CAARA is an ARRL affiliated Special
Service Club located at 6 Stanwood St.
in Gloucester Massachusetts.

The History of the Gloucester Repeater

By: Robert W. Spanks, Jr. WA1UCG

In March of 1978 The Cape Ann Amateur Radio Association was in flux. During the Blizzard of 1978 we lost our President Norman (Dave) Curley. Dave was a member of the Can Do crew which was lost at sea. Dave had taken office in September from Tom Bernie K0TB (WB0BYJ).

After the funeral in early March, CAARA Directors held a special meeting to determine how and who would replace Dave. Warren Grimes WX1R (WA1YLX) stepped up to the plate. Warren agreed to be the president and was elected by the board and approved by the membership.

During that time in Amateur Radio 2 Meter use was expanding and becoming more popular. Rigs available were mostly crystal controlled. One of the early non crystal-controlled rigs was manufactured by Heathkit; the HW2036. That rig allowed you to dial in the frequency and you could set the transmitter either +600kHz or -600kHz. Repeaters in the area were Salem 146.88, Topsfield 147.285, Derry New Hampshire 146.85, Boston 145.23, Waltham 146.64 to name a few of the popular repeaters that were in use from the cape.

At the April 1978 meeting of CAARA President Warren Grimes, under new business, spoke at length to the membership about the need and direction he wanted the club to go. Warren STRONGLY felt that the way of the future and expansion of membership in CAARA was to have our own repeater on Cape Ann. Warren went on to explain that he recognized the club was small and at that time we did not have much money in the treasury but, even if we needed to give up the building and meet in a church basement or at the Civil Defense Headquarters at the DPW Yard on Poplar Street, the money we were spending on the building could be put towards purchasing a new repeater, duplexers, and Phelps Dodge antennas which would give us a great start.

Members left the meeting that night with a lot to think and talk about. Many of the members talked on their own about different ideas of how the club should proceed when they got together for coffee or breakfast.

Three members got together and talked about how they could put a repeater on the air what would be needed and how to do it for very little money. Those members were Ralph Karcher W1RK, Fran Vidal W1US (WA1HCN) and Tom Bernie K0TB (WB0BYJ). Larry Sargent W1ZBE was also involved and offered to help in any way he could.

Ralph Karcher got a hold of President Warren Grimes and gave him the news that we would have a repeater on Cape Ann and we did not have to vacate the building that we would have both because they all felt that having our own building was also important to the growth of CAARA.

Warren proceeded to call all the directors and give them the news that Ralph had relayed and that the group would let the club know what would be needed and the cost at the next CAARA meeting. All the directors were pleased with the outcome and waited to hear from the group.

At the May meeting of CAARA the details were laid out for the members. Ralph Karcher stated that in order to place a repeater on the air we would use split sites. A receiver to be located at the Clubhouse and a transmitter would be located at Fran Vidal's house at 26 Harrison Avenue so the transmitter could be controlled by Fran should anything fail or the transmitter locked on and transmitted a continuous signal.

CAARA would need to provide a DEDICATED LINE from the telephone company from the clubhouse to Fran's home. Ralph stated that he had a Motorola transmitter and receiver at home and he had begun to modify them for the 2 meter band. Ralph also stated that he had begun a search for a frequency so we could proceed forward. Ralph also stated that Tom Bernie was working on an interface device and relay so the signal that was received at the receiver could be converted and transmitted over the dedicated line to the transmitter and yes we have a repeater. Ralph also mentioned that he would be devising a timer and ID circuit to ID the repeater every 10 minutes as was required by FCC Regulations.

So work began … After a few weeks Ralph notified Warren that he found a frequency the frequency was 147.345 / 147.945. CAARA ordered Crystals per the specifications stated by Ralph and the final preparations were in progress.

The transmitter was installed at Fran's location. The club had a 2 meter Cushcraft antenna donated and the receiver and antenna were installed at the clubhouse. I believe it was in the month of June. Preliminary checks were done and all worked as designed.

Fran Vidal did the necessary paper work as control operator to notify the FCC that he was placing a repeater on the air, its location, a map showing effective radiated power, and how the system worked. CAARA had its own repeater WA1HCN/R.

Well everything was going well. CAARA stations were testing signals left and right … Great signals up the line in Peabody, Beverly, Danvers, Newburyport, Seabrook, NH. We thought Wow this is great Gloucester is on the map. Then one Saturday morning we heard a signal … and some stations talking. They sounded just like they were in downtown Gloucester and we heard another ID and listened … That does not sound like WA1HCN/R. Well as luck would have it there had been another repeater on that frequency located in Webster, Massachusetts. The Webster Repeater had not been on the air for a while. The repeater owner put the station back on the air with a new repeater setup as there was interest for 2 meter operation in that area again and now we had two (2) repeaters on the same frequency which could key up each other.

The CAARA Club via Ralph Karcher W1RK and Warren Grimes WX1R (WA1YLX) contacted the owner and tried to work out a way that we could both stay on the frequency. CAARA tried different antenna heights, different phase antenna patterns but nothing worked. The Webster Repeater was located on a high mountain (I believe it was 500 above sea level) and located on a tower that was 200 feet tall. So you can see how line of site worked well for them.

After figuring that this frequency would not work out for both repeaters, Ralph Karcher again searched the 2 meter frequencies for an alternate frequency. This time Ralph searched and listened for 3 weeks. Finally he felt comfortable with his alternate frequency and told Warren Grimes. The decision was made to switch to the frequency 145.130 / 144.530. So CAARA once again ordered new crystals, Ralph Karcher went to Fran Vidal's location and installed the crystals retuned the transmitter and yes we the CAARA Repeater was back in business. We now had a new frequency, no interference and signals were great just as before. So Fran Vidal notified the FCC about the change and submitted all the necessary paper work.

The repeater ran great, CAARA started to increase its membership and interest in the NEW CLUB located at the END of THE WORLD in Gloucester was the talk all up and down the NORTH SHORE.

Well the only down side of locating the repeater at Fran Vidal's location was when he tried to operate his HF Station it would interfere with the repeater. So Fran Vidal suggested that the club try to find another location for the transmitter that would be better than his location.

Fran Vidal had some contacts at Varian and he spoke to them about the possibility of locating the transmitter at their site. Fran wrote a letter to the President and CEO of Varian and explained what he was looking for and the benefits that CAARA provided to the community Varian agreed to allow us to place the transmitter and antenna on their property.

CAARA then began the process of relocating the dedicated line from Fran Vidal's location to Varian a small group of CAARA members coordinated with Varian's Maintainace Department Manager as to a location for the repeater within Varian's building and where we could mount the antenna and how to run the coax to the transmitter. This all took place quickly and the transmitter was relocated.

Now signal tests were again being done by the users and what we found out was Varian was a higher location than Fran's and the transmit signals were going father out. Of course the down side was the "EARS" better known as the receiver was not as sensitive to match the transmit power. So in an effort to better balance the two we decreased the transmit power and it helped a little bit.

In 1978 at the Annual Meeting Fran asked the club to begin a search for another Repeater Trustee? CARRA members at the Annual meeting thanked Fran Vidal for helping the club to get a repeater on the air. At that meeting Milt Ratynski K1MSS agreed to take over the trustee position as soon as the paperwork was complete with the FCC and Ralph Karcher could get the new IC chip with Milt's call sign. Also at that meeting President Warren Grimes was stepping down and CAARA had just elected John Graves WA1JG (WB1EHL) to the Presidency. Warren thanked everyone who was involved with making the repeater a reality and he said he felt very strong that CAARA would continue to GROW now that people knew GLOUCESTER had a club and repeater.

So beginning in October 1978 we had a new trustee, a new Repeater Call sign K1MSS/R and a new President.

Things continued to go well with the repeater and the club. CAARA started a 2 meter net in order to get more use out of the repeater. In the beginning not on a regular bases or night it mostly was someone getting on the repeater and calling a net to order and see who would check in. The best part was to see who would check in the farthest distance away.

The repeater had a lot of use by commuters going and coming from work. Just idle chit chat and CAARA was on the rise. Members were joining, members were excited to come to the clubhouse for Sunday coffee and doughnuts and we were beginning to get involved with Public service events with the city.

The first event was in September 1978 the around the Cape Road Race on Labor Day. Fran Vidal who was the Dispatcher at the Gloucester Police Department asked the club to assist the Police department with communications for the race. It was a big success and the race committee was very impressed with the communications we provided.

The repeater continued to run excellent … but in August of 1979 MURPHY'S LAW kicked in. Something happened to the transmitter and the output was so weak that you could not get a signal from Varian to the bottom of the rotary. If you went around the rotary and started up 128 or if you went around the rotary and started up Washington Street either in the direction of AGH or towards the train station you could not hear the repeater.

Ralph Karcher was contacted and agreed to look at the transmitter to see what had happen. Ed Araujo AK1U went and got the repeater transmitter from Varian and delivered it to Ralph at his home. CAARA was worried because we had committed to the Road race committee to provide communications for the race which was 3 weeks away. Ralph notified John Graves and the directors that they would not have to worry about the race as the problem was bad but he could fix it and have it ready in about a week to 10 days. The problem was Old equipment, Old parts eventually break down. That's what happen. Well good old Ralph went to work on it and rebuilt the COMPLETE TRANSMITTER with parts he had in his shack. In just 3 days Ralph notified Ed Araujo that it was ready to be put back in service. Ed picked up the transmitter reinstalled it at Varian made a few adjustments that Ralph suggested and just like new the repeater was stronger and better than ever.

In October 1980, Bob Spanks WA1UCG took over the presidency from John Graves WA1JG (WA1EHL). Bob and his directors had many ideas about to expand the club and what type of activities we should have. Building on Warren Grimes idea of a strong repeater Sunday night 2 meter nets were started. These took place at 7:00 p.m. weekly. The repeater held up great and we had anywhere from 5 to 10 check in's.

In April of 1981, Bob Spanks got word from Jack Harrigan W1PSG that the Topsfield repeater had purchased a new Kendacom repeater and a new set of duplexers. Bob (Woody) Wood W1VYI had the old repeater up for sale along with the home made duplexers. Bob Spanks called Woody and asked if he could come up and look at the duplexers and old repeater. Woody said sure come on up. So Bob jumped in his car and made the trip. Woody showed the repeater and duplexers to Bob and Bob Spanks asked him how much he wanted for the unit. Woody told Bob that if CAARA wanted it he would let it go for $100.00. Well in those days CAARA did not have a lot of cash that they could use so Bob Spanks asked Woody if he would hold the unit for a month till he could talk to some people and get the money. Woody told Bob I can do better than that just load it in your car and take it now. Well the unit was too big for the car so Bob Spanks made a call to Paul Bernard KA1BTM and asked when they could go and pick up the new repeater with Paul's truck. Paul said Sunday Morning so Sunday Bob and Paul jumped into the truck went to Topsfield and brought home the new CAARA Repeater. Good thing it was a Sunday morning as we had help to get the unit into the clubhouse and up those stairs to the second floor.

Ralph Karcher was contacted and told about the purchase and Ralph said he was familiar with the unit as he knew Woody and the receiver and transmitter was the same model as we were using. Motorola. Ralph fired up the repeater and did some tests took some measurements and said that we would need to do a little work but we would need to order a new set of crystals so he gave Bob Spanks the specifications that were needed and Bob ordered the new crystals.

Ralph also said that we would need a variable devise to control the voltage and current to the power supply and as always Ralph had one in his shack at home. We also purchased from Radio Shack a variable devise to control the squelch circuit.

Well in a couple of weeks Ralph had the Repeater all tuned up and ready to go. A few members made donations to CAARA and with those donations CAARA paid Woody in full, purchased two (2) new Cushcraft 2 meter antennas and 200 feet of new low loss coax and PL-259 connectors. Well CAARA was flying high we were about to retire the first repeater that Ralph Karcher and Tom Bernie had built and we were about to enter the "BIG LEAGUES", receiver, transmitter, controller and HOME MADE DUPLEXERS. We thought we had the world and Warren Grimes was saying with a big smile "TOLD YOU SO". I must admit Warren was right even though I wanted to toss him out the second window the night he suggested that we put a repeater on the air even if it meant giving up the building.

So the new repeater was installed at Varian we attached one of the antennas to the handrail on the roof which was part of the air cooling units on a 10 foot mast and we attached the second antenna to a 20 foot mast and mounted that antenna to the railing also with some guy wires to support the height.

Well CAARA was very surprised to find out that the receiver which was now located at Varian had improved greatly. CAARA figured that we would see some improvement but never imagined it would be as good as it was. After weeks of testing and recording contacts we were getting signals and stations checking in from all along the east coast from Massachusetts to Maine also to the south as far as Rhode Island and west as far as Concord, Massachusetts and the signals were clear and 85 to 100 % full quieting.

Things were working well with the new repeater, everyone was pleased and enjoying the coverage, but CAARA was about to find out what THERMAL HEAT was all about. Because the repeater was located in an enclosed cabinet and was located in a Mechanical Room at Varian the heat did a job with the squelch control circuitry, surprisingly the frequency did not drift as the crystals were in a crystal oven so the temperature was constant but the squelch that was another story. Ralph Archer always said the way to set the squelch is open it all the way then close it till the static noise disappeared then back it off till the noise is on the edge. Well that was what we did and that's when the fun began. We would have the repeater open and noise would appear, Bob Spanks or Jon Cunningham would run up to Varian and adjust it, then it would be closed to much and the stations on the extended limits of coverage could not access the repeater so we would open the squelch a bit, then the stations would be able to access the repeater again. Then the noise would appear again so one of us would head up to Varian and close it a bit. CAARA's routine was open ₀ close …open … close … but somehow we made it work. It was funny as I think about it today and I laugh. Not sure how Jon feels about that time.

At the annual meeting in September of 1981 Bob Spanks WA1UCG was elected President. Tom Andrew KA1GTA approached Bob in October 1981about what the cost of a new repeater and duplexers would be and what manufacture would be the best to purchase. Bob wondered why Tom was asking this and Tom told Bob he wanted to make a donation to CAARA of a new repeater and duplexers and Tom wanted Bob to research and get back to him. Well Bob felt a little uncomfortable spending Tom's money and he expressed that to Tom. Tom's reply was well let's do it another way would you research which manufactures and obtain quotes from them for what you feel would be a reliable repeater for CAARA to have and let me know the costs and I will let you know what to purchase. So it was agreed that is how CAARA would proceed.

In 1981 there were basically two manufacturers which supplied repeaters and duplexers to the amateur community, first was Spectrum Analyzer in Kansas City, MI and second were Kendercom in Groveland, MA.

Spectrum had been manufacturing repeaters for a longer period of time and Kendercom was new to the market but Kendercom was a little more advanced in their design as their machine was utilizing the microchip technology which was just coming on the market at that time.

Bob Spanks WA1UCG contacted them both and spoke with their engineering group about cost, accessories and shipping to Massachusetts. Bob made a visit to the Salem repeater group to see the Spectrum Analyzer and speak to their repeater technician about the pro and cons of that unit then Bob visited with the Topsfield Group to see the Kendercom Unit.

After the visits and receiving the quotes from the manufactures Bob gave a copy of the quotes to Tom. Tom asked Bob which repeater he thought CAARA should purchase and why. Bob gave Tom his thoughts and Tom asked a few questions and Bob replied to them. Tom said let him have a day or two to look at everything and he would let CAARA know his decision.

Tom got back to Bob and told him to place the order with KENDERCOM in Groveland, MA and let him know the details of purchase and he would assure the money would be available.

As soon as Bob got the word he called his Board of Directors and told them of Tom's final decision. The board members were very thankful and they personally called Tom to thank him on behalf of the club.

Bob talked to Jack Harrigan W1PSG who knew the owners in Groveland and took care of all the details in placing the order, Jack told Bob we would need 50% deposit to place the order and it would take 6 weeks to manufacture, test and deliver. Bob spoke with Tom gave him the details and Tom told Bob he would get a certified bank check and deliver it to Groveland.

Well the directors felt that since we were getting a new repeater and duplexers that we should also get two (2) new Cushcraft 2 meter antennas to replace the existing ones. The repeater trustee Milt Ratynski K1MSS was very excited that we would have a modern repeater and duplexers with Phone patch capabilities as well as the ability to use touch tones to turn the repeater on and off as needed. That was always a BIG problem CAARA faced with the repeaters if something went wrong and the transmitter was stuck in the Transmit mode it might take a while to turn it off depending upon where people were and who was available.

Word spread quickly that CAARA was getting a new machine. Stations that would check into the repeater would ask when the big day was. It made all the club members very proud and excited that our little club was getting all this interest not to mention that Warren Grimes WX1R (WA1YLX) was beaming from ear to ear as the whole concept was his thought a few years earlier.

Well the six weeks went by rather quickly, and during that time CAARA installed the new Cushcraft antennas that CAARA had purchased at Varian we checked the coax and connectors and they were in great shape so we left them along.

Jack W1PSG got the call from the manufacture that the repeater, duplexers and linear amplifier was ready for pick up. Jack contacted Ralph Karcher W1RK and the two of them coordinated a time to meet and install the new unit at Varian. It did not take them long to install the repeater as the repeater came in its own enclosure.

The dedicated line which we had used for the original repeater was transferred to a phone line and that was connected to the repeater for phone patch capabilities as well as digital control of the repeater. One of the features of the repeater was that you could control the unit by external tones via the receiver, but if there was a problem doing that you could dial up the repeater using the phone line and with a touch tone phone shut the machine down. That feature was extremely important as "JAMMERS" appeared frequently on many repeaters. The jammers would listen and record tones in order to gain access to your repeater. Some were successful but most were not. CAARA was very lucky our codes were never got broken.

The repeater operated great we never had a problem with the machine for many many years. The coverage of the machine was unbelievable. Some CAARA members worked in Boston and Cambridge and they could hit the repeater with 90 to 100% full quieting. Other members worked in the 128 Technology Belt, Waltham, Lexington, Concord area and they could access the machine with no problem. It goes without saying up the coast of Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Maine the repeater signal was fantastic. Varian had proved to be a GREAT location for CAARA's repeater.

During 1986 the ARRL was proposing ideas to generate new interest in Amateur radio. The FCC was concerned that Amateur Radio was not expanding but the Amateur ranks were shrinking. Also, during that time there was a lot of pressure on the FCC from other users outside the Amateur spectrum to obtain additional band width.

Earlier in the year the FCC had taken away from amateurs a part of the 220 MHz band and gave it to UNITED PARCEL SERVICE for their use in expanding communications within their industry. ARRL was very concerned about the potential loss of frequency spectrum in the Amateur Band both now and in the future and fought that rule making very vigorously but in the end lost the battle.

ARRL then proposed to the FCC via a Proposal of Rulemaking to give Novice licenses voice privileges on the 220 MHz band as well as 10 meters. After months of hearings and meetings in 1987 the FCC granted the ARRL's proposal and the expanded privileges were set to begin on March 30, 1987.

The board of directors at CAARA reviewed this proposal at their directors meeting and the unanimous feeling was that CAARA should invest in a 220 repeater and duplexers in order to support all present Novice members of the club as well as future Novices because CAARA was providing yearly Novice Classes to the public.

Well as always the topic of how CAARA would pay for the repeater setup was talked about in detail. It was determined that in order to purchase a complete setup the cost would be about $2000.00.

At the directors meeting that evening $400.00 was pledged by four directors. Director Ed Cobb WB1CGX offered the club a no interest loan and told CAARA that the payback time frame could be as funds were available. Upon a unanimous vote by the board CAARA accepted his gracious offer to the club and assured Ed that the club would try to engage the membership for donations in order to pay him off as soon as possible.

Next the directors talked about where to place the new repeater and antennas. The board agreed that we would speak to Varian and explain how much space would be needed and see if they would allow us to place the second unit on site. Varian agreed to allow CAARA to place the new repeater and antennas on site. Next CAARA wrote to the frequency coordination committee which was being administered by the ARRL on behalf of the FCC. CAARA asked for a frequency and the frequency of 224.900 was assigned to us. The directors via Jack Harrigan W1PSG placed an order with Kendercom in Groveland, MA for a new repeater and duplexers.

Again six weeks went by and the order was ready for pickup but in the meantime the club had purchased two new … You guessed it CUSHCRAFT 220 antennas and coax and CAARA installed them at Varian and ran the coax down to the location where we were going to place the new unit.

Jack Harrigan W1PSG made the arrangements to pick up the new unit. Jack also arranged with Ralph Karcher W1RK, Larry Wright W1EGJ and Mac McElroy W1OMN to install the new repeater at Varian. The new unit was installed and tested. The coverage was just as great as the 2 meter repeater was. We were having stations checking in and testing the new repeater from all over. CAARA as a club was advancing to again support novices with their new privileges as well as supporting all the other class licensing operators.

CAARA had a lot to offer new novices rather they were already licensed or heard about CAARA on the radio or who took our Novice Class then joined the club they were able to see the benefits that CAARA provided them as a club.

  • A place to operate and get on the air after obtaining their license
  • Get help with operating a station or help with setting up a station at their own QTH
  • Having an experienced amateur to talk to and answer some of their questions
  • Having an experienced amateur to talk to and obtain knowledge on what type or brand equipment to buy was a big help

During this time CAARA's membership grew to a strong 160 members. It is the most members that any CAARA member of that time can recall the club having.

The two repeaters ran flawless no problems at all coverage was good and many people were using the 2 meter and 220 repeaters. Carra even had two nets on Sunday night. 7:00 pm was the two meter net and 8:00 pm was the 220 net. A lot of people who were on the two meter net transferred to the 220 net and just continued to enjoy the atmosphere.

In the early part of 1989 there was a proposal before the city via the Industrial Economic Development Committee. This committee had the full control of the publicly developed Industrial parks.

The telecommunications company Cellar One had made a proposal to the committee to purchase a small piece of land which was available with the intent of placing a Cellular tower on the lot. Their proposal was for a tower, in ground fuel tank, emergency generator and Cellular Equipment. Over the next several months the committee held public meetings and approved the plans of Cellular One. The next step was for the city boards to review and approve the plans before sending them to the City Council for their final review and approval.

Around September or October 1989 the city council approved the plans and issued the permit for the construction of the tower. At that time one of the members of the club had their wife on the committee. She mentioned to the Cellular One representatives that there was a public service group in the city that provided emergency communications to the city when needed and that the organization was looking to improve coverage to better help the city. The Cellular rep told her to have the organization contact them and see what could be worked out.

Milt Ratynski K1MSS who was the repeater trustee as well as a board of director for CAARA contacted cellular One as the representative and told them about our organization and what services CAARA provided the city. After several meetings with Milt, Cellular One agreed that CAARA could place their 2 meter repeater unit at the site along with two Phelps Dodge antennas and hardline.

It was agreed that Caara would provide the antennas to Cellular One's contractor when requested and the contractor would install the antennas and hard line on the tower for CAARA at no charge. Cellular One also agreed that they would bill Caara the Wholesale cost for the Hardline and CAARA was to let them know what type of connectors we required at the antenna and the repeater and they would provide them and bill us the same way.

Milt presented the terms of the agreement to the directors at their next meeting and surprisingly the board was split on accepting or even if we should consider the offer. Some board members were concerned about access to the site as well as how would we maintain the antennas that would be placed on the tower as it was stated in the agreement that "NO ONE EXCEPT FOR A CERTIFIED AND PROPERLY LICENSED STEEPLEJACK CLIMBER COULD ACCESS OR CLIMB THE TOWER".

Some board members were only concerned about cost and did not want to focus on the pluses of a better signal and overall improvement of the 2 meter repeater.

The board appointed a small 3 person committee. Their job was to report back to the board and members CAARA what the cost and benefits of this project would be. The committee met several times and came up with the following. They estimated that the total cost to the club would be $700.00 dollars. The breakdown of this cost was for two (2) Phelps Dodge antennas, hardline, connectors and to relocate the telephone line from Varian to the tower site.

The benefits of the project they reported were a first class 2 meter installation with top of the line antennas, and coax (hardline), coverage would be greatly increased especially to the maritime traffic in the summertime, being on an emergency generator gave us the same benefit as we had at Varian. They also mentioned that having the 220 remain at Varian and the 2 meter repeater relocated to the cell site gave CARRA the benefit of two top notch repeaters in Gloucester which could be used by other emergency communications groups off Cape Ann.

The down side was that we would still have to deal with signal noise that is generated within the industrial park and could possibly interfere with the repeater operation as well as losing the capably of easy maintaince to the antennas.

A meeting was held and the facts were presented. The board was hesitant to act because of cost. At the members meeting all the concerns were reviewed and talked about. The members asked the board to make a final recommendation at the next meeting.

Well in the meantime there were two CAARA members who felt that this was the opportunity of a lifetime and if missed would never be able to get a deal like this again. So these two members talked to members in the club privately about the opportunity and why CAARA should take advantage of this offer now. These two members were able to raise $1000.00 in a two week period.

Well at the next directors meeting one of the members presented this to the directors and gave them the names of the donators and when to expect the funds should the board accept it.

Well it was not a very pleasant directors meeting that night. The directors who were against the project were very angry and a few even suggested that they might resign because they felt that these two members had gone against the boards wishes. It was quickly pointed out to those board members that this could not be true as the directors at the members meeting only communicated their concerns to the members and the members asked the directors to return to the next meeting with a definitive yes or no. It was also pointed to those board members that the minutes of the directors meeting which had been read earlier did not state that the board recommends to the CAARA membership not enter into this agreement. Well those directors were still very angry but now could not recommend against the project due to funding.

There was more talk that evening about the pro and cons but when the vote was taken all but one director voted to proceed.

The next membership meeting it was taken up and the members approved moving forward with the relocation. The good part was at that members meeting a few more members made pledges to the fund. It was an exciting evening to be able to move forward with the project.

Well the day came and the ground was broken Cellular One was about to become a reality. The project went very fast track. CAARA has the building of the tower on tape as our own Bob Quinn WV1A filmed the complete erection of the tower from start to finish.

One day I received a call from then president Dave Linsky KA1LKX that the company constructing the tower wanted the antennas. Ralph Karcher W1RK came and picked up the antennas at my house where they were being stored and wanted to check them out before giving them to the construction company. Ralph confirmed that all was well with the antennas and they were ready to be installed.

CAARA antennas were the first two antennas from the top of the tower and CAARA was very excited when we found out the location. CAARA expected the coverage was going to be GREAT.

Another gift that CAARA was given was Cellular One had told us that they would provide the hardline and bill the club for the cost only of the hardline. Well the project went smoothly that Cellular One installed and tested the hardline and donated that to CAARA. That was about a $250.00 dollar saving on the project that CAARA did not have to spend.

Now the day was here to put the repeater and Amplifier on line. Ralph Karcher W1RK, Larry Wright W1EGJ and Mac McElroy W1OMN went to Varian and loaded the repeater into Larry's truck and made the long drive to the new repeater location.

The new repeater was installed with no problems. Preliminary tests were done by Ralph and the SWR was 1.3 to 1 and the power was a full 25 watts. So the signal testing began for the next several weeks everyone was on the NEW CAARA REPEATER and boy was the coverage out of this world. We were hitting locations up the coast from Massachusetts to Maine and down as far as Rhode Island. Out to the west we could get stations from as far away as Framingham.

Of course the percentage of quietness varied but if I remember correctly the quieting was about 85 to 100 percent. Those stations all could communicate well with the repeater and we could hear and communicate with them with no problem. It was proving to be the best decision that the directors could have made on behalf of CAARA.

CAARA was about to have its first little setback. We were notified by Cellular One that the Fire Chief Barry McKay had complained that we had the prime receiving location on the tower and that his antenna for the Fire Department was located low on the tower. He requested (but I believe he demanded) that the antennas be switched so Cellular One told CAARA that they were going to move the Transmit and receiving antenna but would keep the receive antenna higher and the transmit antenna lower.

Well CAARA was not surprised about this as Barry for some reason was never a huge supporter of CAARA but there was not much we could do. So the switch took place but we still had great receive and transmit coverage.

This coverage still exists today as we recently retired the original repeater that Tom Andrew KA1GTA donated to CAARA and replaced it with the new Kenwood repeater.

In closing, one of the many blessings that CAARA has had over the years was the deep generosity and support of its members. Rather it was investing in the clubhouse or investing in the repeater you could always count on the membership to step up and do the right thing to expand on our hobby and to ensure that CAARA will always be a strong club and ready to provide emergency communications whenever needed.

I am sure that Warren Grimes is looking down at CAARA today and saying "so you wanted to throw me out the window Bob" but I was right with a great big smile. Yes Warren was right he had the forsight to see that a strong club and good repeater was the future.

Warren you were right … God Bless.


Bob Spanks, Jr.

Read How the Cape Ann Amateur Radio Association got started.