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Just before 3 a.m. on Sunday, a clear signal on VHF radio from J88CU – Sean Patterson broke the silence of the quiet but breezy environment of the YWAM compound in Mayreau, to signal the start of another communications readiness exercise, designed to prepare local radio amateurs (Hams) for the 2024 storm season. 

Meteorologists are forecasting an above-normal year for named storms, as the earth is registering higher temperatures, and high sea temperatures are the “fuels” for tropical cyclones.

The communications exercise tested the use of field stations, including the Grenadines, some operated by battery power only. 

In the case of Mayreau, communications equipment is available but there is a lack of trained volunteers. 

A training session was organised and volunteers from Mayreau were ready to be trained. However, a burglary in St. Vincent forced the trainer to return prematurely, resulting in the session being postponed indefinitely.

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Therefore, the Rainbow Radio League Inc/Youlou Radio Movement

used the equipment donated by Barrett Communications AU, to ensure it was operational and to provide basic training for local volunteers.

Contacts from Mayreau were made with stations from Fancy, Rose Hall, Belmont, Biabou, Bequia, Canouan, Calder, Dorsetshire Hill, Vermont, Kingstown and further afield including stations from Tobago, Dominica, St. Thomas, St. Lucia, Grenada and the United States.

The readiness exercise also used Winlink, a free software that allows licensed radio amateurs to send and receive emails wirelessly and independent of the fibre internet service.  

Therefore, if a hazard impacts and compromises the fibre internet service, radio amateurs, once they have electricity, can send and receive emails.

This is the first year that the RRL/YRM has experimented with Winlink. 

Pioneering Winlink were Sean – J88CU, Reni King – J88DM and Arington –J88SE with international contacts including Paul Lowman – K9PSL and Jeff KE2HK in the US and, among others, Frans Santibrink – J69DS. 

The RRL/YRM said it plans to expand the number of volunteers using Winlink but this depends on funding from corporate society to provide some laptops running Win 10 or above to provide a reliable service. 

These laptops can be refurbished units in working condition.

Director of the RRL/YRM Donald De Riggs – J88CD — said that he was pleased with the outcome of the readiness exercise and that there is a group of Vincentian radio operators who are now ready for the 2024 hurricane season which officially begins on June 1.