Members of the Grand Strand Amateur Radio Club (GSARC) have overcome the social separation issue imposed during the coronavirus, by meeting several times each week using their radios. They gather using radio repeaters located in either Conway, Murrells Inlet or along Restaurant Row allowing them to share time together on a wide variety of topics, covering the Horry County area and beyond.

The "on the air" meetings vary in size but usually include some 20 to 30 participants who "check in" through a central network control operator and then take turns sharing information. Topics can be anything from "what I'm doing today" to recipes, posing technical questions, commenting on a good book to read, TV show or movie to watch, trivia questions, sharing info on lines and the availability of items at local markets, phone numbers of service providers for seniors, or one might just say nothing while listening and monitoring the conversation. All in all, nearly 50 different operators have participated since the program began nearly two weeks ago.

Using home stations, mobile radios or even hand-held walkie-talkies, operators are free to join the group while walking the dog, running an errand or relaxing in their homes. Participating hams have called in from Conway, Myrtle Beach, Georgetown and Calabash, NC. 

Gordon Mooneyhan, FCC Call sign W4EGM, observed that hams are using their FCC allocated Two Meter band to come together, noting that two meters is approximately six feet, which is the minimum distance we are supposed to stay away from one another.

The daily gatherings are hosted by volunteer coordinators, some of which include Dean French, N4AJK of Conway and James Grant, KJ4CMN of Myrtle Beach and others when necessary.

In addition to the lively banter, the operators are also honing their skills in case they're needed to assist others in a time of emergency. But in the near term, amateur radio provides a means to escape the barriers of sheltering in place, linking with others, sharing experiences and being social without the need to gather in person.

An FCC Amateur Radio license is required to transmit but those with scanner radios can listen in on 145.110 MHz at 8 p.m. on Sunday, 146.805 MHz at 8 p.m. on Thursday, and 147.120 MHz at 8 p.m. on Saturday. The 146.805 repeater is also connected to a statewide network on most weekends. Information on obtaining a ham radio license can be found at www.w4gs.org or www.arrl.org.