Hammies Boot Camp 2016

Hammies – the brain child of Noel Hammond and his merry men – is a program designed to get kids involved with the hobby.

I like kids, but I can’t finish a whole one!Hammies ZS2ZU logo

Having a Scouting background, I decided to put what I know about kids, training kids, and camping into one action packed event.  We put together a program covering all the material and included some practical activities like electronics and antenna building, and some fun activities like a trip to the repeaters, the nearby narrow guage railway bridge and the mandatory game of soccer.  I got my XYL Bev to make a menu for the camp and we confirmed with “Tannie Muntie” of the Voortrekkers for the venue.  It was coming together nicely now.

Dennis Green (ZS4BS) punted the Boot Camp in the Radio ZS magazine, Chris Scarr punted it in the club magazine – QSX.  We even had it mentioned on the SARL and PEARS bulletins.  This resulted in only one enquiry – from Kwa Zulu Natal!

And so it came to pass that the Hammies EC club went camping.  Graydon, Michael, Ashton, and Dakota – and some staff (Dave, Andrew, Bev, Juanita) all attended.

The camp started off on teh Thursday evening with supper and then an introduction to ham radio and how QSOs work.  Lights ouot on the first noght in camp is a guideline – everyone knows that!

Friday morning we saw Andrew and Juanita at work and Dave and Bev looking after the things at base camp.  We covered more theory and walked to the bridge – a fun outting where we all spoke in “radio ham lingo” – call signs without radios 🙂

Friday evening was quite a hilight for the kids – Andrew Gray (East Cape Hamnet Director) did the electronics base with them.  This included starting off with a telephone!  A long piece of twinflex between two “telephone speakers”.  This beats a string and two tin cans!  After that it was onto series and parallel circuits and then onto building an AM receiver!

Saturday was more practical – as much as we could with the rainy weather – but we got through how to setup a station.  Andrew showed them how tocheck SWR with a dual needle meter, and the rest they pretty much already knew.  In the afternoon they all did their HF assessments  – under my eye with Andrew on the other side of the mike.  All passed with flying colours!

Saturday evening was “chill time” – well that and two “practice exams” 🙂

Sunday was breakfast, bulletin, soccer,and then the real deal – the ICASA approved exam.

Running through the exam afterwards I feel confident that they all passed.  We headed off homeward stopping in at the Falcon Rock for a milkshake.

Now we wait – the ICASA strike started teh following day and is now into its second week.  Meantime, the Hammies and I wait and wait.

Andrew with the Hammies

Andrew with the Hammies

Andrew with the Hammies

Andrew with the Hammies

Setting up a field station

Setting up a field station

Campfire - not all hard work!

Campfire – not all hard work!

Staff and pants of the first ever Hammies Boot Camp

Staff and pants of the first ever Hammies Boot Camp

Ashton and Graydon setting up a field station

Ashton and Graydon setting up a field station

Hammies learning from the pro...

Hammies learning from the pro…

Dave and Dakota

Dave and Dakota

Tea With Ted

admin   May 30, 2016   3 Comments on Tea With Ted

Ashton, one of the Hammies had chatted to Ted (ZS2TED) several times on the radio and Ted promised Ashton a radio when he passed his exams.  As it turns out, both Ashton and Ted were so keen to meet each other that the exam will have to wait 🙂

Sunday, 29th May, Juanita (Ashton’s mom), Ashton, myself (ZS2DH) and my son Mike met up with Gert (ZS2GS) and set out to J’Bay for afternoon tea with Ted.

Ashton took my little 3W Baofeng and chatted to Ted on the repeater just about all the way to J’Bay!

Ashton and Ted got on like a house on fire!  Ted was like a “super grandpa” showing the boys his toys.  Radio controlled planes, boats, and even a BB gun for the “pests”.  And then to radio!

Ted explained his setup, the antennas, the radios, and the spares in the garage.  We had some tea and biscuits (more coffee really, but Coffee With Ted just does not sound the same).

Ted lived up to his word and kitted Ashton out with a power supply, radio and antenna.  Thank you Ted!

I’m not sure who enjoyed it the most – Ted or the boys, but it was a few hours with much joy squeezed into them.

On the way back home, Juanita and I discussed some future activities for the Hammies.  This is, unfortunately, classified.  To find out, you’ll have to attend!

20160529_153343 20160529_153331 20160529_153433 20160529_153358 20160529_153353 20160529_153322 20160529_151800 20160529_151713 20160529_15170620160529_15173520160529_152820

GOTA – Get On The Air

Congratulations to the 9 new hams who passed the recent SARL Class A exam from Port Elizabeth.  Congratulations also to Donovan for ANOTHER 100% pass rate!

Andrew Gray and I decided to get these new hams out in the open and give them some “airtime” with their new call signs.  The exam results were published earlier than we anticipated, and suddenly we needed to move quickly to get the event together.  We chatted via SMS and email and eventually it all came together.   Saturday 28th May 2016, 2-5pm.

Emails were sent to the new graduates inviting them to the portable station in Lorraine, Port Elizabeth.  The idea was to get the Hammies on the air between 14h00 and 15h00 and then the new hams from 15h00 to 16h00 followed with a braai.

Andrew and I met in the park a little early to setup (choose the best spot and hang a dipole).  I brought tables,chairs, tea, coffee, and a kettle.  Andrew brought all the radio stuff.

We were soon on the air and the Hammies made contacts into ZS1, ZS2, and ZS6 – with some of the ZS6ZU guys as well.

Barry, ZS2BIC and Denise (ZS2DG) made QSOs on behalf of the new graduates.  Other “celebs” included Bill (ZS2ABZ), and the boss himself – Chris (ZS2AAW).

Fun was had by all.  It was decided that we should do this again after the next exam, but that perhaps an indoor venue might be needed in the October weather.

Ashton and GRaydon working the GOTA station

Ashton and Graydon working the GOTA station

Ashton and GRaydon working the GOTA station

Ashton and Graydon working the GOTA station

GOTA Station

GOTA Station

GOTA Station

GOTA Station

GOTA Station

GOTA Station

Hammies repeater visit

A public holiday is an excuse to get out into the mountains and play radio.  This time, however, there was to be no SOTA activity.  The Hammies took a trip up to Witteklip (Lady’s Slipper) repeater city to look at the PEARS club repeater.

A frightful glance at the calendar revealed a visit to the repeaters had been put on the calendar and was yet to be planned.  Well, that was yesterday!  Yesterday afternoon I contacted Andrew Gray (ZS2G), Juanita, and Glen to see if we could put it together.  I collected keys from the PEARS chairman, Chris – ZS2AAW so that we could look at the PEARS club repeater.  All set to meet at my QTH, 8am sharp this morning.  Tada.  Organized.

The PEARS repeater container.By just after 8 we were on our way to the back of Lady’s Slipper.  There is an access road from near Culturama, up the back of the mountain.  A gate on the road limits access, but not to us!  We are bearers of the key 🙂

By 9am we were at the top, parked just outside the PEARS club repeater.  The repeater is housed in a container and maintained by Chris and some others.  I’m not sure just what the kids expected, but I was surprised at how much “stuff” was in there!  And packed so neatly too!

Of particular interest was the HF rig (ICOM IC-718) which is there for remote use.  The web cam PEARS repeaterin the front of the rig is so you can tell what the frequency on the radio is.  Very smart guys!

A lot of the equipment in there was WAY passed my pay grade, not that that is saying too much!

We discussed the canisters, the VHF and UHF repeaters, the use of the computer and wifi – all quite something to take in.  We then took a look at the antenna – which was a little more familiar for the kids.

Hammies correctly identifying a dipole, a yagi, and a vertical antenna made me feel as proud as any Hammies instructor could be.  Being told the 7.009 MHz on the radio meant it was on the 10m band brought me back to earth rather quickly.  Sigh.  A little more work on the bands then.

After carefully locking up the club repeater, we took a casual look at some of the other antenna Hammies in the antenna field!in the area.  This includes municipal, police, ambulance, private companies, and even a commercial FM station!

All good things must come to an end, and so we left the top of Witteklip destined for home.  A brief stop at the shop for some cool-drink and muffins and back to the QTH for tea!

Fun was had by all.

Thanks to Chris and the PEARS for letting us see your toys!  Thank you Andrew and Juanita for the transport.


Mike, Ryan, and Ashton

Mike, Ryan, and Ashton outside the PEARS repeater.

Ashton in the PEARS repeater container.

Ashton in the PEARS repeater container.

Hammies in the antenna field!

Hammies in the antenna field!

Hammies in the antenna field!

Mike and Ryan on top of some rocks looking like mountaineers.

Mike and Ryan climb up some rocks.

Rock Climbers!

Rock Climbers!

Juanita in front of Lady's Slipper

Juanita in front of Lady’s Slipper

Hammies Field Station in the Park

Saturday 9th April saw another Hammies first.  A field station in the park!  It was hoped to do some HF work, but the band conditions just allowed us a contact into the Free State – none the less a contact for Hammies!  Unfortunately the only HF radio I have for portable operation is the X1M – a 5W radio that amazes me from mountain tops, but does not fare well in city noise.

Hammmies Field StationWe met at my QTH for a normal meeting – but the parents had been given the heads up that we were doing something different.  We discussed what we would need for the field station and packed up everything we needed.  The park is not far and so we were soon there and setting up near a tree on the highest point in the park.

For most of the Hammies, this was the first time they set up an antenna!  In fact, for Dakota it was her first time at Hammies!  Dakota is a natural and found the QSO-speak almost normal!

When band conditions started to cause dis-interest, I suggested we use the 2m rig and have a few chats anyway.  Duly done, we setup the antenna, connected the rig to the battery and the antenna and we were on the air!

Several chats on the repeater – and a few simplex contacts and fun was had by all.

Hamnet 40m Simulated Emergency – 2016

20160306_145955_smallHamnet is all about emergency communications and what to do in an emergency.  Right?  Well then why would you actually plan for it?  You should be ready all the time.  Right?  Well here in the Eastern Cape we do things right.

Without much planning – ok there was a phone call where it was agreed that Andrew would bring a battery and a radio and that I would bring the antenna, table, and coffee.  Apart from that it was agreed to meet at the park in Diza road at 14h00 local time.

We had the station up and on the air in 7 minutes.  I have a laptop that takes longer to boot than that!  Admittedly that says more about the laptop than it does about our station setup, but I thought it was not too bad.

On the air and making contacts all over the country.  You had the regulars farming on “their” 20160306_150111_smallfrequencies, a few of us bouncing all over the band, and some kind om’s “just handing out points”.  Now don’t get me wrong I enjoy them handing out points, but it does rather sound like “I want to play too, but am too lazy to put in a log” doesn’t it?

What does irritate me more and more is this idea of farming on a frequency.  Is it sporty to hog a frequency?  It is almost like some people believe they own the frequency and get upset when you call or make QSOs on their frequency.  Well news flash – you don’t own it!

A beautiful afternoon at the park in Diaz road and some pretty good conditions – you know, for 40m in the day time.  We made contacts into all 6 ZS zones, hammering out a final score of 792.  Not too bad IMHO 🙂

Andrew popped off to get us some cooldrinks and then I put the kettle on and made some tea/coffee.

20160306_150126_smallSOTA makes an appearance.  Both Andrew and I are keen SOTA peeps, so it was inevitable that at some point we would have a look at SOTAWATCH.ORG and see if there was anything we could pounce on, but alas no not today. 🙁


We made contacts for the first hour and 15 minutes and then “took a break” – aka SOTA/talk nonsense/have coffee and a quick QSO at the last minutes – just because we can. 20160306_145925_small

The radio used was a Kenwood running on a 100 AH battery and putting out 50W.  The antenna was a normal SOTA operation with an inverted V off a swimming pool mast.  The Hamnet rules stipulate that the mast can’t be higher than 5m off the ground, so we did not put on the extension.


Hammies – its a go!

admin   February 29, 2016   No Comments on Hammies – its a go!

Many of you have been following the adventures of the Hammies – ok, most of you are not really following as much as putting up with my ramblings about the Hammies, but with the help of Noel Hammond and his ZS6ZS Hammies team, we have a club registered and the ZS2ZU callsign allocated (and noted as an educational callsign).

With a club and a callsign – and promises of support from up north, there was “no more reason to run” and so we did it!

Saturday, 27th February 2016 was the start of something very special.  The start os the Eastern Cape Hammies!  We had hoped for a few more kids, but decided to keep it small (and in ham-families where we could) until we were familiar with the material and format of the classes.

Juanita doing the phonetic Alphabet with flash cardsJuanita is doing her Class A licence and will be writting in May.  She is actively involved with the Cubs and Scouts and is a natural when interacting with the kids.  Juanita is Ashton’s mom.

Juanita handled the phonetic alphabet with the hammies – and did a great job of it too!

She had flash cards and a poster too!  The way she interacted with the kids tells me we are going to see great things from her in the hammies! I covered the “introduction” and “chapter one” from the official manual – the not so fun bits, but the hammies understood that they must know what they are doing before they can start having fun.

The kids took to the phonetic alphabet and A sneak peak at the ZS2 Hammies manualscallsigns (and basic QSO structure) much easier than I had anticipated.

A quick round of practice QSOs, some cooldrinks to calm the nerves, and we went live!  On the air! On Radio!  It was awesome!

Cellphones are so last year! One hammie was heard to say (after completing his first ever QSO) “that was so much cooler than a cellphone!”

LTR Mike, Graydon, and Ashton

LTR Mike, Graydon, and Ashton

Michael, Graydon, and Ashton all made QSOs with myself (ZS2DH) while they were operating the club callsign (ZS2ZU).  We discussed various topics and used some ham-lingo too!  QTH, 73, 88, RS(t) reports, I tell you these guys are naturals!



Juanita also took the chance and made a QSO with me – her first as well. As it turns out, her QTH is also in Port Elizabeth – along with ALL the Hammies I spoke to!  Small world indeed!

Next week…

Next week we are hoping to have another 3 – (all girls) join us.  This should make it quite interesting.

First Hammies class

A sneak peak at the ZS2ZU manuals on the table ;)

Next week we cover repeaters and UTC (and then some more fun!)  We might even setup  a FIELD STATION and take part in the  Hamnet 40m contest!

We operated VHF (145.225) on low power and no logs were kept.  However, if we get onto 40m next weekend we will have to up the game just a little 😉

Hammies are here to stay!                         They enjoyed the first lesson – almost as much as Juanita and I!  We are looking forward to great things in the future!

Monday 29th Feb 2016:- A big THANK YOU to Noel and the guys up north – our radios arrived today!  Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.

73 from the Eastern Cape Hammies!

Hogsback Field day SOTA weekend

As if we need an excuse to go to Hogsback, Hennie and I decided to go through for the weekend of the SARL Field Day and do some SOTA activations. Andrew and Mandy unfortunately could not join us – they are saving up to climb Mafadi (the highest peak in South Africa) – lucky devils 😉

Hennie has been working on getting some bikes and a trailor for us and already has one of The mast is still a bit of a challenge, but here is Hennie on his bike.the bikes up and running!  He was was eager to use it around Hogsback!

The basic idea behind getting the bikes (he already has another he is fixing up) is to get to the base of the mountain in some of the longer walks – like Hangklip and Bloukop in particular)

We met up at Hogsback mid afternoon on Friday and immediately picked up where we had left off – as if we had not been apart!  I think the first insult was in the greeting, but I might be wrong – I was not really listening to him at the time 😉

We setup the radio on the patio table, my portable mast on the grass lawn outside the B&B, and started to tune around.  We worked a few local stations – all doing signal checks for the Field day.  We also had some DX stations and managed to work into Gabon.  There was a world wide contest on at the same time and we could hear a lot of DX stations, but could not break their pileups.

I heard someone calling Antarctic and got all excited, but heard nothing back.  That would have been a nice DX to get.  Alas it was not to be so we have put plans to contact the antarctic on ice for now.

Hennie braai’ed and as usual there was enough food to feed the army – and still have leftovers.  A pleasant evening was spent playing radio, eating and drinking way too much.

Saturday were plans for a Summit-To-Summit.  Our garden guest on Sunday morningI left for Menziesberg while Hennie headed off to Tor Doone.  A heavy mist brought visibility down to a few tens-of-meters at best.  Infact it was so bad that I drove past the dam near Menziesberg without even noticing it.  I got to Menzies (in the mist) and decided to check how my mate was doing.  I called Hennie on 2m only to hear he had abandoned his plans to climb Tor Doone and was back at the B&B.

Determined not to stoop that low, I setup my HF rig and madMenziesberg in the distancee some calls.  I then waited and waited and waited some more.  It was unbelievable, that in the midst of the SARL field day – albeit in the mists of Hogsback – I battled so to make my 4 required QSOs.

Hennie had been one contact before I even set up, but getting the other 3 took me over 2 hours.

Late, tired, and disappointer, I headed back to the B&B.  No S2S points for me today.

Saturday evening saw another great Poetjie, some radio contacts – including a bunch of nice ZS6-ers.  Among them was young A View of MenziesbergNathan – ZU6X.

Sunday morning showed more promise and with the PE post bulletin net as a target we set off to do Tor Doone together.  There was still a lot of mist around and visibility was not great.  We made some good contacts into PE with 59 signal reports.  ZS2BO (ZS2-Bundu Operator) was booming at us as if he was there with us – from an inverted V.  Allan was operating from a rather unusual place – in fact I think it was the first time I have EVER had a QSO with him at HOME! ZS2-Bay Operator!

With Tor Doone activated (and Menzies the day before for me) we decided I’d spend a while at the top of Tor Doon while Hennie went down and across to Menziesberg.A Horse near Menziesberg

Now Hennie is not the quickest up and down mountains – but Menzies is really not much effort and a little while later we had Hennie calling CQ SOTA from Menziesberg.

I made a contact with him – thereby not only getting the chaser points, but the much wanted S2S contact.  Yay for us!  Hennie went on to collect way more contacts than I had the previous day!  Just his luck – another bunch of ZS6-ers.

Back at the B&B we had some of the (still) leftover braai meat, packed the cars and headed out homeward.  A pleasant weekend by all accounts – even though it was misty and not as much SOTA was had as we’d planned.  We decided that we would not enter logs for the Field day as we had mixed mains power with SOTA activations and were not really happy with submitting a mixed or partial log.

Mandy handles a pileup!

On Sunday 31 January 2016, our Mandy was to activate Lady’s Slipper for SOTA.  Andrew wanted to do some DX and I wanted to tag along.Mandy Operating SOTA pile up

The antenna Andrew has been working on is coming along nicely now, with a ground plane for 15m being the latest modification.  It was strapped to the roof of the Jimny, everything else packed inside the Jimny with me on the back seat.  I packed a few beers and some tea, coffee, and snacks.

We drove up the rear access road to the towers on top of Witteklip and decided to setup there in the “parking lot”.

The RADAR deployment took a little longer that we would have liked, but I think we set the bar rather high 😉  I then setup the table, Andrew connected up the radio and we were all set.

Mandy Operating SOTA pile upSOTAWatch.org is a wonderful website allowing you to not only place alerts for future activations, but allows you to “spot” callsigns as well – in much the same way as DXCluster does.  I logged on to the website and posted a spot for Mandy – ZS2AV at the SOTA Summit of ZS/EC-016, Lady’s Slipper.

I’m honestly not sure what did it, but Mandy called CQ SOTA and unleashed the pileup.  Was it that we put her name there?  Was it that the one point for Lady’s Slipper is that valuable?  Does Mandy have her own fan club?

We operated on 15, 17, and 20m through the afternoon and recorded some wonderful contacts.  Mandy’s haul included Austria, Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, the UK, and the USA.  One of Mandy’s fans even described their QSO as “a miracle!”.

I managed a contact into New Jersey and a long (30 minutes or so) QSO with Bruce ZD7VC in St Helena Island.  This was a nice one for me.

Bruce was calling CQ DX Africa and so I came back to him with my ZS callsign.  He then came back to me to say he was picking me up “off the back of his beam”.  I’m not sure where he was pointing it, but he seemed real excited!  I was too 😉

Mandy Operating SOTA pile up

I mentioned to him that it was even better as I was operating QRP from the mountains!

This made him swing his beam around to me and that took his signal report from a 55 to a 59 and mine from a 54 to 58/59.

We had a lovely chat – about the new airport mostly, and then the mist started to roll in.

We had hoped to stay in the mountains into the early evening and try to work VP8SGI on 20m, but with the mist came the noise.

We could not have tea or coffee, so we had to drink beer because the silly knucklehead who packed the catering supplies forgot to take the flask of hot water!

We made no Summit-To-Summit contacts, but we made some DX contacts and had a lot of fun doing it!