Basic HF kit satisfies radio wannabes

From Ocean Navigator #127
January/February 2003
As digital communication becomes more sophisticated, it also seems to be coming within reach of mere mortals in the form of less-expensive equipment, greater availability and a broad network of support on the Internet. Ham radios are used increasingly for their simplicity, low cost, and even portability, which is why many mariners have turned to this technology for communication.

The author’s Elecraft K2 HF radio kit under construction.
   Image Credit: Jeremy Clark

Electronics engineer Jeremy Clark purchased his Elecraft K2 radio kit for its modern digital design, ease of PC interface and portability.

“I bought the Elecraft K2 because it was a totally modern HF transceiver in a kit format,” Clark said. “When I was a kid, I used to rip apart radios and put them back together. We used to have the Heathkit in the ’60s and ’70s. There has not been anything similar since. In particular, I am interested in digital-signal-processing/modulation techniques. I want to experiment with interfacing an HF transceiver with a computer and sending data. I spent many years of my life working in foreign countries, and I prefer equipment that is small (and) easy to operate and power. These are also requirements for any adventurer or sailor in particular.”

Clark is a professor of electronics technology at Seneca College in Toronto. He became interested in HF communication and navigation while serving in Indonesia as an engineer for Canadian Pacific Railway Consulting, which was contracted by the government to upgrade a railway system. (“This was just before the days of GPS – 1985 – which meant that we did a lot of celestial navigation for survey work.”) While he is a registered ham operator, he said that any radio enthusiast can purchase a ham unit without a license and use the device for receiving. To transmit, you need to be a registered ham operator.

“In terms of communications, I want to experiment with different data techniques, such as PK31, Pactor, CLOVER,” Clark added. “These all have marine email applications.”

The Elecraft K2 unit is available in two varieties, 10-watt or 100-watt. The 10-watt version is an ideal unit for marine use, since it can be rigged to onboard power supplies. Clark uses a Uni-Solar USF-11W solar panel in series with a Morningstar SunGuard 12-volt DC/4.5-amp voltage regulator.

All that is needed for construction is a basic voltmeter dvm, a few basic hand tools, like wire strippers and needle-nose pliers, and a basic voltmeter. “The instruction manual in the kit is excellent,” Clark said. “Consider it a do-it-yourself radio and electronics course!”

For more information on the K2, visit For information on the solar panels and regulator, visit and

By Ocean Navigator