Boat Anchor II
By Steven R. Hurst, KA7NOC
What is QSL'ing anyway ?
QSL'ing , is sending and receiving "QSL" cards via the mail service. A QSL card is a type of postcard that many hams exchange with other hams they have contacted via "ham" radio and engaged in a two way conversation. It is one of the fun activities which hams enjoy. I hope that the information which I provide, will be of some benefit to those new comers to the amateur radio hobby. In the 15 years which I have been an active ham, I have sent and received many "QSL" cards. At one time I posted them on my wall in the "ham shack", but as I accumulated several hundred of them , I ran out of space on my walls ! So now most of them are filed in shoe box's waiting to see the light of day in a bigger room.
What is the purpose of QSL'ing ?
There are several reasons why hams send and receive QSL cards. One reason is for confirmation that the contact actually took place. Many awards are issued to hams who demonstrate that they have contacted certain places, different States, countries, zones, counties etc. These awards are only issued with the presentation of the QSL cards, although some awards are issued using the "honor system" . The other reason that I can think of is just pure enjoyment ! It is nice to contact someone and then a few days or weeks later, receive their card in the mail, usually with a nice comment or two added.
How do hams know each others address ?
All hams are issued a call sign from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the communications licensing body of the U.S. government. All countries have a licensing agency. When one receives a license, that persons name and address becomes public record, so , there are companies which publish books that list names and address' by call sign. There are also search engines here on the W W W . One only has to know the person's call sign to obtain their address', assuming it is current. If someone is new or recently has had a call sign change, they can either give their address over the air or send the card first, with their return address.
Isn't it expensive ?
It can get expensive, especially if you make lots of contacts and everyone wants your card ! Luckily, not everyone sends out cards, and not everyone wants your card. There are ways to cut down on the expense of sending cards. One way is to belong to a QSL bureau service, called a "Buro". These services accept your outgoing cards, ( pre-sorted by call sign ), they will then ship them off to their destination for a modest fee. The "ARRL" offers this service to its members, it is however an "outgoing DX" service only. Meaning you can only send out "DX" cards, not stateside cards, using their service. You can send cards by the pound if you like. Sending cards "via the buro" takes longer than direct mail, due to the handling and also the time involved in accumulating the right amount of cards to make the service worthwhile. It cost about the same to send one card or one pound of cards ! There are other services which are called "incoming" QSL Buro's.
How do the different "Buro's" work ?
For the "ARRL" outgoing QSL service, you will need to be a member of that organization. You will need to contact them for the current forms and information. It works something like this. First you make the contact with the other ham with which you would like to exchange cards. Fill out the card with the stations call sign, if you are active and make lots of "DX" contacts, it won't take too long to accumulate the right amount of cards to ship. Package them up and ship them off to the service. Include payment and any type of forms that are necessary. That's all there is to it, the cards will be on their way !
What about receiving cards ?
To receive cards from an "incoming" buro, you need to find out who is providing this service in your call area, names and address' appear at the bottom of this page. Usually, a ham club of some sort is volunteering time and energy to this effort. There are different clubs in all call area's. If your callsign has the number "7" in it , for example, you will need to use the 7th call area incoming QSL service. This service is generally free of charge, you need only have provided the club with self addressed stamped envelopes, S.A.S.E's. They must always have on file from you S.A.S.E.'s to send your cards. Some club's allow you to purchase envelopes and postage from them, again, you will need to keep current on your funds to receive cards. You can specify the desired amount of cards you wish to receive per each S.A.S.E, for example, an S.A.S.E with one unit of first class postage, will get you about 7 or 8 cards. If you wish to receive more, you will need to increase the postage on your envelopes. It's that simple ! Include a thank you note from time to time, these folks do a great job and would appreciate hearing about it once in awhile !
What if I move out of my call area ?
When you move out of your call area, and are not going to change your call sign, you will still need to stay with the club who services your old call area. Example, you have a "7" area call sign and you move into the "6" area call district. You still will receive cards from your seventh call area bureau. Only when you make a call sign change to the new call area do you need to change bureau's.
Now for the tips !
Not every card you send out will produce a return, that is just the way it is. Some ham's just don't QSL for one reason or another. And cards do occasionally get lost in the mail, or lost amongst the clutter of one's operating desk. Hopefully , I can offer some tips to better your rate of return. Here are a few things which I have done over the years, with pretty good results. I will list them and then explain what each means.
Choosing a well designed card.
I can't stress this enough, everyone likes to receive a distinct card. The ones which are designed by the individual are the best, in my opinion. Don't skimp in this department, your card , like your call sign, is your trademark. Make it interesting, maybe you live in an area which has some unique aspect about it. Or , take a picture of your "shack" , your dog, your wife, your favorite car, an historical site, etc. Whatever you choose, make it professional and distinct. It will cost a little more as compared to the "generic" type cards, but well worth the added expense. If you don't want to go this route, there are many quality card printers that specialize in printing QSL cards of high quality. Because they are set up for this kind of business, their prices are very reasonable. Check the ads in the magazines and send away for the free samples which are offered. Look for quality semi-glossy stock, and choose a design that best fits your operating practice's.
When sending a card to a DX stations QSL manager, ALWAYS provide the manager with a self addressed stamped envelope with the correct amount of return postage ! QSL managers are providing a valuable service to their fellow hams, many times using their own funds to help provide cards to the stations wishing to receive them ! Don't make it harder on them than it already is, send an S.A.S.E !!! If you have worked a rare DX station that doesn't have a stateside QSL manager, and you don't want to go through the "Buro", you can still provide an S.A.S.E with that countries postage. There are a couple of companies that I know of which provide the current return postage stamps. They keep up to date on the current rates, you just tell them what country you need. Also, you may want to check with your local stamp dealer and see what their selection is on "mint" stamps from the countries you are interested in. This has worked very well for me, sometimes the DX station is surprised that you have sent his countries stamps on a return envelope ! This is one trick to get the attention of the station to send you your card ! Plus , it is less expensive than I.R.C.'s.
An I.R.C. is an "International Reply Coupon", these are available through most local post office's. Most countries will except I.R.C.'s in exchange for postage. Although, some countries require more than one coupon for their first class air mail rate. I believe the current price per coupon is somewhere around $1.00. As you can see , these can be a rather expensive way to go, especially when the country which you are sending them to requires more than one ! I.R.C.'s do work, but sometimes it is harder on the DX station to exchange these for postage, due to location or whatever. So it is not the best way to go, and I much rather prefer the postage route. Be careful when sending DX stations I.R.C.'s or dollars through the mail, as they tend to have a way of "coming out" of the envelopes on their way ! When addressing a DX envelope, NEVER put the stations call sign on the envelope ! Some people know that call signs mean stamps, I.R.C.'s or money enclosed. Also, in some countries receiving currency ( U.S. dollars ) is illegal ! And we certainly don't want the DX ham to go to jail and quit operating do we ?
Correct information / GMT
Always make sure that you have provide the correct information on your card. Band,mode,time, date etc. DX hams are very busy logging and making out cards, they do not like to have to search for your contact in their logs. If you make them upset, they may not send you a card at all. And I can't blame them, if you can't get the information correct, maybe you don't deserve their card ! So please , make sure you fill it out correctly. ALWAYS use GMT for the time AND date ! People don't like to waste time converting your CST ( or whatever time zone you are in ) to their time zone ! Again this can mean the difference between getting that rare one or not ! So learn how to use it correctly, its not very difficult. GMT stands for "Greenwich Mean Time, or more commonly referred to as UTC or "Zulu" time. UTC stands for "Coordinated Universal Time". Why not "CUT" you ask ? Well, UTC is translated from the French " Universelle Tempes Coordinate' ", hence the "UTC" abbreviation ( cool, no ? ). Why Greenwich England and not, say , New York ? Good question, here's the answer. The Prime Meridian runs approximately through Greenwich England, longitude is measured in degrees east or west of the Prime Meridian. Thereby making Greenwich universally recognized as the standard time zone. All this is, is a time reference by which everyone's clock says the same hour and minute. Thereby creating a universal time based on the time in Greenwich England. It would become very difficult if everyone used their own time zone ! When making contact's with DX stations on the air , you both have a reference of a common time and date zone. Here's an example: I am in the Mountain time zone in North America. Which is seven hours behind Greenwich England time. Lets say that it is 6:30 pm MST on 22 November 1997. UTC time will be 01:30 am on 23 November 1997 in Greenwich England ! So when someone asks you for a schedule at 0130 UTC on 23 November 1997, it will really be 22 November 1997 at your North American shack ! Confused ? Don't be, just buy or build yourself a clock that displays time in a 24 hour format and you'll be fine ! If you set the clock to W W V, which transmits time in UTC on 2.5, 5 and 10 Mhz, as soon as the clock reads 00:00 hours the date just changed to the next day. So write it down as the next day in your log book or on your QSL card. Using 24 hour time also eliminates the need to use AM or PM as well. Because anything after 0000 hours is AM up until 1200 hours or noon ! Everything after that is PM, so when you work someone at 1500 hours, that is three hours after noon 1200 + 3 = 1500 !
|CALL AREA||ORGANIZATION||ADDRESS||CITY||STATE||ZIP CODE||CONTACT INFO.|
|W1 QSL BUREAU||YCCC||P.O. Box 80216||Springfield||MA||01138||W1qsl@yccc.org|
|W2 QSL BUREAU||NJDXA||P.O. Box 599||Morris PlainsNJemail@example.com|
|W3 QSL BUREAU||PDXA||P.O. Box 100||York Haven||PA||17370||N/A|
|W4 QSL BUREAU||Mecklenburg A.R.C.||P.O. Box DX||Charlotte||NCfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|W*4 QSL BUREAU||Sterling Park A.R.C.||Call Box 599||Sterling||VA||20167||RWMaylott@aol.com|
|W5 QSL BUREAU||ARRL W5 Incoming QSL Bureau||P.O. Box 50625||Midland||TX||79710||Qslwf5e@aol.com|
|W6 QSL BUREAU||ARRL 6th District DX QSL Bureau||P.O. Box 1460||Sun Valley||CA||91352||W6LPJ@ix.netcom.com|
|W7 QSL BUREAU||Willamette Valley DX Club||P.O. Box 555||Portland||ORemail@example.com|
|W8 QSL BUREAU||8th Area QSL Bureau||P.O.Box 182165||Columbus||OH||43218||N/A|
|W9 QSL BUREAU||Northern Illinois DX Asso.||Box 519||Elmhurst||IL||60126||N/A|
|W0 QSL BUREAU||W0 QSL BURO||P.O. Box 4798||Overland Park||KS||66204||N/A|
|KH6 QSL BUREAU||Wayne Jones, NH6GJ||P.O. Box 788||Wahiawa||HIfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|KL7 QSL BUREAU||KL7 QSL BURO||4304 Garfield St.||Anchorage||AK||99503||N/A|
|KP4 QSL BUREAU||Puerto Rico QSL Bureau||P.O. Box 9021061||San Juan||PR||00902||N/A|
|KP2 QSL BUREAU||U.S. Virgin Is. A.R.C.||GPO Box 11360||Charlotte Amalie||VIemail@example.com|
|SWL QSL BUREAU||Mike Witkowski, WDX9JFT||4206 Nebel St.||Stevens Point||WI||54481||N/A|
Be sure and check with your area's incoming QSL bureau to see which they prefer, S.A.S.E.'s or cash payment first before sending anything !