The Manitoulin Amateur Radio Club Inc. (MARC)
was first formed in 1988 when four local amateur radio operators got together and felt that a club involving the hobby would benefit all persons involved. At this time there were only 4 licenced radio amateurs on Manitoulin Island. This area encompasses a large geographical area. Shortly after the club was formed it was felt that a way to keep in touch and communicate locally was required. What was needed was a local VHF radio repeater system on a high tower location to provide mobile and handheld coverage across the Manitoulin Island and North Shore area. At this time a New Horizons grant was obtained because a number of the members of the club are senior citizens. We were able to receive funding and purchased a VHF radio repeater system in 1988.
The club then approached the CBC to obtain permission to place the radio system at their site and the antenna on the tower. Since the CBC are community based organization and the Manitoulin Amateur Radio Club now able to provide emergency communications to local municipalities and emergency service personnel in times or civil emergency or disaster permission was granted to install our radio system at the CBC tower site located just outside Little current and provide for excellent radio communications over a 100 kms radius.
The club then organized radio classes for people to obtain their amateur radio licence and found that many seniors took advantage of this service and hobby to better their retirement years. Since the start of the club we have run about 8 classes over the last 15 years turning out over 100 licenced radio amateurs and most of them are seniors.
The MARC has approximately 120 members within the club who are spread out over a large geographic area. The club is unique in that we don’t hold monthly meeting at a certain location as some members may drive an hour and a half to get there and during winter months this is very difficult due to weather conditions. The club members keep in touch via the local VHF repeater twice a week to discuss club business and events. Since 1998 we have kept the statistics of the numbers of amateur radio operators that have checked in to these nets. In 1998 we had 2028 check-ins, 1999 we had 2239, 2000 we had 2097, 2001 we had 2123 and in 2002 we had 2290 check-ins into the repeater. Today in 2011 we had well over 2100 check-ins for the year. The repeater also provides security communications for many members of the club plus visiting amateurs to the area as we have an auto telephone patch connected to the repeater system, which gives the amateur the ability to make telephone calls from their radios. This is a great security feature in that our amateurs have reported many traffic accidents to police. We also have an emergency 911 systems in place on this system to be able to call police, fire and ambulance if required.
Being that Manitoulin Island is a very large tourist area in Ontario we have many amateur radio operators that travel through the area not only in motor vehicles but vessels as well as we are located in the North Channel in Georgian Bay and Lake Huron. Many tourists have used the MARC repeater to keep in touch with other amateurs and have used the repeater to report many emergencies that the amateurs have come across and were able to report the incidents quickly to the proper authorities using amateur radio and our local repeater system.
The members of the club also perform many hours of countless community service providing communications for various organizations free of charge for things like community parades, fairs, bike races, and marathons. We have also been included in emergency communications (SEE ATTACHED REPORT) with the Ontario Provincial Police. If the local radio communications go down due to ice storms power failures etc. MARC will turn over our repeater system to police fire or ambulance for them to use as we have emergency back up power. We can also be used as a radio system that has all local agencies connected via amateur radio. In case the telephones lines go down and the police need to contact ambulance, fire, hospital and other agencies the amateurs can provide radios so they can use the local repeater to keep in contact. We also assist the OPP in community safety patrols during events like Halloween and community functions (Letter of support on file).
The MARC is also affiliated with the Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARES) which is a federal organization working with the Canadian Red Cross in times of disaster and many members of the club are trained including our President who is the co-coordinator for Northern Ontario.
We also work closely with Environment Canada E.C. as CANWARN spotters incase of server weather systems. Using the local repeater we keep in touch via radio having amateurs trained by E.C. in weather watching or tornados and server weather systems. We assist and confirm sightings for E.C. See attached report on Canwarn which explains the program.
The repeater system is the main component of the club as we conduct our nets every week on VE3RMI repeater since 1988. The club has expanded systems to include IRLP, Asterisk, and recently D-Star with the VE3RXR Port B and C systems.