Posts Tagged ‘Galway’

Burren Walk

Monday, September 6th, 2010

The Burren walk traditionally takes place on the last Saturday of August each year. In its earlier years this event was run by an orienteering group that was about to be wound up when the Galway VHF Group and the Galway Civil Defence decided to continue to run the event themselves.

The walk is a circular route from Fanore Beach car park onto a Green Road, towards Gleninagh and Black head before a descending route to the Finish at Fanore Beach car park. There are six checkpoints manned by a Radio operator and Civil Defence personnel. There are three circuits in this walk that offer a 27k, 24k and 14k loop designated the A, B, and C walks. The operation is on 80 meters as this is the only suitable means of communication across mountainous terrain. Four of the six checkpoints can be operated from vehicles and the remaining two require a good portable set up which is light enough to carry over a distance of some half an hour of a walk. Walkers were supplied with maps and directions and if all else failed they could ask the checkpoint operators to point them in the right direction.

The Galway VHF Group and Civil Defence met at 08:30 am in the Fanore Beach car-park. The registration area was in a large vehicle with slide doors on one side. In the mean time, Tom EI2GP placed direction signs along the route. A quick meeting was held to designate tasks, checkpoints and operations packs to the Civil Defence and respective Radio personnel.

Registration commenced from 09:00 onwards and the first few walkers were underway by 9:30. At this point each team made their way to checkpoints. Accountability for walkers is essential so the logging aspect was of paramount importance. At intervals a check-in to base occurred where the numbers we logged also. At times walkers would appear to go missing which was probably due to a delay whilst they had lunch. Sure enough they would appear at their next point eventually. There was no excuse to get lost, although many actually walked past signs as they ware so busy soaking up the scenery.

The portable operators used FT817 transceivers with an output power of five watts (Peak Eenvelope Power) Single Side Band into an MP1 mini-screwdriver antenna. This is a very lightweight kit easily transportable in a rucksack. Probably the heaviest part of this station would be the lead acid gel battery. For a full day of activity a 7 AH battery is recommended. The internal battery pack is slightly short of 2 AH and seldom lasts for the full day. The mobile operators used Pro-Am whips and sufficient power to enable good readability for the duration of the event. Apart from the FT817 operators, the rest could get by on 10 watts with no difficulty. One operator was using the Tarheel mobile screwdriver on his vehicle which worked well also.

Net Control would periodically update each checkpoint with the numbers of walkers that had registered until the cut off point at mid-day. One or two were sneaked in after that time on the proviso that they would not delay in the early stages. Once all walkers were accounted for at a checkpoint, 20 minutes grace was given to allow for them to turn back otherwise it was assumed they were to continue. The checkpoint could then stand down. At times a walker would decide to transfer from a shorter walk to the longer walk in which case net control would be alerted by the checkpoint in question who would then appraise the following checkpoints of the walker’s intentions.

Probably the most worrying point of the walk is the last two checkpoints where walkers occasionally manage to bypass a checkpoint and it is then not possible to account for them until they are reach next point or even the finish. This year there were only a few that managed to miss the vital point at checkpoint 5. As a precaution, another point was set up along the road to take numbers of walkers passing. Often walkers do not check in at the finish point. By having the checkpoint on the road we were able to check that they were off the hills safely. It is surprising how many people purposely make it their business to bypass checkpoints. We had told them at the start that any who did not check in would have the rescue services initiated on their behalf and that they would be liable for the bill afterwards. This year none bypassed the finish line!

At the end of the walk, the gear was stowed away and a final check of the site was made before leaving. All of those who participated were treated to a sumptuous feast and drink in Hyland’s Hotel in Ballyvaughan as a reward for the day’s work.

In conclusion our 80 meter links worked well despite the fact that number of operators in the another country decided to establish a net on the frequency we had been using since 09:30 and then whine about the Interference from Irish stations! The FT817s can only be described as a fantastic radio with their performance surpassing all expectations, although one has to bring an additional gel cell battery as the internal battery pack is not sufficient for a long day of operating. Would be SOTA enthusiasts do take note! The days operation was very smooth and uneventful, with only one walker eluding a checkpoint but was caught at the following one. The success of this operation is generally dictated by the long periods of silence that denotes all is well. The end of walk accountability worked well and there were no excessive delays as everybody was checked in at the final checkpoints and the finish.

Special thanks to the following operators: Gerry EI8DRB Checkpoint 1 and the final check along the road section, John EI7FAB Checkpoint 2, Enda EI3IS at checkpoint 3, John EI1EM on checkpoint 4, Tom Rea on Checkpoint 5, Joe EI3IX on checkpoint 6 and Steve EI5DD on registration and Net Control. Special thanks to Civil Defence who provided First Aid cover and personnel to assist at the checkpoints.
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Galway Walking Club Marathon

Saturday, August 21st, 2010

The Galway Walking Club Marathon took place on the 14th of August over a 26 mile distance from Killary to Maam Bridge. Four operators from the Galway VHF Group, operating on 80 metres, manned the 6 checkpoints. Duties included the accountability of walkers between checkpoints, the organisation of transport or medical attention for walkers who were unable to continue their walk and the organisation of additional supplies of water and refreshment to each checkpoint. A half-marathon was also run in conjunction with the main event.

The HF equipment was installed in vehicles the night before the event and aerials were tuned prior to the event. At 8 am walkers were deployed from buses to the start of the walk. The operators made their way to checkpoints and were operational immediately.

Whilst the 80 metre band was noisy in the early part of the day it provided excellent communications throughout the event. Transport was organised for any walker who could not continue and Civil Defence were on hand to assist with any first aid requirements.

Information regarding walker who were unable to continue was passed onto the next checkpoint. At all times the number of walkers between checkpoints was known. The sweepers communicated with checkpoints via PMR handheld radios confirming that all walkers had passed through.

Communication between checkpoints was excellent and an updates were easily received by all operators. Once all of the walkers had passed through a checkpoint, the operator was then free to hop to the next free checkpoint and take up position.

This system worked very well and shifting band conditions had no effect on the communications throughout the day. 80 metres provided an excellent system for communication in mountainous terrain where even the most sophisticated network of VHF Repeaters would be a waste of time and effort. One frequency was used at all times and everyone was able to receive updates as required. When the event was finished two operators, driving home by different routes, remained in contact for the duration of the journey that would not have been possible by direct communication on VHF. Mobile phones were of little use due to the restrictions in coverage.

Special thanks to John, EI1EM, Tom EI2GP, Steve EI5DD, and Arthur EI7GMB who operated the checkpoints at this event.

Galway Regatta

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

The Galway Regatta is run on an annual basis on the River Corrib. The event is based on a three lane race down a course of 1200 metres. There are a large number of crews  entering the water whilst others are leaving at the finish of their event. Sensible traffic control at the slips prevented accidents and also ensured that there are not too many crews located in the one area at any time- a recipe for disaster if tempers fray. The event is run to strict time schedule which means that all areas have to be clued-in and updated regularly to ensure smooth running. Any delays result in total congestion which can result in accidents.

Tom, EI2GP, was located at the start line of the race and would advise when crews are leaving and heading down the course. At this point the operator on the slips ensures that boats do not row onto the course and also prevents the area becoming too congested at the same time. Steve, EI5DD was located at the finish line which is where the organisation and logistics of the event took place. Message handling involved

  1. Passing information about crews who would not be taking part and therefore not taking to the water
  2. Crews who would be participating at a later stage as a result of winning their race and therefore entering a semi-final or final (information required to determine what time the boats would be going back on the water)
  3. Calling for crews to row towards the start as quickly as possible
  4. Advising of any river traffic heading up the course, and
  5. Logging of accidents during the event and deployment of safety crews.

From 9 am there was a constant flow of information as crews were co-ordinated to a strict schedule in order to accommodate the number of races during the day. There were stiff breezes which affected some of the less experienced crews often blowing them off course and into reeds. Rescue crews were quite busy under the circumstances. The water level of the Corrib was also lower than usual, due to the recent dry spells.  A couple of crews ran aground and had to be towed off the rocks whilst another actually capsized.  The slip area was constantly busy under the auspices of Enda, EI3IS. Enda was updated with changes to the schedule and thereby able to call crews to the water as required. Messages regarding crews encountering difficulty with equipment were passed enabling their event to be re-scheduled.

The operators at this event have become quite familiar with how it ‘runs’ this year,  new operators were present and were monitoring the activity to observe, consider the implications of incorrect information being passed as the event progresses, before taking part the following year.

Croi Cycle Race, Galway

Friday, May 28th, 2010

Members of the Galway VHF Group provided Public Service Communications during the annual Croi Cycle on Sunday the 23rd of May. The group assembled at 7:45 am to install mobile equipment into the various vehicles used to control the event. Tom, EI2GP, was Medical officer for the day and doubled as spotter in case or cases of emergency throughout the lengthy convoy of cyclists. Gerry, EI8DRB, Provided Net Control and liaison with the HQ in he Maam Valley.  Steve, EI5DD, and Arthur, EI7GMB, were located in the course organisers vehicles covering the safety of the event. John EI7FAB, and Joe EI3IX were located with the Repair Crews and dealt with any equipment failures or punctures. Enda, EI3IS, was based in the HQ and dealt with messages regarding the location of cyclists and deployment of refreshments. John, EI1EM, and Eamon Lynch were located with the Civil Defence Emergency Crews.

Quite a number of the Cyclists were relative amateurs and participated to the half way point in Maam whilst other more seasoned individuals cycled the complete course around the Corrib which was some 67 miles. The weather was quite hot with only a light breeze and there was quite a call for supplies of water and refreshments to be deployed from one location to another. Much of this was handled via the communications system.

The repair crews were kept busy throughout the event. Many calls were put out to assist cyclists stopped by the side of the road with punctures. Any station spotting a cyclist in trouble would put the call down the line and one of three crews would be dispatched in record time. It was possible to deal with many of the mechanical failures such as gear and chain problems although some had to be brought to base in the trailer as a last resort.

Communications were good and reliable for the duration of the event and operators were quick to pick up and relay messages where necessary. The liaison with the Civil Defence worked well and on two occasions there were calls for medical assistance which were dealt with quickly and efficiently. Civil Defence had two fully trained EMT’s in the Ambulance who demonstrated their expertise with a fast response time and assessment of the situation (a head and neck injury dispatched by ambulance to the Regional Hospital following medical assessment by EI2GP) Time of call to arrival at scene of accident was 4 minutes. The HF link provided excellent cover throughout the course and enabled the Medical Officer to be contacted even when arriving at the Regional Hospital in Galway.

This year is the sixteenth year that the Croi Cycle has been run and the Galway VHF Group has provided the Emergency Communications for each of the events to date. Every year there have been new challenges which have been easily incorporated into the operation and sometimes co-ordinated even whilst the event is in progress. One comment that summed it all up was that “there was comfort in knowing exactly what was happening when a question was asked”. Something that perhaps could not occur when using mobile phones on a one to one basis.

Report compiled by Steve Wright, EI5DD