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HAMS in Paradise – Spring 2019

HAMS in Paradise – Spring 2019

Wow, what a difference a year makes!  Ham radio is coming alive in the USVI, both in infrastructure and new hams joining our ranks.  It’s a known fact that following hurricanes there is logically an increase in interest in ham radio, but what’s happened over the past year is beyond my wildest dreams! 


License classes on all three major islands, and even several rescue members on little Water Island (in Charlotte Amalie harbor) want to join in the fun.  On St. John, the efforts of Larry, NP2LP & Jennifer, NP2QT Pruss, a total of three tech license classes have been held resulting in a couple of dozen hams on St. John.  A couple of these new hams even ventured from the neighboring British Virgin Island of Tortola to obtain their tickets! 

St. Thomas has also joined in the quest to license more hams.  Recently upgraded extra Dr. Henry Smith, KP2J (ex-NP2QP) has fostered an effective and productive learning environment.  The professor is now teaching both technician and general licensing classes. His second licensing class is about ready to sit for their tech tests.  He hopes to keep his noteworthy student perfect pass rate intact!  Also, congratulations to Dr. Smith on going from no license to extra class inside of a year!  Great job! 

Last night saw the first ham class on St. Croix in some five years commence with 30 students.  We look forward to welcoming our next group of hams just in time for this year’s Field Day 22-23 June.  We will be looking forward to the next “all islands” Field Day exercise, after several years of challenges. 


Following the devastation of hurricanes Irma and Maria, a single repeater remained on the air.  The only links between islands were via those stations with coverage to neighboring islands.  Clearly something had to be done.  Through a community foundation grant, new repeaters, controllers, duplexers, etc. were procured for all islands.  Thanks to the efforts of Larry, NP2LP and Carlos, NP2DL, I am happy to report that there are now five LINKED repeaters covering all three islands.  As icing on the cake for our newer licensees, Echolink and IRLP capability was also added.  Thanks to the ability to link to the National Hurricane Center’s WX-TALK Echo/IRLP weather net, the Territory will be much better informed for what is coming over the horizon.  Needless to say, the linked repeater system is abuzz with new hams.  Weekly nets generally have in excess of 20 check-ins, some from a-far via Echolink. 


The relationship with VITEMA, our Territorial EMA, was tested to the limit following the storms.  With all of the Federal financial aid pouring into the Territory, a small piece was secured to improve and harden communications from our EOCs.  Soon, the EOCs on all three islands will bear the distinctive calls KP2EOC, NP2EOC and WP2EOC.  VI hams anxiously anticipate the Senatorial confirmation of Daryl Jaschen, NP2QD, as the next Director of VITEMA.  Before, during and following Irmaria, he was a prime relief EOC ham operator in St. Croix.  This provided him with relevant, front-line emcomm experience to gauge the state of readiness in the Territory.  As a retired colonel form the VI National Guard, he has ‘walked-the-walk’ in the military ranks.  As a long-time VI resident, he is a familiar name, and face, to many Territorial and community organizations.  The hams of the VI congratulate him and look forward to furthering their relationship with VITEMA. 


Our recent graduates are not sitting around just chatting up a storm with their newly issued licenses.  They’re learning net protocol and preparing to help their communities and organizations.  They’re on-line taking their core ICS classes (ICS-100 / 200 / 700 / 800) to prepare for future support of Territorial and Federal partner agencies, and other NGOs.  They’re practicing their skills supporting public events, such as the “Eight Tough Miles” on St. John with some 1,500 participants. 


The longevity of our hobby critically depends on attracting, training, mentoring and retaining younger hams.  Some of our younger hams (Skylar, NP2QS and Tia, NP2RE) think it’s cool to wear their HTs to school.  The teachers unknowingly tell them that “cellular phones aren’t allowed in school”.  Skylar and Tia politely and proudly reply, “This is not a cell phone.  It’s a ham radio.”  They have formed a ham club at their school boasting 14 members and “already have permission from the Principal to put an antenna on the roof”.   Great job young ladies! 

Reynaldo, WP2RB, hosted a group of youngsters to participate in the recently concluded CQ WPX SSB contest.  The wide-eyed future operators made over 100 contacts!  What a great job for youngsters who had never touched a microphone!  Following the contest Reynaldo met with a school teacher who enlisted his assistance to bring amateur radio classes into a local grade school.  We’ll be looking for another school club soon on St. Croix thanks to Reynaldo! 


As the mainland US battles severe Spring weather, we too in the islands prepare for inclement weather.  Hurricanes are a fact of life here.  Thankfully we generally have sufficient time to make storm-imminent preparations.  Everyone talks about the seasonal storm predictions from the experts.  The only storm that matters is the one coming at you, and if you’re not prepared, then you’re too late. 

I am elated to see the rise of ham radio in the Territory!  Thank you to the seasoned hams who selflessly give hours of their time to train students and install repeaters.  I salute all the new hams and applaud you for your drive to become prepared to help your family, friends and Territory in their time of need.  Together we will make our Virgin Islands a safer place to call home.   Hope to work you on the air soon!


Fred, NP2X / K9VV
VI Section Manger

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April 18, 20190 commentsRead More
HAMS In Paradise – Fall 2018

HAMS In Paradise – Fall 2018

Wow, hard to believe we’re back in “season”. Here at the peak of hurricane season, the Atlantic looks like a conga-line of storms. The below photo doesn’t show the remnants of hurricane Gordon which has dissipated over CONUS. The seasonal conga line of storms is strewn across the Atlantic like a stormy pearl necklace.

It is hard to believe that one year ago the USVI experienced the rage of Irma & Maria. I look back on the amount of new relief “friends” I have encountered and am humbled. These are people who have come to help the USVI rebuild. FEMA employees, US Army Corps of Engineers, National Guard, US Army, private consultants, linemen, National Park Service, etc. The list goes on-and-on. Some are hams who show up on the local repeater and also at our meetings. The Territory is forever indebted to these individuals and their organizations. They ARE making a HUGE difference!

The USVI is fortunate to be supported by the BILLIONS of federal relief and loan dollars that are pouring into the Territory. The Stafford Act (a disaster funding allocation act allowing only replacement of damaged infrastructure, and the like, to pre-disaster condition), has long been a staple of Federal disaster recovery. Now in certain circumstances, mitigation dollars can be used to improve and harden damaged infrastructure. This is HUGE news for the Territory which has many, many, many maintenance challenges which often come from years of maintenance neglect and fraud.

They say that from bad comes good. I am happy to highlight a couple of good things that happened as a result of the storms. A devastated St. John awoke and realized the value of ham radio. From the tireless efforts of Jennifer Pruss and in coordination with St. John Rescue, the first ham license class yielded 15 new hams, including some from St. Thomas and BVI! Jennifer also passed her Technician and General classes on the first try! Class number two will graduate shortly and many of the students are upgrading from their Technican. Well done Jennifer and new STJ hams!! St. John will now possess a sizeable ham population to assist in future disasters.

The Territory ham repeater network suffered extensive damage. In fact, only a single repeater (NP2VI) remained active in the strom. The 30+ year old discontinued Tait repeater provided hand-held coverage to the helicopter landing zone, and other critical locations. Through one of our new relief friends, who happens to be a ham, we were introduced to a philanthropic opportunity to purchase new repeaters, controllers, link radios, PV panels and batteries. I am happy to say that in the near future the USVI island repeater system will be linked using resilient UHF link radios. The entire system will be powered by PV panels and batteries and will be off grid. Future projects include the addition of Echolink / IRLP on the system, as well as linking to another similar system which has coverage reaching Dominica to the south.

Field Day was a great chance to get out & test our capability to operate from well, the FIELD. Thanks to a great promotional effort spearheaded by Daryl, NP2QD, turnout from supporting local agencies was high. VITEMA, the VI National Guard, St. Croix Rescue, American Red Cross, and a few reporters joined in the activity. Nearly all states & provinces were contacted.

“Class photo” at Cramers Park – STX


Well, the Territory continues to recover and rebuild. Keeping our fingers crossed that none of the conga line comes to visit us this year.

73 – Fred, K9VV / NP2X
Section Manger, USVI Section

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September 9, 20180 commentsRead More
Hams In Paradise – MARCH 2018

Hams In Paradise – MARCH 2018

Welcome to Spring! The long season of “Christmas Winds” seems to have drawn to a close and the temperatures are actually starting to warm up a bit! Warm is a relative term, so for readers not located in the VI, the all-time record lows are: St. Thomas: 52F, St. John: 55F and St. Croix: 57F. Anything below 70F is cold to us. The ocean temps rarely go below 79F, even at 70 to 80 feet below the surface.

While some of our Northern friends might think of these warm temperatures as good, in reality the warm ocean surface temperatures provide fuel for hurricanes when the conditions are right. One interesting fact is that the ocean’s surface temperature will drop some ½ degree Fahrenheit following the passing of a large hurricane! Think of the square MILES of energy this represents, and then it’s not hard to understand how storms can be so strong!!

Speaking of hurricanes, there are not many folks who have experienced a pair of category five hurricanes in a span of just under two weeks. Peak winds in Maria lashed St. Croix with gusts in excess of 200 MPH! Irma devastated St. Thomas & St. John. Little wonder that the territory’s infrastructure suffered immense damage. Ham radio was the only method of communication with St. John for a week following Irma.

On St. Croix some 90-95% of all utility poles were destroyed. Many places in the Territory experienced power outages in excess of 100 days! Landline telephone service still isn’t restored in the majority of businesses, and residences are even farther out on the restoration schedule. In true island spirit, one creative local musician wrote a song called “My Generator” sang to the tune of “My Generation” by The Who. Here’s another creative example of the lengths people would go to have their power restored:

The linemen who came from the States to restore power are folk heroes in the island. Personally, there was no better Christmas present we could have received than having our power restored on Christmas Day. Even some 5 months after the storm, there are still several hundred linemen performing cleanup of the hasty power restoration steeple chase. Thank you linemen!!! You are our true heroes.


In a word propagation has been AWFUL! Smoothed sun spot numbers have hovered near 70, and now frequently dip below 70 with multiple days of zero sunspot sightings. (It’s the sunspots that create the solar winds that excite the atmosphere, which facilitates HF propagation)

The contesters are in the Spring doldrums and fixing their hurricane damaged antenna systems in preparation for the Fall contest season which is right around the corner. The continuance of extremely low solar activity means contesters will have to work harder for DX and contacts.


The St. Croix ARC migrated the domain to a new host service (thanks Sean, WP2SC!) and also a new format – WordPress. We hope you like the new format and will contribute news & other interesting content to keep our website interesting and lively.

The old Yahoo Group which served our reflector needs for several years has been retired in favor of This new service does not require a Yahoo login, which hopefully will bring more folks in touch with our VI ham radio activities.


On the heels of the wildly successful ARRL’s NPOTA & W1AW/* operations comes a new challenge for 2018. The National Grid Chase challenges participants to work as many grid squares in 2018 as possible. The band & mode of QSOs matters not. Just the total number of grids confirmed in the logbook of the world. LoTW. Information is available at

Digital modes have taken the hobby by storm and allow for sub-audible QSOs, thus further increasing our RF ‘reach’ in challenging conditions. Brad, WP2B worked Kuwait (9K2) on 6m JT-65 as well as Western Australia on 80m 1.5 hours BEFORE local sunset. I don’t care how many years you’ve been licensed, that’s pretty cool stuff! Now the FT-8 digital format accounts for 58% of all uploads to ClubLog, a popular online QSO confirmation utility.

Digital mobile radio (DMR), and other digital formats, have also become very popular. Planning is in the early stages to revive the club’s interest in ‘mesh networks’ interest to link a planned intra-island repeater system.

In the aftermath of Irma and Maria, amateurs on all three islands volunteered over 2,200 man-hours of service supporting VITEMA, the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency, and other Federal & Territorial agencies, both governmental & non-governental. Numerous lives were saved and volumes of critical message traffic was passed on behalf of our supported agencies. The ARRL recognized this effort by both VI & PR hams and subsequently bestowed the annual International Humanitarian Award to those who selfishly gave of themselves during our homeland’s time of need. A HUGE thank you to all who assisted in this worthwhile effort. This is one of the cornerstones of our hobby.


As we look forward, we must prepare both on a personal survivability and communications fronts. Family first certainly applies when preparing for, and in the aftermath, of hurricanes. The better prepared we are personally, the better we can support our served agencies. We continuously analyze our performance and recognize our strengths and also strive to make improvements to fulfill our public service role.

Well, that’s all for now. Stay R A D I O A C T I V E ! !

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March 5, 20180 commentsRead More
Hams In Paradise – FALL 2016

Hams In Paradise – FALL 2016

Welcome to Fall! Well, so far we’re at the peak of hurricane season (early September) and the tropics have been relatively quiet. Florida has experienced its first hurricane in 11-years, so there’s still potential activity in the Caribbean!

One possible explanation for the last several quiet years; dust from the Sahara desert. Saharan dust is a mixture of sand and dust from the Sahara, the vast desert area that covers most of North Africa.

How does it get to the Virgin Islands?

In the Sahara desert in northern Africa, wind blows strongly over deserts – whipping up dust and sand high into the sky. The wind in the upper part of the atmosphere then transports the dust in the direction in which it’s travelling, frequently toward the VI.

Once it is lifted from the ground by strong winds, clouds of dust can reach very high altitudes and be transported worldwide, covering thousands of miles. In order for the dust to get from up in the sky down to the ground, you need something to wash it out of the sky – rain.

When the raindrops fall, they collect particles of dust on the way down. Then when the raindrops land on something and eventually evaporate, they leave behind a layer of dust. The dust also reaches South America at times. In fact, a recent study by NASA scientists has found that the dust acts as a fertilizer for the Amazon rain forest.

Many have studies have indicated that the Sahara dust indeed squelches the formation of hurricanes, but the finer nuances aren’t totally understood. One theory suggests that the reflection of sunlight results in lower ocean surface temperatures, a key ingredient for hurricanes. For a detailed explanation, please see


Cycle 24 began in early 2008 and is on the downward side of the normal 11-year cycle. It is on track to have the lowest recorded sunspot activity since the mid-1700’s.

While this spells disappointment if you’re a high HF band aficionado (15, 10 & 6 meters), it generally means improved conditions on the lower bands, as well as additional use due to the high HF bands being closed nearly all the time.

The contesters are in the Summer doldrums and fixing their antenna systems im preparation for the Fall contest season right around the corner. Falling sunspot counts will mean they will have to work harder for DX and contacts.


There are 3 NPOTAs (parks) in STX.

* HP38 – Salt River
* NS10 – The Fort in C’sted
* MN08 – Buck Island (the STX Buck, not the STT Buck)

The first two NPOTAs have had well over 1,000 contacts in the form of several activiations by locals & visitors alike. Buck Island sits just over 100 contacts, so it’s in high demand. Photos from some of the STX activations can be viewed at

It is amazing what a simple vertical antenna near salt water will do. (Sale water = nature’s amplifier!) QSOs with the far reaches of the world (HS, ZL, 4X, UA9, UA0, etc.) have been had. Get your portable rig and join in the fun! More information available at


147.25 MHz – NP2VI/r – East St. Croix – Thanks to Wess, K2AHU and Dan, NP2J, the repater has a new antenna which is working well! They also tightened up the squelch gate a bit.

147.11 MHz – NP2VI/r – West St. Croix – A club member has volunteered his new QTH high above Fredriksted (500+ feet!) for the permanent site of the 147.11 MHz repeater. The repeater will be permanently linked (through a cross-band link) with the 147.25 MHz machine.

146.81 MHz – KP2O – St. Thomas – The St. Thomas repeater is working well, but suffers from a lack of user traffic. Get on and say hello to fellow hams!

146.91 MHz – NP2OW – St. John – This repeater is located at the home QTH of Gilly, NP2OW. The duplexer has been retuned and the repeater seems to be working well. It too suffers from a lack of traffic.

146.76 MHz – VP2R – Tortola, BVI This repeater is located high on a mountain on the island of Tortola. It has not been heard on the air for quite some time. George, VP2VQ is the custodian of this machine.

Well, that’s all for now. Stay R A D I O A C T I V E ! !

Fred, K9VV / NP2X

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October 10, 20160 commentsRead More