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Scout Camp repeater system

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  • Dave Colter
    Hello all, Here s another aspect of Scout radio for everyone s amusement. I m in the middle of updating our large two-camp Scout reservation s commercial
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 19, 2000
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      Hello all,
      Here's another aspect of "Scout radio" for everyone's amusement. I'm in
      the middle of updating our large two-camp Scout reservation's commercial
      UHF repeater system. It had been on a GMRS frequency before the rules
      changed a few years ago, but someone let the license lapse for a few
      months, (so much for our grandfather status!), so now we're re-licensing
      on a business frequency pair. PCIA gave us three possible freqs to try
      (which I did) and we chose one. The new coordination should be in our
      hands in a week, and I'll be ordering crystals for the repeater asap!
      Crystals for some of the other older radios will wait for the final FCC
      license, since there is still a fairly remote chance that the FCC could
      disagree with the coordination. Current rules allow you to go on the
      air ten days after receiving the coordination papers using a temporary
      call sign issued by the coordinator (PCIA).

      The repeater sits on a 3000+' remote mountaintop out in the
      reservation's back-country. The reservation is >5 square miles of
      mountainous terrain with five lakes and ponds, and it is a winding,
      almost five mile drive from the ranger's HQ to the summit. The repeater
      (GE Mastr II) was powered by a windmill and a homebrew gasoline driven
      12v generator that charged a bunch of really old used 200 amp bus
      batteries. Someone had to hike up (no Gator then!) every few days to
      run the generator for a few hours, since the wind wasn't reliable
      enough, and winter ice and winds tore the blades off the windmill. That
      wore pretty thin after one season, and they pulled the system off the
      hill and put it at the ranger's HQ on a 80' tower - the lowest point in
      camp, and at the southern-most tip of the reservation. Coverage was
      pretty poor from there, especially out in the northern back-country.

      Last summer we began planning a return to the mountain, this time with
      solar power. On Sunday, after a winter of planning and preparation, I
      took the reservation's new John Deere Gator up the mountain (a 45 minute
      bone-jouncing ride from HQ) and installed two new Siemens 100 watt
      panels on the side of the old windmill tower. Next trip we will string
      a new support cable and some #8UF cable to the fiberglass equipment
      shelter which will house the MII repeater, solar charger/controller and
      new deep cycle "bus" batteries. By design, the solar system should
      provide enough power for a 50% transmit duty cycle for two days without
      sunlight. The cost of the solar system (plus cables and misc. parts)
      was about $2300 from Tessco.

      The antenna tower is a very old TV antenna tower (pre-Rohn) in fair
      condition, and it had a Stationmaster fed with rather old 7/8" Heliax.
      Measured from the bottom last fall, the SWR was poor, and the antenna
      barely worked. No one had bothered to attach the cable to the legs of
      the tower, and it banged around the inside in the wind until it was good
      and dented. They guy wires had slackened over the years, so I snugged
      them up just enough to stabilize the tower for climbing and headed up
      for an inspection. Lightning must have struck at some time, because
      where the original installer had left a sharp bend in the short jumper
      from the hardline to the antenna, it was pretty well gone. In addition,
      the center pin in both connectors at the antenna end were gone and
      blackened. Since there is little soil on top of this rocky summit, they
      never attempted a ground. We will be doing whatever we can to provide a
      better ground, including running some long heavy gauge wire over the end
      of the hill in several directions in search of real dirt.

      The tower itself is in fair condition, except for the top section, which
      is in poor condition. We've put $2000 in next year's budget to replace
      that, too. I ordered a new DB404 antenna and 150' of 1/2" Heliax. (It
      arrived today.) I chose the 404 over the Stationmaster due to its lower
      gain and fatter lobes, which should offer better penetration in the
      nearby valleys where we need it most. Since the mountain is about two
      thirds of the way up the reservation, which is longer north/south than
      it is wide, I'm setting it up for an elliptical pattern to maximixe the
      signal in the reservation's most heavily used areas. However, it should
      still provide decent coverage to about 30 miles out based on our tests.

      For radios, I've sold the council ten new rather rugged TEKK NT40 ten
      channel 2w synthesized portables at cost, complete with leather cases,
      drop in rapid chargers and spare batteries. At dealer cost, these
      packages run about $230. We will be retuning about a half dozen of the
      older radios, including several Motorola and Icom portables, and two
      Maxar mobiles. Ritron just came out with some affordable 2w 2channel
      mini-base stations for a dealer cost of just over $200, so I've ordered
      four of those, one for each of the two camps offices, and ranger's
      stations. These little beauties are really a portable re-packaged as a
      utility base station/mobile. It runs on 12v from either a vehicle cable
      or wall wart power supply, has a built in mic and PTT button, and has
      external mic and speaker jacks. It comes with a BNC antenna connector
      and 1/4 wave rubber duck antenna. Among the options are a mic, vehicle
      power cable, and mounting bracket. They are available in either high
      band or UHF versions, are factory programmed for a number of GMRS or
      business "dot" channels which can be set with internal dip switches.
      You can also, (if you're a Ritron dealer), get a $95 software/cable
      package to program them on other frequencies.

      If all goes well, we will have the new system up and running by the
      second week of Scout camp - coincidently, the week I"ll be there with my
      troop! Wonder what I'll be doing while my Scouts swim and play?
      Dave Colter WA1ZCN
      Scoutmaster, Troop 71 New London, NH
      Camp Committee Member, Hidden Valley Scout Reservation
      Daniel Webster Council, BSA
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