Ferry Contest – On the day

Rose Bay Wharf  “control” station

Waverley Amateur Radio Society will operate a fixed station (VK2BV) located adjacent to the Rose Bay ferry wharf which will serve as a general contact and net control point as well as being available for contact – both physical (eyeball) and by radio.

For the purposes of scoring, the station will be deemed to be operating as “handheld” and should be assigned the Rose Bay wharf (RB) location in submitted logs.

Please tune to the club’s Paddington repeater 147.025 (+600; CTCSS 91.5) from 08:00am for news, announcements and an official opening address.

Check in between 8:00am and 10:00am to be in the draw for a WARS PowerPole Distribution Box kit.


Currently the Sydney Harbour Ferry services operate over eight routes radiating from Circular Quay.

F1 Manly
F2 Taronga Zoo
F3 Parramatta River
F4 Cross Harbour
F5 Neutral Bay
F6 Mosman Bay
F7 Double Bay
F8 Cockatoo Island

Maps and Timetables

Detailed maps and timetables are available from the Transport NSW website (http://www.transportnsw.info). It is important to refer to the Sunday timetables as there is significant variation in the timing of operation from weekdays on most of the routes.

Most of the ferry routes are reasonably short except for the F3 Parramatta River, where a full round trip from Circular Quay to Parramatta and back would occupy approximately 3 hours – or half of the total allotted time for the contest.  Note that there are options to disembark at either Barangaroo or Cockatoo Island and return to the main harbour in a shorter time.  A note of caution… if selecting Cockatoo Island it can be very difficult to get back on a Ferry headed to Circular Quay due to most of the services being crowded. A detailed inspection of the routes and some careful planning in order to alight at wharves closer to the city and join inbound vessels or undertake a portion of the journey before or after the contest time window might be an option.

It is possible to track the location of ferries via the marine traffic website. Operators equipped with APRS facilities within their handhelds can be tracked via the APRS site (http://aprs.fi).

Opal Card

The Opal card will provide the most cost-effective fare structure because of the $2.80 cap (less for seniors and concession card holders!) which card holders enjoy on Sundays. In addition the cap applies to not only the ferry fares but any other train, bus and light rail fares incurred on the day. opalcard

For those who do not have an Opal card account already setup, unregistered opal cards can be purchased at a number of locations. These cards have a minimum value of $10 for non-concession cards.

Using the Opal card on the ferries is straightforward. For each journey “tap on” at the departure wharf and “tap off” at the destination wharf. Although the daily cap will be reached very early it is important to continue to “tap on” and “tap off” throughout the day. Failure to “tap on” before boarding a ferry constitutes travelling without a valid ticket and could potentially result in a fine. The only exception to the “tap on”/”tap off” process is the Manly ferry where there is no need to tap off at the destination as there is only one potential stop. There are large signs at the arrival points and a lack of suitable terminals which will remind passengers of this.

Details of the Opal card can be found at the Opal card website (https://www.opal.com.au).


This contest has been designed to utilise the hand-held “handy-talkie” transceivers available from many manufacturers and outlets.

The organisers have had QSOs from many of the ferry routes and wharves and have found the Sydney repeater network to be accessible from most parts of the harbour.  In many cases excellent contact can be made using  low power – conserve your battery!

Simplex contacts are quite possible ferry-to-ferry on the open parts of the harbour. Line-of-sight contacts are also feasible to and from nearby wharves as well as wharf-to-ferry depending on distance. Simplex from ferry to a home QTH might be more of a challenge (depending on location) but we made several good contacts during our trials.

We have found that the standard “rubber ducky” antenna supplied with most units is quite adequate. Speaker-mics,  lightweight headsets or earphones may be an advantage as there could be quite a bit of QRN on the ferries from wind noise and QRM from fellow passengers! A spare battery may also prove to be useful depending on your power usage.

You may need to experiment to find the best/quietest position on board. We found that a seat inside, away from the engine and close to a window, might be preferable to an open deck position.  There is some audio noise generated by the engines and occasionally some RF interference when positioned below the wheelhouse.

Safety and Comfort

As with any field day operation some consideration should be given to safety and comfort within the expected environment. One of the reasons for restricting equipment to hand held radios is that the impact on other passengers of relatively unobtrusive radios, with short whip antennas will hopefully be small. Some thought should be given to the operator generated audio QRM and how it might affect others within the immediate vicinity. This should be hopefully no more or less than that created by mobile phone users!

Since contestants may wish to avail themselves of the small increase in height and the absence of surrounding metal by operating on the top decks of the vessels, due thought should be given to the cumulative effects of the weather over the day. A suitable hat, glasses and sunscreen as well as a jacket in the case of inclement weather is recommended.

A small water bottle will likely prove useful. Some of the ferries and wharves have fresh chilled water dispensers for refilling. Refreshments are also available at some of the busier wharves.

Not all wharves have toilets, but all ferries do!

Please also read our page on NSW Police, Sydney Ferries and General Conduct

Contest Rules

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