River Paddling Marathon 2017 – Community Safety Comms Event

The River Paddling Marathon 2017 has come and gone, and once again AREG in conjunction with the Riverland Radio Club and a number of interested radio amateurs who approached us asking to participate was successful in providing three radio networks covering 200km of the River Murray through the canyon country of South Australia’s Riverland district. There was a 2m voice network for canoe tracking traffic, a 2m APRS network for tracking the safety boat locations, and a VHF commercial network for the safety boats and medics.

The following report from Matthew VK5ZM, AREG President, sums up the weekend:

“I just wanted to say a big Thank you to all the volunteers that came and assisted us with the RPM again this year.  Without your support and assistance there is no way the AREG could assist with this event.

This year I saw flexibility and professionalism being displayed across the board as small hiccups occurred people came with solutions and simply got on with the jobs and tasks.  With this many willing hands a vast amount of difficult work got done in a very short time.

To the checkpoint operators my profound thanks.  For some of you getting out of bed between 4-5am, driving for up to an hour to sit by the banks of the Murray in chilly temperatures and watch the sunrise makes for a very long day.  I truly hope that our volunteers enjoyed themselves and had fun.  This year I’d also like to note that both Scott VK5TST and I observed our accuracy in reporting boat numbers was far higher this year, this made the job at the Bus significantly easier.

I’d also like to thank Sharon VK5FSAW, Irene, Colleen & Nonna for packing the lunches, preparing dinner on Saturday night, kicking Sharon out of her kitchen for a bit and keeping the troops fed and dishes done.  With 31 people on ground that is not an insignificant number of sandwiches, slice, cake and fruit to pack each day.  There will be much swapping of recipes this year I think…

Again I’d like to personally thank Peter VK5KX for the use of his Bus each day for net control, without the Bus and Peters preparation of the net control radio  systems the Comms team manning net control wouldn’t have anywhere near as much fun.  I know this year with the increased number of people at the Bus, Peter spent a much larger time running around making coffee and keeping people ticking over, for which I am personally thankful and likewise all that attended the Bus.

I’d also like to thank Grant VK5GR (and team: Andy VK5AKH, Kim VK5FJ, Darin VK5IX, Scott VK5TST, Mark VK5QI and Marcus VK5WTF) for piecing the radio network together.  This year was a challenge and seemed like a war of attrition at times as equipment hiccuped within the network.  However the network and tech teams kept the beast running, cracking the whip when required or threatening to send it to Darin VK5IX for a reprogramming/tuning it would never forget.  This year, at least, Darin frightened the Tait 2000s’ into submission, not a single one gave a problem out on the water, unlike previous years.

Another monumental task is checkpoint planning and notes preparation.  So a big thank you to Andrew VK5XFG and Kim VK5FJ for stepping up this year.  I know that your help reduced the workload on Grant and I significantly.  It takes a good week to just prepare and print the materials necessary.  I’m waiting on Andrew to tell me how many pencil sharpeners we got back this year.

Lastly I’d like to thank Scott VK5TST for his work at the Bus and on the software/database that we use to track the paddlers.  Scott has worked in the background on this software over the past year (ok last two months prior to event *grin*), taking suggestions from bus operators last year and tweaking the GUI/HMI to suit.   The improvements in efficiency was huge, I often amazed at how quickly he could come back with answers to common questions, closing of checkpoints and reconciling of paddler numbers when asked.  Entering the data was fast and painless, better yet it assisted operators with keeping within the procedure which was fantastic.

At the presentations on Monday afternoon the Race Director Martin Finn and all paddlers thanked the AREG (led) Comms Team for a job well done to the applause of the entire crowd.  I think the comms team this year should also pat themselves on the back for a job well done.”

RPM200 Canoe Spotting Training Day & Picnic – Murray Bridge – Saturday May 6th

UPDATE: The event went very well and everyone who attended spotted all of the canoes as they went by in both directions. Well done team!


Each year the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group supports the Marathon Canoe Club of South Australia’s River Paddling Marathon event as it travels from Berri to Morgan, a distance of over 200km, during the 3 day long weekend in June. (Read more about this event from the 2016 event report (here).

To prepare for the event, one of the exercises AREG runs is a canoe spotting practice day in conjunction with the Back to Back canoe race in Murray Bridge. Instigated last year  as a training day for spotting canoes, we will again be venturing out to Sturt Reserve, Murray Bridge on Saturday May 6th.

The day will consist of AREG teams of two being set up with ~50m between them. The goal will be to see who can spot the most canoes (or best of all who can spot all of them). The canoe participants will be passing the location multiple times, so you will need to be good at tracking multiple moving targets.

Why are we doing this? To help you hone your skills at spotting canoes on the river. The participants of this event could be over the far side of the river, so spotting their numbers is something to be practiced so that when we have to track each and every canoe past a checkpoint at the RPM we are equipped with an understanding of the gear required to do so accurately. A day sitting beside the river isn’t exactly a bad thing either, with a sausage or two sizzling on the BBQ!

Times and Places?

Members participating in the practice day should plan to arrive in Murray Bridge  at 12:00pm. The first canoes should be past shortly after 1:30pm and the event should be over by around 4-5pm.

Things to bring:

  • Table and chairs
  • Optical Amplification (Binoculars, telephoto camera, telescope etc)
  • Pen
  • Handheld
  • BYO Food & Drink

The afternoon is as much a social get together as it is a training exercise, so even if you are not coming to the RPM, who not come down and spend an afternoon by the river having a picnic?

Where will you find us? Look in the eastern end of Sturt Reserve. Liaison up close will be on 439.025 MHz FM Simplex.

 

RPM200 2016 Communications Event Report

The River Paddling Marathon 200 event run by the Marathon Canoe Club of South Australia held over the June long weekend has again come and gone. 2016 was another very successful year. During the event, AREG was again very ably assisted by the Riverland Radio Club who help with repeater facilities and also staffing of checkpoints.  The contribution by AREG (and RRC) to the safety of the participants was again praised by the event organizers and the race director, Martin Finn.

Event Overview

This event which sees over 100 paddlers participate in various race categories was in it’s 29th year. It allows paddlers to attempt a variety of course distances, with the most ambitious being the 200km journey from Berri to Morgan. There are also 100km, 50km and 35km options available. Over the three days, paddlers and communications crew members start before dawn and work/paddle through the day, travelling ~60-70km a day downstream on the mighty Murray River.

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The Preparation

For the AREG members involved, the journey starts many months before, preparing equipment to operate a commercial VHF network. This year, three portable cross-band commercial translators were built for the medics and race director to compliment the VHF mobile equipment operating in the safety boats. AREG must thank WICEN SA for the use of their commercial licenses this year which enabled us to operate this network.

Constructing gateways to enhance the APRS network coverage across the Riverland as well as developing the capabilities of the command bus (thanks to Peter VK5KX). The APRS equipment consisted of two roaming iGates developed and assembled by Andrew VK5XFG and Grant VK5GR. One of these was located at Rob VK5TRM’s QTH in Loxton, while the other was used portable at several locations including Loveday and Sunlands (fed via 3G Cellular Internet). The enhancements to the APRS coverage this year were very worthwhile, although equipment failure on day 2 hampered coverage for part of the event.

On top of the equipment, there are hundreds of hours spent by club members planning rosters, registering radio operators, designing/planning the radio communications networks and working out the details of the safety plans with the Marathon Canoe Club. This keeps Grant VK5GR, Andrew VK5XFG and Matt VK5ZM, very busy for many nights before the event.

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Command and Control Software

Another major enhancement this year was the further development of the command and control software for the command bus. This developed and written by Scott VK5TST and aided significantly in the management of boat tracking and safety management for the event. Scott not only wrote the software but also provided the LAN infrastructure for the 7 machines that were used to run the event.

Friday night – the deployment

Most of the crew travel up to the Riverland on Friday afternoon. Upon arrival, the first main task was to setup the radios in each of the safety boats. These are provided by the Victor Harbor Sea Squadron and were met at Waikerie by the AREG install team.

Day 1 – Saturday – Berri to Moorook

The event kicked off without a hitch, starting on time from Berri with the 200km event paddlers kicking off shortly after sunrise. Matt VK5ZM met the start crew. After a minor issue with a lost support boat, everything was set the starters gun was fired!

The first checkpoint was Lock 4 a few miles downstream. Comms were established by Chris VK5CP, Lena VK5FUNN and Matt VK5ZM back to the mobile command station run by Grant VK5GR on a hill overlooking Lock 4 easily on both the commercial and amateur networks. One of the support boats did have some difficulties meeting up with the participants on the downstream side of the lock however, as the river flow was very low and navigation was made very difficult by the myriad of sandbars in this stretch of the river. Fortunately the support boat made it just in time.

Finally, after the participants made it through the lock, the event proceeded past Rilley Island manned by Mark VK5QI and Gary VK5FGRY  before heading on to Loxton, where the M100 starters joined the event. The Loxton checkpoint was ably staffed by Ivan VK5HS, Peter VK5FLEX, Rob VK5HRS and Kim VK5FJ, a mixed crew from both the Riverland Amateur Radio Club and the AREG.

Some early hiccups started to appear at Loxton however with the commercial VHF network. Two of the boats were suffering problems with their radios. One was replaced, while the other was found to be mixed up antennas between the commercial and APRS transmitters. Ivan, VK5HS, came to

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The view at E6 – Loveday

the rescue (again!) and jumped into each boat, making running repairs so that everything could continue smoothly.

After Loxton, the next checkpoint was Pyap manned by Rob VK5TRM and Louis VK5FLY, which had been relocated since the previous year. Then came a new checkpoint for 2016 in Loveday 4WD park operated by Dennis VK5FDEN and Paul VK5JG. The AREG and the MCC organizers were  most grateful to the owners of the park who granted access to the waterfront inside their property so that we could guarantee safe passage of all of the paddling participants. In addition to the checkpoint, a portable APRS I-gate was established to assist with collecting the APRS data from the course boats as they traveled down the river. Thanks to everyone involved in setting up this system!

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VK5ARG-2 Portable iGate

By the time the paddlers reach Loveday they are starting to get tired, and from here down, numerous incidents occurred. This kept the command bus crew and Andy VK5AKH, Andrew VK5XFG, Ron VK5MRE,Rob VK5TS and Sandy at E7 (New Residence) very busy. Fortunately each of the incidents was minor.

The command bus on Day 1 was located at the finish line at Moorook. Peter VK5KX put on some excellent coffee and hospitality which allowed the command crew to efficiently and comfortably go about their tasks.

All told, Day 1 was a roaring success, with the exception of some minor issues with the commercial network. We hoped that would be the last of the gremlins, but that wasn’t to be the case….

Day 1 – Saturday Evening – Kingston on Murray

After a hard day’s work, everyone returned to the Kingston on Murray caravan park and was treated to the AREG catering service when Sharon VK5FSAW and Irene Hall rolled out a delicious baked spud and pulled/shredded roast lamb dinner with apple crumble for all of the radio volunteers. This on top of the lunches provided to all of the AREG crew members made a huge contribution to the event. Everyone sent a big thank you to Sharon and Irene for their efforts!

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Day 2 – Sunday – Moorook to Waikerie

Sunday started as planned on time from Moorook. Gary VK5FGRY and Matt  VK5ZM drew the short straw and attended the first checkpoint, while Mark VK5QI and Andy VK5AKH manned net control and checkpoint 9 at Kingston on Murray.   Matt VK5ZM took great delight in replacing the first of the TAIT radios in the red-box boat systems with a loan radio from Ivan VK5HS, one problem solved for the remainder of the weekend.

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VK5QI Spotting Canoes at Kingston on Murray

Lock 3 was the next checkpoint which was manned by Matt VK5ZM (after a hasty drive from the start), Andrew VK5XFG, Grant VK5GR and Sharon VK5FSAW. Unlike last year, everything ran smoothly through the lock and all of the paddlers went on their way without incident.

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Chris VK5CP with Lena VK5FUNN manned checkpoint 11 at Wigley Flat and solved the coverage/access issues there this year with a translator on a short mast. This was also the VK Shires contest day, and occasionally there were communications issues with Wigley Flat. We suspect some 40m action was distracting the checkpoint operators during the lead up to the first canoes appearing (*grin*).  At least the contesting spirit could partially be kept alive whilst running the event at the same time.

Checkpoint 12 was the main 100km race start at Devlins Pound. This was manned by Louis VK5FLY, Mark VK5QI, Gary VK5FGRY, Rob VK5HRS and Kim VK5FJ. The AREG this year has tasked additional people to these big starts so that we have two people tracking paddlers arriving into the checkpoint, two tracking the departures and one following the race director and handling paddler incidents. This arrangement proved very helpful in maintaining organised control at these major checkpoints.

While the checkpoint operators are hard at work, the second command team was operating from a high location near Holder. Scott VK5TST was using his new software to keep track of the event whilst the operators in the bus kept track of things over the radio networks. Whilst here, our command bus was visited by the race director and his wife on their way through.  Both were shown the “smooth operating” and “technology” being the scenes used to keep track of the event.

The gremlins kept coming however within the VHF commercial network with communications difficulties being experienced between Overland Corner and Devlins Pound. There were more suspected equipment hiccups too, which further complicated things. This gave the Holder and Kingston command stations some headaches trying to hand over control between them whilst maintaining continuous communications. It also became apparent that the GPS receiver on one of the rescue boats couldn’t see enough of the sky, so keeping a location track on him meant a lot more reliance on location reports being passed over voice. Sigh…. more work for next year!

As the day wore on, Checkpoint 13 finally opened at Lowbank east of Waikerie. This is the mini marathon start on Day 2, which was manned by the Riverland Amateur Radio Club team. Always a challenging checkpoint due to the width of the river here, the team did an admirable job spotting, logging, tracking and reporting, no paddlers were missed.

Day 2 finish was at Waikerie. Paul VK5JG, Dennis VK5FDEN and Irene did a great job working with the MCC time keepers (Ray VK5RR with his MCC hat on) to log everyone off the river at the end of the day.

Day 3 – Monday – Waikerie to MorganMonday Morning

Day 3 started off very cold and clear. Frost had descended on the land and the trees had been turned white in our headlights as the first team members left home at 4am. The temperature dropped to -3.8deg C just as dawn broke, and highlighted one of the key risks that everyone in the event management team  works to mitigate, hypothermia. This is one of the reasons why the communications capability and the ability to track paddlers and send help is so important to this event.

Andrew VK5AKH and Grant VK5GR were the first to head out, heading for Sunlands to finish setting up the Commercial VHF and APRS repeaters. This was a new site for the event and far exceeded our expectations. We are indebted to the land owner in the area who was happy to host our repeater for the day.

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Loius VK5FLY drew the short straw had manned the start of Day 3. As the paddlers marshaled at 5.30am it was as cold as it could be, but all got away safely. Scott VK5TST then logged them through the Sunlands pump checkpoint, whilst on top of the cliffs Grant VK5GR and Andrew VK5AKH manned the field command station.

Next came lock 2. Matt VK5ZM lead the team, showing Kim VK5FJ, Rob VK5TS and his wife Sandy the ropes of lock procedure. After a trouble free passage through the lock, the 200km marathon paddlers headed for Hogwash Bend and on to the new start line for the 100km marathon this year at Caudo Winery. Louis VK5FLY, Dennis VK5FDEN, Irene and Paul VK5JG manned the M100 this year and benefited from the hot croissants tea and coffee put on by the winery. This most civilized start line will become hotly contested by checkpoint operators in future years!

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The gremlins again come out to play!

Last year, it was the Day 3 100km start line where radio problems struck for the medics and it happened again at the same checkpoint. Their radio failed when the fuse blew on the charging circuit allowing the battery to be completely discharged. VK5AKH and VK5GR stopped past the checkpoint on their way to the bus and made arrangements to swap the medics radio over to the spare translator in the other medic’s car, whilst implementing some temporary repairs to the first one. Everyone was left happy and communications were again restored.

However, this was not where the gremlins stopped. Another one of the safety boats was also intermittently experiencing problems with their radio.  Up at the command bus, all hands scrambled to put together a replacement for the radio and one of the team headed off to do a radio swap. Just as they were about to cross the ferry, the faulty radio started working again. Matt VK5ZM (the communications officer) was heard over the radio telling the boat operators that if it failed one more time they could “use it as a boat anchor”. Everyone chuckled, including the boat operators, however it does mean we have a lot of work to do for 2017, as the decision was made there and then to retire the ageing TAIT radios and update them.

Command Busy on Day 3

Incidents on Day 3 poured into command thick and fast with reports of other water craft failing to heed the 4 knot speed limit in the closed segment of the river. The river closures were a new development for 2016, intended to support paddler safety and reduce the number of paddlers going for a swim. The problem is that even a modest wake from power boats can be very treacherous for the paddlers, particularly if inexperienced (such as some of the first time participants) or if they are exhausted from the previous 2 days of effort.

Not all river users heeded the restrictions however, causing a few paddlers to be tipped into the river. These unfortunate paddlers had to be taken ashore, warmed up and checked over by the race medic before being allowed to continue on, with all efforts coordinated through the Command Bus team.

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Finally the paddlers made it past Molo Flat and Cadell landing checkpoints, and the last start of the event at Cadell for the Mini Marathon got away cleanly. The race was on to the finish line in Morgan, and the conclusion of another very successful event, both for the Marathon Canoe Club organizers and for the amateur radio network operators from AREG and RRC.

Thanks Team!

The AREG organizing committee would like to say a massive thank you again this year to the entire AREG and RRC team who combined to make our contribution to the event a success. It was great to see some new faces on the team this year and the committee would very much encourage members who haven’t come along previously to consider doing so in 2017.

It is a great weekend, in some beautiful countryside along the banks of the mighty Murray River. Whats more, it is a great way to combine Amateur Radio and community service, something which always strengthens friendships and further support for why the Amateur Radio service should continue to be supported.

A big thank you also to all of the members who contributed to the multiple working bees in the months leading up to the event. Without your efforts we would never be able to pull together the communications network that we do.

Looking forward to 2017! See you there…..

Acknowledgements: Photos provided by VK5FLY, VK5FGRY, VK5AKH, VK5HRS, VK5TST, VK5GR

Major Community Communications Exercise: River Paddling Marathon 2016 Underway

The AREG is again providing the safety 11150467_978562678823296_1590281837710590802_ncommunications network covering the River Paddling Marathon 200 event from Berri to Morgan in South Australia’s Riverland district over the June long weekend. Run in conjunction with the Riverland Radio Club on behalf of the Marathon Canoe Club of SA, this event provides emergency and safety communications coverage for over 100 paddlers participating in the event.

Updates as the event unfolds will be posted to our website!

River Paddling Marathon 2016: Operator Briefing 8pm Thursday 2nd June

Matt VK5ZM running the 164MHz commercial net

Matt VK5ZM running the 162MHz commercial net

The River Paddling Marathon 200 is about to be held again in 2016 over the June long weekend. The Amateur Radio Experimenters Group in conjunction with the Riverland Radio Club is pleased to again be offering communications support to the Marathon Canoe Club of South Australia. Preparations are almost complete and it is now time to have the final operator briefing.

This year the briefing will be held on Thursday evening, June 2nd, at the Reedbeds Community Hall in Fulham (Adelaide). The start time will be 8.00pm (due to prior hall bookings). All operators are asked to attend if at all possible.

There are changes to some of the procedures for this year’s event that you need to learn about. We will also be distributing your checkpoint information and logging packs and will discuss the communications protocols for this year (including the trial 6m packet AX.25 score collection system).

Martin Finn - Race Director

Martin Finn – Race Director

We will have representatives from the Marathon Canoe Club present and time permitting there will also be a controlled net communications exercise held across the hall (bring a handheld).

If you have any questions, please contact either Grant Willis VK5GR (logistics) or Matthew Cook VK5ZM (Safety Officer).

AREG Member Training Day for the RPM200 Comms Event – This Saturday!

The Radio operator training day for the River Paddling Marathon 200 event which AREG supports in June, will be held on the eastern banks of the Murray River, just north of the Swanport Bridge by the boat ramp on Saturday April 30th 2016! This training will coincide with the running the Marathon Canoe Club’s Back-To-Back event held along this part of the river each year.

The operator training day will pitch checkpoint team against checkpoint team to see who can spot the most valid number of canoes.

Operators will need to get to the river by 12.00pm. The first paddlers are due around 1.00pm . (It is typically only an hour’s drive up the freeway).

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Everyone will be broken into teams of two. You will need to bring “optical magnification” apparatus, pens and something hard to write on (folding table and chairs recommended). You will be presented with paddlers from the Marathon Canoe Club’s Back to Back paddling event and will be asked to track paddlers, numbers, descriptions and will be graded in friendly competition with your fellow spotters spread out over the boat ramp park.

Bring a picnic lunch and enjoy a day by the river watching (intently) the world float by! It is recommended that participants bring binoculars, chairs, snacks and insect repellent.  There is not much shade, so umbrellas, hats or marquees  will make the day more pleasant.

Just Visiting?

For those who don’t want to spotting canoe’s but want to come for the social day, there is room to also set up HF portable by the river!

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Evening BBQ at Swanport Sailing Club

At the end of the event, we will adjourn back to the Swanport Sailing Club for a BYO BBQ dinner and a chat/de-brief with the Marathon Canoe Club. It is just a short drive back over the Swanport bridge.BBQ After the event

Please note:  No dogs allowed at Swanport Sailing Club, so please leave the hounds at home!

Conclusion

If you are participating in the RPM200 in June, we would very much encourage you to come along on the 30th of April as well! Accurate canoe spotting is an important aspect of providing the safety net at the RPM200 so this training/practice is vital to improve the way AREG supports the main event in June. Hope to see you all there!

RPM200 APRS network experiment deemed a success!

aprsOne of the experiments AREG members wanted to try was to see how APRS would fair tracking various assets across the RPM200 event. The idea was to see how much of an improvement we could gain in our situation awareness capabilities back at net control.

To facilitate this, the AREG built and configured 5 Byonics based TinyTrack3’s which were mated to 5W handhelds. Each of these were installed in one of the safety boats as well as various vehicles, which were run as unattended packet radio stations under the club callsign VK5ARG (in accordance with the amateur LCDs).

The biggest challenge we faced was providing enough coverage of the river. This stretch of the River Murray is in many places bounded by 20-40m high cliffs making even VHF radio access difficult, especially for small 5W trackers.

To get the position information back to the communications centre, various members then established mobile IGates from their vehicles or accommodation, which supplemented the local full time gate provided by Larry VK5LY in Renmark. This allowed the received packets to be forwarded into the APRS-IS network from various points along the river.

Members also set up their vehicles as WIDE1-1 local digipeaters whilst they manned checkpoints to provide additional coverage in places where access direct to an IGate or the local VK5RLD APRS digipeater was not possible.

Back at the communication centre, the combined feed was able to be monitored either directly from RF or the APRS-IS backbone via websites like www.aprs.fi

The Results

Coverage was surprisingly good for most of the event. A couple of problem areas were identified where we may look at putting temporary digipeaters next year, however overall we were most impressed with what could be achieved with 5 Watts.

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VK5ARG-9 – Race Vehicle

VK5ARG-12 - Front End Charlie 200

VK5ARG-12 – Front End Charlie 200

VK5ARG-13 Front End Charlie 100

VK5ARG-13 Front End Charlie 100

VK5ARG-14 Tail End Charlie 100

VK5ARG-14 Tail End Charlie 100

VK5ARG-15 Tail End Charlie 200

VK5ARG-15 Tail End Charlie 200

From the perspective of how this contributed to the event, on at least one occasion it proved invaluable when a fuse blew on the VHF radio on one of the safety boats, Despite that failure, the APRS kept running, allowing us to track the boat in question to a point on the river where we could send one of our service technicians to solve the problem.

Overall, while theoretically we understood what it should mean to have access to this sort of near real time information, there is nothing like the experience of operating in net control and literally having it available at our fingertips. It is one aspect of the event we are definitely going to look to improve for next year!

River Paddling Marathon 200 Communications Network 2015

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Day 2 Sunrise at Checkpoint E9 / COMMS Centre Kingston on Murray

Introducing the River Paddling Marathon 200

The RPM200 is a community event run MCC Logoeach year along the Murray River from Berri to Morgan in South Australia. Over 120 canoes and 140 paddlers take part in various versions of the event spanning 35, 50, 100 and 200km distances over the three days.

This is an endurance race in the middle of winter, often with paddlers spread out over up to 30km of the river at a time. Monitoring the welfare of everyone involved and helping those in need when called requires an extensive communications network.

The combined Amateur Radio Experimenters Group (AREG) and Riverland Radio Club (RRC) became involved with this event after AREG was approached directly by the Marathon Canoe Club of SA in 2014. Following that invitation, we set about designing a radio network to cover the 20 land based check points, 4 boats, 2 medics and the race director, and then provided an army of volunteers to run it all. The network consisted of a mix of 2m and 70cm Amateur VHF/UHF voice and APRS stations as well as a 164MHz commercial network to facilitate communications from the non-amateur event assets (such as the safety boats). From AREG’s perspective, it was a great way to give something back to the community from our hobby, but also it provided a very interesting platform for carrying out various networked radio experiments.

So, how do it all play out in 2015? Read on to find out!

Day 1 – Berri to Moorook – Foggy then Fine!

Highlights of the first day included a very early and foggy start across much of the river. The paddlers on Day 1 Depart Berri, from where they paddle downstream. Matt VK5ZM and Josh VK5JO drew the short straw this year and manned the start at Martins Bend. The first major hurdle is traversing Lock 4. Considering the temperatures and conditions battling the cold is a serious issue we have to contend with during this event. AREG staffed the lock with 4 operators, Andy VK5AKH, Dennis VK5FDEN, Paul VK5JG and Scott VK5FSKS while Scott VK5TST and Grant VK5GR ran the opening COMMS net control from a hill overlooking Lock 4.

Downstream at Loxton, the Riverland Radio club team consisting Ivan VK5HS, Peter VK5FLEX, Rob VK5MRE and Grant VK5GR from AREG helped run the M100 Start line where roughly an additional 60 paddlers entered the race for the 100km challenge.

Meanwhile back at Moorook, the AREG COMMS team ran net control from the finish line. Other members including Mark VK5QI and Gary VK5FGRY ran the checkpoint at Pyap while Ben VK5BB and his wife Olga, plus Loius VK5FLY and Rob VK5TRM from the Riverland radio club ran the MiniMarathon start line at New Residence.

Josh VK5JO, Matt VK5ZM, Andy VK5AKH, Scott VK5TST, Grant VK5GR, Paul VK5BX and most importantly Peter VK5KX with helo from others built and operated the primary net control at Moorook. Peter’s bus made an excellent radio comms base and it’s facilities were very much appreciated by all involved!

Event Support Activities

The other critical activity is of course feeding the troops. The AREG crew however was at no risk of going hungry as the Sharon VK5FSAW catering team was on hand, assisted by Irene (VK5AKH’s mum) and Amelia (Sharon and Grant VK5GR’s daughter). Lunch boxes for 20 were made each day with cake and sandwiches and Saturday dinner was a hearty beef stew with apple crumble for desert. The food was widely praised by everyone!

We did also have to break out the mobile AREG radio repair lab. Matt VK5ZM toiled late into the night the Friday before the event tuning radios!

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Day 2 – A Cold Start – Moorook to Waikerie

IMG_1475Day 2 began with more early starts. Net control started at sunrise from the banks of the river at Kingston on Murray run by Scott VK5TST and Grant VK5GR. It also doubled as Checkpoint E9.  Meanwhile, Mark VK5QI and Gary VK5FGRY attended the start back at Moorook. Matt VK5ZM lead the lock crew of Bob VK5FO, Ben VK5BB and Ben’s wife Olga at Lock 3 while Rob VK5TS from RRC staffed Wigley Flat with his wife Sandy.

Ivan VK5HS teamed up with with PeterIMG_1477 VK5FLEX, Andy VK5AKH and Scott VK5FSKS to run the Devlins Pound M100 start checkpoint. Peter was truely dedicated as he actually camped out at Devlins Pound overnight!

The next checkpoint was run by Mark VK5QI, Gary VK5FGRY, Louis VK5FLY and Ron VK5TRM while the finish was staffed by Chris VK5CP and family.

Net control had a number of people rotate through during the day including Peter VK5KX and Josh VK5JO. Again everything ran smoothly, with one small wrinkle when the power supply for one of the course safety boats failed (blown fuse). Mid course repairs were effected thanks to Paul VK5BX who met them at one of the intermediate checkpoints with the spares to restore service.

Day 3 – Early Starts – Waikerie to Morgan

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Andy VK5AKH and Grant VK5GR operating Net Control from Sunlands west of Waikerie

Day 3 saw the paddlers start before Dawn from Waikerie. Net Control was online from 5.30am overlooking the river from the cliffs west of the town thanks to Andy VK5AKH and Grant VK5GR. Dennis VK5FDEN and Paul VK5JG manned the start while Scott VK5TST manned the Sunlands checkpoint.

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Canoes in Lock 2

By sunrise, the paddlers had made it to Lock 2, the last of the lock transits for this year. The lock crew this time consisted of Matt VK5ZM, Bob VK5FO, Chris VK5CP and Leena VK5FUNN. Unlike Day 2 there were no holdups at the lock and the race progressed efficiently through this stage of the event.

After Lock 2 the paddlers proceeded down river to Hogwash Bend. Here we had to perform some emergency repairs to one of the medic car commercial VHF radios which had failed. Once that was replaced, the combined Riverland Radio Club and AREG teams successfully oversaw the start of the 100km Day 3 event.

Molo Flat was the next checkpoint staffed by Mark VK5QI and Gary VK5FGRY while the Mini Marathon Start was managed by VK5BB and his wife Olga, VK5TST and VK5JO.

The comms centre for Day 3 was located on a hill overlooking the Cadell Ferry. This location was chosen to provide good VHF coverage of the river from Lock 2 through to the finish line. Principle staffers today were VK5BB, VK5KX, VK5BX, VK5ZM and VK5GR.

The final checkpoint was E20 in Morgan. Andy VK5AKH and Scott VK5FSKS were the principle operators at the finish.

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Conclusion

At the end of the day all of the paddlers had been accounted for, and of the incidents closed out. All of the VHF Commercial and 147/438MHz Amateur network had been deployed and then recovered and most of all, the organizers were very happy with the service that AREG, RRC and the amateur radio operators who participated provided to support this event. The feedback received was that this event has achieved an extra level of safety through the communications capabilities and skills that Amateur Radio has been able to bring to the community. A great demonstration of the value of Amateur Radio and it’s relevance to today’s society!

Thank You!

The AREG radio communications team organizing committee would particularly like to thank all of the members and their families of AREG and RRC who participated in this event. Without your efforts not only during the event but in the many weeks leading up to it, the communications network would not have achieved the quality that it did.

A special thank you to Matthew VK5ZM is also in order who lead the organisation of the event for AREG and who undertook the principle liaisons with not only the Marathon Canoe Club but also the many other support and official organisations required along the way.

Thank you all! See you next year!