Hope you're all keeping well and most of all enjoying your radio.
I thought I'd tell you a little tale of some interesting propagation fun that can be had with the simplest of equipment.
It's not all about Multimode Shack-In-A-Box rigs as nice as they are and within the realms of even meagre budgets.
VHF 2m is often one of those forgotten bands along with UHF 70cm, definitely not as active as the old B licence days that's for sure! It's great that even as a newly licenced Foundation Amateur we get access to HF frequencies and even the meagre 10 Watt allowance can do you wonders, but most are all too ready to throw away that little dual band handheld and get on with the 'serious' business of HF activation.
Such a shame because when conditions are ripe there can be some fascinating radio that befuddles even the 'old hand' Hams.
This morning for example, (3rd Sept. '21), there was a bit of a VHF lift on and operators were popping into the GB3PI repeater in Royston Cambridgeshire left, right and centre often confused at to what they were listening to.
An operator, (unfortunately I didn't grab the pen quick enough to get his call sign), from Warwickshire thought he was talking through the GB3BC repeater in Pontypprid, Wales. Not surprising as it's on the same frequencies as GB3PI but actually carries a subtone or CTCSS of 94.8Hz so his radio must have picked up the 77Hz CTCSS of GB3PI automatically. He wasn't having any of it swearing blind that his transmission could never carry as far across as Cambridgshire......!!
Now in the old days of 1750Hz repeater tones, (you could 'whistle-up' repeaters back then), propagation conditions could play havoc with the repeater network. You'd whistle up GB3PI and next thing you're talking to an operator with a Welsh accent who was actually on the GB3BC repeater and each of you would think it was some kind of wind-up.
The more experienced operators would know exactly what was happening.
I remember doing such a thing with my old Dad back in 19-clickety-click on a converted Police radio, the PYE Pocket-phone PF1. I was there as I could whistle the repeater up as his whistle wasn't good enough.
I still remember his excitement that his 'little' handheld was firing through the repeaters all the way to Wales!
Now you can see why the CTCSS system can be so useful......sure, it leaves you bereft of such radio fun but often the 'lift' would bring in nothing but noise completely obliterating the repeaters.
This mornings 'lift' saw a new M7 operator who has only been licenced a few months left a bit confused as to what was going on and of course immediately assumed it must be some 'digital' or 'internet' linking thing going on. (Hi Mark M7CGO, was nice to catch you on air after the 'event'.
Luckily another 'old hand' operator M0ISQ, Russ all the way up in Billinge near Wigan, came onto the repeater pleased to make such a contact and rightly presumed that there was indeed a VHF propagation lift going on. He was quickly joined by another operator M0ALA, Andy who was in Barnsley, a great conversation took place amongst them all and very pleased to work each other.
All of this going on with simple FM VHF....and if I hadn't been so gentlemanly of sitting back and listening I could have managed on the 2.5 Watts my FT290 puts out. You could've even do it with a little Baofeng handy. Nice though that operators will sit back than the cacophony that can occur on HF with a 'pile-up'.
Here's a map to visualize the distances involved :-
That'd be 124 miles between the GB3PI repeater and M0ALA Andy, plus a whopping 154 miles to M0ISQ Russ.
M7CGO Mark was at Duxford not far from the GB3PI repeater.
There was also later a GW4 station but they momentarily came up before the propagation simply disappeared.
Now I have done this back when I was first became a Ham, I was on a little Baofeng and my old Ham friend was mobile when suddenly we had an operator from Liverpool break in. Was a thrill at the time and sure I mentioned it here at Charlie Tango.
Of course nowadays there are many ways to access digitally connected signals via the repeaters but it's not exactly RF to RF. Yes the repeaters help in that they have usually better antennas but don't forget a lot of them push out lowly powers, for example GB3PI is just 10 Watts. It doesn't take much of a stretch of the imagination to realise this could be done direct. Indeed, back in the 'old days' such activity was commonplace even with simple FM gear.
Well if that doesn't excite I'm sure nothing will and I'll leave you to it, but it shows the scope of what is achievable on an oft forgotten band. Yeah, no vast distances and no sunspots.....but a little morning 'weather' can literally go a long way.
I hope it interested at least one of you.
Apologies again for one of my 'waffle' moments....someone's got to do it.
Have an interesting VHF propagation story yourself? Then tell us all about it, I for one would be interested.
All the best,
Despite now having a 2m SSB capable rig, (FT290R), apart from Ham friends I've had very little contact. There's the usual activity the first Tuesday of every month but unless you're an RSGB member you ain't getting in on that action. (Specified as such in the rules, bolstering RSGB numbers or yet another closed 'gated system'?)
There's usually very little FM simplex action either apart from the odd club 'net' or those that QSY to them from the repeaters without announcing as such, "The usual John......OK mate, see you there". Reminds me of the old CB 'alpha' channel attitudes.....and thinking you're having a private conversation.
I know I for one will be looking more into VHF propagation, maybe making a beam and if I hear the beacon such as GB3VHF pick up or unknown repeaters flood in I'll be shouting for all I'm worth.
.....who knows, I may even get to chat with a friend in Wales or some such.