Join us this evening, January 21st, at 7:00PM on the 147.090 (+ / 100.0 Hz) W1QUI repeater, for our monthly meeting on-the-air.
On the agenda, we’ll be asking if participants have upgraded their ham stations recently or acquired any new gear since our last on-air meeting. We’ll also talk about Winter Field Day and how participants can operate from home and contribute to the club score.
As always, if you have HF capabilities, you’re welcome to join us on 28.455 USB for the After Net, immediately following our net on the repeater.
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Please join us Thursday, January 14th, at 7:00 PM, as we’ll be previewing 2021 Winter Field Day. At November’s meeting, we discussed taking advantage of temporary changes in the rules, that will allow individual operators to participate from their own homes and contribute to the club score. We’ll also talk about continuing on-air training drills on the 4th Thursday of each month and get an update on the Maine Packet System, among other things.
As was the case with many of this year’s activities, the pandemic decided to throw a wrench into SKYWARN™ Recognition Day, a 20-plus year old tradition that was jointly developed by the National Weather Service and the American Radio Relay League to celebrate the contributions that volunteer SKYWARN™ radio operators make to the National Weather Service.
Since 2014, WSSM volunteers have visited the National Weather Service Forecast Office, in Gray, Maine, to spend long hours operating the WX1GYX station during the round the clock event.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, this year, we had no access to the NWS Gray facility, so in order to get WX1GYX on the air, we needed to get creative.
Back in the summer, WSSM celebrated its 10th Anniversary with a special event call sign, W1V. To encourage club members to operate with the call sign from their own homes, or portable, a we created a Google Sheet as a signup form. The sheet was divided, in that case into the days that the call sign was active and featured 2-hour operating blocks in each bands and mode. One simply entered their call sign in the band and time slot of their choice and got on the air. We decided to use a similar method to encourage SKYWARN volunteers, who normally participate during SRD, to get on the air.
It worked out very well! For SRD this year, WX1GYX made a total of 198 QSOs, working 42 different states, contacting 7 other NWS stations and 35 SRD volunteers during the 24 hour period. The call sign was active on the 80, 40, 15, 12, and 2 meter bands, using SSB, FM, D-STAR, DMR, FT8, and Echolink for modes.
This isn’t bad considering by late Saturday morning, a real SKYWARN Activation took precedence, as a Nor’easter began to impact the area. The storm brought heavy snow and wind, and caused widespread damage and power outages across the forecast area, that even effected some of our SRD participants. On Saturday night alone, we gathered 35 reports of damage, and dozens more the next day.
2020 SRD participants included: Eric N1RXR, Jerry K1WTX, Mark KG1Q, Tim KB1HNZ, and Stefania K1GJY.
During periods that they weren’t using the WX1GYX call sign, many of these same participants used their personal call signs and exchanged their names, SRD numbers, and current weather conditions with other participating stations.
Thanks to everyone who helped make this year’s SRD a success!
On Saturday, October 24th, members of the Wireless Society of Southern Maine Emergency Communications Team (WSSM-ECT), which meets monthly in Scarborough, participated in a statewide drill to test their communications capabilities between various different sites throughout Cumberland County and the state. The drill, known as the Simulated Emergency Test, or SET, is an annual exercise, sponsored by the American Radio Relay League, which encourages amateur radio operators from across the country to test their communications skills during a mock disaster.
During the SET, hams are required to quickly establish communications between various Emergency Operations Centers and exchange formal messages and traffic, which contain requests for supplies, medical or weather reports, or other information that may be of importance during a disaster. They do this via voice and digital two-way radio, on bands ranging from HF to UHF, as required.
“There has been a lot of statewide coordination for this year’s event, and they’ve developed an extensive plan that involves testing both amateur radio and EMA communications,” says Tim Watson, of Saco. Watson is president of the Wireless Society of Southern Maine, which provides communications support to Cumberland County EMA, as well as the National Weather Service. “The SET tests how we respond during large-scale disasters, where commercial infrastructure has failed. In these events, hams are often called upon to provide communications support.”
“The hams in our club are a dedicated group,” adds Brad Brown, of Waterboro, “Amateur radio has a long history of volunteerism. Sure, it’s a hobby and there’s some fun things that we do, but so many like to stay sharp by providing support for community events, and drills like this, so they’ll be ready to offer their time and expertise when disaster strikes.”
The purpose of this year’s SET was to test the ability to communicate inter-county and between counties, using various modes: VHF FM repeater, VHF FM Simplex, HF SSB, VHF Packet, HF Digital, and Winlink via VHF Packet and HF Ardop.
Objectives included: Testing voice communications with other counties on amateur VHF repeaters, exchanging digital data with other counties on VHF repeaters, and the Maine Packet Network, testing voice communications with other counties on VHF Simplex, testing voice with other counties via HF, and exchanging digital traffic via HF. Each of these tasks were outlined in the 2020 Maine SET statewide plan. Other tasks were assigned to various EMA personnel to test their communications systems as well.
One of the most enjoyable parts of the 2020 SET was helping to relay a radiogram message from the York County EMA to Washington County. The message was originated in York and was relayed through several counties before reaching its destination. Steve Hansen KB1TCE reported afterwards that the message was delivered with near perfect accuracy. The only part that was missing in the final message was the signature. A possible reason for this is that the ARRL radiogram form has no place for a signature, compared with a Radio Relay International form, that does.
The SET scenario took place over 4 hours, from 8AM till noon, and as we approached the final hour, we decided to ask some of participants that checked in via FM simplex from their homes, to deploy to various shelter locations across the county. Eric Emery N1RXR visited Memorial Elementary School, in New Gloucester, Gray New Gloucester High School, in Gray, Greely Middle School, in Cumberland, Brunswick High School, and Falmouth High School, while Waylon McDonald KC1HJN was deployed to Windham High School and Gorham Middle School. We exchanged signal reports and exercise traffic from each location.
Brad Brown Jr., KC1JMH, was deployed to a strategic location on Chadbourne Ridge, in Waterboro, and acted as a VHF relay between York County to the south and the Cumberland County EMA.
Tim Watson KB1HNZ operated from the Cumberland County EMA. Do to COVID-19 restrictions, which limited the number of people in the building, he was the only ham operator at the EMA.
The WS1EC team successfully completed all but one task, which was to send digital traffic via FM Simplex. Having not been to the CCEMA in nine months, due to COVID-19 restrictions, one casualty was the Kenwood D710G VHF/UHF radio. After doing some trouble shooting to determine why it wouldn’t power on properly, the morning of the SET, it was determined that the best thing to do in the short window of time before the start of the exercise, was to use the backup radio, that was located in a backpack on a shelf in the radio room. The backup radio performed well and the programming was identical to the primary radio, so it was a seamless transition.
The only problem was discovering that there’s a difference in software settings between the D710A, and the newer D710G, which affected its ability to transmit when using Fldigi. This could’ve easily been fixed by downloading the appropriate RigCAT file, but in order to preserve the integrity of the SET, which listed among its scenarios, an internet outage, we chose not to update it at the time. In a future work session at the EMA, we plan on configuring the software to handle both radios, in case a failure happens again.
The Emergency Communications Team performed extremely well in this year’s SET, and many participants expressed a desire to do more exercises throughout the year, and more on-air training, like we did in the spring. In response, we’ll be starting up a training net again after the Holidays, to continue developing the skills necessary to perform at a high level.
Click here to view the WSSM-ECT After Action Report for the 2020 Maine SET.
Although most of what we read about in ham radio literature is heavily weighted toward the technical side of things, it doesn’t paint the whole picture. Amateur radio, at its core, is a social activity. And unlike some hobbies, like woodworking or painting, ham radio actually requires others to participate – to not only make it interesting, but to make it possible.
For over a hundred years, hams have utilized technology and harnessed natural phenomena, such as the ionosphere, to communicate with one another over long distances, and one of the first things a ham realizes is that the world isn’t quite as large as he or she once thought it was.
The Russian novelist, Mihail Sholokhov once said that “Vast sections of the world’s population are inspired by the same desires and live for common interests that bind them together far more than they separate them.”
What becomes apparent after only a few radio contacts, is that often that distance between two sides of a QSO becomes nil. No matter who you connect with on the airwaves, hams have at least one thing in common, and that’s the hobby itself. It’s the starting point, and from there, conversations often shift to other areas of interest, such as sports, other hobbies, current projects, family, occupations, and more.
After reading about all the people suffering the ill effects of staying away from each other and foregoing social activities over the past several months, due to the lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions that we’ve had to endure, I started thinking about how lucky hams are to always have someone to talk to, despite the fact that we also couldn’t do some of the activities that we normally do.
A recent article in the Christian Science Monitor, called “A Close-knit culture, with separation at its core,” summed it up pretty well, saying “as a pandemic hobby, it’s perfect. Socially distanced, it hails human connection with the push of a button. If the going gets tough, you can always heave a lifeline across the airwaves.”
ARRL Vice President Mike Raisbeck K1TWF, (who visited our Field Day site a couple years ago), commented in the same article when asked about the state of amateur radio during the pandemic, saying that “people are looking to touch the rest of humanity.”
It’s a beautiful statement if you think about it.
Amateur radio is truly a culture of connection, allowing hams to interact with each other every day, no matter the distance, and for that, especially this year, I’m grateful.
On Saturday, July 18th, the WS1SM team ventured to the summit of Mt. Washington, NH, to activate it for Summits on the Air (SOTA). The activation of W1/HA-001 ran concurrently with the W1V 10th Anniversary Special Event, which took place for two weeks during the summer.
This was the second time the WS1SM team used the special event call sign, W1V, during a SOTA activation from Mt. Washington – the first being in 2015 when it was used during the 5th Anniversary Special Event. In 2015, the date coincided with the CQWW VHF contest, in which we placed 1st in our category.
For most of the day, it was extremely windy (and cold) on the summit, which prevented us from fully extending the BuddiPole, and in order to prevent it from getting damaged, we had to take it down shortly after we put it up. We were planning on operating 6 meters, but instead focused mostly on VHF.
Among those who participated, were Brad Brown Jr., KC1JMH, Eric Emery N1RXR, and Stefania K1GJY and Tim Watson KB1HNZ.
Tim, Eric, and Stefania operated mostly VHF, making contacts as far away as New York state, while Brad operated HF, using a ham stick. One of Brad’s first contacts was with a Parks on the Air (POTA) station.
The wind was constant for most of the day, but thankfully it stayed dry and we didn’t have a repeat of what we experienced in 2015, when Charlie W1CPS, Thom W1WMG, and Tim KB1HNZ found themselves in a sudden deluge and were soaked!
Despite the challenge that the wind posed, we had a good day, logging over 70 QSOs – and the view was pretty awesome too!
Click here to learn more about WS1SM Summits on the Air (SOTA) activations, and to see photos of past events.
ILLW, which first began in 1993 as the Scottish Northern Lighthouse Activity Weekend, sees over 500 lighthouses and lightships activated in over 40 countries, and helps promote the preservation of lighthouses and lightships, and at the same time, gives the community an opportunity to experience Amateur Radio.
The Wireless Society of Southern Maine has participated in ILLW since 2011, activating thirteen lighthouses in nine years. Past activations have included Pemaquid Point Light, Portland Head Light, West Quoddy Head Light, Cape Neddick “Nubble” Light, Spring Point Light, and Rockland Breakwater Light, among others.
This year’s event also qualified as a Parks on the Air activation, since the lighthouse is located within Owls Head State Park (POTA: K-2399). It also has the ARLHS designation: USA574.
Club members, including Rory McEwen KB1PLY, Brad Brown Jr. KC1JMH, Tim Watson KB1HNZ, Eric Emery N1RXR, and Jason Andrews W1SFS, took turns operating HF, on 40m, 17m, and 20m throughout the day using Tim’s Yaesu FT857d, Rory’s Icom Ic7000, and Brad’s Yaesu FT991, along with a variety of antennas. Brad even worked a few stations on 2m FM Simplex – one as far away as Castine, and Tim made contacts on DMR. At the end of the day, we made a total of 77 QSOs.
To learn more about WS1SM Lighthouse Activations and to see photos, click here.
SCARBOROUGH, ME – On the weekend of June 27-28, the WS1SM team participated in their 10th ARRL Field Day from Wassamki Springs Campground, in Scarborough. Since the pandemic prevented many of the usual social activities that take place during the weekend, such as cookouts and visits from the public and elected officials, Field Day had quite a different feel to it this year, but we still managed to pull it together, and it turned out to be one of our most successful to date!
With limited in-person participants, we operated as 2A (which is a club station, on battery power, using 2 transmitters), for the first time since 2013, maintaining a continuous presence on the bands on SSB, and digital. Meanwhile, we had the support of club members who operated from their own homes, including Greg Finch W1GF, who scored a remarkable 4,706 points on his own – making 1,164 QSOs! Joe Blinick K1JB, contributed over 200 QSOs and Roger Pushor NK1I, contributed almost 50 OSOs! And there were others as well. This all added up to a club aggregate score of 9,694 points!
The plan came together late as there were lots of questions about whether or not the ARRL would make changes to the rules to accommodate COVID-19 concerns, and they finally did about two weeks prior to the event. The temporary rules allowed for home stations, operating as either 1D or 1A, to contribute to a club aggregate score, and also allowed those stations to work each other. Normally, 1D stations would not be able to count QSOs with other 1D stations.
Because of regulations in place during the spring about the number of people who could gather in a single location, we didn’t know if we’d be able to operate from the campground – or any public location at all. The idea of doing an outdoor Field Day began to look more promising, though, as some of those restrictions, especially relating to outdoor gatherings, began to be relaxed after June 1st. The Hillock family, who owns Wassamki Springs Campground, were very welcoming when we approached them, and we were able to implement safety protocols that satisfied both parties.
Eleven participants joined us at the campground for the 2A operations, which is about a third of what we normally have.
Setup began late Friday afternoon when a handful of club members helped to setup a tent, hung a multiband dipole across the field between trees, and also installed a 40m rotatable dipole on the side of the CCEMA Communications Trailer. Mike and Chris from Cumberland County EMA helped out as well. The two stations consisted of a Yaesu FT-857d and Icom IC-7300, both running on battery power. On Saturday morning, Charlie W1CPS, setup his 6m station, which includes a 5 element yagi atop a 40-foot mast and an Icom IC-7000. Not long afterwards, we were ready to get on the air!
Although there was a threat of thunderstorms, the weather was pleasant for the entire Field Day, including setup and break down, and the band conditions seemed very good as well. 40 meters was steady throughout most of the weekend, and 20m opened up nicely late Saturday afternoon and early Sunday. Late on Saturday, our tent station, which multiple club members took turns operating from, switched from SSB to digital and continued to operate that way throughout the evening and into the early morning.
6 meter conditions were excellent Saturday afternoon, as Charlie W1CPS and company started to click off steady contacts. As evening set in, the conditions faded, but they had a similar opening the next day. Eric N1RXR had a really good run going on 40 meters Saturday evening, and Stefania K1GJY made lots of QSOs on 20 meters Sunday morning and early afternoon.
Our Safety Officers for 2020 ARRL Field Day were Brad Brown, Jr. KC1JMH, and Charlie Shepard W1CPS. Brad reported the following: “I made sure any trip hazards were marked, that fire suppression was handy, CDC signs were up and did my best to remind people of PPE and distance. Charlie had his space roped off to ensure guests stay within a socially acceptable distance. First-Aid kits were readily available in my pickup, my go-bag and next to Charlie’s fire extinguisher.”
Fellow club members, Frank KR1ZAN in Plano, TX, and Ryan Michaelson KB1YTR, in Duluth, MN, helped us copy the W1AW Field Day message, which was super helpful because many of us were setting up antennas during the broadcast!
Tim KB1HNZ sent radiograms to the Section Manager and several others by way of the Digital Traffic Network via our Packet station on VHF.
Late Saturday, Eric N1RXR, was successful at making a satellite QSO via AO92.
Due to the situation with the pandemic, we chose not to host a GOTA station, which unfortunately means that we weren’t able to spend time introducing any newly licensed or interested parties to ham radio, but it was still good to see Mike N5QYQ and Steve AA1HF, who usually help us with that, at the event.
Special thanks to Chris Wheeler, and everyone at Cumberland County EMA for their support, and to the Hillock Family for allowing us to operate from Wassamki Springs Campground for the 10th consecutive year!
We finished up with 714 QSOs and 3,376 points for the 2A operation, and taking into account all of our contributors from home, we got a total of 9,694 points! It was a massive effort. Thanks to everyone for helping to make our 2020 Field Day such a success!
Click here to view photos of this year’s and previous Field Days.
Please join us Thursday, December 10th, at 7:00 PM, as we’ll be reviewing SKYWARN Recognition Day, and looking ahead to 2021 Winter Field Day. At November’s meeting, we discussed taking advantage of temporary changes in the rules, that will allow individual operators to participate from their own homes and contribute to the club score.