RaDAR – Trail ops success

Today started out early (07:15) as my wife Elrika and I made our way to Potchefstroom, 145km away, to upgrade her cell phone. They had no stock there so we travelled another odd 60km to Klerksdorp which was fine for it was closer to home for the journey back later in the afternoon. What was important was a sked with Pierre, ZS6A at 16:00 who was on the trail with his QRP rig and CW paddle. His wife Liz accompanied him. Activites like this don’t often happen in South Africa. It was a dream come true for Pierre – for sure!

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Elrika was upgrading from a Blackberry phone to an Android phone. The SIM cards needed to be swapped and activation took about three hours, three hours we needed to wait before we could continue on our journey. It was around 15:00 when we left Klerksdorp an odd 120km from home. I passed Coligny at 15:40, 30km from home. I was a little concerned that Elrika would want to stop for bread and milk – she didn’t. We got home at about 16:04 – LATE!

I rushed to the back room, grabbed my RaDAR kit and set up in the back yard, hanging my 40m fixed tuned end fed over a tree branch and set up the rig on a garden table. By 16:10 I heard Pierre ZS6A in converastion with Rudi ZS6DX ….. I broke in as Rudi handed it back to Pierre. Signals were good although a slight bit of QSB on Pierre’s signal, mostly 599.

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Successful RaDAR comms once again – if it not for RaDAR I would not have made it! Zola, my companion, enjoyed the short ops too. Pierre will be active again tomorrow and the next day same time (16:00) on 7.020 MHz or 7.030 MHz in case of a busy frequency.

RaDAR – Stealth operations

Well, almost. Eduan drove around looking for me but could not find me. I must have been unseen!

RaDAR rules, right?

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I had two really awesome rag chews with Bertie, ZS4WG and John, ZS6BNS. I sat under a tree in the bush, almost stealth like.

My shack window

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….. and a selfie

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The QRP amateur radio station.

I think from now on I’ll use the rig out of the pack. It makes it more accessible.

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…. and the trip back home through a dry river bed!

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…. and back “home”, for oranges

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A bit overweight and under trained but RaDAR ready!

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A video of the RaDAR ops and conversation with John, ZS6BNS can be seen here https://www.facebook.com/eddie.leighton.3/videos/10152942964262759/?l=6101326161173528926

RaDAR – It’s a moving thing

I was really in the mood to do some moving RaDAR tonight and get out on my feet. Wearing the bumble bee RaDAR pack (Weighed in at 7.8 kg) I walked / jogged down the road for around 1.3 km and set up a field station, the end fed hanging over some trees alongside the road. I made contacts with Rudi, ZS6DX and Pierre, ZS6A on SSB. Signals were good both ways. I was running my normal low power of 5 Watts. I packed up and did a further odd 2.4 km back home. It was FUN!!! When I got home, a surprise, home made Pizza!

Some numbers ….. I left work at 17:00, dressed by 17:10, got to this point by around 17:20/25, deployed and contacts made by 17:30. That’s moving RaDAR!

Deployed alongside the road around 1.3 km from home. Around 17:30 local time.

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Fuchs home brew tuner and 21m long wire …. no counterpoise. Pointing EAST (end fire).

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Doing a 2,4 km jog back home, pack weight around 7.8 kg. 

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Backpack / radio (FT-817ND and LDG z817 ATU) shock testing done (During tonight’s RaDAR escapades) – success! No damage done even while running!

Back of the FT817ND Power, Control and Antenna coax.

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LDG z817 ATU (Unused), Control, Rig to ATU coax, Antenna coax and safety in line DC power switch.

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In a camera bag.

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Antenna coax and power lead folded away.

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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”