RaDAR – The story of masts

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Masts or sections thereof may have many uses, a painters pole got me off ZT/FS-002 once after tearing a calf muscle during ascent.

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Of course they make EXCELLENT masts (around 4.5 m – two back to back, extended)

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Joining the poles.

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To keep the mast in the upright position, I use the antenna and a third guy rope. The antenna has a fixed point where I’ve cable tied a tiny carbiner.

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Then it’s just a matter of tent pegging all three points. Very fast deployment times. The painters poles make EXCELLENT hiking sticks and are extremely lightweight … a few hundred grams each I’d imagine but still relatively strong for their weight.

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The “Klaus mast” or 10m telescopic pole, has it’s place but much heavier in comparison! Around 3.2 kg. When Andries, ZS6VL the kids and I climbed ZT/FS-001 and 002 I carried the mast up the hill, thank goodness Andries carried it back home. It collapses sometimes too easily and most certainly we could only raise it half way maximum, about the height of the painters poles because of the wind. It needs a good base on which to secure it.. It has it’s place but next time I climb a mountain, it will be with the painters poles.

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There is another mast that is really excellent and that is the “Eskom pole” but also a little heavy. I dedicate that mast now to field deployments of the ZS6BKW antenna. Here is Andries, ZS6VL with the BKW and Eskom pole on the background.

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This is a RATTLE FREE method of storing the painters pole mast hardware in the pack.

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…. and of course the painters poles would not be complete without the Fuchs tuner and 21m wire.

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….. and so shall I find a new tree, to sit under, every time :)

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RaDAR – Surviving in the new South Africa

I got home from work for lunch this afternoon and like every other day there was no water, not that there is none but service delivery in South Africa is just two words! I feel like a rat in a cage where water is supplied only certain times of the day. Just before work and just after work. Sometimes at midday it may go on. Many residents have fitted water tanks and high pressure pumps at their homes to alleviate the problem but it comes at great expense!

Elrika, my wife, battles to get the washing done and the dishes washed at home during the day. Flushing a toilet can become problematic so we store water in buckets and water bottles just to have continuity! Fortunately I have an almost two decade old swimming pool – that’s our water buffer!

Beautiful nature parks and dams have been destroyed, the game that once roamed there, no longer do! Since the dams have disappeared, underground peat fires ignite and burn. The dams were built specifically to stop the process by the so called national party government the world so hated.

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It’s not just a water issue, our power has been cut five times the past week (load shedding) that lasted for four hours at a time! I don’t want to make this a political thing but I’ve heard that where diplomats stay they have not been off for a minute! My friend Rudi, ZS6DX stays in the same area.

Candles are fire hazards so my wife had a great idea of using solar charged garden lamps in place of candles! She has bought a few extras like a solar panel, battery and lamps also at great expense. All these things are imported from China. The Chinese and our new government are friends ….. I can’t help but to imagine that our countries disasters are certainly benefiting Chinese sales!!! I heard a few more generators nearby last night. Noise pollution now too!

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I’ve heard of the same at informal settlements also not being cut. They have been known to go on the rampage, burning tyres and throwing rocks! This happened to my colleague last year, the rock narrowly missing his young son! The marks on the roads caused by burning tyres are still there.

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Roads and infrastructure are not maintained but some of the locals do what they can by filling the potholes  also on the outskirts of my home town which was one of the most beautiful places in South Africa 20 years ago!

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So what has this to do with RaDAR? RaDAR training and innovation to survive is the only thing that will get us through these times. They will not get any better …..

 

RaDAR – Base camp communications

After an awesome lunch and a stroll around the area with the family they climbed into the car and went back home taking Eduan with them. That gave me some time to relax and play field day amateur radio from the comfort of our tent. In between I started packing leaving only what I needed to make a few contacts.

It was relatively easy making a few JT65 contacts on 10m and a CW contact with R120RD. The rest were 10m SSB contacts, something I don’t often do. It was fun though.

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Some points I’d like to mention. Firstly, the RaDAR spotting website was not used quite as much as we could have. Facebook was a fine medium with which to keep in touch.

I found the military B25 manpack to be an excellent RaDAR radio and the end fed antenna performed beyond expectations with this radio!

Many thanks to the hams that supported the RaDAR challenge in being active or just being on the other side. Without you guys such and exercise would be futile.

RaDAR teaches you new things with each deployment or exercise. It is a team sport. We all need each other to make it work.

The Easter weekend made it difficult for many to participate, throughout the world. We may have to look at a new date for the coming years.

Suggestions for RaDAR would be most welcome. Don’t wait till the day before the ops. RaDAR has come a long way, it is different but really great fun.

RaDAR is a game!

73 de Eddie ZS6BNE

RaDAR – The next excursion

After Eduan and I finished brunch and our comms admin was up to date, it was time to move out for the next true RaDAR operation. We only took the B25, 7 A/Hr SLAB and 40m fixed matched, end fed with us. I carried the kit and Eduan took on the role of “Captain”. He guided us through the bush and I had to bend down low to get through at times. Eventually we came to a place where he decided it was an ideal place to deploy our RaDAR station.

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We put up the end fed, but had lost a tent peg for the third guy rope. I left it near the back pack but these things disappear in a mm of sand! I used a nearby rock instead. I’d made a similar arrangement on a few occasions on top of a mountain. It works!

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Pieter, V51PJ had been monitoring the 40m RaDAR Calling frequency (SSB) on 7.090 MHz. He came back to our first call at midday. Then things were quiet and no one responded to our calls. I decided to do some “search and pounce” and broke into a net on 7.070 and worked ZS6TAN and Johan, ZR5JF.

I had posted a comms request on Facebook. When I went back to 7.090 MHz, there was Nico, ZS4N and John, ZS6BNS in conversation waiting for a call from our RaDAR Station in the field. We passed the required info which completed five contacts and allowed us to move position and go to lunch. I had in the meantime SMS’d Elrika, my wife and asked them to pay us a visit at “base camp”. She said they were on their way and were bringing burgers through for lunch!

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Gary, ZS6YI also called us on 7.090 MHz. He had a very high SWR but was there to give us a QSO. We exchanged info but I could not claim “points” for the contact as I already had five and had not moved the required distance yet. This highlights what RaDAR is, various amateur radio stations assisting moving RaDAR stations with the required number of contacts in order to move. It is not a race.

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Eduan and I packed up rather quickly having practised on the previous operation and made our way back to “base camp”. We waited for our guests and I completed some comms admin in the meantime.

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To be continued ….. “Base camp communications”

RaDAR – The RaDAR Challenge True RaDAR

All that had been done since the RaDAR Challenge started was similar to most amateur radio field day operations. It was time for doing some real RaDAR stuff. This would be something that young Eduan would enjoy doing. He’d been looking forward to this opportunity the whole week!

We took two backpacks along, one carrying his military Fuchs B25 manpack and a open wire fed , random length dipole. He also took his “painters pole” mast along. His kit was heavy but he insisted on carrying it. I took my standard kit, the FT817ND and 40m, fixed tuned, end fed and my dual painter pole RaDAR mast. I carried a 7 A/Hr SLAB too.

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After walking a kilometer, we found a place to set up station. We used a large rock on which to place the B25 and battery. I was hoping his antenna would work so we got it up into the air but had no success. The B25’s ATU could not load the antenna. Time was running out so we took it down and I put up my 40m, fixed tuned, end fed and painters pole mast. There was a short length of RG58cu cable between the matching unit and the B25. I’d never tried this configuration before.

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Around 09:38 we made contact with Rudi, ZS6DX and ten minutes later contact with Pieter, V51PJ. This was an awesome QSO with Pieter as we have been battling for a very long time to have a conversation via HF. Conditions were never favourable. Now this is what makes RaDAR special. We needed three further contacts before we could move position. Pieter notified other hams via 6m and asked them to come onto 7.090 MHz. Eduan was already getting hungry. A full count of 5 QSO’s would allow us to continue. Gert, ZS6GAS called us just after 10:00 local time. We still needed two QSO’s, Eduan now quite agitated, he started jumping between the rocks to pass the time. Then we got a call from David, ZS1DAV and Nico ZS4N.

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It’s worth noting that the RaDAR challenge is different to any other competitive amateur radio activity in that instead of competing against each other, we support each other to reach the goal. Being on foot, scored us 3 ponts per contact. The points are there simply as a measurement of personal goals during any RaDAR Challenge. Points can be compared with other participants to identify ways for personal improvement and the evolution of RaDAR itself.

We packed the kit, made our way to “base camp” and enjoyed a good brunch!

To be continued …. “The next excursion”

RaDAR – The April 2015 RaDAR Challenge

I woke up at around 01:30 local time and found little Eduan was no longer in his original sleeping position, he had shifted all around the tent floor. There was a slight downhill. I helped him get comfortable and back onto the blanket protecting him from the cold. It was overcast outside so it wasn’t too cold.

I powered up the FT-847, activated my smartphone hotspot using the Android app, Airdroid. The netbook was connected to the Internet and I logged into Facebook,  Google+ and the RaDAR spotting website at http://www.cwfun.org/funspots/kx3/frames.html

Forty meters was not good for local contacts that time of morning and I went to 80m and loaded the ZS6BKW open wire fed multiband antenna. The FC-20 automatic ATU battled to get a low SWR. It wasn’t good but I was able to transmit at full power, 100W. I had been using the spotting site and Facebook to arrange skeds with Jaco, ZR6CMG and Kevin, ZS6KMD. We could make contact on 80m, Jaco was 59+ 20 and he gave me a 59+ 40 not too bad for a high SWR antenna! Kevin’s signals were not quite as strong, I gave him a 51 and he gave me a 53. We exchanged grid locators and all the required information between RaDAR stations.

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No one else was active anywhere so Kevin and I agreed to get some sleep and try again at sunrise. The sleep was welcome! I woke up again just after sunrise and looked for more contacts. I found Theo, ZS6TVB and Rudi, ZS6DX on 7.090 MHz and we exhanged contact information. All signals were 59. The BKW was performing well!

Theo and I tried PSK31 on 7.040 MHz and we both made our first digital RaDAR contact and “scored” bonus points. That was it as far as local QSO’s were concerned.

Just after eight o’ clock I tried JT65 on 10m and made contact with FR1GV. I forgot to save the WSJT-X contact log! What’s nice about JT65 operations is that you get just about an instantaneous QSL via e-QSL. Awesome!

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That was pretty much it and it was time to do real RaDAR and Eduan and I packed our bags and did a quick kit check before moving out.

To be continued ….. “The RaDAR Challenge True RaDAR”

RaDAR – CQ RaDAR Worldwide

It was late Friday afternoon, the car was packed and the mental checklist was ticked off (I made a paper one too). Eduan and I needed to get to the RaDAR “Ops area” before dark, a drive of about 35 km from town. It is a dangerous stretch of road where cattle and horses roam freely in search of grass to eat, ever more difficult with the winter in sight.

The purpose of the ops was the April RaDAR Challenge with world wide participation. I had my plan of action in mind and a dual purpose, spending time with my grandson and introducing him to the operational side of RaDAR which he has seen me do on numerous occasions. This was the real thing!

We set up “base camp” starting by deploying the well known ZS6BKW multiband antenna in an open stretch of grass. The mast was the well known South African “Eskom pole”, a telescopic fibreglass pole used to work with high voltage power lines. Some are rejected for their purpose but make ideal masts for amateur radio!

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With the antenna deployed and the feed point position defined, it was time to put up the five man tent. I orientated the door in line with the feed point that it be easy to feed the coax through even with the door zipped closed. We put a fold up table inside that would make a comfortable operation position for our RaDAR Field station. There was a 220 v a.c. power point nearby and I laid a long power cable to the tent. This may sound strange to the field day purists, RaDAR operators take advantage of everything at their disposal – a real life simulation. I did have a standby 18 A/Hr SLAB in the event that we may experience “Load shedding”, a real problem in South Africa. Fortunately none came so we had power throughout the ops period for our field station. I set up the radios and connected all the cables. On my to do list, building it all into a flight case that deployments are quicker.

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I used my smartphone as an WiFi Internet hotspot and so I had an Internet connection on my Netbook to be able to access the SARL Forum, Facebook, Google+ and the RaDAR Spotting website. These websites proved invaluable during the RaDAR Challenge for giving feedback, promotion and spotting.

Eduan and I watched TV while we ate a few snacks. It started getting late so we switched off the TV and went to sleep. 02:00 local time (00:00 UTC) would be the start of the 24 Hour RaDAR Challenge. According to VOACAP only much later the next morning would there be the slightest chance of working Jack VK4JRC in Australia.

To be continued, “The April 2015 RaDAR Challenge” …..