Charlie’s Whistle, March, 2011
Charlie’s Whistle, March, 2011 avatar

In last month’s Charlie‘s Whistle, Mary and Charlie took the plunge and purchased a second home for themselves in sunny Florida. Having awinter home in a warmer climate had been something that they’ve thought about for a very long while. Most of the time, they would dismiss the idea fairly easily because they love their little home on DXHill and love their friends and neighbors, love the spring and fall and generally considered the weather in winter as little more than anannoyance. But last year, something changed. Mary and Charlie reached their respective limits. The snow, ice and cold simply became more unbearable than either could remember. Is it simply their age? They’re getting up there, well past mid 70s now and although quite spry for their age, they admit that they’ve lost a step or two and cannot do many of the things that were easy just a few years ago.

The deciding factor for each of them is the fear of falling on the ice. Last winter, Charlie nearly fell while walking Rufus because he didn’t see a patch of ice covered by a dusting of new snow. He was able to quickly grab a telephone pole to catch himself, otherwise he wouldhave gone down. Mary did take a fall walking into her craft shop. It was early morning and the new snow overnight had obscured the walkway from the car. The shop owner hadn’t yet gone out to clear the path and put sand and salt down. But Mary was philosophical about it and figured that was what she got for being the first customer of the morning after an overnight snowfall. She wanted to pick up some yarn for something she was making and went to the store very early so that she could get started. Other than an ugly bruise to show for it, Mary was left none the worse but she doesn’t care to fall again.

Nonetheless, they came to their conclusions independently that they simply cannot take that risk any longer. It harkens back to the old lesson that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If they avoid the problems, they’ll not have to deal with recovering from them. So, now they need to care for two homes, separated by a long auto trip or a couple of hours in a plane.

Upon their return to DX Hill last month, they talked about the safety and security of having an empty house at one end or the other of their two home situation. They weren’t as concerned about their home onDX Hill because between Mary and Charlie, they have literally dozens of trusted friends who would probably be able to keep an eye on things. To give them some peace of mind, Charlie contacted a home security firm.

An expert came out and surveyed the house and the tower. He made some recommendations for local detection devices as well as notification to the police if anyone were to trip the alarms. Charlie’s tower was even included in the detection network and for added safety, it was powered by a fully automatic trickle charged battery system so that even if normal power was out for hours or even days, the security system would perform normally. Charlie was far more concerned about the new property near Ocala. Essentially, that place would likely be vacant from May through October every year and if Charlie installed a tower and left valuable radio equipment in the house, that would become a target for vandalism.

The security agent told our good mentor that since his company was a nationwide firm, he could arrange for an associate to survey the Florida property and could include it under his DX Hill contract. In fact, doing it as a single package would save over 50% compared to setting it up independently. It seemed clearly the way to go. After some simple questions were covered, they were given a quote. It was less expensive than Charlie expected and he asked several “what if…” questions. All were answered to Mary’s and Charlie’s satisfaction so they signed up for a three year period. The company would come to DX Hill within a week to install the necessary equipment and left the Florida installation date open until the property was transferred.

The Florida winter home immediately gave both of our friends an incentive to start planning for how they would want their hobby centers to be set up. The next day after returning from their trip to Florida, the spiral notebooks and a bunch of pencils came out. Quietly, Mary and Charlie began sketching out their ideal layouts and ideas for their southern home. Mary’s kitchen was huge! The pantry space alone was nearly equal to the size of her entire DX Hill kitchen. She had wide counters on either side of the sink and granite on either side of the cook top.

Charlie’s ham shack was a bit more modest but still larger than his present DX Hill shack. He had console and desk space filling one corner of the room. He only had a vague idea of the room in Florida that would be his ham shack, so everything was simply conceptual and likely would need to be changed greatly when he tried to fit everything into it.

Fortunately, Charlie had back-up equipment on DX Hill that has only been gathering dust since being obtained. He has a spare military Collins amplifier that he obtained several years ago along with Mike, his horse trader pal and Collins collector. Actually at the time, he picked up three of them as his part of the deal. Mike bought an entire pallet of these unmarked amplifiers for a song in a government auction. A condition of the sale was that upon settlement with the buyer, the units had to be picked up within 24 hours at a US Navy warehouse about 500 miles away from DX Hill. Failure to do that would forfeit the deal. Charlie had gone half with Mike on the bid for the units.They didn’t bid very much because the item was labeled merely, “HFAmplifiers, one skid, heavy”. It was a gamble and Mike pulled Charlie into the deal. When they won the bid, of course Mike gassed up his heavy box truck and called Charlie to get ready to travel.

The auction results were announced at 5:00 PM on a Monday andwinners had until 5:00 PM on Tuesday to claim their goods or the material and their certified checks of deposit would be forfeited. Mike and Charlie each submitted a $100 check to bid on the items and then won the amplifiers with a bid of $1,010.01. Their $200 retainer checks would be deducted and upon pick up, theywould have to pay $810.01 in cash. Sure, it was a gamble but they felt worth the chance. After all, they could end up with some very nice equipment for very short money. They could also own a collection of ancient arc welding equipment. Mike is registered as a dealer and can legitimately buy and resell for business purposes, so any profit seeking would be OK.

A 500 mile trip would be 10 hours, then an hour or so to load and 10 hours back. Mike picked up Charlie at 10:00 PM, figuring that they would arrive at about 8:00 AM, the time the warehouse opens for business. Mike and Charlie drove all night, only stopping once along the way for fuel, coffee, stretch their legs and change drivers. They made quite good time and arrived at the huge Navy warehouse about 7:00 AM. Finding the right gate was a problem and they had to drive to the opposite side of the gated complex to enter. But, showing the papers from the government sale, showing ID and signing the clipboard got them into the monstrous property. They were given a map with their warehouse circled. After a half dozen wrong turns, they pulled up to building N-12-207. The door was closed and the time was 7:30 AM. They were very tired after driving all night but were excited and anxious to dig into that pallet of HF amplifiers. From the description, all Mike and Charlie knew was that there was more than one on the pallet and all the amps together were heavy. Despite the skimpy knowledge, they took a chance in the hope of buying something very valuable.That’s also why Mike brought his big truck, just in case the more than one turns out to be fifty. Whatever it is, you MUST remove everything that you bought.

So they waited and a couple of other trucks pulled up to pick up their goods. Just before 8:00, the large overhead door started upward and two Navy personnel stood in the open doorway flanked by two armed Marines. My Goodness! What have we gotten into? Mike walked toward them with his papers. One of the Petty Officers greeted him with “Good Morning”. Well, that was civil. Mike replied with the same. As the officer checked his papers, Mike asked why the armed guards and he answered simply that there was some very valuable equipment here and we have to secure everything. He directed Mike to park his truck at the loading dock and use the portable lift trucks called pallet jacks to go into the warehouse to get his material. He was provided with row, shelf and bin.

So, Mike and Charlie headed into this monster of a warehouse. Only kidding, Charlie suggested that they leave bread crumbs behind themselves to find their way out. It really is a huge place, as long as two football fields and twice as wide. This is only one of at least 20 buildings in this compound. Talk about huge! This place redefines the word.

They followed the grid numbers and soon found their material. It was on two heavy duty wooden skids, each about five feet wide and long. Large wooden crates were neatly stacked on each skid, four to a row. They were stacked about five feet high. They counted and found there were twenty crates on each skid. The crates were stenciled in black, stating a NAV part number and “HF amplifier for radio set 2000-30-1”. Mike had a screw driver in his pocket and started to pry open the side of one of the crates but didn’t get very far before a Marine stopped him. He was told to remove the material from the building before doing that. OK, so he slid his pallet jack and lifted one pallet. Oh my Gosh!The pallet must weigh a ton! It took the two men, one pulling and one pushing to roll the pallet full of crates to the open door and to the truck. Thankfully, the floor and platform up to the loading dock was level. When they got the first pallet to the platform, Mike went to back the truck up to the dock. Luckily, the trucks floor was just about level with the platform, so they were able to roll the pallet right onto the truck and up to the front to put the weight forward. Before opening one of the crates, they went and got the second crate. Moving that one out became a little bit of a problem because the armed guards thought they had already removed their material. Mike had to point out to them that the paperwork that he received from the warehouse clerk stated that the material was on two skids.

With the second pallet safely aboard, Mike and Charlie took a well earned rest. But both were burning up with curiosity over what one of these amplifiers looked like. So, after only a minute, they removed the strapping over one side of the skid and removed one crate and put it down on the deck of the truck. Mike had a hammer and a crow bar in his truck and used them to carefully dismantle one crate. Inside was a Cosmoline “cocoon”, so typical of the packaging used to store and ship military material. The familiar smell of the Cosmoline is unmistakable. Mike carefully cut through the thick cloth like covering and uncovered a piece of equipment double wrapped in plastic. After removing all ofthat, they finally saw what these amps looked like. There was a thick envelope in its own wrapping to contain field operating manual and a service manual and another pouch with two Eimac final tubes some patch cables and assorted maintenance items.

Mike turned on the small light in the truck and they saw the amp. It was a Collins auto-tuned amp that is marked 1.5 to 40 Mhz on its input tuning. The switch on the panel offers CW, Digital and SSB. So, it’s a linear amp. Time to read the books to learn more about what they‘ve bought.

They pondered for a while whether they should rest for a while before heading home. After all, they’ve been up all night. Mike didn’t want to and offered to drive. So they saddled up and headed back to DX Hill. On the way home, Mike drove more slowly because of the weight aboard. Of course, they had strapped everything down but there is close to two tons back there. In reading the books, Charlie learned that the amplifier and its power supply are packed individually. He also learned that the amp is rated at1 kw on SSB and CW and uses roller inductor and vacuum variable capacitors. The final tube Is an Eimac 3CX1500. It sounds like a honey, made by Collins. Then, he thought about what they paid for these 20 brand new amplifiers. What a deal they got. They paid a total of a little more than $1,000. That means that they paid only $50 per amplifier.The tube alone for the final is worth over $1,200. Boy, Mike will make profit on this deal.

All this happened several years ago and Charlie saved two nice new amplifiers. He has used one ever since coming home with the crates. Mike wanted to split the profit with Charlie but he politely refused. He only took three of the units and wanted to pay Mike for them. Mike laughed and asked, “What do you want to pay? $50 a unit?” Then, he laughed. For helping him, Mike just gave him three of the units for his own use. He put most of the remaining units up for sale and made a very nice profit.

So, in planning for his Florida home, Charlie set one of those amps aside for Florida and then wondered what sort of power is in that house? My Golly, he doesn’t even know if the place has a 220 service or whether it has 200 amp service. There’s so much he doesn’t know. It will give him plenty to have fun with.

There are always deals flying around on HF radios, so he knew that picking up a radio for Florida wouldn’t be any challenge at all. In fact, it might be an opportunity to treat himself to a new radio. There are a lot of nice ones out there. Let’s see, How about a new IC-7800 or an FTDX-9000D? No, I doubt it. That’s not what Charlie would do. Before fall, he will find something and put it aside for the Florida shack. Between now and then, Mary and he must get back down there, find an honest carpenter and contractor and make changes and get everything repaired to code. They need to spend quality time writing everything down that they need to have done. Oh my Goodness! What have they done? More to follow…….