Meeting on the Air – Tonight at 7PM!

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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January Monthly Business via Free Conference Call

This will be an online / call-in meeting only.

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.

Dial-in number (US): (425) 436-6366
Access code: 2618168#
International dial-in numbers: https://fccdl.in/i/kb1hnz
Online meeting ID: kb1hnz
Join the online meeting: https://join.freeconferencecall.com/kb1hnz

For additional assistance connecting to the meeting text ‘Call Me’ to the Dial-In number above and you will be called into the conference. Message and data rates may apply.

See you there!

73′

Tim
KB1HNZ

2020 SKYWARN Recognition Day Review

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.

Here’s a picture of Eric N1RXR’s operating conditions Saturday evening!

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!

2020 Maine SET Review

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.


Lessons Learned

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.

A Culture of Connection

“Grandpa Listening in on the Wireless,” by Norman Rockwell

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.

Works Cited:
“A Close-Knit Culture With Separation at its Core.” Christian Science Monitor. 16 December 2020. Website: https://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/2020/0521/A-close-knit-culture-with-separation-at-its-core-video

Summits on the Air (SOTA) Activation from the Summit of Mt. Washington W1/HA-001

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.

From left to right: Jordan and Brad Brown on the roof of the Mt. Washington Observatory

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.

Tim KB1HNZ and Elliot, near the summit

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.

Radio antennas on the summit of Mt. Washington

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!

What a view! Eric N1RXR took this photo from near the summit

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.

December Monthly Business Meeting via Free Conference Call

This will be an online / call-in meeting only.

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.

Dial-in number (US): (425) 436-6366
Access code: 2618168#
International dial-in numbers: https://fccdl.in/i/kb1hnz
Online meeting ID: kb1hnz
Join the online meeting: https://join.freeconferencecall.com/kb1hnz

For additional assistance connecting to the meeting text ‘Call Me’ to the Dial-In number above and you will be called into the conference. Message and data rates may apply.

See you there!

73′

Tim
KB1HNZ