Matt ZS1MTF and Paul ZS1V visited the Jonaskop repeater site on Saturday 8 January to attend to a problem with the site telemetry. An RJ45 connector on one of the shielded ethernet cables was faulty and consequently replaced.
On Saturday morning Jan ZS1Z and Paul ZS1V went to the Jonaskop 145.675 repeater site. The repeater and link controller had been damaged during a lightning storm during the past winter. The Vertex VXR9000 repeater required some transistor replacements on its IO board and was repaired by the agents.
After the repair of the repeater, Jan spent many hours repairing the link controller and then re-aligning the audio levels between the repeater and the Riversdal and Hanskop link radios.
The team took the opportunity to also install lightning protection units on the VHF and Hanskop link antennas. These units were donated by Mike ZS1TAF. Lightning protection will be installed on the Riversdal link antenna on a future visit when we have another unit available. The various antenna feedlines were relabelled as the old labels had been removed by the weather.
The team were unable to verify the SWR on the various antennas as the WCRWG SWR meter has developed a fault. The WCRWG will likely have to look at acquiring a more robust unit suitable for field work. Donations of a Bird with the appropriate slugs would be highly appreciated and well used.
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 Saturday 11 September, Francois ZS1Q visited the George 145.700 repeater site. Francois found the hut had been equipped with a new gate to upgrade the security of the equipment room.
Francois checked and topped up the water in the backup battery bank and reports that the site is still in good order.
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.
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.
Onsite 10:15, Inside temp 6 degrees. Visibility was very limited (maybe 5 m). Was very thick mist and windy.
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
Jan ZS1Z and Paul ZS1V departed for Hanskop on the morning of Saturday 17 July to diagnose and hopefully attend to some issues that had been plaguing the Hanskop repeater system recently.
The track to the Hanskop site has been steadily deteriorating over the last few years and the recent Cape winter storms only exacerbated the issue.
The repeater system was checked thoroughly. The antennas, feedlines and lightning protection units were all found to be good. The repeaters themselves were also found to be operating correctly. The linking controller was then re-initialised and the firmware reloaded before the configuration was reapplied.
Spurious activations of the repeaters on PTT release were noticed. This appears to be coming from somewhere along the chain towards the B2B side of the network and will be further investigated from CPUT.
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.
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.
Paul ZS1V visited Jonaskop site and replaced the power supply fuse.