The radio team will be contacted individually shortly. Our bookings in Kingston on Murray have been withdrawn.
Unfortunately yet another victim of COVID-19.
The River Paddling Marathon 200 event staged by the Marathon Canoe Club of SA will again be running over the June long weekend from Berri to Morgan in South Australia’s Riverland. Staged over 3 days from June 6-8, this event will see over 100 competitors brave the winter cold to paddle the mighty Murray River downstream for 200km.
Once again, the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group in conjunction with the Riverland Radio Club, is supporting this major community event with a safety communications radio network. Communications is provided via a combination of Amateur and Commercial VHF/UHF radio networks. The radio team operates 20 check points, including 3 locks, 9 starting lines, 3 finish lines, the event command post and provides VHF command and APRS tracking of 4 safety boats plus the event medics. This is all delivered via a 2m/70cm FM network using a combination of local and portable repeater systems deployed specifically for this event.
To cover all of the checkpoints and roles, the group needs a small army of volunteers. Members from both AREG and RRC have been the backbone of the event now for over 5 years. This year, we would love to broaden the engagement further. If you are a member of any of the local radio clubs, WICEN SA, WICEN VIC or just an individual with 2m/70cm mobile capabilities and you would like to get involved, please contact us via email@example.com to express your interest. Registrations are open until the end of March 2020.
We keep the check point requirements simple. Each checkpoint is open for ~3-4 hours and mostly operators are only rostered on for one checkpoint a day.
For most checkpoints a 2WD vehicle and a 25W or higher 2m mobile radio with a car mounted antenna is usually sufficient to reach the comms network. 70cm is used in a limited number of check points too. Minimum teams of 2 are preferred, one for spotting and one for manning the radio. If you wish to participate as an individual we can pair you up with one of the other operators for the day.
If you have never participated in the event before, there will be a briefing night held in Adelaide several weeks before the event. If you are new to the event, our event planners will stage you with one of the more experienced operators to show you the ropes the first year.
The Radio network participants are mostly based out of Kingston on Murray caravan park for the event and many come and stay for the three days. AREG provides financial assistance towards the cost of accommodation and one of the meals during the event. People usually arrive in the area Friday afternoon (and a small team gets to work that day installing the radios in the boats around 4.30pm at Waikerie). The event is over by 4pm on Monday afternoon leaving plenty of time to drive back to Adelaide.
If you cant come for the full three days, on the Monday in particular it has not been uncommon for people to come up just for the day from Adelaide. (Day 3 is centred near Morgan so is within easy reach).
So if a fun relaxing 3 days on the Murray River interests you please contact us via firstname.lastname@example.org to express your interest! We would love to see more members of the Amateur Radio community getting involved and supporting this fantastic community event!
In preparation for the RPM200 there will be an opportunity to run through the practice for checkpoints at Murray Bridge this Saturday the 5th May.
Why are we getting together? We are honing our skill at spotting paddlers on the river for their back to back event, which in turn is a practice for the RPM. Getting the opportunity to practice scribing the paddlers numbers while they are on the far side of the river will help prepare us for tracking at checkpoints. This event will also help us understand what equipment we will need for the RPM. An afternoon sitting beside the river isn’t a bad thing either, with a sausage or two sizzling on the BBQ.
What time: Arrive at the reserve at 12:00pm for the BBQ, with the first paddlers arriving around 1:00pm, through until around 4pm.
What to bring;
Where will you find us? Under the shelter at the Murray Bridge Foreshore Reserve;
Liaison on 439.025MHz FM Simplex.
If you are coming to participate, please let us know; email@example.com
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.”
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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….
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!
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.
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.
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 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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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…..
The AREG is again providing the safety communications 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!
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).
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).