Winlink Bridge

I live in Marion County, Florida and it is a very large county. It has one fairly good city city, Ocala, and many small towns and what they call unincorporated areas. You could even call them villages. The Marion County Sheriff’s Department is quite large and provides many services besides patrolling the streets to keep us safe. One such service is The Emergency Operation Center.

The amateurs who work with the MCSO are the Marion Emergency Radio Team, or MERT. The man the amateur radio facility in the EOC during emergencies. Their preferred form of communicating with the EOC is through Winlink using the proper forms with KG4NXO as the mail recipient.

The easiest way to do this is using the Winlink Telnet system, a direct connection through the internet. But, if the internet is down where you are, then VHF radio with a TNC or sound card with your radio and connecting to one of the Winlink Gateways in Marion County is the solution.

This is how Marion County is set up for Winlink: https://w9cha.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/04/Marion-County-VHF-WINLINK-Packet-Gateways.pdf. If you are considering using a Signalink soundcard, this document will come in handy for the setup: https://w9cha.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/UnderstandingAudioChannelConfiguration.pdf

I thought I would catch you up on what I have been doing with my Winlink gateway. I am sitting between Woody’s station on 145.030 and the EOC also on 145.030.  Obviously, there are 145.630 gateways around the county, but I thought a separate frequency might come in handy.

I downloaded a document from Gordon Gibby, KX4Z, who is in Alachua County and is a Winlink system advisor.  The document shows how to create a gateway using a Signalink sound system with a compatible radio.  The document is https://w9cha.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/05/rms-setup.pdf .

I am using a Yaesu FT-2980 VHF radio and Signalink connection to a Dell Windows 10 computer. The radio is connected to a J-pole antenna about 20′ off the ground.

In order to comply with Winlink system operator requirements, the station has to be up 24/7/365 and have backup power. I have a separate generator for my radio equipment ready to go. It is on line and gets checked every 20 minutes through the KG4NXO-10 beacon.

Now I have to check over the air to make sure it works. It didn’t, at first (Windows problems solved by another computer), but it does now. In order to check it, I have a second Signalink connected to a Yaesu FT-70DR HT and small laptop in a go-kit. The range is limited because of the HT antenna and power, but it does connect and works fine into W9CHA-10 with no problem.

I can also use W9CHA-10 as a digipeater and connect to W3HII-10 south of me and KG4NXO at the EOC, both ways work fine.