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.

VK5ARG-9 - Race Director

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.

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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!

River Paddling Marathon 200 – Radio Network Ready

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After three weekends of consecutive working bees that have been very well attended by club members, plus many late nights spent by the organizing committee on the logistics and planning, AREG is ready to deliver the communications network to the River Paddling Marathon 200 over the June long weekend. The committee sincerely wishes to thank all of the members who have volunteered to help each weekend. You have, as a group, helped sustain the pizza shops in the NE suburbs it seems…although the home made lasagna on Saturday definitely hit a cord with those who were in attendance.

MCC LogoOn Friday night, it was great to see most of the participants at the clubrooms for the operator briefing. Many thoughtful questions were asked. It was encouraging to see people thinking carefully and clearly about why AREG was there and what we needed to achieve for the event organizers. Thanks in particular to the MCC organizers who attended and provided the extra insights into the event, in particular Martin Finn and Peter Schar.

All of this build up now leads to the main event. Looking forward to seeing everyone in the Riverland and meeting up with our additional operators from the Riverland Amateur Radio Club!

 

RPM200 Update: Operator Briefing Friday 29th May 7.45pm

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All members who have signed up to participate in the RPM200 community event in the Riverland over the June long weekend need to book into their calendar the date of Friday May 29th for the pre-event operator briefing.

Attendance at the briefing, while not compulsory, is very strongly encouraged. The updated operator instructions and procedures for 2015 will be presented at this meeting.

The time will be 7.45pm and the location will be at the Reedbeds Community Centre. See you all there!

River Paddling Marathon: AREG Communications Update

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Attention all club members – the radio operator registrations are now open for this year’s event. Please access the registration form link e-mailed to all members via the mailing list and complete your details for 2015 as soon as possible so that checkpoint planning, accommodation and catering can all be finalized. Note: the AREG home base this year will be the Kingston on Murray Caravan Park.

RPM200 Community Event – 2015 Planning Begins

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The AREG committee members have already begun the planning work for our club’s participation in the Marathon Canoe Club of SA’s RPM200 paddling event which will again be held over the June long weekend.

As always, the event will require AREG to cover the River Murray with communications from Berri to Morgan. Like we did last year, we are partnering with the Riverland Radio Club in order to achieve this for the 3 days.

Final details of the course for this year are expected shortly from the MCC. Lock 4 has reopened for this year but we are unsure about Lock 3. Once those details are known we will lock down the checkpoint requirements, prepare the operator registration forms and start planning the rosters.

Accommodation this year has been booked at the Kingston Caravan park, so the home base will be a little closer to the start of Day 1 and 2. Details of the accommodation and catering planning will be circulated at future club meetings leading up to the event.

Members are also advised that several working bees will also required between now and the event. One will focus on refreshing the VHF commercial network equipment, one will involve a field trip to the Riverland to replace the feeder at VK5RLD for the commercial repeater and one will most likely focus on assembling the APRS equipment we are looking to operate as part of this years event.

As always we look forward to the eager support from our members in this endeavor. If last year is anything to go by it should again be a load of fun for all involved!