Lightning Strike Causes Damage at SEMARA

It was discovered that on Wednesday, September 8th at approximately 10:30am, lightning struck SEMARA’s property causing damage to several equipment both at the SEMARA clubhouse and at the repeater site.  Until further notice, the SEMARA 900 MHz repeater is off the air and the club’s internet and phone service are also down.  Because there is no internet, the 2m repeater IRLP node, APRS station and scanner feed are also not functional.

Dave, W1DJG and I have been very busy with work commitments this week and have been unable to check things until this evening.  A check of the repeater site found that the 900 MHz repeater and controller were both powered up, but unresponsive.  There appears to be possible lightning damage and the repeater may be in need of repair.

Additionally, there are burn marks on the CAT-5 Ethernet punch block that exits the repeater site and runs underground to the clubhouse.  The lightning arrester which is supposed to protect against surges, is partially cracked and the copper pins on the punch block are burned.  This could indicate possible lightning damage at the clubhouse itself, including but not limited to the Comcast internet gateway modem.  I was unable to gain access to the clubhouse for further investigation, as it also appears the keycard system is also dead.

The SEMARA Repeater committee will post an update to this initial damage assessment in the upcoming days.

Thanks,

Richard J. Cabral, W1RJC
SEMARA Repeater Committee

Jimmy Fund Walk – September 12th

Hams needed for the Jimmy Fund Marathon Walk.  It will be on Sunday, September 12th.  There are hams needed at the medical station at each “refueling station” and on the medical buses.  It is a whole day event, but there is some flexibility in start and end times for medical stations.  You will need a 2 meter HT with extra batteries.  This is a low key event and a good first Public Service Event for a new ham.

If you can help or have a question, send an email.  Make sure it has Jimmy Fund in the subject.  Feel free to call me if you would like to talk about it.

Steve, W3EVE
Cell: 508-922-9688

ARRL Convention: Boxboro! – August 27-29th

Hello!

The ARRL New England Convention, “Boxboro!”, is around the corner!! ItÂ’s at the Holiday Inn Boxborough, in Boxborough, MA. There are ICS and Skywarn courses on Friday, August 27 (signup will be required). The Flea Market and Exhibits run Saturday, August 28 and Sunday, August 29. ThereÂ’s the Friday night Contesting Dinner, the Saturday Night Banquet with keynote speaker ARRL CEO Dave Sumner, K1ZZ and the ARRL Wouff Hong Ceremony on Saturday at midnight. Go to www.boxboro.org to see the latest details.

ThereÂ’s still time to order your tickets. Visit www.boxboro.org and click on BUY TICKETS. Remember, tickets for the Friday Contesting dinner and Saturday Banquet must be preordered.

WeÂ’ll see you there!

73,
Mike Raisbeck, K1TWF
on behalf of the Boxboro Convention Committee

New 147.000 Repeater Antenna

As you may have heard, the 147.000 repeater had been experiencing sporadic crackling noises on weaker signals over the past year.  It was determined that the cause of this problem was not in the repeater itself, but in the antenna system.  This finding is of no surprise, due to the fact that we had this same issue almost 5 years ago.

The repeater antenna is a commercial grade Super Stationmaster that is built to withhold the toughest conditions and comes with a price tag of over $1,000.  SEMARA originally installed this antenna model in 1999 when the current 180 foot tower was built.  Unfortunately, that antenna had to be replaced in 2006 due to the same recent crackling problem.  Faced with the fact that we must replace the antenna once again, it appears that our average life span with this antenna is only about 5 years (it is advertised to be 15-20).

The repeater committee received a recommendation from Tony, NN1D to purchase a consumer grade Tram 1481 (a Diamond X-500 equivalent).  This low cost $100 antenna has been in use on Tony’s 146.805 repeater for a few years now with positive results.  SEMARA recently purchased this same antenna and on the morning of Tuesday, July 20, 2010, NETCOM arrived at the tower site make the antenna swap (the receive antenna for the Dartmouth Police Department‘s new 450 MHz P25 digital system was also installed).

The end result?  A very clean sounding repeater with improved coverage!  Repeater committee member Dave, W1DJG is now able to hold the repeater (without help from tropo) until the end of MA Route 24 in Canton at the I-93 split during his commute to Boston.  The current plan is to keep this antenna in place until any future issues arise.  Even if we had to replace this antenna once per year after a harsh New England winter, it is still half of the overall cost of replacing a $1,000 antenna every five years.

Cable Modem Replaced

Around 12:15pm during yesterday’s severe thunderstorm that passed through the South Coast, the internet at the SEMARA clubhouse along with the repeaters’ IRLP nodes, APRS and the scanner feed all went offline.  It was determined today that the cable modem at SEMARA’s clubhouse suffered a power surge and went dead.  The Comcast SMC Business IP Gateway was replaced today by a Comcast technician around 2:00pm.  Special thanks to Marcel, W1MLD for going down to meet the technician at the clubhouse before I was able to join in.

Programming Party – Sunday, July 11th

On Sunday, July 11, 2010 at 11:00am, there will be a programming party at the SEMARA clubhouse.  Jeff, N1ZZN and Rick, W1RJC will be on hand to reprogram anyone’s Motorola 900 MHz radio.  Radios that can be programmed include the Motorola GTX mobile and MTX9000 hand-held.

Whether you need your radio reprogrammed to work with the recent changes on the two Dartmouth 900 MHz repeaters, or you would just like to get the most up-to-date memory “codeplug”, be sure to bring your radio(s) and stop on by!

900 MHz Repeater Now Linked!

The wait is over!  I am happy to report that as of Saturday, June 26, 2010 at approximately 4:30am (after spending hours at the site), SEMARA’s 927.8375 repeater is now linked full-time to the New England Amateur Radio 900 MHz (NEAR-900) network.  Larry, W1DBX stayed up all night to witness the moment when the link was activated and made the first transmission over the network.

I again must thank everyone that helped me make this happen, including Ho, KC1HO and Jeff, N1ZZN.  They both came down on two prior occasions to help wire up the repeater controller and make changes to the PL tone and Hear Clear settings.  I still owe them a nice big meal at Wright’s Farm!  In the upcoming week, we will be finishing up some minor work, including permanently mounting the repeater controller inside of the repeater rack and adjusting the repeater deviation.

Some of the other 900 MHz repeaters that you can expect to be linked in full-time with us include Boston, Hingham, Marlborough, Marshfield, Salem and Wrentham.  You can always check to see who is currently connected to the network in real time by visiting the IRLP Status Page for the New England Reflector.  Channel 5 (9125) is the NEAR-900 channel and all stations listed under this channel are linked together.

Thanks,

Richard J. Cabral, W1RJC
SEMARA Repeater Committee