The Amateur Radio Experimenter’s Group, in conjunction with the Riverland Radio Club, has for many years now provided support to the Marathon Canoe Club’s 200km long River Paddling Marathon down the Murray River held over the June long weekend each year.
After being interrupted last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the event was back this year, running again from Berri to Morgan across South Australia’s Riverland region.
AREG & RRC assist this event by building and running three radio networks aimed at tracking the participants through the course as well as monitoring the event progress downstream through the position of the safety boats. Over 25 volunteers man positions along the river Murray from Berri through to Morgan over the full 3 days of the annual June long weekend.THREE-DAY
The networks are:
- Network 1: – 147 / 439 MHz Amateur Radio based voice network using either the regional VK5RLD 2m repeater or VHF/UHF simplex frequencies. This connects 21 checkpoints to the safety comms bus with the volunteer amateur radio operators acting as spotters and trackers monitoring the progress of each canoe down the river.
- Network 2: – 162 MHz Commercial VHF – as radio amateurs are not aboard the individual safety boats, a separate commercial VHF network is established across the event enabling the command bus to maintain contact with the 4 full time safety craft that manage the river closure and render assistance to the paddlers as required
- Network 3: – 145 MHz APRS – unmanned tracking beacons are installed on each of the safety boats so that the safety team can keep tabs on the location of each of the safety craft over most of the event.
Over 1100 hours of volunteer effort is contributed to the event each year with AREG & the Riverland Radio Club combining forces to ensure the safety of the event participants. This is one direct way that the Amateur Radio service can directly provide a benefit to the public.
The event has numerous obstacles to overcome including muddy bog-hole checkpoints (eg New Residence on day 1) and River Locks (the 200km event passes through three of these on its journey downstream).
Lock 4 team marshaling the paddlers through the lock on Day 1
From a radio perspective, much of the event is in very challenging terrain with coverage required at water level at the bottom of 20-30m canyons for much of the trip. Extensive use is made of both portable repeaters and manual relay stations to get the messages through.
Portable Repeater installations across the event
Most of all everyone who participated just enjoys being out in the countryside counting canoes in the sun (and fortunately again we didn’t get any significant rainfall during the event).
Checkpoint Operators by the banks of the Murray River
This year was also notable for AREG in that for only the second time since the club has been providing support did one of our own members receive the Marathon Canoe Club of South Australia’s David & Sue Speck Volunteer Award. Matt VK5ZM was the recipient this year. As lead organizer and volunteer safety officer, Matt has championed AREG’s involvement in this event since 2015. A very deserving recipient indeed! Congratulations Matt!
All up this was another very successful event, and a very enjoyable one too for all of the participants. We look forward to seeing the team join us again in June 2022!
We must say a special thank you also to all of the members of both AREG and the Riverland Radio Club who turned out to support this event. Your contributions combined to ensure the safety of over 100 participants again this year. Well done!