Section Manager – GTA Quits

It appears that George Duffield, VE3WKJ, has quit his RAC appointed position as Section Manager – GTA following a dispute over the formation of ARES groups in Halton Region.

If true, this resignation is unfortunate, unnecessary and (at least in my opinion) definitely unwanted.

I’ve met George Duffield on several occasions and I’ve found him to be forthright, honest and devoted to the betterment of Amateur Radio and ARES in the GTA. His resignation leaves a large hole in an already struggling ARES organization here in Ontario.

The issue that is at the heart of this resignation may well have been the result of the formation of the Oakville ARES team which took place earlier this year.

The Oakville club, of which I am a director, has struggled for years with low attendance and difficulty finding affordable meeting places. In last couple of years, the current board of directors worked rather diligently (not me but them) to balance the books, attract new members and start new projects.

Their work has resulted in the OARC now meeting monthly in a Halton School Board room. Plus the books are balanced, our club insurance paid and new members are joining. We’re going to have a QRP CW transceiver build-a-thon in the new year and our D-Star repeater is up and running and our MESH system is in the works. Plus older members are returning.

This is all good stuff.

One of the more ambitious projects was to reform the Oakville ARES group as last year a couple of our regular members formed a new group in Milton called SHARES devoted to public service work in north Halton. We wished them well but missed their service as Oakville ARES members.

SHARES it appears subsequently asked George Dufflield to be made part of the ARES organization in the GTA and despite there being no incorporated club to support it (an ARES requirement I believe) George appears to have given his go ahead.

Now back here in Oakville, the Oakville ARC decided to resuscitate its ARES group and appointed an emergency coordinator (EC) and asked for official ARES recognition.

For whatever reason the GTA section emergency coordinator who approves the appointment of local ECs wasn’t as forthcoming in approving the Oakville ARES group as we in Oakville would have liked and we appealed to George Duffield.

Months went by. Emails were sent and read and more emails were sent. George Duffield and members of the board of Oakville ARC met in person to discussion our intention (which was to form our own ARES group within the Oakville). In time, our EC and the Oakville ARES group were approved and we got to work here in Oakville.

Unfortunately this wasn’t the end of the issue. Seems there was some dissension which ended with George Duffield removing the SHARES group from the GTA ARES organization. The SHARES EC George Davis was likewise removed from his position and also from the position of District Emergency Coordinator of Halton where it was to have been his job of coordinating the restructuring of the Milton, Georgetown, Oakville and Burlington ARES groups.

This is a great loss as George Davis has extensive experience as an ARES member and group leader and no one can question his dedication to public service work.

So why is this Oakville ARC and Oakville ARES’s issue?

From what I’ve been told there are some rumours floating about that SHARES was formed after some members of the Oakville club were thrown out.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Oakville ARC has never in my living memory voted out a dues paying member or refused membership dues from any candidate for membership.

It’s entirely possible that some former members may not have received an invitation to the 2014-2015 annual general meeting as you had to have paid your dues for the past year to be on the membership list.

Also, it’s not the executive’s responsibility to ensure you’ve paid your dues. And, nobody is preventing anyone from mailing in their dues and having their say and casting their vote at business sessions. To think otherwise would be at the very least delusional and at worst convenient if someone wished to create an issue where none exists.

We were looking forward to working with SHARES as we know so many of its members on a personal basis. That isn’t likely to happen now. That’s not to say something couldn’t be worked out as we should all be working for the good of Amateur Radio and not just our own purulent objectives.

To have this factious conclusion and the resignation of our Section Manager is unfortunate in the extreme and does no good for anyone involved.

This is a bad day for Amateur Radio in the GTA.

One Watt Wonder

Thanks to Dave, W3NP, who copied my NorCal 40 which I’ve tuned down to one watt out on 7040 kHz this afternoon.

Dave’s got a great home page at W3NP where there are a couple of FB photos of his vintage equipment and checkout his collection of photos of his stations from the past.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And then checkout this shot of my station :) Oh my how times have changed. I couldn’t afford his electric bill!

imageDave and I exchanged SKCC numbers and I was using a straight key for the first time in a couple of decades and it was great fun.

The NorCal 40 in my photo is the blue box. It runs a watt and half to two watts full out but it seems pretty good tuned down to run just one watt as determined by the WM-2 watt. The antenna is a loaded 40-meter dipole which is part of the Hy-Gain Explorer beam at 16 meters.

The Oakvillle Amateur Radio Club is going to build the CRK-10a QRP CW transceiver later this fall and we’ll be xtal controlled likely on 7030. It will be our local club QSO frequency HI.

CW – QRP – Kits – Contests

The Oakville Amateur Radio Club has a new kit project underway. Following our very successful annual general meeting it was decided to go a group build later this year of the CRK-10A which is a Chinese version of an enhanced RockMite rig.CRK10A

Xtal controlled on 40 meters this three-watt rig has a built-in keyer and one memory which can send CQ and your call sign. Pretty neat for a rig that can fit in a shirt pocket.

The aluminum case and no controls (I mean it!) make this an ideal trail rig or transceiver to use on a single frequency where your fellow club members hang out (mainly because they can’t QSY).peanut-power-pete

If you’re in the GTA and would like to participate the cost of entry is a club membership in the OARC ($25) and the cost of the rig ($55 …yes you read that right plus shipping). I’m taking names right now and we’ll pick a date for the build (likely a Saturday morning) later this year or early next. (Contact ve3hg@cogeco.ca)

So to improve your CW you should get on the air. I just joined the Straight Key Century SKeyClub and I hope to participate in the North Georgia QRP Club’s Peanut Power QRP Sprinton Sunday, Sept. 28 from 2000z to 2200z.

As you might guess, the Straight Key Century Club rules state you must use a straight key or bug so I’ve dusted off my Nye straight keys and got two of my Vibroplex bugs original_deluxeworking (at around 18 wpm sending with spacing to come out around 10-12 wpm on air) and I’m set to go using the NorCal 40 which I’ve tuned down to one watt out. Not sure how this is going to work but I worked W1AW/4 last night at a watt and half without issue.

Let’s get on the air guys and get that old CW polished up :)

OARC New Season Underway

The first meeting of the 2014-2015 season (It was our annual general meeting.) of the Oakville Amateur Radio Club got underway last night at our new home at Abbey Park High School just off Third Line with 12 hams present.

President Rod, VE3RHF, couldn’t make the meeting so director Todd, VE3LMM chaired the meeting.

We elected a new slate of officers (roles to be determined by them at a later date) including Todd; Rod; Bata, VE3EXW; John, VA3BL; and Peter, VE3HG.

Bata gave us the good news about our financial situation. Thanks to several cost-saving cuts the club is solvent and we can move forward with more meetings (thanks to great rates by the school board) and more projects. Bata has really done a fine job of guiding the club through some difficult times.

Speaking of projects, John, gave us an extensive update on all of the work he’s been doing on the repeater. We now have a D-Star repeater up and running in a test mode in Oakville. Also our MESH network is moving forward and we should have a MESH system very soon available to members. Way to go John.

And more breaking news…as I am typing the new Oakville DStar repeater opened up with John, BL, on his way to work. I heard him on my Icom ID-31a while sitting inside the house and not thinking he’d hear me I returned his call and sure enough we had a great QSO on 442.06250 digital!

crk10a_front

Peter (me) gave a presentation on QRP (QRP OARC) and the club has decided to build a CRK-10a which is a Chinese designed enhanced RockMite-type of CW transceiver xtal-controlled with a built-in keyer. I’ve got mine running right now and 7030 is alive with signals at 7am (local) with the CW Operators’ Clubs CWT mini contest. I can hear stations all around the north-east USA.

If you want to join the fun building your own 3-watt 40-meter rig that actually works (the direct conversion receiver is super quiet and sensitive and thanks to filter in the circuit more selective than you might expect. The entire rig slips into a provided aluminum case that’s pretty much bullet-proof making the CRK-10a perfect for portable or vacation use.) and you can carry in a shirt pocket please let me (Peter, VE3HG…ve3hg@cogeco.ca) know and I’ll add your name to the list. The cost of the rig is $55 (US) plus shipping (likely around $10). I’ll order the kits in a few weeks and we can pick a Saturday to assemble the kits at my Oakville QTH at a date to be determined.

This is a members-only project so if you wish to join in the fun membership is $25 per year ($30 for families) and we think we’re going to have a PayPal button working on our website VE3HB very soon.

All in all it seems that this season of Amateur Radio in Oakville is going to be a lot of fun.

CCO 2014 AGM and BBQ

CCO-1-65

Well over 100 of the best contesters in Canada attended Contest Club Ontario’s annual general meeting and BBQ at the world-class contest station of John VE3EJ.CCO-1-37

A gathering of some of the most active and IMHO interesting Hams in Ontario (and a few from elsewhere including a YL from SP-land) enjoyed the annual meet and greet.

Donated prizes for the annual fund-raising draw were spectacular with everything from a Peet Bros. weather station to a bunch (9) gift certificates from RigExpert thanks to Yuri, DZ. There were lots of other donations which were announced to club members via the club’s email reflector.

If you’re into contesting, even in a small way, you’ve got to join CCO. The club supports many plaques and award in some of the big contests as well as the ever popular Ontario QSO Party events.

The club’s own sCOOre awards and endorsements for achievement were a highlight of the event and thanks CCO for my 10 million point endorsement. Not all of those points were raised by QRP contesting contacts but I’d say a majority sure were. Inspires me to QRP contest even more this year.CCO-1-56

Photos from the event are available for viewing at my Flickr gallery.

I was lucky enough to be awarded by endorsement by my mentor and friend Tony, VE3RZ (left in photo).This is the guy who moved to the high ground on Guelph Line so he could work the DX I can’t even hear on the lowlands on the north shore of Lake Ontario. That’s Paul, PC, in the background who is another one of the Corbeil Contest Club gang down from North Bay.

Milton Flea Market

Perfect weather for the annual Milton flea market with lots and lots of real bargoons available for the discerning shopper.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

For example I picked up a 15 amp Amston power supply for $20 and a Nye straight key on a heavy plastic base for $10.

Best of all I grabbed another NorCal20 (and this one with tons of mods) for half the original asking price. While not quite the giveaway I got on my first NorCal 20 bought at Dayton, this one still comes in at a great price.image

The NorCal 20 was hearing all of Europe yesterday afternoon during the IARU contest and surprisingly was pretty much single signal and not prone to overloading in the midst of pileups. Very impressive for a rig that costs way way less than the Bengali paddles I was using.

Interestingly the two NorCal 20s seem to be about the same in A/B testing on the same antenna so think I’ve got a couple of winners here.

The NorCal 40 on the other haOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAnd is an entirely different radio. At just under 2 watts this rig on 40 meters is optimized for low power consumption.

You could take this rig to the cottage or camping and depending on your usage get weeks of action on an 8-amp gel cell battery.  The receiver on the NorCal 40 is exceptional.

So all you guys with your 100 rigs might consider a QRP rig just to keep your CW sending and receiving skills up to par.

Back to Milton: Bob Heil of Heil Sound (In photo above) gave several enlightening talks thanks to sponsorship by RadioWorld. Thanks RadioWorld for sponsoring Bob who BTW is a genius when it comes to audio.

There wasn’t the usual food booth this year which was a disappointment as I look forward to a greasy hamburger around 11am with my free coffee.

Also missing in action was the Radio Amateurs of Canada table. Seems there was some issue with the $20/table the organizers wanted. Next year if nobody else can find the cash I’ll fund the $20 out of my pocket.

Radio Amateurs of Canada is our national association (I wore my RAC golf shirt yesterday.) and despite how we may feel about how it’s being run (Why not email your local RAC director and tell them what you think of the current situation!), we need to support it.

The current situation can’t last forever especially as it seems nobody but nobody is stepping in to volunteer and once we’ve got some new thinking installed we’re going to need all hands on deck to turn the worrisome future for Amateur Radio in Canada around.

Getting cheap over a $20 table isn’t the answer and it’s a pretty small gesture :( It also lessened the fun at the Milton event.

QRP Powerhouse

Here’s the new QRP triple threat:image

On top is the 3-watt rock bound on 7030 CRK-10a.

In the middle is my newly acquired 2-watt NorCal 40a.

On the bottom is the 5-watt NorCal 20 at 5-watts.

Stacked in the centre is my Logikit keyer on top and Logikit SCAF-1 filter.

The new Wilderness Radio has amazing ears. Seems to hear signals at the noise floor that my Drake 2B isn’t hearing at all. This needs further exploration.

The NorCal 20 now has been upgraded to include a Tick memory keyer.

The SCAF is a treat on the CRK-10a. The switchable capacitive audio filter has the ability to roll off all frequencies above a certain point. On a direct conversion radio it eliminates a whole lot of interference.

Just worked W1SFR in Vermont on 40 with signals 569 both ways so the NorCal40 is fitting in just fine.

3 Watts Of Joy

Three watts and a dipole make for challenging QRP especially when you’re rock bound on 7030 but I finally did it!

I actually had a whole QSO with Saul running a special event 13 Colonies station WM3PEN from Philadelphia PA where American independence was declared.

How cool is that? And happy Independence Day to our American cousins.

Saul was running an old IC-730 (which was one of my first rigs way back when) and I was running my CRK-10A CW transceiver.CRK10A

Saul, BTW, is a pretty good operator. Due to QRM which I couldn’t move away from due to being crystal controlled signals were okay but QRM was louder. We started the QSO with neither of us getting the other guy’s callsign straight and I missed Saul’s name the first time around. But like I said, Saul seems to be a pretty good op and we pieced our information together.

I’ve been running CW for years in contests and I can copy pretty well but I can’t send with a darn anymore. You see when contesting we use the software logging program to send the reports by pushing a button. I’m real good a button pushing but not so good with a set of paddles. Thus the emphasis on ragchewing with the QRP rig to get my sending back.

Thanks Saul for putting up with my bad fist. It will get better and happy 4th of July OM.

 

Field Day Report

I’ve been going to the ARRL Field Day now for over 50 years and it never gets tired :)

This year the Oakville ARC held its annual Field Day inside the beautiful Bronte Provincial Park just to the west of Oakville.

So in brief here’s my take on how it went:

  • Conditions sucked for most of Saturday.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • The weather was perfect.
  • The venue was idyllic.
  • Bronte Prov. Park staff are A+.
  • The GOTA station worked (once we figured out a power issue).
  • The GOTA antenna worked (once we added 50′ of coax on the G5RV-JR).
  • We had the annual grumpiness putting up antennas :)
  • We figured it out.
  • The smaller generators (we had three) were quiet and worked well.
  • Tons of media coverage as our two local newspapers showed up.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • We got some of our bonus points and lost on others.
  • We brown-bagged dinner and that worked.

Next year we need to figure out a way for folks to read their emailed instructions (which we sent multiple times) or take notes during meetings. Too many guys were asking questions which were answered in those emails. HI. While we struggle to erect two antennas, we might ask the guys who setup 27 or more how they do it!

Generally once we got up and running the CW station performed as always (thanks to Harry VA3EC) and the SSB station (thanks to Todd VE3LMM) was staffed most of the time despite some not responding to repeated requests for when they wanted to operate.

Makes it tough to put together a schedule when few reply but that’s a common issue not just relegated to Field Day. Something to do with ageing :)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m starting to think we might want to run a CW-only competitive Field Day operation which we’d likely win and maybe even consider going QRP.

Next to it we setup an SSB station which runs under a different call and is open to all members and non-members, licensed operators and visitors alike as the GOTA station this year proved pretty popular.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I did an educational session on QRP radio that went over fairly well I thought.

Most of the guys had never listened to a direct conversion receiver so the NorCal 20 and CRK-10A’s ability to produce super clean, artifact clear, bell-like tones in the headphones from an almost noiseless background was enlightening. Especially when considering I bought the NorCal 20 (which now has a memory keyer chip in it) for $35 at a flea market and the CRK was $65.

I even managed to do one Q before the contest on 20 with another QRP station setting up for Field Day in Idaho near the Canadian border. Great fun.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Field Day is not only an annual exercise in emergency preparedness plus a built-in contest, it’s also an opportunity to work together in a friendly cooperative and supportive way to get things done.

While we might win our category, IMHO we’ve got some room to improve in other areas. But then again I’ve only been doing this for 50 years. I hope I’ve got another 20 or 25 to get it right :)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you haven’t participated in a Field Day event you’re going to have to wait until next year now. Find a club near you and join the fun.

CANWARN

Last night Geoff Coulson, Warning Preparedness Meterologist for Environment Canada, spoke to a full house of eager participants in Canada’s CANWARN program.

The meeting was held at the Halton Regional Centre appropriately just hours after a small tornado had touched down just north of Toronto near Tottenham.tornado-wichita-e1373055853734

(Actually as I learned last night, saying a tornado has touched down is a redundancy as by definition a tornado is a rotating funnel cloud that involves swirling winds at ground level.)

I learned more than just that. Coulson’s excellent training session focused on three main points:

First was how to identify a tornado. Second was how to report the sighting of a tornado. Third was how to avoid becoming a casualty during a tornado or thunderstorm.

Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself during a thunderstorm with or without a tornado attached to it.

First seek shelter at the first sound of thunder. All thunder storms involve lightening discharges. Run if necessary to a nearby building and get inside. If your only possible shelter is a car, sit in it with your hands in your lap (so you don’t accidentally touch anything metal). Do not park under a highway overpass as you’re likely going to be struck by flying debris. Motorcyclists take note.

If at all possible avoid shopping malls, arenas or other large open-structure buildings. Coulson showed a security video of a high school gym being utterly destroyed inside of 20 seconds by a tornado in the US. Fortunately all the students and teachers of this mid-American school knew better than to use the gym as shelter and all survived a category 5 (massive destruction) tornado.

If you’re in your house, close all the windows and doors (It’s a myth that you should open windows and doors to equalize air pressure. An open house allows high-speed winds to enter the house and exit usually after removing the roof.) and go to the basement.34_houston_rd_woodbridge_tornado_damage

Finally, and this is important, do not venture outside especially into open spaces (like soccer fields) until 30 minutes after the last sound of thunder.

Saskatchewan is first in tornados in Canada closely followed by southern Ontario. Hundreds of tornados form across Canada but many, if not most, go unreported as they take place in non-populated areas.

And for those amateur photographers out there don’t think first of grabbing a camera. Think first of finding shelter.  Coulson showed videos of people naively filming dangerous tornados as they approached and then when the tornado encroached on their property they continued shooting from inside behind windows or glass doors.li-ontario-weather-watch-62

A shot from the category 3 storm that ripped up downtown Goderich in 2011 showed a pickup truck that looked like a pin cushion with multiple tree limbs and other debris that had punctured the body.

Flying debris is deadly, especially so if it’s crashed through your glass door with you standing there an open target.

But so is lightening as a group of photographers almost found out as they had setup their cameras on tripods to shoot images of a storm on the horizon a few kilometres away.

Coulson’s video showed a lightening bolt, literally out of the blue, which struck a tree a few meters away from the photographers who kept shooting rather than having the sense to run away as fast as they could.They were lucky the bolt hit a tree rather than their metal tripods.

BTW ARES groups from around the region were well represented at the training session.