Hamnet Eastern Cape activity report

ZS2HC doing a signal check during Ironman 70.3 in East London

ZS2HC doing a signal check during Ironman 70.3 in East London

According to Hennie Coetze, ZS2HC, the Hamnet members, with the assistance of the Border Radio Club, once again supplied communications for the IronMan 70.3 in East London. Sunday 29th January saw the 10th edition of this race and a bumper field of athletes.

Anthony ZS2BQ and Ivan ZS2ILN operated the VOC with the assistance of Alistair ZS2AB, Andrew ZS2EL, Hennie ZS2HC, Nick ZS2NB, and Phil ZS2NP. Garth ZS2AAR manned the cross band repeater providing coverage for those not in reach of the town repeater. Adequate coverage of the event was made possible by the team who handled both logistical and emergency traffic for the event. A big thank you to all involved.

The East Londoners are not resting though – they are already preparing for the Surfers Marathon on the 18th February where they will once again be out flying the flag of amateur radio.

In Port Elizabeth, things have been happening as well. On Sunday 29th January, Andrew Gray was on the beach at Sardinia bay when there was a report of a possible drowning. Andrew contacted the Hamnet group and several members arrived to assist with the search. The Hamnet members offered spotters with communication between themselves on the emergency simplex frequency of 145.225. NSRI, Coastal water rescue, and paramedics were also on the scene.

The body was later spotted by helicopter and the search called off. Thank you to those who responded.

PEARS and Hamnet Eastern Cape are also getting ready for a bumper season with the Herald Mountain bike race on the 19th February followed a week later by the road race.

A new event on the horizon for these outdoor enthusiasts is the Addo Extreme 100 MILE (160Km) trail run. The event takes place over the weekend of 10-12 March in the mountains around Addo and Kirkwood. The terrain poses significant challenges – not only to competitors, but to the radio hams too. Not only as far as communications are concerned, but simply “getting there” will also be a challenge. The radio hams will need to set-up camps in some very remote areas – but this is why they do what they do!

Hamnet Eastern Cape Mountain Club exercise – report back

20161105_104608Hamnet Eastern Cape was approached by the Search and Rescue (S&R) team of the Eastern Cape branch of the Mountain Club of South Africa to assist in a training exercise by providing a communications network over the Groendal nature reserve outside Port Elizabeth.

The event took place on 5 and 6 November, with the Eastern Cape Hamnet team only being needed for the Saturday.

The idea of the exercise was to get various role players together to get on a first name basis with each other and to establish needs and resources. Hamnet Eastern Cape, along with some members of PEARS, provided radio communications over the entire Groendal nature reserve – linking teams on the ground to the Joint Operations Centre (JOC) and the other teams – wherever they were deployed.

20161105_095431This was achieved by deploying two cross-band repeaters – VHF simplex to the teams on the ground and linked by UHF. This gave the mountain club the ability to talk directly to teams involved in the exercise – wherever they were deployed.

The day started with everyone meeting at the Rooikraans picnic area in Groendal at 07h30. As soon as the helicopters (2 BK helicopters) arrived, the Hamnet members going to deploy the repeater network were loaded and deployed. Within minutes of us being dropped off at the various sites we had comms up and signal checks done. Signal reports suggested we had the perfect spots for the repeaters.

20161105_164634While this was happening, a JOC was setup – giving the mountain club maps of the area and radio hams to keep everyone in touch.  four hams operated the radios in the JOC relaying messages to and from the event organisers/JOC control.

After some additional training (how to enter and disembark a helicopter) the teams were ready to be deployed to various sections of the reserve. The exercise involved the teams (or sticks as they are called in S&R lingo) being dropped off, establishing their coordinates and sending in reports – everything from location to weather and visibility. Some basic drills for spotting were done and then it was getting a helicopter to pick them up and return to base.  The teams had to identify a safe Landing Zone (LZ) set up a windsock of sorts and navigate the pilot to their location using any and all means at their disposal.20161105_104450

As mentioned, radio hams  assisted in the JOC – relaying messages on behalf of the organizers. This gave a good sense of radio procedure to the teams who soon followed suit. Tactical call signs were used where appropriate and members within the teams rotated the responsibility of reporting in on the radio.

The two pilots (Havoc and Sandman) fitted in as if they were part of the team for ages! JOC and the teams can only say a huge THANK YOU to the pilots (and their engineers) for a totally top class performance.

20161105_095453Late in the afternoon, the exercise was suspended and the repeater network removed. The hams then “stood down” – meaning that we packed up and went home.



The mountain club and air force were to continue on the Sunday with some drills – hoists and more advanced helicopter work.

Talking purely from a radio perspective the communications network established was adequate, deployed in minimal time and stood up to the task at hand. It should also be said that as a team we were stretched in terms of equipment and it would be great to have a few more “repeater-in-a-box” solutions. If the area had been bigger, we might not have been able to cover it adequately.

This event was also registered as a training exercise with SARL and we believe it was hugely beneficial.

East Cape Hamnet/MCSA/Airforce Rescue Exercise

The Air Force helicopters used during the Search and Rescue exercise last year

The Air Force helicopters used during the Search and Rescue exercise last year

Following on from the helicopter training this time last year, Hamnet Eastern Cape have been asked to assist once again.

This will be the second time the exercise is being held and will once again take the form of a mountain rescue exercise in the Groendal wilderness area just outside Port Elizabeth.

Hamnet will be providing portable repeaters and radio comms training to the mountain club rescue sticks.  As such, each radio operator will be a fundamental member of the rescue party.  Fortunately, one way or another, several of our Hamnet members are quite at home in the mountains.

The exercise will take place on Saturday 5 and Sunday 6 November 2016.  Contact Andrew Gray for more details.

A JOC will be setup and hamnet members will accompany MCSA members on various tactical exercises.  Air support from the Airforce will add excitement.

Currently on the list to assist are: Andrew Gray ZS2G, Gert ZS2GS, Colin ZR2CRS and Dave ZS2DH.  We will be camping over in the wilderness area on Saturday night.

Hamnet members to please bring their own equipment (including camp gear to overnight) and please take note of the safety equipment required: Safety glasses, ear plugs, a harness and a helmet.

HAMNET Field Station/Hammies outing

A view of the antenna and the field station in the background

A view of the antenna and the field station in the background

25 June 2016

Van Stadens flower reserve

The weekend of the 25th of June fell squarely in the middle of the SARL Top Band QSO party and overlapped with our plans to deploy for the Top Band QSO party. It also clashed with another of the ZS2Fun projects – Hammies. As if that was not enough, it was also Andrew’s turn to read the PEARS news bulletin on Sunday morning, so a full weekend!

Not to be deterred, however, a plan was made to operate a field station from the famous Van Stadens Flower Reserve during the normal Hammies time slot – 14:00 to 16:00 SAST on the Saturday.

Having never actually been to the flower reserve myself I was looking forward to it. Incidentally, this is only a few Km from the venue we used for the “Hamnet Blackout” last year.

Living in town has it’s disadvantages from a ham perspective and one of the main disadvantages is the electrical noise. Andrew and I both have S-9 level noise at our respective QTHs. In the Van Stadens area this drops away a lot! So much so, that when Andrew set the radio up he thought it was broken until we found a talking station!

ZS2DH operating the field station.

ZS2DH operating the field station.

The plan to get out there and set up for a 14:00 start was thwarted somewhat with a variety of challenges, but we managed to be on the air by 14:10 SAST. Setting up the “SOTA-style” station was nothing new to us and even the Hammies can do it with their eyes closed now. The inverted-V hanging from an “improved commercial swimming pool mast”-about 6m off the ground, the Kenwood TS-50 running off the good old faithful 100AH battery and we were on air pumping out about 80W of Hamnet Awesomeness!

The Hammies had come along as well and Ashton, in particular, needed to run around a bit. Andrew set up the GPS points and hid some point markers. The Hammies were given the coordinates, along with a brief explanation of how the GPS works, and told to get the code words which had been hidden with the point markers. They had to radio these back to “base control” as they found them. This was a great activity for the Hammies as they got to report over the radio, but also explore the reserve and improve their mountain rescue skills. We had to eventually cut the activity short as the park was closing and we had to get back to town! This proved even more popular than the fox hunt we did some time ago.

Andrew running the field station

Andrew running the field station

Taking turns between operating the field station, operating “base control”,and chatting to our guests, kept us all busy. Juanita and Thato (one of Andrew’s students from work who had joined us for the day) were a great help. I think they enjoyed it at least as much as the kids did – if the laughter was to be believed!

Our guests included a few passing tourists and Treffor Lloyd from the Mountain Club Search and Rescue team.

Our field station made a good impression too – hitting ZS1 through ZS6 as well as making contact with Athol Masdoll, Z21LV in Zimbabwe, Vince, 3DA0VV in Swaziland, and Dieter Hoffman, A25RX, a local lad currently working in Botswana.

Naturally, as man cannot live on radio alone, we had a fully catered service with tea, coffee, hot chocolate, cooldrink, and biscuits. By the time we had to leave, there were still some supplies, but the cooldrink and biscuits just seemed to have evaporated!

In short, we got out into the open air, played radio, practised our skills, gave the Hammies a good afternoon of fun, and all went home a little more tired.

Some of our guests - Treffor Lloyd and Gert (ZS2GS)

Our guest – Treffor Lloyd and Gert (ZS2GS) and Andrew (ZS2G)

The Hammies with the Hamnet guys

The Hammies with the Hamnet guys