Hermanus move and install Q4 2022

On 17 December 2022, a project which has been in the making since August came to fruition.

The high site which previously hosted the 145.725 MHz Onrusberg repeater since late 2016 was taken over by new management.  This marked the end of good relationship over many years.  The farm on which the Onrusberg high sites are located also got a new owner, further complicating matters.

After some investigation, negotiations and leveraging of existing relationships, a new high site became available.

The started a string of visits (anything between 250 km and 300 km per trip), hours of planning and preparations (including a few trips to buy and pickup stock).

First was a site inspection by ZS1TAF and ZS1V.

During a second visit (4 October) the antennas (folded dipole for VHF and dipole for UHF) were installed on the mast by ZS1TAF, ZS1V and ZS1YT.  This was a long and complicated day, as this was not an easy tower to climb and work on.  Thanks go especially to ZS1TAF for the donations towards antenna pole and brackets.  Over 60m of half inch EC4-50 feedline was installed.

ZS1TAF on mast

Third visit (19 November) was cabinet, cable trays and power articulation by ZS1DDK, ZS1TAF and ZS1YT.

New cable tray and cabinet

Preparation for the fourth site visit was still going strong until 01:00 on the day of the visit.  The morning continued at 05:30 and packing all the equipment for the installation and possible eventualities required detailed planning.

ZS1MTF arrived at 07:00and there was just enough space in the double cab bakkie for all the required equipment (2 toolboxes, 8 ammo crates, test equipment, ladder, duplexer, repeater, link controller, link radio, power supply, charger, transfer box, battery, among many other items).

How much more stuff do we need to pack?

ZS1Z and ZS1MTF arrived on site at 09:15. The mist and clouds was thick, with visibility as poor as 5m at times.

After this, the layout of the cabinet and all DC wiring was completed.  The DC system includes a 20A linear power supply, a 200 A/H battery, a 30 A charger, an automating transfer switch, and low and over voltage protection box (donated by ZS1EQ), fuse boxes and lots of crimps, power poles connectors and cable. LoRaWAN based telemetry was also installed.

Cabinet with all equipment installed

Next the link controller cabling and sensors were installed.

Lightning protection was installed and new RG214 patch leads were made up and installed for the last section of the run from the antennas.  This is always something which takes much longer that expected and uses many more cable ties.

Next the duplexer was installed on the wall.  The bracket on the duplexer made it very uncomfortable process.  Great care must be taken when handling the cavity filters as the duplexer had more than 10 hours of setup in it alone. The harness is the correct one for the amateur 2m band, and some of the cans have some age on them, and do not want to adjust without some persuasion, all of which complicates tuning.  A one port circulator (isolator and bandpass filter), was also installed

Crimping of all internal coax and patch leads (RG223) followed.  The double shielded coax crimping must be done with great care.

Duplexer and circulator on the wall

The antenna SWR was checked and found to be in order although the VHF was at 1.5:1, somewhat higher than the expected 1.3:1, and will be investigated on a future visit. The UHF link was at the expected 1.1:1. All outside connections was sealed Scotch 23 and electrical tape (Nitto).  The cable trays were closed again with all stainless-steel straps reinstalled and some extra cable tie straps for extra ease of mind.

Outside cable trays

Some radio checks were completed with ZS1L and ZS1YT.

The road home was clear but long, after dropping of all the keys and unpacking the vehicles everyone was home by 22:00.

This concluded the move and upgrade to include backup power and circulator.

As with any move of this magnitude, some small gremlins may pop up, please report as per the weekly status reports. Thank you for all the support.

Solar install Hawequa 2021-08-08

Installing solar power for backup purposes has been a project which the WCRWG has been working on for a long time.

A few people and organizations where involved:
Paul ZS1V – ordering of hardware components
Rassie ZS1YT – Site visit planning and install
Sybrand ZS1SJ – Building custom bracket (biggest part of project), site visit planning and install.
Michael ZS1MJT – Site visit installation, buying some components
Matt ZS1MTF – equipment collection and transport
Jan ZS1Z – Site visit install
Hamnet WC – Donation towards project

Sunday 08:30 Loading of brackets, panels and hardware. Installation team ZS1YT, ZS1SJ, ZS1MJT and ZS1Z.

ZS1YT holding bracket and panel in wind

Onsite 10:15, Inside temp 6 degrees. Visibility was very limited (maybe 5 m). Was very thick mist and windy.

Can barely see hut from vehicles

Install solar panels and controller. Update link controller to have the 6m link on by default and also send morse(CW) id message every 5 min.

Left site 12:30

Home 14:30

Jonaskop Maintenance 2021-05-23

Another early and crisp morning, Matt, ZS1MTF, Mike, ZS1MJT and Jan, ZS1VDV, met to go to the Jonaskop high site to assess the linking problem being experienced.

Matt collected Mike at 07h00 Sunday morning, also at 7 degrees.

We met Jan in Stellenbosch at 07h45 and loaded equipment we would need.

Departed Stellenbosch 08h00. A beautiful and scenic drive out to the high site.

We arrived at 10h15 and proceeded with assessing and fault finding. The weather was clear and favorable, but there was an extremely cold wind blowing.

After swapping out equipment and doing various tests, we found that there were a couple of issues with repeater, controller and radios on site.

The 2 linking radios, and the controller were removed and the 2m repeater was left on site, as it was working ok independently.

The removed equipment will be repaired and tested and then replaced again.

We left site around 12h40 and arrived back in Stellenbosch 15h20.

A special thanks to Jan, ZS1VDV for coordinating the site visit and his preparation of equipment for the day.

Pikerberg Maintenance 2021-05-18

It was an early and crisp morning of 7 degrees when Mike Kellet, ZS1TAF, and Mike Taylor, ZS1MJT, met in Tableview and departed for the 145.625 repeater high site in Piketberg.

The plan for the day was to replace the dipole antenna and try see where the problem was with linking the 70cm and 2m systems.

The planning started a few weeks before the 18th. New equipment needed to be purchased and a plan was put in place to get access to the Sentech site. On Monday 17th, ZS1TAF collected the new dipole and ZS1MJT got a crash course on how controller and laptop interface worked, or didn’t.

We left Tableview at 07h00 and enjoyed the beautiful sunset en-route.

09h15 we arrived at the high site and started preparing equipment for the climb up the tower. Trying to identify the antenna from the ground was rather challenging, but ZS1TAF eventually made it to the 2m 4 stack and started work on cable checking and testing (SWR was around 1.5). He found the old joint to the antenna to be damaged and brittle and water had found its way into the socket.

At just under 80m up the tower, the wind proved to be a bit of a contender, but Mike, as resilient as he is, trudged on relentlessly and eventually got the job done. The old antenna was put back and the SWR retested, reading around 1:1.

While Mike was working on the antenna, Mike ZS1MJT, did software checks on the controller. Software was updated and the programming was reloaded.

We tested signals and got positive feedback from fellow Hams in Cape Town.

We departed site around 12h45 and headed back to Tableview. We were back at Tablwview around 14h15.

A huge thank you to Jan ZS1VDV, Rassie ZS1YT, Sybrand ZS1SJ and Paul ZS1V for arranging and coordinating the successful visit.

Maintenance Bottelary 20201229

Paarl and Stellenbosch from Bottelary

Jan ZS1VDV and Melissa ZS1MEL went to investigate the DMR repeater outage.

The repeater was rebooted and updated. A future upgrade of the operating system on the repeater will be required, but this will first need to be tested before hand.

The fan on the Allstar link radio was realigned and secured.

The building was fumigated for insects.

Sir Lowry’s Pass to Bellville from Bottelary

Maintenance Bottelary 20200929

Paul ZS1V and Jan ZS1VDV did some maintenance on site. This was the 3rd attempt to go to site. The previous attempts failed due to a GSM failure on site preventing de-arming of the alarm. Last night a remote was used to de-arm the alarm. For a few while the alarm did scream inside the hut (an unpleasant experience that is not recommended).

Left for site: 16:30

The WiFi based site internet link device firmware was updated and the link reconfigured. The Multimode Digital UHF repeater and VHF DSTAR repeaters are back consequently back online.

Some power maintenance was done and monitoring equipment installed.

The Allstar link node was installed. It is currently running on 433.500 MHz simplex. This node is linked to the WCRWG hub node, which has a permanently linked node to the Gifberg 145.7375 repeater. Once testing is complete, the link node radio will be switched to link to the Hawequa 438.800 UHF repeater, bringing Gifberg onto the main link network.

Some general network maintenance was completed.

The weather on site was foul and the wind made the walk out with equipment in the dark treacherous.

Home and unpacked 20:30.

Maintenance Jonaskop 20200912

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.

Replacing cable ties and working on 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.

Vehicles parked n top and mast (left)

11:30 done and left site.

13:00 safe home.