September / October 2012                                                                                                                          Volume 2, Issue 5
International Lighthouse & Lightship Weekend
WS1SM Team Activates Wood Island Lighthouse
by Tim Watson, KB1HNZ
 ws1sm banner wood island   
The weather was nearly perfect on August 19th, as members boarded the "Light Runner," a small aluminum landing craft, that would take us two miles out from Vines Landing in Biddeford Pool, to Wood Island, where we'd activate the 204 year old lighthouse for International Lighthouse and Lightship Weekend. The expedition also qualified for IOTA NA137 and US Islands ME103S.
Emergency Preparedness Fair
 Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Saco, Maine
 by Tim Watson, KB1HNZ
  Saco Emergency Preparedness Fair
On September 22nd, several club members attended an Emergency Preparedness Fair, which was held at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, in Saco. We set up a booth with information about emergency communications, and also an HF station, using a Yaesu FT-857D, running on battery power, and a BuddiPole rotatable dipole. The idea for this wasn't to make a lot of contacts, but to demonstrate how easily a fully operational two-way radio station could be setup in the field.
QSL Corner
Here's an interesting QSL featuring a special prefix commemorating the European Grand Prix, in Valencia, Spain. This year's race was won by the featured driver on the QSL, and current Formula One points leader, Fernando Alonso. (Contact made by W1WMG with Axel, on 20m SSB, at 2129 UTC on June 5, 2012).
Project: Building Pneumatic Antenna Launchers
Wassamki Springs Campground
by Tim Watson, KB1HNZ
Antenna Launcher
In August, WSSM members built pneumatic "antenna launchers" under the direction of Steve K1MV, who built the original prototype. The launchers are constructed using 3" and 1-1/2" pvc piping, a plumbing valve, an air gage, schrader valve, and a fishing reel. With about 40 pounds of air, they are capable of launching a weighted plastic slug several hundred feet - perfect for putting up that next wire antenna!
APRS on a Smartphone
iAPRS and OpenAPRS apps
by Tim Watson, KB1HNZ
  aprs fi 
Typically, APRS is done using a 2 meter FM transceiver, and the combination of a terminal node controller and GPS receiver, to "report" your location via the VHF automatic reporting system (APRS) network. While this method works well, it relies on fixed stations that are connected to the internet to relay position reports. So, what do you do if you're attempting to send reports from more rural areas that are beyond the reach of these fixed stations?

In two recent road trips - one to Ontario, Canada, and the latest to Burlington, Vermont, I decided to try APRS on my iPhone, using the iAPRS and OpenAPRS apps. Both of these are easy to setup, and can actually be done using the same username and password that you create at and anything that is reported via either of these apps can be viewed on the website.
FCC Seeks to Change Amateur Radio Licensing Rules
Allow Additional Emission Types

On October 2nd, the FCC issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that seeks to change the amateur radio licensing rules, especially as they concern former licensees. Acting upon a 2011 Petition for Rulemaking filed by the Anchorage VEC to give permanent credit to radio amateurs for examination elements they have successfully passed, the FCC proposes to revise Section 97.505 to require that Volunteer Examiners give examination credit to an applicant who can demonstrate that he or she formerly held a particular class of license. In addition, the FCC seeks to shorten the grace period during which an expired license may be renewed, and reduce the number of VE's needed to administer an amateur radio license exam.  

Upcoming Meetings October 10th  from 7PM-9PM at the Gorham Recreation Department
November 8th
- from 7PM-9PM at the Gorham Recreation Department 
Welcome New Members
Click here to view items for sale, upcoming hamfests, announcements, and wanted items.

The Wireless Society of Southern Maine would like to welcome new members, Stefania Chiruta YO9GJY, and Angie Turner N1MKT.


From the Editor's Desk

Recently, while driving along the NY State Thruway somewhere between Albany and Syracuse, I had a QSO with some hams in the area about dx clusters and their use in contesting and DXing. We talked about packet clusters and internet sites such as DXWatch and DX Summit, but surprisingly, none of them spoke very much about the Reverse Beacon Network, except to say "oh, that's that CW skimming thing." This prompted me to do some research on just how the Reverse Beacon Network works, and whether it can be a useful tool for the assisted or multiop contester. 

                                         The "spot search" feature allows visitors to search spot history for a specific callsign

The RBN is a combination of several technologies. At its core is a software developed by Alex Shovkoplyas VE3NEA, called CW Skimmer. The software is capable of capturing and decoding several CW signals at once, and has the ability to feed spots directly into logging software. It didn't take long before someone thought of the potential of using this to feed the world via a web server. In early 2008, Felipe Ceglia PY1NB, founder of, and Pete Smith N4ZR, began discussions on how to do just that. Felipe saw a way in which the basic framework of DXWatch could be modified and adapted to display skimmer spots. He wrote a software called Aggregator, to receive spots from skimmer's telnet servers and transmit them to the website for display. Over the next two years, the RBN focused on recruiting a network of stations throughout the world to submit skimmer spots.

                                                                                                                          Spot history for 3D2C for September 29 - 30

One of the latest features to be added to the RBN website is a Signal Analysis Tool, which is a way to graphically compare signals of multiple stations on multiple bands as heard by a single skimmer anywhere in the world. Pete Smith writes in his article about the history of the RBN, that "a couple of key hardware and software developments added momentum to the RBN's development." These include the SDR-IQ receiver offered by RFSpace (, and W3OA's SkimScan software. The combination made multiband spotting with a single receiver possible for the first time. Further developments include Phil Covington's, QS1R software defined receiver, with a large field-programmable gate array. In the summer of 2009, VE3NEA released Skimmer Server, which could simultaneously decode a swath of up to 192 kHz on up to seven bands, using the QS1R.

According to Smith, by early 2011 60 to 70 skimmers worldwide were feeding spots to the RBN, and during last year's CQWW contest 114 unique skimmers contributed during the weekend. 

                                                                         Current spots for September 30th. Note the cw speed that is detected, as well as snr.

The RBN exists because of volunteer contributions from software and hardware developers and individual skimmer stations that colllect and forward data. The DXWatch platform on which the website is based, contains many useful tools, such as a spot history search and the ability to filter spots to suit your needs, by creating a "watch list." Skimmer spots are updated as often as every 5 seconds and can be adjusted to your liking.

                                                                                            Spotting activity and grayline map displayed on the RBN home page

Being as competitive as international contesting is, it didn't take long before controversey emerged over just how to categorize the Reverse Beacon Network. Should it be considered the same as a traditional DX Cluster, and therefore be limited to use by assisted and multiop contesters only? Or, could non-assisted single operators take advantage of this new technology? So far, its considered among the traditional clusters, and in my opinion, this is a good call, since the RBN is a cluster and a whole lot more. Click the link below to check it out for yourself.


Tim Watson

rbn banner
Acknowledgments: Smith, Pete. "A Brief History of the Reverse Beacon Network." National Contest Journal. September/October 2012. ARRL: Newington, CT pp12-13.
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