So I made an impulse purchase last week.
Well, to be honest, it was a purchase I planned to make, but not until much later this year or early next year.
Except I didn’t.
Don’t judge me.
Last Sunday, I hopped over to the QTH.com Classifieds to price out a nice 100 watt radio for a friend whose daughter is new to the hobby.
Normally, I use the search functionality at QTH.com and seek out classified ads for particular radio models. Since I wanted to offer him several examples, I decided to simply load all ads for that day and skim through the list.
The very first item that came up on the list was a Yaesu FT-817ND. I opened the ad and looked at the photo.
The owner was selling the radio along with everything that originally accompanied it–the box, antenna, manuals, the whole lot–plus side rails he’d purchased and installed. He described it as “like new” with only five hours of operating time on it. He said he was selling it because, “I just can’t do QRP.”
The price was $350 shipped.
I bought it.
If you’ve been following this blog for long, you might recall that it was only last year when I purchased an FT-817ND from my buddy Don. I did this after realizing I missed the FT-817 I originally owned shortly after it was introduced to the market in 2001. It didn’t help that I really wanted to build and try the FT-817 Buddy Board by Andy (G7UHN). [Andy: V4 is next on my bench..I promise!]
I honestly think I appreciate the FT-817/818 now even more than I did after it initially hit the market. I’ve been enjoying the FT-817ND in the field and have used it in a number of park and summit activations.
But that’s not why I purchased this one.
I’ve been wanting to get in on a bit of satellite action as, perhaps, a bit of a stepping stone into QRP EME (I mean, the antennas point upwards, right?) and also my ham daughters are both interested in satellites.
My future QRP full-duplex portable satellite system
Ages ago, I’d seen and read about hams who’d paired two FT-817s or FT-818s to create a full duplex portable satellite station.
My buddy Eric (WD8RIF) reminded me about this earlier in the year, too, and it stuck in my head because I really liked the idea.
Why? Besides all of the advantages of using a full duplex station, two FT-817s is still a very portable set-up. Hypothetically, I could use it for both satellites and HF during a park activation. Plus, two portable HF radios, right? Right! What’s not to love–?
Seriously: I see the system as quite a value when compared to other full duplex systems including pricier HTs.
I had not done research about FT-817ND pricing before pulling the trigger–indeed, I still haven’t–but I felt $350 shipped was fair. I know I’ll get $350 of fun out of it!
After taking delivery and unboxing it, I expected it to show normal signs of wear, but the seller described it accurately: it was like new. In fact, it still had the protective film on the screen (yes, I pulled it off) and I could tell the microphone had never even been taken from the box. It was flawless and included every single original accessory mostly in the original bags.
I like the side rails, too: They prop up the radio at a perfect viewing angle. I have no idea who made these, but they’re nice.
I’ve been very pleased with the Portable Zero side rails and bail that came with my first Yaesu FT-817ND.
Using a dual FT-817ND system in the field, though, I’ll require either a bag to hold them, or a dual side rail system.
Turns out, Portable Zero makes side rails that hold and space two FT-817/818s perfectly. I gulped a bit when I saw the price, though.
Still: they obviously make a great product and, for me, it’s an elegant solution. Before I bite the bullet, though, I might investigate homebrewing something or see if there are other options.
In fact, if you’ve seen other solutions–or have owned the Dual Escort yourself–please comment!
Or an affordable carry bag?
Another (and perhaps better?) option for portability might be this $28 camera bag from Amazon.com (affiliate link).
The bag would allow me to house both transceivers, a battery, cables, digital recorder and basically everything I’d need to operate full duplex portable in the field.
Another advantage of using the bag would be that I wouldn’t need to remove the side rails I already have on each FT-817ND (assuming the camera bag could accommodate them). In addition, the bag might make for less dangling cables as I operate.
The fact that numerous satellite gurus like Sean (KX9X) use this same bag is a pretty strong recommendation.
Arrow heading my way
On the advice of Eric, and numerous other portable satellite ops, I ordered an Arrow 146/437-10BP Satellite Antenna.
I assume I’ll use the the BNC connectors on the front of the radio rather than the SO-239 connectors on the back.
I opened the new FT-817ND yesterday morning and installed the SSB filter. It sounds great.
If I chased you in POTA or SOTA yesterday, and you logged me, it was with the new FT-817ND running 2.5 watts off of the included NiMH battery pack.
I gave the FT-817ND a thorough work-out and it seems everything functions as it should.
Any other dual FT-817/818 owners out there?
If you have any advice about mounting or packing dual FT-817/818s, I’m all ears. Also, if you use the FT-817/818 with an Arrow antenna, I’m curious what you use in terms of cable assemblies.
I’m a complete newbie to the world of amateur satellites, so any tips or hints are most welcome.
This weekend, I’m going to the first hamfest I’ve attended in 19 months. Let’s hope I can resist other impulse purchases! For what it’s worth, I’ve zero buyer’s remorse about this purchase!