SLV Winlink Packet Survey

With help from KE6AFE and WB6RJH, I recently installed a Winlink RMS Packet gateway at the home station in the hopes that having easy access to one would enable me to regularly test my portable packet station — in the past I would assemble one for a specific ARES or public service deployment with bits and pieces, test it, use it for the deployment, and then pieces would be cannibalized for other projects, or software would be reinstalled. Although the topology at the house is not ideal for providing RF coverage, I thought that it would at least be a good exercise, and once set up, I could see if it added anything to the local network.

(I’ll write more about the station configuration in a later post; for this discussion it’s enough to know that it’s connected to a Kenwood TH-D700A radio running 50W into a j-pole on top of the house, but unfortunately below the lip of the canyon we live in.)

San Lorenzo Valley is served by two digipeaters, WR6AOK-3 above the middle of the valley on 145.690, and W6JWS-3 to the northeast on 145.630. In addition, WB6RJH operates WB6RJH-10 on 145.690 above the south half of the valley, with coverage extending into parts of Santa Cruz as well as most of Bonny Doon. Although not in San Lorenzo Valley, W6SCF-10 operates on 145.630, and is accessible from W6JWS-3.

Conferring with KE6AFE, we thought the best thing for me to do was put KF6GPE-10 at my home location running on 145.630, so that’s what I did. Over the month of August, the three of us performed a number of tests at locations known to be of interest during ARES activation, with a bias on Boulder Creek locations because that’s where I live and was most curious about possible simplex paths between Boulder Creek and KF6GPE-10.

I used a Kenwood TH-D72A HT running at 5W to the low-profile magmount antenna on my mobile station for the experiments.

Results were quite good, with redundant relays available at each location. I still need to exercise the WR6AOK digipeater more in both Ben Lomond and Boulder Creek; KE6AFE and WB6RJH provided me with a KA-Node script for relaying through WR6AOK that is more reliable than using plain AX.25 digipeating, but I’ve only tested that at one location. Knowing the regions that remain to be tested it does appear that each served agency location is likely to have access to at least two packet relays through at least two different paths on two different frequencies. Unfortunately, there aren’t as many simplex paths as I would like — as I feared, KF6GPE-10 is essentially unavailable by simplex from anywhere likely to be interesting (other than my living room and Redwood Elementary), and WB6RJH is far enough to the south that simplex at low power is not an option for locations very far north of Felton.

Without further ado, here are the results.
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