An uneasy peace in the North Wales repeater war descended over Llandudno this weekend (8th May 2010) as GB3LL was returned to service. Not that there was any sign of a cessation of hostilities just a ceasefire. The peace was only in the metaphoric sense as well, as the real peace was disturbed by peculiar howling noise from the repeater when people tried to access it. There was no sooner a warning on the North Wales Radio Society website, not to use the repeater, than the fault rectified itself only to reappear later and from time to time since. Bearing in mind the problems UKFM repeater Group Western have had in getting to this stage there is deep scepticism as to when this latest fault will be dealt with. The problem is those responsible for the upkeep are physically too far removed from the repeater so surely turning the thing over to NWRS to run is a sensible thing as they will have someone on the spot to deal with a fault who does not have to drive a round trip on well just under 200 miles even to throw the off switch.
Other issues are a reported loss of signal strength and sensitivity. Gordon MW0GBR reports that he is only six miles from the repeater with line of sight and he could previously hear GB3LL easily on a handheld throughout his property but now needs to find a ‘hotspot’. Rob GW6STK is further South and reports the repeater strength is down even more at his location. Softly spoken stations sound okay through the repeater but those that are a bit louder are causing distortion that makes listening uncomfortable. Gordon asks for those using the repeater to back off the microphone until the technicians have made their adjustments.
Liz Cabban GW0ETU brought up a point that never occurred to me and that is how important the GB3LL repeater is to the tourist trade. Hundreds of thousands of tourist visit Llandudno every year and some of those are radio amateurs. The ability to talk to locals and find out where things are and what is going on is quite important and often these amateur radio tourists return year after year because they make friends of other hams in the area they met on GB3LL. Many of them keeping in touch via HF, Echolink and Skype for the rest of the year. In the words of an EI station who first visited Llandudno for the North Wales Radio Rally in the seventies, but who did not want to be identified, “I keep coming back because they’re a great bunch of lads down here. Hell one year one of them even got a round in.”
Anyway hats off to G8LZO and G8NSS for getting the repeater back, NWRS can call off the dogs for a while, but please guys don’t stay away too long. A more permanent solution to this problem is still required as the expense of the two G8s travelling from Stoke-On-Trent to Llandudno in petrol alone is money that would be better spent in improving GB3LL and other repeaters in North Wales and the North West of England. Even if these two are not claiming expenses it is money better in their pockets than that of the taxman and the oil companies. In today’s world it is just not green. Think about your carbon foot print chaps.
I have to say having operated portable from the Great Orme it is an absolute mess RF wise with all sorts of interference all the way from the long wave broadcast frequencies up to in to the microwaves. So how on Earth they manage to get GB3LL to perform at all is amazing. Let us hope that, on the next trip the engineers make, everything is restored to the way those that use it would like and that it keeps running for a while to let the smoke clear. Otherwise come the North Wales Radio Rally Elwyn and Dai will be waiting for the RSGB’s President and UKFM repeater Group Western’s Chairman with the year old misshapen hen’s eggs that Elwyn was saving for Gordon Brown if he ever came to North Wales and the daughters of Ceridwen will be chanting his name as they stir their cauldrons.