in pockets’ pose simply means that Top Gun Hot Shot DXers like us work everyting with our hands in our pockets. 😉   😉   😉

Then off to the ‘Youth Booth’. UBA Youth manager Tommy ON2TD was eager to explain what he does, how he does it and that he’s quite successful in getting the youth warm for ‘something’ that should eventually lead to the youngsters obtaining a license and a callsign. I applaud him for his efforts but the truth be told: it’s far away from what I do. My niche in ham radio is DX contesting in CW on the HF bands. I know that it’s an ultra thin slice of the spectrum that is ham radio. I know that I neglect a lot of other bands (microwave, Magic Band…) and modes and activities (ARDF, ATV, EME…). But it is what makes me tick. And if I think of recruiting fresh blood, I want to manipulate their genes and make CW contesters out of them. Yes I’m making sure my business will still be booming when I’m retired! But it doesn’t seem to be working because most of the ‘new blood’ sticks to the foundation license and seems to be frantically PSK’ing away. ON2TD made a clear and valid point that youngsters don’t care about bands and modes and devices since they don’t know what exists. He said that during his activities the kids don’t know a PMR from a H/T or VHF from UHF. The key is to make sure they’re having fun with some wireless device and then link the fun they had to the actual hobby. He also has some really good ideas and he obviously knows what he’s talking about. But five days a week already I try to get teenagers between sixteen and nineteen interested in technology. And that isn’t always easy. I don’t think it’s sane to spend my weekends trying to achieve the same with the hobby. That said ON2TD brought up some interesting insights and ideas.

UBA Youth Manager Tommy ON2TD
UBA Youth Manager Tommy ON2TD reminds us that this is a hard hat area. On top you see a wireless camera. The helmet and cam is used for fun outdoor activities to get the youth acquainted with the various possibilities of RF communications.
Belgian youth at work
Belgian youth at work
Soldering the broadband RX kit the UBA Youth Commission offers. They get to solder and actually build something. Then they put it to use for ARDF or SWLing.

Lunch time approached and OP4K and ON5UM arrived. Both long time DX’ers and contesters always have something to tell about the hobby. OP4K (back then ON4AJZ I believe) is the guy who sold me my very first transceiver. A KWD TR-9130 VHF all mode. It was back in 1999 and I didn’t have a clue (nor an antenna for that matter). Almost fourteen years already? Gosh how time flies!

ON4ALY joined us and he was proud to tell us that since a few days his son holds the title of ‘youngest licensed ham in Belgium’. The callsign should be ON3XG.

After a lunch break it was time for the official part. I saw many people desperately trying to stay awake. A comfy chair (not the comfy chair!) in a warm conference hall right after lunch… resistance is futile. About 5 mΩ. Nerd humor, can’t help it. Some people doze off and I was one of them too. I got rudely awakened by a round of applause after some speech. The meeting closed with the ceremony of handing out contest plaques and cups.

Yours truly receives his two UBA Prefix Hunt trophees (2011+2012). UBA HF Manager ON7LX hosts the ceremony while ON7SS is the MC.
ON4BHQ receives club trophy from ON7SS
ON4BHQ receives club trophy from ON7SS

All pictures here are courtesy of Wim ON4BHQ / OQ4B. Congratulations on your election as local club president!

2 replies on “Annual UBA Meeting 2013”

Hey Franki!
Nice survey as usual. Nice to had you with us at the meeting. It’s always interesting to be on road with a top-HAM. Still after 30 yrs of HAM I got some extra knowledge again that day.
Next year again? As local president I feel obliged to go the congres, and a free seat is available!
By the way, nice pictures 😆

73 – Wim – ON4BHQ

Hi Franki,

Nice write up of the event in Knokke.
As always nice to meet you and the other guys we know from behind the radio. Sorry I had to leave short after lunchbreak, next time we meet I owe you a beer (or two) for making the trip to the coast.

73s de Frank, ON7RU

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