Where to From Here?

I have, up to the start of this week, looked after the Web site of my local radio club, The Sunraysia Radio Group. Not only as the Webmaster, but also the designer, editor and sole contributor to a very modest “blog and 4 pages” WordPress based site.

It all came to an abrupt end on Tuesday 21st when I was politely asked to attend a committee meeting of that club “… to share with us the workings of the Website you currently operate in our name.” I must confess that a previous discussion with a committee person gave me a hint that it just could be a hangin’ party. Well, not quite!

The club has stumbled along without effective leadership for a couple of years at least. Whilst I was not there, from a number of verified third party accounts, the 2019 AGM was an absolute shambles. In the report I wrote and published no one was named and shamed or defamed. 12 months after publication the committee now asked me to take down the “offending” post. They also wanted complete control over all future content. Nothing published without their approval. Not me Chief, not on my watch!

They effectively own the brand, so I had no choice. Be careful what you wish for; they will soon have a website to run.

“Just the facts, Ma’am” (Sgt Joe Friday in Dragnet)

Judge for Yourself -2019 AGM

Well the 2019 AGM has come and gone, and from all reports did not “Go gentle into that good night.” I must point out that my reports are second hand, so I need to be a little careful.

Suffice to say that the meeting was somewhat “orchestrated” by senior members of the club who were not members of the committee, let alone the executive, and that there was an interjection from the floor attempting to wrest control of the meeting from the chairman. John VK2AWJ is to be commended for his handling of the election of officers.

Regretably, yet another keen and active member has been alienated. That makes 4 in 2 years that I know of. It seems that being an “annointed one” is somewhat of a poisoned chalice.

Unconfirmed reports have Brian VK3BBB as President, David VK3ZUA Vice President, Therese VK3FMTT Treasurer and Carol Loag is again Secretary. There are no details of the rest of the committee at this point.

Thanks to the outgoing committee and Good Luck to new one.


Coming Home

Well it’s been an amazing six months on the road Ham Radio-wise,and now we’re on the way home.

We started with a WICEN SA exercise for the “Adelaide Rally of the Heartland” motorsport event. All you need to help is a reliable 2m FM voice rig and some way of getting an antenna up a few meters. We set out a foldable blanket solar panel and operated from the ute battery with no problems at all. Incidentally I’ve fitted an “Allrounder” 525A CCA , 100AH dual purpose battery.

I’ve operated from a few wild and desolate places such as “Terry Smith Lookout” on the way to the Gulf Country, as well as an extended 6 week operation in Darwin, staying with family. I used two digital modes exclusively; FT8 aka “click-and-collect”, and JS8, which is a “chat” version of FT8. Both modes excel in the prevailing very low signal strength situation. I also stayed with 2 bands , 40m and 20m, for a number of reasons.

Suitable antennae are always a problem “on the road” and I learned quite a bit. In Darwin I deployed the 40m OCF dipole. Plenty of tall trees and open space on my niece’s 5 acre block. With a focus on JS8, I worked plenty of VK and a few ZLs, but real DX was hard to find.  The  OCFD at only 12m high is really a Near Vertical Incident Skywave (NVIS) antenna at 40 and 20, and the sky wasn’t at all cooperative. In fact the Diamond centre loaded whip on the ute’s bullbar did a better job so I played with that for a while. Thanks to Tom W7SUA for my first JS8 DX.

On the spur of the moment  I wound 10 meters or so of 15A auto wire around a 10m squid pole and hoisted my new, almost 1/4 wave 40m vertical.  The YT-100 tuner took care of any small mismatch and the performance was exceptional. Plenty of DX on JS8 as well as FT8 at last. Plenty of VK3, 5, 6, and 7 too. Don’t listen to the vertical naysayers.

 I had a run in with a ‘van park manager over the OCFD and “staying completely within the allocated site” and never deployed it again. I did do some more work on the 1/4 wave squid pole to make it a bit easier to deploy. For the rest of the trip I used the 20m and 40m CL whips on the truck. When stops are only overnight and time is of the essence you cant beat an already deployed antenna.

So what have I learned…
Two tall trees and clear space are less common than we believe. OCFD makes a terrible inverted V. Verticals aren’t the bogeyman they’re made out to be. Mobile whips work too! If you aren’t on the air you’ll never make a contact.

New Repeater at Balranald

Thanks to a big effort from Paul VK2PNH, Rex VK3OF, Matt VK3MDC, and Andrew VK3HDV, the Balranald 2 meter repeater is installed at its permanent site on the Balranald water tower. Drive tests have returned very good results with better than 50km coverage in all directions. There is good overlap with the Robinvale and Swan Hill repeaters, so once the Robinvale repeater link is up it will be possible to drive from Mildura to Balranald to Swan Hill and have a QSO all the way.

The Balranald repeater uses two Tait FM/P25 radios donated to Paul by Tait Australia. The site on the town’s water tower is also being supplied to Paul free of charge , including power. Given the “Hay Plains” nature of the geography, the water towers have proven to be a wonderful site giving the great coverage of the area.

VK2RBL is on 146.7250Mhz, -ve 6000KHz, no CTCS tone required. In other words a bog-standard 2M repeater.

Thanks to Balranald Shire Council for the great site, Tait Australia for the Equipment and Paul VK2PNH and team for seeing the project through despite the difficulties and indifference.

More Portable Ops.

So, JS8 has been the mode of choice and exclusively on 40 and 20, ‘tho’ I do confess to dipping down 4 to the FT8 bedlam for a little “click and collect”. I’m pretty much constrained to a mobile whip on the bullbar, but I’ve managed at least one QSO each try and LOTS of ACKs. The ‘van parks we’ve stayed in want you contained completely within the site, so no stringing the OCF. Apparently there are public liability problems in the “Free Camps” as well, so no wire over anyone else’s site. Something I hadn’t even thought of ! Have to put more time into the Squid-stick vertical!

Today we’re at Vincent Parker Park at Rollingstone, north of Townsville. Ian VK5CZ was this mornings lucky winner! 40M died around 10 am local and 20 didnt really pick up. I’ll try 40 again around sunset. Meanwhile, ISS is packeting through my mobile! See if I can get a posit through.


Traveling, Portable Ops and Digital Modes

We’ve been on the road for nearly three months now and I’ve tried portable digital HF from a few places. Not with a lot of success I might add! JS8 is my mode of choice, an HF digi-mode somewhere between PSK31 and FT8… in fact it’s FT8 with chat! Unfortunately the propagation on 20 and 40 has been abysmal, even for a weak signal mode.

However, it has not been without some joy; from Darwin I managed a couple of good days and some DX on 20m. In this case I slung my OCF dipole between two good trees about 10m up. I had a few weeks to do it! On the road and “one night stands” I used a Diamond centre loaded whip mounted to the bull-bar. Obviously a compromise but still managed a couple of contacts. Seems to be a great rx antenna but not so good at tx!

In the spirit of Ham Radio I did play with an idea I’ve had for a while, 10 meters of hookup wire wound around my 9.5 meter squid pole in a sort of very loose continuously loaded whip, fed against the metal mass of the caravan. It shows promise on 40M, tunes readily with the YT-100 and on 7.074Mhz FT8 about the same performance as the OCF dipole.

We’ve now left the Gulf Country and down on the tropical coast. I’ll try some voice nets as well. Haven’t managed to hear the Travelers Net or the Early Bird net yet, but I have hopes

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