Early on Saturday morning, 13 November, Sybrand ZS1SJ and Paul ZS1V, headed to Jonaskop. The 145.675 Villiersdorp repeater is housed at the site and has been the victim, not only of the recent rounds of scheduled power outages, but also frequently of more extended power failures sometimes lasting a week or more.
Thanks to the donations of kind amateurs, clubs and Hamnet in the Western Cape, the WCRWG was able to acquire the necessary solar module and MPPT controller to charge the backup batteries, and Saturday morning provided the ideal combination of weather and installer availability to get the installation done.
The PV panel was installed at an angle of 40 degrees, that hopefully balances winter time generation and shedding of snow. The repeater enclosure is conveniently situated on the North side of the building, allowing an approximately 5 degree azimuth.
Paul and Sybrand completed the installation just before noon. Site telemetry has since confirmed the daily charge cycle of the backup batteries.
On Sunday morning, Jan ZS1Z and Paul ZS1V set out to recommission the links to Riversdale and Hanskop at Jonaskop. It was an uncharacteristically perfect weather day at the top of the mountain, with some small pockets of ice from the recent Cape winter weather still in the shady areas and slowly leeching off the towers.
The repeater, links and controller were reinstalled in the equipment housing. The battery and PSU voltage sensors, and the interior and exterior temperature sensors were recalibrated. The tower guys were inspected to see how they stood up to the recent storms after their pre-winter maintenance, and were found in good order. The SWR on all the antennas was tested, and these too were found to be good.
As the team was about to leave the site, testing by Trevor ZS1TR via the Jonaskop repeater and Sybrand ZS1SJ via the Hanskop repeater, revealed an issue with noise being intermittently inserted into the audio.
Jan spent a further hour or two fault-finding, eventually tracing the problem to a setting on the link controller. This setting was corrected but a short while later the problem recurred and it was found that the controller was spuriously flipping configuration bits. Several attempts were made to get the configuration corrected but every time the configuration became corrupted again.
The team was left with no choice but to remove the faulty controller and link radios. The repeater was left operational in a standalone state.
It was a challenge to predict the correct maintenance slot for Jonaskop. The weather changed a few times in the week.
David ZS1DDK picked up batteries, which was fetched from him during the week by Jan ZS1VDV. Rassie ZS1YT facilitated all payments.
John ZS1EQ delivered the automatic switchover and LVD (Low Voltage Disconnect) / OVD (Over Voltage Disconnect) box to Matt ZS1MTF on Friday evening.
A team consisting of Matt ZS1MTF, Nic, James ZS1RBT, Paul ZS1V and Jan ZS1VDV went to Jonaskop to upgrade the emergency battery capacity, install the automatic switchover and LVD/OVD box, replace all cable ties (lasted about 8 years in the sun) and tension the tower stays.
Saturday morning started at 06:00 packing the vehicles.
Left home around 06:30.
08:30 stopped at site. The weather was not cold with a moderate breeze, which turned into a strong breeze as the day progressed.
On Saturday 9 May, Jan ZS1VDV and Ralf ZS1RK visitted the Jonaskop 145.675 repeater site. High wind conditions prevented close up inspection of the antenna connections on the tower, but the SWR of all the antennas were checked and found to be good.
The VHF repeater squelch was adjusted. The audio levels were re-aligned and one coax connector was seated correctly.
On 26 June it was reported that the repeater is not functioning and constant keying.
From the detailed fault report it was concluded that a power supply is the most likely problem. However with power problems, there could also have been big equipment failure.
Paul ZS1V and Peter ZS1PDE assisted with the ordering and pickup of a replacement PSU for the site.
Jan ZS1VDV packed for all scenarios on Friday evening. This included making controller link cables for the spare repeater.
Saturday started very early with Sybrand ZS1SJ meeting up with Paul to collect keys and replacement PSU in Somerset West.
Sybrand next was picked up Jan ZS1VDV and loading all equipment in Stellenbosch at around 07:20.
A route via Worcester to Jonaskop the best option, as the Franschhoek pass was closed and the round via Grabouw to Villiersdorp was reported on Thursday to have loads of sand after the winter storms,
Arrived on site, it was very clear that this was going to be a very cold and windy visit. Around -2.5 C and very strong gusts of wind.
As soon as the repeater hut was opened, it was found that the repeater was on backup power (measured to be 12.8V). This was very strange as the repeater never went to backup power during the week. Next the PSU and 220V was tested all over the site, and found the no 220V was available. With out more information, it was decided to swop the PSU.
On the way down, Eskom was found working on the line. At this stage it was clear why the repeater was on backup power. In the process of driving up, Eskom switched of the 11 KV line to work on it. The 11KV line was hit by lightning and an isolator needed to be replaced. With the one line on the delta 11 KV line down, the transformer would have converted to 220V star 3 phase, but the 220V would not have been stable. After about 1.5 hours the repair was concluded. They had to use a gas flame to shrink the heat shrink on the lug.
Returned to site, checked that all power was up and running. It was found the that controller configuration was corrupted and needed to be updated. The main and battery sense DTMF codes was also swopped as listed on the TODO list for the site.
The link radio the Hanskop audio levels could not be realigned as it was just to cold and wind to strong.
The tower guy lines was giving a quick inspection and found that they will need service on next visit.
Unpacked in Stellenbosch around 14:00.
Sybrand last stop at home around 14:30 for a total round trip of 330km.
Jan ZS1VDV and Paul ZS1V left Stellenbosch at 10am for the Jonaskop repeater site, home of the 145.675 repeater. It has been some time since the last visit to the site and the access road condition has deteriorated significantly. Somewhat delayed by a puncture to one of the bakkie’s tyres, the team arrived on site just after midday.
Antenna SWR measurements on the VHF stack and both link antennas were found to be acceptable. Output power of the repeater and both links, was also as expected.
Jan patched the link controller to take care of a slight crackle on the audio, most easily noted in the 2m repeater tail.
Jan busy with the link controller
Some more tests pointed to a problem with the Hanskop link radio (possibly off frequency). This was removed and the team departed at around 15:00.
Pleasant conditions at around 15C, overcast and no wind
Jan and Paul arrived back in Stellenbosch just after 17:00.