In early April of 2015 I discovered I needed to go back to Antigua to testify in a court case as an expert witness. I’ve done expert witness work for years in residential construction cases, but this was my first international foray.
I had visited the gorgeous island three years earlier to do the required inspection of the defective workmanship, but I was not skilled at that time in QRP HF radio and I had zero Morse Code skills.
Fast forward to this year and all that had changed. I’m now in love with outdoor QRP (less than 5 watts power) radio and my Morse code – CW is the parlance used by operators – skills are greatly improved. I’m by no means an expert, but I can hear code sent accurately with the proper spacing at about 13 words per minute (WPM).
My trip this time required that I’d be on the island for a full week with lots of time to kill. I had read stories about how having an antenna next to salt water enhances its capabilities so I was dying to try it.
The small hut where I’d be staying is only 30 feet from the ocean so it would be a rare lifetime experience to help a weak QRP signal get a boost from a body of salt water.
I had operated a small handheld radio five years earlier in western Canada on a road trip trying to get into a repeater with no success. My research showed at that time that there was no need for me to get a Canadian radio license. I could just use my USA-issued license followed by a few letters indicating I was a USA ham operating in Canada.
I thought this was all I had to do in Antigua.
I was wrong as my QRP mentor and outdoor radio mentor, Jim Cluett – W1PID, informed me.
Getting the Antiguan Radio License
My first stop in the process was a visit to the ARRL website. There they have an entire section on International License requirements and agreements. There’s a gold mine of information there, including facts about frequencies in other nations you’re allowed to operate on!
After reading much of that material, I discovered I needed a new separate license from Antigua. A quick search turned up their webpage that dealt with Antiguan radio licenses, but for some reason the link to Amateur was broken and still is at the time I wrote this.
After a little more searching I located an email address to an Antiguan government official, Mr. William Henry, and he proceeded to help me. He was very professional and one of his last emails to me said, “We have a saying in the Caribbean that goes like, ‘good friends better than money in the pocket.’ I think that it might just apply to Teresia.”
The Teresia he was referring to is my host in Antigua. She and her husband hired me to come to Antigua and she went to Mr. Henry’s office to complete the transaction and get the hard copy of my license. This cut weeks off the normal process of me sending money to them in the mail and them mailing me my license.
The first step was to fill out a simple application form.
I had to make a copy of my first two pages of my US passport and one of my FCC amateur license to show that I’m in good standing with the USA. The officials in Antigua also wanted to verify my USA license privileges.
I now notice, reading the new application, that they also want copies of the technical specifications of the radio equipment you intend to use.
The cost, in April 2015, for a one-year amateur license was $30 US Dollars.
It only took about a week to get the license once I submitted the application and all the items they asked for.
If you live outside of Antigua, you can do everything via normal postal mail, but my guess is that would add about a month to the process. How lucky I was to have my friend Teresia do the legwork for me down there to ensure I had my license before my visit.
You can request a vanity call sign, I did, but someone already had: V2ATB. The country prefix for Antigua call signs is V2.
Mr. Henry issued me V25TB instead.
With a simple request to the folks at QRZ.com, they allowed me to register it there and manage it out of my W3ATB account. I listed my US home address for the license since I don’t have a permanent Antiguan address.
The hut or house you see in the photo is where I’ll be staying. Let’s hope all they say about salt water and antennas is true!
Wish me luck. I’ll be on 20, 30 and 40 meters with my HB-1B.