The Month in Review – March 2018

Details of what you might have missed if you weren't with us in March

Another month has passed and it falls to me to circulate a review of our members activities and what went on within the Club in March 2018. Sitting here now celebrating Easter with spring if not well and truly sprung at least in the air it is perhaps difficult to remember that at the start of the month we were languishing in the depths of "The Beast form the East" and the effects of "Storm Emma". The whole country was affected in some way with many parts of the country receiving significant snowfalls. Although the West Country was less affected than some it nonetheless received several centimetres of snow on 01 March 2018, we measured 125mm on our doorstep, so much in fact that we decided to cancel our regular meeting for that evening resorting instead to a net starting out on GB3ZB.

So skipping swiftly over the events or lack of on 01 March 2018 we come to:

08 March 2018: Joe 2E0EIC organised our "Cheese and Wine Evening". This was a successful evening with much hilarity. We rounded the evening out by discussing ideas for a recurring Special Event based around waterways, canals and water infrastructure past and present, “Waterways on the Air” or “WWOTA”. Initial designs for an event logo were put up on screen and those present were able to select their favourite from a short list of designs and then proceeded to customise it on the fly, which is an example of the flexibility of the Scalable Vector Graphic XML based mark-up language. If you haven’t looked into this form of graphic I encourage you to look at SVG Explained.

15 March 2018:Our spring table top sale brought out the usual additional visitors eager to grab a bargain. There was a flurry of bartering and equipment and money seemed to change hands in a trice, I hope everyone is satisfied with their purchases.

22 March 2018: In the absence of our Secretary (Andy G7KNA), who had a rare prior engagement, this evening went ahead as planned. Open House and On Air Night is an evening when traditionally we welcome casual visitors to the Club, although visitors are welcome on any night, we also get out the Club radio(s) or bring members equipment for use on our antennas. This evening saw John M0JFO produce an Icom IC7100 which is destined for installation in his self-build motorhome conversion that he is currently working on. Joe 2E0EIC eagerly plugged this into the Clubs Windom antenna and proceeded to work into the States on 50W with a 59+20 report both ways, so both rig and antenna seem to be working well, Joe was justifiably proud of this QSO achieved using his own callsign and only 50W although the Stateside station was running 1kW and a 5 element beam. John was pleased that everything would work well once installed in his motorhome build, although quite how he is going to mount a Windom antenna on the van he hasn’t worked out yet!

We also held a Foundation exam this evening. Vince and Philip sat their Foundation Exam under the watchful eye of John M0JFO and Steve G0UQT. There is a separate news posting about the exam but it appears that both candidates passed on the night subject to RSGB HQ confirmation.

24 March 2018: This Saturday Mark M0SKV, our Special Events Manager, and Andy G7KNA, our Secretary, made a reconnaissance visit to the Saltford Brass Mill located on the banks of the River Avon off The Shallows in Saltford between Bristol and Bath. This is our regular venue for the first Special Event of the year in May when we take part in Mills on the Air. Historically we have always operated from outside the Mills grounds, however this year with the Mill restored and open to the public throughout National Mills Weekend, which Mills on the Air coincides with, we have arranged with the Mill staff to operate from inside the Mill grounds. This is better for us as it allows us the opportunity to demonstrate Amateur Radio to more people and is better for the Mill since it provides a stronger tie up with our operation and another attraction within the grounds.

The purpose of the reconnaissance visit was to determine:

  1. What our operating arrangements would be
  2. Antenna arrangements
  3. Where we could obtain power
  4. How the Mill operated with visitors to ensure a safe operational layout
  5. Whether we needed to change our equipment or feeders

The visit was very useful and informative, the Mill volunteers are so obviously devoted to the restoration and maintenance of the Mill, and have a raft of knowledge about its history and operation. Importantly they are very keen to work with us to organise the operation from within their grounds. In short we have worked out a way to operate with our normal Special Event equipment and have identified a couple of additional bits, such as a gazebo to protect us from the elements that will enable us to put something on that the Public can interact with. 2018 will be the first year that we have been able to operate from within the grounds and we hope to be able to repeat this in future years.

29 March 2018: Mark M0SKV had been scheduled to give a talk on Canals, Waterways and Narrowboats this evening. Sadly as a result of various outside pressures he had been unable to complete his preparation to his own satisfaction and his talk has been postponed to April. This left us with something of vacuum in our plans for the evening. As it turned out we were visited by a couple of people interested in taking a Foundation Course who wanted to know more about the Club, Amateur Radio and the Foundation Exam. They were duly surrounded by a number of Club members eager to tell them about as much as possible, demonstrate the Club equipment and explain the exam. They left, possibly a little overwhelmed, but convinced of our enthusiasm and positive depiction of the hobby and the training process vowing to come back another evening and also to join our next Foundation Course. I think the word for that is: “result!” So well done to everyone who helped portray the Club and our hobby in such a positive light.

Outside of the regular Club activities, Eddie M0LJT along with: John M0JFO, Gary 2E0HCC and our oldest member Ray G3IOI continue to hold a Club net on Tuesday evenings. The net meets on GB3ZB around 19:30 local time and then, depending on the participants, QSYs to a 4m simplex frequency. Anyone is welcome to join in either on GB3ZB or on 4m.

Eddie M0LJT has also been playing detective. He has been suffering from interference across the HF bands, as the video below shows, and has been very keen to identify the source and hopefully report anything faulty to those responsible for it.

Tracking the source down proved to be no easy task, it was difficult initially to localise the problem but after some sleuthing with his Kenwood TH D74 handheld he thought he’d tracked the problem down to an incoming telephone landline cable which was exhibiting a strong broadband HF signal. Returning to his house he intended to report the problem, however walking up the stairs in his house with the handheld still turned on he suddenly became aware of stronger source of the same signal. A discussion with his next door neighbour and some further searching revealed the true culprit: a noisy switch mode power supply in a stair lift. Replacing the supply abruptly and quite convincingly reduced the HF noise levels to their more usual levels.

About Andy (G7KNA) 84 Articles
BEng CEng MICE. Chartered Civil Engineer and Licensed Radio Ham (G7KNA). Member of South Bristol Amateur Radio Club since 2005 and Secretary since 2010. I am a registered RSGB Assessor for Foundation, Intermediate and Advanced Exams. Away from the club and work I play with computers and related gadgets exploring Open Source software and when necessary bodge the odd DIY project.