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SARL Today HF Update with ZS4BS Focus on VHF/UHF/Microwave Contest News with Geoff ZS6C SARL Forum current topics Commercial Hamads
South African COVID-19 Corona Virus Resource Portal: www.sacoronavirus.co.za

SARL TODAY! 

GEOMAGNETIC STORM WARNING: large hole in the sun's atmosphere is facing Earth and spewing solar wind in our direction. Estimated time of arrival is 29 September. NOAA forecasters say that G2-class geomagnetic storms are possible when the gaseous material arrives.  


SARL ON-THE-AIR BULLETINS AND AMATEUR RADIO TODAY PROGRAMME  27 September  2020

SARLNEWS in English with Rory Norton ZS2BL  Listen/Download here

SARLNUUS in Afrikaans met JJan Kramer ZS6JRK  Luister/laai hier af

AMATEUR RADIO TODAY,  SARL's weekly actuality programme about Amateur Radio and technology hosted by  Hans van de Groenendaal ZS6AKV  Download/listen here 

Sundays at 08:00 UTC on repeaters around South Africa including 145,750  and 145,725 MHZ in Pretoria. On HF 7 082 kHz by ZS5LP

Sundays @19:00 on the 145.750 Tygerberg repeater, a rebroadcast by Andre Fransman ZS1F

Amateur Radio Today on 80 metres on Mondays - On Mondays Amateur RadioToday is transmitted at 19:30 local time on 3 620 kHz by Andy Cairns ZS6ADY.

Reception reports are invited. Please send your report to artoday@sarl.org.za. Please give details of the signal strength antenna and location. 

Text bulletins from 1 March 2020 can be found at https://sarlnewsbulletin.wordpress.com/


DECEMBER AMATEUR RADIO EXAMINATION (RAE) Saturday 5 December 2020 at 10:00 CAT (08:00 UTC) - The Registration process will close on Friday 6 November 2020 - NO LATE Registrations will be accepted! 


 

Region 1 Virtual Conference. The IARU Region 1 Virtual Conference will be held from Sunday 11 October to Thursday 15 October 2020. The Conference will deal with C2 – Credentials and Finances; C3 – Administration; C4 – Permanent HF Committee; C5 – Permanent VHF, UHF and Microwave Committee and C7 – EMC Committee

The Papers are numbered NS20_C#_#. This represents Novi Sad 2020_Committee_Paper number. Some Papers are marked as Shared Papers – this means they will be dealt with in 2 or more Committees. Visit https://r1papers.wordpress.com/ to download the Papers 


Radio ZS - The September Radio ZS is available for download, go to Publications on the left-hand menu and click on Radio ZS Download

AMATEUR RADIO LICENCE RENEWAL – ICASA still operate the old system in parallel with the new online system.

Legacy System

If you licence was issued on the old system, you will receive an invoice. ICASA informed the SARL that the invoice will be mailed during the next few weeks. However with the huge postal backlog caused by the lockdown you may not receive it for some time.

You may pay it with out the invoice as follows:

2020/21 Amateur Radio License fee

1 year licence –  R 154.00.

2 year licence –  R 294.00

3 year licence –  R 422.00

4 year licence -  R 537.00

5 year licence – R 642.00

Radio Amateurs are reminded that it is their responsibility to ensure their license is up to date. If for some reason no invoice is received, check that ICASA has been informed of any address changes. 

Avoid the inconvenience of having to renew each year, opt for a multi-year licence. Simply, when renewing pay the appropriate amount. On the EFT state 5 Year licence and your callsign. Also send an e-mail to specrev@icasa.org.za and dkuhrau@icasa.org.za with a copy of the EFT payment. The correct account for your ICASA Licence Fee is NEDBANK Account number: 14 62 00 29 27, Branch Code: 146245 - Corporate Client Services – Pretoria and in the reference field type in your licence number and call sign. 

ICASA Licence Fees - DO NOT pay the ICASA licence fee into the SARL bank account, all moneys wrongfully paid into the SARL account will be refunded less the bank charges associated with these transactions.  

ONLINE SYSTEM

"The ICASA license  renewal phase is very important for the new online system to work and for the protection of call signs issued to radio amateurs. The Authority extended the renewal date to 30 June 2020 and this is the process that they are busy with. The fact that a payment was made earlier in the year does not mean that the licence is renewed", Dewald Kuhrau told the SARL

The new online system puts control over the licence in the licensee`s hands. All amendments and/or renewals are done online by the licensee. For those radio amateurs who applied for their licences online the process is extremely easy. If you are not yet registered on the system then you need to register, create your legal entity, and then press the renewal button on the manage page. The system will then prompt you to indicate for how many years the licence must be renewed, and an invoice will be rendered after submission. Thereafter you can pay online through your manage portal or upload the proof of payment if payment is made through another method. Renewal for the following year will then be an easy exercise.

If this process is not followed, radio amateurs not only stand a chance to get the licence cancelled but more importantly lose their call signs. These call signs will then be available and assigned to other radio amateur which can cause much unhappiness.

To access the portal, go to https://online.icasa.org.za/

It is important to note that the above process is only for licences that were already issued on the new online system. Any licence issued on the Authority`s old legacy system should still be renewed by payment of the prescribed licence fees only.

ICASA indicated that it will start with the process to transfer the existing licences to the online system during the next year where after all renewals will be done on this system. Please note that any amendment to your licence such as change of call sign or change of address should from now on be done on the online system through a legacy amendment application and the licence will be transferred immediately to the new system.

Please do not call the SARL or any of the SARL officials as they cannot assist you.  They do not have access to your ICASA account. The system is identity driven. If you are experiencing any problems, send an email to dkuhrau@icasa.org.za.


New Satellite Book now available - The new ARRL Amateur radio satellites for beginners is now available in South Africa. With the opening of e-commerce, Postnet is operating again and books can be sent to your nearest Postnet. You can make contacts through amateur radio satellites, and even with the International Space Station, using equipment you probably own right now! All it takes is the right information, which you will find in Amateur Radio Satellites for Beginners by Steve Ford

There are dozens of spacecraft in orbit just waiting for your signals, and more are being launched every year. This book is your guide to a whole new world of operating enjoyment.

Amateur Radio Satellites for Beginners will introduce you to new experiences that you may have thought were out of your reach. Start reading and discover how easy it can be! To order the book visit www.amateurradio.org.za. 115 pages plus index.


 

Report interference and unauthorised use of amateur frequencies - If your transmission or repeater is interfered with by an unlicensed person (s), note as much detail as possible and report the case for investigation to the ICASA  regional office in your area. By policing the amateur bands and reporting transgressions by non-licensed persons we protect the future of the amateur radio spectrum. Send a copy of your email to artoday@sarl.org.za   to allow   the SARL to monitor how wide-spread the problem is.  For a  list of  ICASA Regional managers and contact details visit http://www.sarl.org.za/public/licences/licences.asp  or click here.


Unlocking Amateur Radio Technology - The SARL hosted a very sucessful synposium on 12 April 2019 in Stellenbosch.  It was attended by over 60 delegates. The symposium was supported by contributions from  RF Design, Comtest, F'Sati, Giga Technology and AMSAT SA. The powerpoint presentations are available for download here. Download while still available .


Guidelines for a non SARL member to use the SA-QSL system- Phone Kelley at NARC (011 675 2393) and check that your correct information is on the database – license number and e-mail address are important.

Click on SA-QSL system link (on the left-hand side of the web page) and then click on “Need to Register”. Follow the instructions on the screen. Your username and password will be e-mailed to you which you can use to logon in future.

SARL and not yet SARL Members are requested to check their Electronic QSLs on a regular basis.


2020 Advertising in Radio ZS and the SARL Web site

Radio ZS and the SARL web welcomes advertising. It is a source of information for readers. Send your advertisement for the League website to Hans, ZS6AKV at artoday@sarl.org.za and for Radio ZS to Dennis, ZS4BS at radiozs@sarl.org.za

Advertising Rates (effective 1 January 2020)

Display (cameo) on home page and Radio ZS Strip advertisement (10 cm by 2 columns) - R600 pm - R3 000 for 6 months - R5 000 per annum

Commercial Hamad on home page - R100 pm - R400 for 6 months - R900 per annum

Terms and conditions

All contract advertisements content may be changed monthly on 5 working day notice

The rates are based on the complete supply of material in Jpeg unless otherwise negotiated. For artwork additional charges may apply as agreed. A design service is available at R400 per advertisement.

The content of the advertisements must comply with regulations and norms acceptable in South Africa

All advertisements are playable in advance by EFT to SA Radio League, ABSA, account no 4071 588 849 branch code 632 005

All correspondence and material must be sent to admin@sarl.org.za with a copy to artoday@sarl.org.za


HF Update with Dennis, ZS4BS - 26 September 2020 

Niger, 5U. Adrien, F4IHM is on a mission in Niamey, Niger and plans to be active as 5U4IHM on 40 and 20 metres CW using a straight key. "I am a beginner in CW, sorry about that", he says. QSL via home call, direct or bureau.

Aruba, P4. Robert, W5AJ is QRV as P42WW until September 30 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. Activity is on the HF bands using CW and RTTY.  He will be active as P40P in the CQ Worldwide DX RTTY Contest as a Single Op/All Band entry.  QSL P42WW via P41G and P40P direct to W5AJ.

Liechtenstein, HB0. The NB-DX Team (ON6NB) will be active as HB0/OP2D from Triesenberg, Liechtenstein from 27 September to 2 October. Team members include ON4ANN, ON4EC and ON2BDJ. This will be a "light" expedition with an emphasis on the low bands.

Svalbard, JW. A team from NRRL's Oslogruppen (LA4O) will be active as JW4O from the JW5E club station in Longyearbyen (EU-026), Svalbard between 8 and 12 October. The main goal of the operators (LA8FTA, LB8IH, LB8CG, LA7WRA, LB7PI, LB1RH and LB9EH) is to participate in the SSB leg of the Scandinavian Activity Contest (10-11 October).

Svalbard, JW. The geomagnetic indexes forecast did not look promising, so Erwann, LB1QI has postponed his trip to Longyearbyen (EU-026), Svalbard. He now plans to be active as JW/LB1QI between 15 and 18 October and to operate CW and SSB on 160 to 6 metres. QSL via LoTW, or via home call (direct or bureau).

Dodecanese SV5 - Wolf, DL3DRN will be active again as SV5/DL3DRN from the island of Rhodes, Dodecanese (EU-001) from 24 September to 14 October. He will operate CW, SSB and RTTY on all bands. QSL via LoTW, or via home call (direct or bureau).

Luxembourg, LX. Gerard, PA0PIW, Gert, PA2LO, Maarten, PA3EYC, Tymen, PA3GRM, Bert, PD0GP and Hans, PE1KWH will be active as LX/home call from Wilwerdange, Luxembourg, between 15 and 18 October. Activity will be on 160-10 metres using CW, SSB, FT12 and RTTY. QSL via PA3EYC, ClubLog or LoTW. If they have permission, they will try to operate from a Conzefenn site (LXFF-0039) for the "World Flora and Fauna" program, and sign as LX/home call/p.

French Polynesia, FO. Cezar, VE3LYC will be active as TX0T from Tatakoto Atoll (OC-298, new one for IOTA), French Polynesia between 29 October and 5 November. His goal is to make 4 000 QSOs with at least 2 500 unique stations located on six continents. He will be active primarily on 40, 30, 20 and 17 metres CW and SSB. QSL via Club Log's OQRS (preferred), or via VE3LYC. Bookmark https://tx0t.weebly.com/ for updates.

INDEXA Newsletter. The Summer 2020 issue (#130) of the International DX Association's Newsletter is now available for download on the INDEXA website https://indexa.org/newsletters.html. "DX material is very scarce right now", so "this issue is about history" (the beginnings of INDEXA and the first sponsored DXpedition in 1984, to the Kermadecs), plus a spotlight on Yasuo "Zorro" Miyazawa (JH1AJT), the recipient of the 2020 Hamvention Amateur of the Year Award.


VHF+ UHF+ MICROWAVE NEWS - FOCUS ON VHF with ZS6YZ 23 August 2020 

VHF, UHF and Microwave Record Table the latest table of records is available from the VHF SA Record page. Click here to get a copy. Compiled and updated by Paul, ZS6NK - Send your record claim to zssixnk@gmail.com


 

Focus on VHF and Above 23 August 2020

 

Audio version

This week has been quite a busy week for myself and on Friday afternoon I was thinking about what I’m going to talk about this week on Focus on VHF.

 

I started looking back through previous programs and I came across the program broadcast on 19 August 2018. Two years ago almost to the day. 

What is even more interesting is that the programme was about beacons and I shared the thoughts of Pieter, V51PJ who had written to me and sent me the information via Winlink as he did not have internet coverage on his farm in Southern Namibia. 

Listen to what was discussed then.

There are beacons running in the Southern parts of Africa, but they are all over the VHF spectrum, so for a beginner or someone who wants to monitor beacons this is now a difficult problem. Could this be a reason for the lower activity on the VHF spectrum?

 When we go back many moons ago, we can remember when Hal Lund, ZS6WB was lobbying for a single frequency beacon on each band. He also mentioned that time synchronizing was needed as well, otherwise we do not know who is who. 

A new system was adopted by the IARU Region 1 meeting held in South Africa a few years ago. This accepted a total new standard for beacons to be utilized all over Region 1. Looking at the concept it is a very well thought through concept, but we as hams know the money is always a major factor implementing something. 

Yes, with the latest explosion in technology it is now easier to assemble a beacon that can accommodate this new standard but, who is paying for this? We come back to the money issue as only a few hams actually operate beacons in Africa. With WSPR a lot of HF beacons suddenly went up to create more RF, and we can see the results. Unfortunately, WSPR is not a good idea for VHF and above because we talk about absolutely frequency accuracy on both the transmit and receive side, and most hams don't have very accurate radios on the VHF and above bands. 

What is the purpose of a beacon, and let's also look at a beacon antenna. 

Most beacons operate with a gain antenna. Yes, we need gain to reach somewhere, but we loose the reason for a beacon in the first place. 

What is the purpose of a beacon pointing North or South when there are also propagation conditions in the bigger part of the 360 degree circle. A beacon has to be omnidirectional in radiation pattern. Now all will think that a vertical antenna with gain will solve this issue. It is a start but, the best propagation over long distances is horizontally polarized because one of the reasons is that all man made noise is mostly vertically polarized, unless you stay right next to a noise generator. 

The IARU Region 1 Beacon Policy states that the new generation beacons all operate on the same frequency portion. This means you register your beacon and a specific time slot on a specific frequency in that portion of the band will be allocated to that specific beacon. 

We are talking money again because now GPS and very stable transmit units are involved. 

We in Southern Africa are slowly moving in that direction and first we need to decide where are we going to operate our beacons until we gradually change over to the new technology. 

This is going to be challenging as some would have to provide funding, others building the beacons and others running it from their QTH 24/7. 

So teamwork is needed. We can ask for funding and expertise from the SARL and members for such a project. Remember this was a discussion long before IARU Region 1 finalized the beacon project in the meeting at Sun City and this is not something new that we are putting on the table right now. We need to get things finalized and get direction. 

Back to the antenna design. We need horizontal polarization, and we need omni directionality to successfully study propagation across Southern Africa.

We need a system that operates on a PC, Laptop or Raspberry PI to monitor for these beacons 24/7 and get this to a server where the people with the experience can actually analyse this propagation information that has been gathered. 

Firstly, do we need to start with an elaborate GPS timed system? No, we need to get RF into the air first.

CW is the standard protocol for beacons since beacons started. Most of the beacons, actually all of them are operating CW, so we have a start already.

Where are we going to operate them in the spectrum? Well someone decided that all analogue beacons move up to the top of the spectrum because the new generation beacons are going to occupy the bottom or pre historic CW Beacon portion. 

Here is some information for those not familiar with propagation and openings on the VHF and above bands. 

When a band opens up, it starts from the lowest frequency and slowly or quickly moves up in the band.

Where does it put beacons now that are all high up in the band because they are still CW only or maybe a digital FT8 beacon. Yes, correct, the beacons mean nothing for band opening conditions. 

Locally if Sporadic E or Tropo conditions do appear then of course the band is wide open and the Maximum Usable Frequency locally suddenly rises because of the e-Cloud above us or whatever happened. This normally happens very fast and these openings are also not very often, but they do happen with absolutely no warning. If we monitored the beacons we would have picked up the opening immediately. 

Coming back to the immediate issue. Beacons are all over the bands. Some or most don't even know where to listen for a beacon because there is a beacon list on the SARL web page, but in case of an opening who goes to the beacon list first to see where does he listen for an opening. Most are at work and most don't even listen anyway and when the opening is over everyone is suddenly active and hoping for another opening while the radios are switched on. 


So back to beacons again. We need to get them organized, Pieter, V51PJ’s suggestion is CW and all in a specific portion of the band. If the same frequency is used, then so much better because if you hear a beacon or beacons then at least you know there is a band opening in Southern Africa and will start calling on the specific USB or FM frequency. At least everyone will then be monitoring for a beacon as well as the FM and SSB calling frequency. There are only three frequencies you have to actually scan on your radio so no list of beacon frequencies will be required.

The existing beacons running on other portions of the spectrum can all be changed to operate on this single frequency and maybe the original frequency too. The same antenna will be able to occupy both frequencies. All that is needed is a radio that can transmit on channel 1 and then channel 2 and then back to channel 1 and this is the sequence. Sequencers can be easily built, and we used to call them flip-flops in the pre IC era. Suddenly cost is not an issue any more.

We can decide to either operate dual frequency depending on the radio used or changing and adding a second radio or a second channel. With this idea I think we can definitely contribute to the propagation study because now you also only have to monitor one frequency. 

What we need next is software with time stamping that actually monitors the frequency using the sound card input. These files can then be saved in one hour recordings. We will leave this for the programmers amongst us. Again we ask for them to help us in this project. 

If you have picked up a beacon or beacons with either Meteor Scatter pings or bursts and Tropo Scatter or Ducting then only those files need to be sent to a server of some kind. If a Sporadic E opening does occur at least we will have the actual data with the correct time stamps to know where and where to these openings occurred. Accurate timing may help us in working out what conditions are required to create the opening. Now if we can also send a decoded call sign immediately to the DX clusters worldwide we can immediately get the Maximum Usable Frequency information from these sites that will help us call on the other bands too. If for example the Maximum Usable Frequency is 94 MHz we will be able to listen on 4m as well and if it goes higher, then 2m may also be possible.

We saw in Europe this summer where the Maximum Usable Frequency went up to almost 200 MHz and even 23cm records were broken. 

The biggest success story of a beacon project can be seen in the latest success of the D4C beacon project. A 2m beacon with only 14 W output into an omni-directional horizontally polarised antenna heard over a distance of 4800 km. 

I used to have CW beacon monitoring software but I lost it due to a hard drive failure. With this I could time stamp CW beacons heard at my QTH and a lot of beacons were logged at the time.

 CW or FT8 or the suggested PI4 digital mode can be used for beacons. The main thing here is to standardize and get a system in place for Southern Africa. We want to generate interest further up in Africa, and we need to decide on something that will be easy for them to use as well as cost effective and simple. 

Pieter’s suggestion is a single frequency at the bottom of each band for a universal CW beacon, and we already have our standard calling frequencies. The existing beacons can add a channel or stay as it is. We just need a single frequency to monitor for openings locally down South of the Equator. 

And now two years down the line the VHF Work Group are busy planning the deployment of a next generation beacon. There are definitely suggestions made by Pieter that we need to take into consideration as well. 

With the next generation beacon platform that we are investigating we may be able to in a couple of years realise Pieter’s vision of a synchronised beacon system across the country all on a single frequency. 

Pieter also reminded us that we need to start monitoring 6m with our antennas pointing North as we never know when Sporadic E and Trans-Equatorial Propagation or TEP will allow those super long distance 6m contacts with Southern Europe. 

Once again, I would link to thank Pieter V51PJ for all the information that he provided in those early days of Focus on VHF. 

That’s all for the week. Let us know at vhfnews@sarl.org.za of the VHF and above contacts that you have made or send us your beacon reports, or tell us about that interesting project that you have been working on. 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ. 


Focus on VHF and Above 16 August 2020

Audio version 

 

 

This past week the Perseid Meteor Shower made it’s appearance, expecting to peak last Wednesday and Tom ZS1TA and Dick ZS6BUN did not miss the opportunity to play with meteor scatter. Tom says “Dick and I played with 6 meter MS again this morning, Wednesday 12 August. Essentially we had tried last Saturday the 8th using MSK144 but nothing received on my side after an hour and half while Dick had received me well for the whole time.

Noting the Perseid’s peak occurring Wednesday and Thursday, I suggested we try again.

On Wednesday we used JT6M, starting at 5 am SAST. Immediately after we started Dick once again received me. His location on the farm has magnificent ears. Patiently plodding on I had the first glimmer while Dick continued to get full period signals.

We completed the QSO successfully at 06:26 with myself receiving some nice bursts that I could actually hear the tones.

I would venture to say that the Perseid shower played a part but it also graphically shows the effect of urban noise on VHF.” 

Well done Tom and Dick. 

Here Tom mentions noise on VHF and I’m aware that he has been struggling for a long while with noise. Urban noise is a major problem for amateur radio on all the bands, not just HF. 

We have already in the past reported about LED lights on boats that create so much noise that the United States Coast Guard had issued a warning that it was affecting the marine VHF frequencies to such an extent that it is becoming a safety issue. 

This problem is very real, but for some reason most amateurs seem to be oblivious to it. Is it perhaps because there are so few amateurs on SSB on the VHF bands that they have not experienced the noise problems? We do experience it FM as well, but here we just turn the squelch a little higher and don’t think anything about why are we having to turn up the squelch. Here where I stay there are times that I can turn the squelch fully clockwise on one of the FM frequencies and still does not kill the background noise being received. 

When we hear that the commercial guys have their eyes on amateur frequencies, then we all get in a huff and start all sorts of petitions on the internet, yet we sit with an even worse problem that is a silent killer of our bands and that is slowly creeping up on us. Long before any other users of the RF spectrum take our amateur frequencies, they will be rendered useless by the ever increasing noise. This is where we need to focus our energy. 

The SARL noise measurement campaign has been running for a while now, but unfortunately there is very little interest from the amateur community. We are busy developing a new system that will allow us to make more accurate and consistent measurements and be able to generate data that is comparable with that recorded by the system developed by the amateurs from DARC, the German society. We have been focussing on HF noise to date but we have had discussions about extending the measurements into the VHF bands as well. There is however only so much that we can do with the resources that we have.  

You will have seen and heard in the SARL news about the papers that have been prepared for the IARU Region 1 Virtual General Conference that will be held from 11 – 16 October this year. All the papers are available at the link https://r1papers.wordpress.com/. Please take some time to review the papers of C5, the VHF, UHF and Microwave Committee and C7, the EMC Committee. In fact all of the papers are equally important. 

All the work done by these committees is very, very important for the future of amateur radio. 

If you are interested in becoming involved and assist please do not hesitate to contact the SARL Secretary at secretary@sarl.org.za and you will be put in touch with the local group dealing with these issues. 

Now for something of a lighter note. 

Here is a story by Onno VK6FLAB about how much do you really know about your radio? 

How much do you really know about your radio.mp3

 

Onno raises an interesting point. Every radio that we have has some or other fancy feature or capability that makes it special and if we really get to know the radio and how these functions work we may be able to get more out of the radio. I bet that there are lots of functions on your radio that you have not even tried yet. Be sure as well to always keep a copy of your radio’s user guide close at hand, either in paper or electronic format. Always handy to refer to the manual when you are in a bind. If in doubt RTFM.

 

Likewise we need to take every opportunity that we have to get to learn how other radios that are out there operate. Maybe not as well as your own radio but at least be able to use it successfully to make a contact. Why am I saying this? Here is an example from my own experience. You arrive at an station that may be someone’s regular station or a station set up in a VOC or JOC and something happens that you need to relieve the current operator. Would you be able to operate the radio? If you have built up sufficient experience with different models of radios, then you will be able to get in front of the radio and hold the fort.

 

That’s all for the week. Let us know at vhfnews@sarl.org.za of the VHF and above contacts that you have made or send us your beacon reports, or tell us about that interesting project that you have been working on.

 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ. 


Focus on VHF and Above 9 August 2020

 Audio version

Last week we reported that Gert ZS6GC worked Pieter V51PJ on meteor scatter on Saturday morning. Well on Sunday morning Gert’s XYL, Elna ZS6EB also completed a meteor scatter contact with Pieter V51PJ. Well done Elna.

 

OZ7IGY.mp3

 

That is the sound of the oldest beacon in the world, OZ7IGY.

The OZ7IGY beacon was specifically built for the International Geophysical Year in 1957. It started as a 2m beacon and has been on the air since then with other bands being added over the years. 

OZ7IGY.jpg

There is also a video clip of the beacon taken in 2011 on Youtube  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CM1n1uiNRUY 

The OZ7IGY beacon today covers all the bands from 28MHz through to 24 GHz.

 

oz7igy_cabin_antennas.jpg

 

During the previous meeting of the VHF Work Group in June, Bo Hansen OZ2M who is the beacon project manager for the OZ7IGY beacon project in Denmark, gave a very interesting presentation to the VHF Work Group, telling us about some of the research that they have done regarding what is required in a beacon and what the users of beacons require. Taking all this into consideration they developed the Next Generation Beacon platform that they now use for all their beacons at OZ7IGY. 

Beacon technology has changed over the years. The classic beacon is a modified commercial radio, the same as what has been built and deployed in Bethlehem as the ZS0BET beacon. This type of beacon is relatively cheap to build, but is not without it’s challenges and of course has limited possibilities as well, some of which we have discovered ourselves with the beacon that we have deployed. 

Another direction that we have been considering is simply to put up a digital beacon. Here the thinking has been along the lines of something like JS8Call which already has beaconing built into it and can be easily decoded. This is simple to do, but at the end of the day this is a costly solution and fragile and not a good idea if the beacon is to be deployed in a remote location.   

We have also learned that all the digital modes out there have been written with a specific propagation mode in mind and there is not one that will perform well under all propagation conditions. It is with this in mind that

software has been developed specifically for beacons, called PI4 which is short for PharusIgnis4. The name PharusIgnis4 comes from the ancient words for beacon, lighthouse and fire - Pharos (from Greek to Latin pharus and coming from the Lighthouse of Alexandria), Ignis (Latin: fire) and 4 for the four FSK tones. 

PI4 is an ideal digital modulation and is compliant with the IARU Region 1 VHF Committee accepted 1 minute mixed mode beacon sequence. 

It is now clear that we need to consider a Next Generation Beacon which is neither digital or analogue. It is both, as within the 1 minute mixed mode sequence it emits a digital PI4 signal, then a CW signal and lastly a carrier.

This then caters for the digital disciples and allows for automated reception and decoding. The amateurs that like to listen for the beacon and decode it by ear will hear the CW message and there will be a carrier that if the right hardware is used will be frequency accurate and allow for frequency checking.

Deploying a Next Generation Beacon is also not that simple either as there are alternatives to be considered based on budget and the goals of the beacon project.

Some of the alternatives are a simple Arduino beacon controller connected to a GPS for timing and signal accuracy and a standard SSB radio. While this is a relatively simple project to do, the RF hardware is a challenge as well as the performance of the beacon. 

There is also a more cost effective solution with dedicated software that works well for a 2m beacon. This solution revolves around dedicated hardware designed with a beacon in mind. It uses a RFZero board and attached to a RF amplifier module that can be scavenged out of a commercial VHF radio with the required filtering makes a very workable solution.  

The Next Generation Beacon platform which has been developed by the OZ7IGY team is the latest and is by far the most versatile and far better to use when moving up in the UHF and above bands. It also stands to reason that it will be more costly as the hardware required to maintain accuracy and generate a suitable signal at the higher frequencies is also a lot more expensive. 

During the last meeting of the VHF Work Group it was decided that we must go ahead with the first phase of the next beacon project. The next beacon project is to get a Next Generation Beacon on the air in the centre of the country in the Northern Karoo to enable the study of tropospheric propagation over a greater distance on the path between Cape Town and Johannesburg. 

So phase 1 will be doing a cost analysis and looking at the pros and cons of  the various Next Generation Beacon options. Finding sponsors and purchasing of the chosen hardware, getting a beacon up and running and replacing the current beacon hardware at Bethlehem with the new hardware. 

Phase two will be deploying the beacon at a suitable location in the Northern Karoo along with the required antennas, switches, etc.

 The software used to decode the PI4 signal is Pi-Rx and it is also part of the  MHSV software package that is already used by many digital enthusiasts. 

Example of PI4 decoding using PI-RX. 

pi-rx.jpg

 

Thank you Bo, OZ2M for all the insight that you have provided us regarding the path that was followed developing OZ7IGY.

 

Here is a sound clip of a Next Generation Beacon

 

Let us know at vhfnews@sarl.org.za of the VHF and above contacts that you have made or send us your beacon reports, or tell us about that interesting project that you have been working on.

 

The audio and text version of Focus on VHF is available on the SARL web page shortly after the broadcast of Amateur

 

 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ.



Focus on VHF and Above 2 August 2020

 Audio file

Just as I was finished writing this week’s Focus on VHF, I received news that Gert, ZS6GC in Secunda has worked Pieter, V51PJ  in Southern Namibia this morning on meteor scatter. This was Gert’s first meteor scatter contact. The distance is about 1220 km. The QSO took 2 hours to complete with Gert running a barefoot ICOM 910H at about 75 watts to a 5 element crossed Yagi antenna.

 

Dick ZS6BUN says “I’m so excited, it proves again the point you don’t need a top end station to work meteor scatter - just limitless patience and a bottomless coffee pot” 

 

Well done Gert and Pieter. Gert, this is a contact will be remembered for a long time. 

 Homebrewing

Today I want to discuss homebrewing. Not homebrewing your own beer! In the world of amateur radio building your own projects is called  homebrewing. 

In the past before commercial amateur radio equipment was readily available amateurs used to homebrew their own equipment by re-purposing  commercial or other equipment for amateur use. For example surplus military radios were modified to work on amateur frequencies. 

Today there are still a lot of folk homebrewing their own equipment for various reasons. One is the enjoyment of building their own equipment, another reason is the cost of equipment or they want to learn more about electronics and build low power or QRP equipment from first principals. Sometimes you need to homebrew when you are experimenting on bands where there is no commercial amateur equipment available. A good example here is building a QO-100 station. There is no amateur equipment on 2.4 GHz or 10 GHz so if you want to play here, you need to put together your own station. 

Building your own antenna, an interface to allow you to work the digital modes, a power supply, a dummy load, a power distribution box are all examples of homebrewing. Sometimes you do not even need to build a printed circuit board and can connect commercially available modules together to create a device that you need. This is typically how you could assemble a QO-100 station. 

Where can you find information on homebrew projects? 

Club magazines and national society magazines are a good source of information. Radio ZS, the SARL’s monthly magazine has a lot of homebrew projects. The ARRL handbooks also have many ideas of projects that can be built. I have looked on the internet and found many websites with ideas of homebrew equipment that you could build. Two examples are

https://www.w1wc.com/homebrewing/ and https://www.qsl.net/vu2msy/homebrew/homebrewing_zone.htm 


Listen to what Onno VK6FLAB says about homebrew radio for the 21st Centuary.

Homebrew_radio_for_the_21st_Century.mp3

 

It seems to me that today there are very few amateurs who homebrew or even attempt to assemble a kit. I do not know why there is so little interest in homebrewing. 

Write to us at vhfnews@sarl.org.za and tell us about that interesting project you are busy with and maybe we can encourage other amateurs to try their hand at homebrewing. 

Have you heard these two beacons lately? 

We are looking for reports on the ZS0BET beacon in Bethlehem and the ZS1TWO beacon in Cape Town. 

The ZS0BET beacon at grid KG41ds puts out 25 W into two 8 element Yagi antenna pointing East and North. The frequency is 144.425 MHz.

 The ZS1TWO beacon’s antenna is pointing in the direction of Divisions 4 and 6. The beacon at grid JF96fb puts out 20 W into a 5 element Yagi on the frequency of 144.435 MHz. 

Please listen out for these beacons. It will be very interesting to know where these beacons are heard. And, when you hear these beacons with a good signal level you can be sure that the possibility for good long-distance VHF comms is also possible. 

Let us know at vhfnews@sarl.org.za of the VHF and above contacts that you have made or send us your beacon reports, or tell us about that interesting project that you have been working on. 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ.


 Focus on VHF and Above 26 July 2020

 Audio version

Last week we mentioned that amateurs along the West Coast and in the Western Cape must listen out for Dick ZS6BUN transmissions on MSK144 via meteor scatter. On Friday Dick sent out a WhatsApp message on the VHF, UHF/ SHF West Coast group. 

 

Dick said “Good afternoon all. I’m going to run meteor scatter tests tomorrow morning from 06h00 SA time. Same as last weekend. Mode will be MSK144 30 sec cycle. I will transmit in the first 30 secs of every minute. I will start beaming west from KG43GM and announce on this group as I slowly move round to the SW. Even if you don’t have software please listen for my “pings” on dial freq USB 144.230. If you can, switch your agc to fast or better still, off. I will be running about 6-800 watts to a 12dBd h-pol Yagi at 15m with a clear take off.” 

What do “pings” sound like?  

Go and have a look at a video on YouTube of 6m MSK144 meteor scatter contacts and you will get a good idea of what to listen out for.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5JfpgPyDl4 

Here is a short sound clip from the video.

 Meteor_Sounds.mp3 

On Saturday morning Dick and Pieter V51PJ completed another MSK144 contact. Rickus also heard Dick’s transmission in Bethlehem. I’m not sure whether they completed a QSO. Tom ZS1TA could not join in due to other commitments and it looks like no one else was listening. 

46 Long Distance Group was also active yesterday morning on SSTV. Looking at the pictures posted on the WhatsApp group of the pictures received there was good propagation on Saturday morning. 

SSTV_Images.jpg

 

The tropo along the West Coast was also good this week. 

The guys along the West Coast also monitor APRS to see when there is ducting along the West Coast.  

APRS_Reception.jpg

 

On Monday ZS3JPY ZS3CVB and V51LZ were busy on 145.500 simplex during a tropoducting opening and then Chris ZS1FC managed to receive the APRS beacon of Cobus ZS3CVB, a distance of 423 km.

 

ZS3CVB_APRS_RX_ZS1FC.jpg

 

On Wednesday Koos ZS3JPY again alerted the West Coast guys that the tropoducting forecast looked good.

 

Tropo_20200722_1800.jpeg 

Here is a QSO recorded by Koos between him, Andre V51LZ in Oranjemund and Chris ZS1FC in Vredenburg. The distance between Andre and Chris is 513 km. 

ZS1FC_V51LZ_ZS3JPY.mp4 

Well done guys. 

The Bethlehem beacon was reported S4-S5 last Monday by Ronald ZS6RVC. 

Have you heard these two beacons lately? 

The ZS0BET beacon in Bethlehem at grid KG41ds puts out 25 W  into two 8 element Yagi antenna pointing East and North. The frequency is 144.425 MHz. This beacon has already been reported being heard far and wide and from some unexpected locations. 

The ZS1TWO beacon’s antenna is pointing in the direction of Divisions 4 and 6. The beacon at grid JF96fb puts out 20 W into a 5 element Yagi on the frequency of 144.435 MHz. 

Please listen out for these beacons. It will be very interesting to know where these beacons are heard. And, when you hear these beacons with a good signal level you can be sure that the possibility for good long distance VHF comms is also possible. 

For the guys who like to build projects and may have a VNA or are thinking of getting one or building your own. I found an interesting video on Youtube from the UK Denby Dale Amateur radio society of a talk by Alan W2AEW.

The first part is about 3rd Order Inter Modulation Distortion or IMD, what it is and how to mitigate it and the second part is about understanding Vector Network Analysers and a look at the easily and cheaply available NanoVNA. Take a look at the recording at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hDxCgIaCIw

 

Let us know at vhfnews@sarl.org.za of the VHF and above contacts that you have made or send us your beacon reports, or tell us about that interesting project that you have been working on. 

 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ.


 

Focus on VHF and Above 19 July 2020

Audio version   

 

 

 

 

 

The storms that hit the southern parts of the country has certainly caused havoc amongst the amateur community, with amateurs along the West coast reporting antennas and towers being blown over. We hope that the damage caused is repairable and that in the process of repairing the damage that you are able to make improvements to withstand the winds in the future.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

METEOR SCATTER

Yesterday morning, Dick ZS6BUN, Tom ZS1TA and Pieter V51PJ were again playing with Meteor scatter early in the morning. 

Dick had announced the previous day that he would be on the air from 06:00 local time on 144.230 MHz using MSK144. First beaming West and later South West from his QTH at grid KG43GM. 

I think Dick was so excited about getting on the air that his first transmission was already at 04:00. It did not take Tom and Pieter long to start monitoring for the meteor scatter pings. Just before 05:00 Dick and Pieter logged the first contact. 

Unfortunately Tom’s Icom 910H is in for repair and all that he had was his Icom 706.

 

 

 

The cables that Tom was using was configured for his 910H so although he could get audio to and from the radio he could not control the PTT. Pieter suggested that Tom use the microphone to PTT which worked and at 5:16 they managed to log the contact. Tom was only transmitting 15W on the Icom 706. Tom remarked on his trusty 706 “The old 706 has earned more respect. Sailed all over the world and twice across Pacific doing MM and Winlink. Now VHF MS too.” 

Well done guys great contacts again and just to show us youngsters out here what can be done. 

Dick will publicise on the West Coast WhatsApp groups when he will be active so listen out for Dick’s transmissions via meteor scatter and see if you can hear the meteor scatter pings. If you can hear the pings, see if you can decode them using MSK144. 

There is a very interesting report that the Winlink team has published about an excellent digital modes comparison study, by Thomas Whiteside, N5TW. It shows steady improvements in performance as software algorithms evolve for the digital modes.

Joe Speroni, AH0A, The ARRL Pacific Section Manager said "the addition of digital modes in our tool kit makes Amateur Radio more valuable to our served agencies." For example, "Winlink is a tool for personal communications, health and welfare traffic, and served agencies with varying need of digitally-formatted messages." 

The report can be read at  https://winlink.org/sites/default/files/a_winlink_digital_mode_performance_comparison_based_on_the_ionis_sim_hf_vhf_channel_simulator_-_july_5_2020_0.pdf 

It is indeed an interesting report to read, especially the section on VHF. 

Winlink is one of the modes to be used for the HAMNET Winter Blackout exercise in August. 

With our testing that we are doing on digital modes within HAMNET, we are also finding that digital modes on VHF are a lot more reliable than HF within the greater Johannesburg and Pretoria areas. 

Have you heard these two beacons lately? 

The ZS0BET beacon in Bethlehem at grid KG41ds puts out 25 W  into two 8 element Yagi antenna pointing East and North. The frequency is 144.425 MHz. This beacon has already been reported being heard far and wide and from some unexpected locations.

 The ZS1TWO beacon’s antenna is pointing in the direction of Divisions 4 and 6. The beacon at grid JF96fb puts out 20 W into a 5 element Yagi on the frequency of 144.435 MHz. 

Please listen out for these beacons. It will be very interesting to know where these beacons are heard. And, when you hear these beacons with a good signal level you can be sure that the possibility for good long distance VHF comms is also possible. 

Let us know at vhfnews@sarl.org.za of the VHF and above contacts that you have made or send us your beacon reports, or tell us about that interesting project that you have been working on.

Today I’m going to leave you with the following thoughts from Onno VK6FLAB on what is the point to this remarkable hobby of ours. 

Whats_the_point_of_this_hobby-Onno_VK6FLAB.mp3


  Focus on VHF and Above 5 July 2020

 Audio version

On Monday evening Ken ZS6KN reported hearing the ZS0BET beacon at his QTH at grid KG44bj, a distance of 292 km. Ken heard it again at 11:00 on Tuesday morning. Ken is a little north of my QTH further away from the Magaliesberg. Ken reported that while the signal was low it was perfectly readable. So far if I recall correctly, this is the furtherest to the north that this beacon has been reported. Thanks for that report Ken.

 

The ZS0BET beacon in Bethlehem at grid KG41ds puts out 25 W  into two 8 element Yagi antenna pointing East and North. The frequency is 144.425 MHz. This beacon has already been reported being heard far and wide and from some unexpected locations.

 

The ZS1TWO beacon’s antenna is pointing in the direction of Divisions 4 and 6. The beacon at grid JF96fb puts out 20 W into a 5 element Yagi on the frequency of 144.435 MHz.

 

Please listen out for these beacons. It will be very interesting to know where these beacons are heard. And, when you hear these beacons with a good signal level you can be sure that the possibility for good long distance VHF comms is also possible.

 

Be sure to let us know at vhfnews@sarl.org.za of those long distance QSO’s that you make including beacon reports.

 

Those of us that attempt to build our own homebrew equipment, interfaces or whatever will know that it becomes quite interesting when we are faced with the challenge that we cannot find conventional components any more and we are forced to consider using surface mount components. Yes, it is daunting and for many of us so scary that we rather not attempt the project.

Surface mount devices come in various sizes, but with the right tools it is not that difficult to work with them.

 

There is a good article in the latest edition of the Surrey Amateur Radio Club magazine on solder reflow by Kevin McQuiggin VE7ZD/KN7Q. There is of course plenty of other interesting articles in their magazine as well. You can find the magazine at https://ve7sar.blogspot.com/2020/07/the-july-august-2020-communicator.html

 

By now most of you will have heard about the HAMNET 2020 Blackout exercise that will take place over the weekend of 29-30 August 2020. This exercise will use both HF and VHF and each team will have a HF and VHF sub team. The exercise will also require us to make extensive use of digital modes. Most of us are quite familiar with digital modes over HF. Those same digital modes work very well on VHF as well and we have already done some extensive testing using JS8Call on VHF, getting some decent distances without any atmospheric conditions that enhances VHF communications.

 

While it is a HAMNET exercise, there only needs to be one HAMNET member in a team who will also be the team leader.

 

Here is a great opportunity to test out your go box on digital modes on VHF as well.

 

If you do not already have a computer set up for your digital modes, why not put together a low cost Raspberry Pi solution.  It is definitely not difficult to set up. Go and look at look at the Youtube Channel of Jason KM4ACK. He has a really simple recipe to set up a Raspberry PI with everything that you need to be able to run digital modes in the field.

 

I have been following Jason’s channel for a while and I have already completed two installs on both a Raspberry Pi 3B and a Pi 4. The current version of Jason’s installation recipe is so simple that all you need to do is run a script, provide some basic information and select which programs you would like to install. The script does everything for you. There is some configuration that is needed, but Jason takes you through that as well in one of his videos. It is that simple.

 

Add to this a 10 inch touch screen LCD display and you are fully sorted with a portable controller for your station. Alternatively you can use a laptop and VNC to connect to your Pi via it’s own hotspot if you are not connected to an external network.

 

I’m currently sorting out a 12V to 5V step down supply to run the Pi from the 12 V radio batteries as well.

 

What interesting project you are busy with? Share it with us at  vhfnews@sarl.org.za..

 

Focus on VHF and above is compiled, edited and presented for Amateur Radio Today by Brian Jacobs ZS6YZ.


 


MORSE CODE NEWS WITH ZS6MWS 

Setup of a CW paddle

Rick, WW1ME, writes in regard to the conventional setup of a CW paddle: "The right-hand lever is the 'dah' if you are right-handed. For lefties, it is just the opposite. Most keyers/radios will let you change the keyer 'sense' for RH or LH. I recall back in the day, too, that all MFJ keyers were wired for the wrong sense, so when you plugged in your paddle, it was set for a lefty. If you used that paddle with other devices, that could be a real issue. Otherwise, you'd have to swap the wires." Another temporary means of sending with a paddle that is opposite of what you're used to is to turn it around and reach over the paddle for the levers. Awkward, but the technique works for a limited amount of sending.

CW Contest Trainer

Ray, G4FON, has written a program entitled CW Contest Trainer and has made it available on his website http://www.g4fon.net/. His program supports a number of contests, including CQ WPX, CQ WW, IOTA, ARRL Field Day, ARRL Sweepstakes, CW Ops CWT, NAQCC, and SKCC. The free version on his website is limited in operation but can be upgraded for a fee.

Four CW Contacts per Day Certificates

The ZS-CW group have started a new initiative to get more people active on CW on all bands, this will get you a certificate at the end of the year. Make four CW contacts per day and qualify for the following certificates: 200 to 250 days - Bronze certificate, 250 to 300 days - Silver Certificate and 300 plus days - Gold Certificate. Send proof of your contacts by Excel log submission to Mike, ZS6MSW (zs6msw@gmail.com) or Andy, ZS6ADY (andyzs6ady@vodamail.co.za).

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What is Amateur Radio ? 

Tell me more  about Amateur Radio

Radio Amateurs, or "Hams" use two-way radio communication to make contact with other radio amateurs all over the world. They are even able to use satellites and on occasion speak with astronauts. Radio Hams can do this from home or while mobile in cars, boats or on foot.

Radio Hams have a full range or communication modes at their disposal. These include plain voice, Morse code, numerous digital computer modes and even graphical modes like television. As a licensed amateur radio operator you will be able to join in experiments using all these modes.

A
mateur radio can be enjoyed by young and old, male and female, even the most severely disabled can make friends around the world from their own home. This hobby knows no boundaries.


Random Photo from the Call book.


 Martin C Schwella, ZS4MS


     

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An interesting operating goal

The entry level for the WAZS award is 100 different call signs. The programme has recently been expanded to include higher level endorsements, such as WAZS-200, WAZS-300, etc. Endorsements may also be obtained for specific modes, eg: CW, SSB, etc.
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lboat034a.gif (1979 bytes)SA Maritime Net

The South African Maritime Mobile Net provides weather reports and maintains contact with sailing vessels from around the coast and high seas.
The net operates 7 days a week.

There are two regular schedule times as follows:

  • 06:30 UTC and 11:30 UTC on 14 316 kHz high seas net.
  • 06:35 UTC and 11:35 UTC on 7 120 kHz coastal net - the net lasts approximately 30 minutes .
Visit the official SAMMNet Website or their facebook page for more information.
 
   

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