Maintenance George 2021-09-11

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.

Jonaskop Maintenance 2021-08-15

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.

Tower with ice collected below

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.

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

Hanskop Maintenance 2021-07-17

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.

ZS1Z navigating the track

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.

View of False Bay, including Steenbras Dam & Gordons Bay

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 Hawequa 20201223

Fitting 6m (51.550) simplex link to existing repeater system.

Sometime back it was decided that it will be a worthwhile experiment to fit a 6m simplex link to the existing VHF/UHF repeater system on Hawekwa, above Paarl.

The intention is for local stations to experience some 6m activity but also for distance stations to make use of specific propagation methods to access the VHF/UHF repeater system in Cape Town.

Previously the radio was programmed and the necessary cables made up and installed on site by Jan ZS1VDV.

The missing part was a proper 6m antenna.

On Wednesday 23 December David ZS1DDK, Mike ZS1TAF and Rassie ZS1YT left home at about 5h30 to do the necessary installation of the antenna.

Arrived on site at 7h20.  Outside temperature 11°C and completely over cast.  (At the foot of the mountain it was 23°C with some clouds.)

The site covered in cloud this morning

David did some homework by installing supports to the antenna as the site is well known for wind speeds of up to 150km/h

Whilst Mike and David installed the antenna Rassie got the SWR meter and cables out for the testing of the antenna.

ZS1TAF on the tower

The SWR checked at 1,2:1 and on the air tests followed. A number of stations called in on either the 145.650 repeater or the 51.550 simplex link and in both directions the 6m link was operating well.

The party left at about 9h30 and returned home.

The final installation

Thank you to the following people for sponsoring MONEY, TIME and KNOWLEDGE:

6m Radio      Members of Boland ARK

6m S/S folded dipole antenna and brackets:     David ZS1DDK

Setting up of radio and linking cables:     Jan ZS1VDV

Climbing the tower in wet conditions:      Mike ZS1TAF

Travelling: ZS1DDK, ZS1TAF, ZS1YT.

Maintenance George 20201104

The UHF link radio at George was damaged during a lightning storm.

This resulted in the UHF radio keying up the 145.700 repeater continuously. For sometime this radio was switched off.

Chris ZS2AAW, who has lots of experience with the Storno radios, suggested that an op-amp in the linking interface be replaced.

On Wednesday Francois ZS1Q and Daan ZS1DBJ from George visited the high site and replaced the op-amp. Tests were confirmed afterwards and the George to Cape Town link responded positive.

The standby battery water is also regularly topped up by Francois.

Thanks to Francois and Daan for walking the extra mile to keep the western Cape Repeaters in proper shape.

The George repeater site overlooking the Indian ocean.
The George standby batteries.