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  • Next event: 3rd Sept – Committee Meeting

4 photos1st and 2nd September: 

There is a lot more to a Club Field Day than operating a radio in a field. GB2MFM was the fourth field event this year for Thames Amateur Radio Group, with another two having been cancelled due to adverse weather.

We wanted to try something different so came up with the idea of operating from a World War 2 Pill Box and encouraged people to call-in from other military monuments within VHF range, which, via repeaters, included most of South East England.

Wat Tyler Country Park, just south of Basildon has a preserved Pill Box with a secure fence around its roof giving spectacular views over the Thames Estuary. This is a popular location for dog walkers and bird watchers. On the sunny weekend of 1st and 2nd September the park was rammed.

This was great news for us having set up our “Control” with a VHF omni-directional antenna on a massive telescopic mast towering above the trees. A Yagi on the Pill Box roof with flags, signs and information leaflets made us an obvious point of interest. Some walkers were ex-military radio operators or lapsed hams, and others just wanted to have-a-go on the Morse key.

Club members benefited from a lesson in how to operate portable from both a RF point of view and precautions over Health and Safety. Vice-Chair John, M0LFX, promoted the theme by driving to two WW2 airfields (Hornchurch and North Weald) and called in using a collapsible Yagi perched on his car roof.

Photo of GB2MFMWe had intended to monitor frequencies on a whole range of 2m modes but found that transmitting (answering a call) tended to interfere with other operators despite using a different mode – so we priortised the conventional FM calling frequency (which also kept us off 2m SSB as there was a competition taking place).

Billed as a 2m event we did bring HF and made contact with stations in Europe via CW and on the ex-Military Clansman. So, as always with these events, there was plenty of opportunity for club members learn new skills and get involved with promoting the hobby.

The following day there was a meeting of the TARG Committee. Positive feedback was received from all those involved and as a result two more Field Days are planed for 2018 and we will return to Hadleigh Country Park (where we did the Satellite event) and Wat Tyler Country Park in 2019. 

Many other planning topics were discussed, so please check the Diary Page of the website to see just how busy we will be and look forward to feedback and other suggestions from members.

Photo of antennas19th August: Antenna Masterclass. You can read all the books you want, be told 6 different ways by 6 different people, but it’s not until you do it yourself – and make your mistakes – that you fully understand a concept such as constructing your own antenna.

That is what the Antenna building day was about; sharing experience and helping people new to the practical side of things to have a go. 

The event was hosted by Gary, M0ICG, who make available his, rather large, garden. He has a number of antenna permanently set up including, at HF, a Windom, Fan Dipole and CobWeb.

Group Photo

We built ab Inverted V and the lesson learnt there was just how much space is needed free from obstructions in order to lay out the antenna wires. To transmit at 80m the half wave dipole needs to be about 40m and that is a lot of space needed without a fence, tree or other obstacle in the way. 

Huw, M0LHT, didn’t have that problem as he had his dipole set up vertically. In fact, he had another dipole running parallel to act as a reflector and create some “gain” in a particular direction.

Photo of Aug Meeting3rd Aug: Club Talk. Data Modes

This was the ideal introduction to Data Modes by Huw M0LHT (left) and Jon M0KGX (right). “Just a short talk”, they said. One hour later, after enthusiastic questions from the audience, we broke for tea allowing a closer look at the kit for those who wanted to learn more.

They showed the basic kit needed, if not already built into your (up-to-date radio), and gave a live Tx and Rx of SSTV. They then switched to PSK31 and we saw the familiar ticker tape of text scrolling across the screen, including one from Canada which was amazing considering we were using a portable antenna set up between the club house and a wire fence.

Graphic of SSTCV cardThis reinforced the opening remark that data will get through when voice cannot.

Jon designed the TARG SSTV card that was used in the demo. Notice how, as required by the licence, the call sign of the sender must be included on the graphic. 

One of the question was about how to set the frequency. This was beautifully demonstrated on the screen where the frequency “waterfall” was spread over 3kHz, normally the required bandwidth for a single voice transmission; yet within that spectrum we were, with the live demo, receiving 7 PSK31 transmissions as the bandwidth is so small for PSK31. In theory, 20+ psk31 transmission can be received in the SSB bandwidth compared to one voice. No wonder it is a popular mode of communication. 

For more information on PSK 31 Download this “TARG PSK 31 Guide” by Jon M0KGX. 

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