Home' Afloat : AFLOAT June 2014 Contents Take monthly with water June 2014 15
s Engineering & Fabrication
s Repower & Refit Specialist
s Propulsion & Steering Systems
s Onboard Systems
s Servicing all Diesel & Petrol
s Insurance Repairs
31 Brooklyn Rd, Brooklyn
Ph: 02 9985 7885
Sales – Service – Parts
I have been reading the many letters in recent issues of Afloat
and feel compelled to try to explain the real problems with the
Marine Rescue NSW HF communications.
It is simply not possible to provide real HF radio
communications from the typical MR bases on the NSW coast. MR
NSW know that – and your readers should be told the true story.
Many MR bases do not have HF radio while some others have
HF but are listening on 2182 kHz with the volume turned down to
eliminate the background noise. There are a few that use higher
frequencies but all admit to limited range.
The reason is that HF antennas require space – lots of space
and a location outside built up areas, which is why Kordia is
located at Charleville in Qld and Wiluna in outback WA. You
simply cannot have a HF whip or length of wire on top of a small
building amongst multiple VHF and 27 MHz antennas and expect
to have even reasonable HF coverage.
The other problem is the bases with HF are ‘listening’ (and
I use that term loosely) on the wrong frequency.
For decades the accepted frequency for pleasure craft
contacting Limited Coast Stations was 2524 kHz. I’m sure it
still is in other states. The distress and calling frequency 2182
kHz goes back to era for ships to call the OTC and other official
I don’t recall a pleasure craft calling on 2182 kHz in nearly 30
years, except possibly to the old Sydney Radio. Anyone in MR
NSW who has decided the bases should monitor 2182 kHz either
knows nothing about pleasure craft HF communications or they
are paying lip service to comply with some requirement of the
bureaucracy. Either way it is not helping the boating public in
NSW coastal waters.
In 1981 when Penta Comstat originally had 4483 kHz allocated
and was authorised to provide a HF service for pleasure craft, we
had to lease a property of several acres at Holgate in order to
comply with the license conditions and to provide a reasonable
HF ser vice. Holgate was not an ideal site but over the next 16 years
it did enable us to gain national and international recognition
for our HF service.
Finding a good HF site is not easy and we spent months
looking around the NSW Mid-North Coast before purchasing a
property at Firefly and the Penta Comstat HF station was relocated
early 1998. The property was 10 acres amidst 100 acre properties
with a low voltage power line to the property so it was very quiet
electrically and the space to build an antenna farm.
Over the years at Firefly, until we closed our voice service
in September 2006, we had the facilities to transmit on three
frequencies with another radio scanning for Selcall while
maintaining a watch on six distress frequencies 2-16 MHz with
five other transceivers operating on our SailMail service – all
without cross interference. We also had telephone interconnect
facilities that allowed SAR or medical services to speak directly
through our HF radios to a vessel requiring assistance.
All of that should now be operating by MR NSW.
When my wife was admitted to aged care in August 2011 I
placed the property on the market. A couple of MR communication
officers and a director from Sydney did a drive-by to look at our
antenna farm because they were looking to set up a HF station
that would cover NSW.
They noticed the ‘For Sale’ sign and approached the real
estate agent and later contacted me. They offered to purchase the
property through the agent and negotiated directly with me for
the purchase of the radio infrastructure and other equipment. MR
were also looking for better training facilities and the premises
Over the following months and a couple of visits by the MR
officers to Firefly, our solicitors had negotiated all the contract
details with the MR solicitors. We supplied all the information on
council approvals etc they requested and I agreed to give MR my
intellectual rights to everything including our publishing business
to assist them in publishing an updated communication manual.
A week after they were due to have exchanged contracts, our
agent contacted MR and our solicitors contacted the MR solicitors,
and both were advised that MR were not going ahead with the
purchase. I don’t know the reason why because they never had
the common courtesy to let me know.
We very quickly sold the property to another buyer who had
been interested, removed all the radio equipment, salvaged the
antennas then cut the towers off at ground level then cut them
up and sent them to the tip.
What a waste. And the boating public of NSW obviously still
do not have anything you could call a HF radio service.
* Derek Barnard operated the marine radio communications base Penta Comstat
with his wife Jeanine for thirty years.
Having great technical skill and with a deep understanding of radio, Derek also did
much to educate the boating public about marine radio, writing practical articles about
the do’s and don’ts of radio installations, radio signal propagation, and monitoring
long-range frequencies around the Australia coast and into the Pacific.
Marine Rescue HF Radio
by Derek Barnard*
Links Archive AFLOAT May 2014 AFLOAT July 2014 Navigation Previous Page Next Page