2009 Northbrook Canoe Challenge - AFTER ACTION Report

Conditions: RAIN. Results: SUCCESS. Performance: SUPERB.

W3QT: Looking out from the Embreeville BridgeW3QT: Looking out from the Embreeville BridgeThis is the summary after action report for the 2009 Northbrook Canoe Challenge for Cerebral Palsy. Eleven fixed station sites and two 'roving' stations at stream level along the Brandywine Creek provided coverage for participant's safety and logistics. This is a challenging communications task with 450' hilltops within 1/8 mile of stations along the river. The new CCAR 70cm portable repeater was put in service at the home of George, W3MWR north of the course on high ground. A 12 dB omnidirectional antenna at 30' was erected by Tom KB3TQS and Lor W3QA prior to the event.

Thanks to all participants: KB3FCJ, W3HOA, KB3PCY, KB3OGL, KB3TQS, W3QT, W3XE, WB3GCK, KB3CVC, K3EUI, W3JY, KB3MNL, K3YK, W3QA. Special thanks to Tom KB3TQS for supplying the repeater antenna support, to Guy N3MXB who coordinated the advance work on the event but could not participate, to George W3MWR for allowing us the use of his excellent radio site for the repeater, and to the superb NC stations: W3JY, WB3GCK, W3XE, KB3TQS, and KB3PCY. Thanks to all who sent in their email after-action reports, and to Al, W3HOA, for photos.

Common comments heard more than once:

  • My one-watt HT provided more than solid coverage on the 448.425 temporary repeater.
  • Using the 448 repeater was an excellent asset.
  • I thought communications went smoothly using the portable repeater with the exception of Mortonville and the Dive team. Maybe some further optimizing needed with respect to positioning the repeater.
  • The placement of observation points was well thought out.
  • Circuit discipline was exceptional and the net control stations were excellent.
  • The rotating NCS idea worked pretty well. Hand offs went smoothly. Given the lousy weather, it was a challenge to be the NCS at a remote site while on foot. I wasn't able to have any paperwork out there with me without it turning into paper mache.

  • Good signals were received at the Embreeville location on both 440 and 146 mhz.
    Having separate radios, I was able to relay traffic between K3YK (Diver Team ) and KB3FCJ, who was not able to hit the 440 temporary repeater from his Mortonville location. The relay operation for both stations operated satisfactorily.
  • I was able to pass traffic for the Jeep Wagons from Northbrook Canoe Company, who arrived to evacuate several people from KOA DAM, at approximately 2:00 PM. It should be noted that the diver team required assistance from ARES-RACES to pass traffic to the EMS units, as their 800 MHz hand-held units would not work in that terrain. This was done easily between KB3TQS and Net Control.

From Craig WB3GCK at WATERWORKS (Corcoran's Bridge):

  • Right at the very end, the sweep canoe guided two young girls to my location, where I radioed in for transportation for them and their canoe. Other than that, it was quiet (and wet).
  • Communications was a snap from this location. I was able to hit the portable repeater with an HT running 0.5 watts into a 19-inch whip. I had some local QRM for a while from a spectator with a bull horn. It was a little hard to hear the radio at times! :-)

From Joe W3JY at NURSERY:

  • This part of Chester County’s terrain implies amplifiers and gain antennas for SOP. I could not hear several checkpoints [Mortonville, Dive Team] and they could not make either repeater or simplex with handies. (Gosh it would be fun to run an HF net there…)

From Barry K3EUI (with Dick KB3CVC) at CANOE-IN:

  • Nothing much to report on our location. All went smoothly, except the constant rain.

From Martin KB3PCY at HARLAN'S:

  • Sometimes when the weather man says "rain likely" he really means it, and I needed to be better prepared to keep myself and equipment dry.
  • I was prepared with up to 50 watts of power and a j pole antenna, 100 amp h of batteries but the HT worked fine at Harlan's and Northbrook. Signal strength was a level 4 at Harlans.
  • It was uneventful at Harlan's with the exception of the canoe with three kids getting stuck perpendicular to the current directly across from me.
  • It was a good idea to have kb3tqs positioned where he was. The folks eventually needing rescue were beginning to ask at Harlan's "how much further" so we should anticipate having rescue options at around the half way mark - which we did.

From Dave K3YK as DIVE TEAM liaison:

  • Had great difficulty in connecting to portable repeater from 100 yards upstream of Harvey’s Bridge.
  • Another station was supposedly going to monitor for me on 146.52, but when we had traffic about the injured women, was unable to get response from anyone. Was able get attention via HT on the repeater and got traffic through.
  • Portable mobile rig had problems due to excessive moisture due to rain. Dive team vehicle had fiberglass and aluminum roof, mag mount antenna was not an option plus needed the comms away from the vehicle (river side). [The perfect case for a 1/2 wave antenna on suction cups or a roll-up J-Pole and coax hoisted into a tree! Ed.] Radio did receive the repeater, so I could hear traffic and relay messages to dive team.
  • IC-92AD HT: Reported audio distortion on my sigs probably due to constant rain and having to hold it in air to make contacts. Despite being advertised as water proof, don’t believe operation is as efficient in weather like Sunday's.
  • Only real incident of concern was the women struck in the forehead with a paddle. Was able to convince her to accept ride, but she did not want ambulance. Requested ambulance check her upon her arrival back at Northbrook. Patient was transported to hospital from that location.
  • Phoenixville FD Dive Team Captain thanked us for our continued assistance in providing communications to his team.

From Al W3HOA at DOE RUN:

  • Since everyone is just starting their sojourn at that point there are no serious problems yet--just the less expert getting hung up on the curve and limited passages.
  • From a radio standpoint I could not reach the new repeater with an HT and had to use the mobile rig which worked fine. If necessary I could have gone to Cross-band with the HT and mobile rig.
  • I could contact all stations between Mortonville and at least the Railroad Bridge on simplex easily from the Doe Run location so could have served as a link station if needed as I can monitor two frequencies simultaneously from the mobile.

--de W3QA