President’s Day

I got up late today, it being a holiday, and flipped on the rig. I tuned around 40 meters, and heard a couple of Parks on the Air (POTA) stations, and gave K3USI (portable on Howland Island, NY) a call, and he came right back to me with a 59. He was a good 59 as well. I also heard W4BKR, who was working from the Plumtree Island NWR and booming in at 59 plus a bunch (I could almost throw a rock and hit him from my shack). Both were handling pileups well and knocking them off one by one. Good ops! BTW, those were both SSB contacts, and I had to find my mic before I could call them 😀 .

From there, I moved to see what was on the FT8 segments, and didn’t find much of interest, so I called CQ and landed Thomas, AE4TH, who lives in the Fox Hill section of Hampton, my neighboring city … probably not ten miles as the crow flies! Howdy, neighbor!!

Just planning a lazy day off. The XYL is going to cook up some ribs and cabbage and sweet potatoes later for dinner, and I’m looking forward to that. I will probably turn the rig on later and see what’s going on. I’ve also got a new in-line meter for my portable ops to keep track of my battery voltage, and I need to rig up some wires and powerpoles for the input/output.

Coming up next weekend is the North American RTTY QSO Party. I’m hoping to participate for some of that, but once again, I have conflicts that weekend … we’ll see what happens. Life just gets in the way of ham radio 🙂 .

If you’re off today, have fun … if you’re working today, my sympathies. Sometimes working for local government has its advantages.

73 de Dick N4BC

Reminiscences

Yesterday evening, I was home alone, sitting in the living room, and outside it was nasty … almost dark, a chilly drizzle, foggy … nasty! As so often happens in circumstances like that, my mind drifted back to earlier times … reminiscing about friends no longer with us.

For some reason, my mind dredged up Max DeHenseler, HB9RS. Max passed away in 2014 after a 50-year “career” in ham radio. He was 80 when he left us.

Max, HB9RS

First licensed at twelve, he went on to make a name for himself in ham radio circles. Look him up on QRZ.com as HB9RS for a full description of his activities and honors. He operated all over the world, thanks to his job at the United Nations as their Chief Cartographer. He was instrumental in establishing 4U1UN, the United Nations HQ station.

I first ran into Max on the air when he was ET3RS in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. I was living in the Seychelles Islands, operating as VQ9D. Almost every day, Max could be found on the air, and we sort of made it a habit to listen out for each other and chat about the things that hams chat about 🙂 . It was usually a pleasant interlude from the huge pileups we both used to generate. Being fairly close (geographically), we could override the QRM. Max left ET3-land eventually, and returned to UN HQ at New York.

Max’s QSL Card at ET3RS

One year, George, VQ9GP and I flew back to the US on vacation at the same time and Max graciously invited us to stop by UN HQ in New York City for a reunion and tour. George and I showed up and we had a great time and a great tour.

Unfortunately, that was the last time I saw Max … our paths just never crossed again. That happens a lot in our hobby. We’re so far-flung and distant from each other, we develop friendships without ever meeting physically.

Max was such a gentleman and great ham, I consider myself privileged to not only have been his friend, but to actually have met him. I wasn’t disappointed when that happened. He was the same great guy on the air or in person.

73 de Dick N4BC

FrostFest

Well, I made the annual trek to FrostFest at the Richmond International Raceway Complex the first Saturday in February, as usual. It’s about an hour’s drive from my QTH, depending on traffic in several construction zones on I-64.

Frostfest 2019

Although in years past I had an early start in order to be there when the doors open, this year I took my time and didn’t arrive until after 9 AM. There was a pretty good crowd, and lots of interest in the offerings by various vendors. None of the “major” vendors were there (Icom, Yaesu, Kenwood, HRO, etc.), but that’s par for the course nowadays. Quicksilver and Ham World were there in force and were doing brisk sales.

I am particularly interested in the Forums, and this year, the website only showed the ARRL forum. Upon arrival, I saw that they had added SKYWARN and Mesh Networking, both of which I had attended before at the Virginia Beach Hamfest. I did sit in on the SKYWARN again, mainly to support Howard, WZ4K, who did the presentation. It’s almost like the forums were an afterthought this year.

Of course, I did make the rounds of all the vendors. There were some nice items for sale, but nothing that I needed. Some vintage rigs were for sale, and of course lots of everything else, including cookies, brownies, and candles 😀 .

My pet peeve (as usual) is everybody’s obliviousness of their surroundings. People stop right in front of you to carry on a conversation and totally block the aisle. A subtle word or, in desperation, a gentle push, usually moves them, but come on guys … move to the side!

All in all, it’s one of the better hamfests that I attend, and I congratulate RATS, who organize and put FrostFest on each year. Good job!

The trip back home was not a pleasant one. Just outside of Richmond, I spent over an hour in the I-64 parking lot. There was an accident in a construction zone, and we didn’t move until it was cleared. By this time, my back was killing me, and I was not my usual happy self! I finally got home, and my first action was to get horizontal and take a nap! Priorities!!

73 de Dick N4BC

Good Times …

This past weekend was a holiday weekend … Martin Luther King Day … and offered lots of opportunities for operating. Several contests tempted me, but alas, family obligations were the rule for the weekend.

I did run into a ham buddy, though, and, as usually happens, we talked about radio … equipment, antennas, operating … it really caused me to shift into “old-timer mode” and start reminiscing about times past. Being a reasonably recent operator (5-10 years now), he asked about my most enjoyable time operating. I would have to say it’s a tossup between the times I was in the Seychelles Islands and when I was in the Chagos Islands.

Both were thoroughly enjoyable. Neither were short-term operations … both were extended stay. I lived in both places for years, working on USAF contracts … first as a Precision Measurement Equipment Lab Tech and then as a Quality Assurance Supervisor. What made them so enjoyable were the friendships I made there … both hams and others … some of which have endured.

Both venues allowed for a LOT of operating time! Once you’ve done the beaches, the local entertainment spots, and so forth, you find yourself with lots of time on your hands … perfect for our hobby. I was pretty much on the air every day during my time in the Indian Ocean. And … it was at the height of a legendary sunspot cycle … solid SSB QSOs to the States daily with 5 watts was common.

In the Seychelles (first as VQ9D and then S79D), my primary mode was SSB, but I did also operate some CW. Lots of wonderful friends made worldwide, especially on SEANET in the afternoons, but the local hams were really special. It was a wonderful, friendly bunch of locals, and we all got together at any excuse to swap stories and just have a good time. I can’t name all of them, but Di, VQ9DC, John, Di’s husband (whose call I can’t remember, sorry), Bill, VQ9BP, Carl, VQ9R, Ron, VQ9M, George, VQ9GP, Bob, VQ9B … these pop to the top of my memory queue. There were many others, of course … either permanent of transient.

I did make a significant side trip while in the Seychelles … a DXPedition to Desroches Island in the Amirantes. It was a separate DXCC country … part of the British Indian Ocean Territory … before Seychelles independence, and a day-and-a-half boat trip from the main island, Mahe, where I lived. Myself, VQ9BP, VQ9M, and VQ9DC set off and spent a week there, operating pretty much around the clock on SSB and CW. What a wonderful experience!

I left the Seychelles and moved to the island of Diego Garcia, in the Chagos Archipelago, south of India and Sri Lanka. This was a joint British-American naval base and was a major staging point for B-52s during Desert Storm, when I was there. I was there to help open a brand new satellite tracking station for the Air Force. There was even less leisure activity, but there was a base-sponsored Amateur Radio Club. There was a core of really good CW operators there … mostly Merchant Marine radiomen (back before satellites, the bulk of ship-to-shore communications was CW) and US Navy CTs, who listened to CW a lot! I remember Dale, VQ9QM (now a SK), Joe, VQ9JT, and Rob, VQ9YA … they all shamed me into becoming an almost exclusive CW operator!! I did operate other modes there, too … I remember doing RTTY and even dabbled in 6 Meter SSB to Japan and satellite ops. We had a TH6 at 100 feet, and could use up to 400 watts, so we were heard on HF pretty well.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and I moved back to the USA in 1993 to begin a new phase of my life. I know the “good old days” always look rosier in retrospect, but those WERE some of the best days of my life (until I met my wife, of course … better put that in there 😀 Love you, Dear!! )

73 de Dick N4BC

Downtime …

I had planned to jump into the NAQP this past weekend … I really did! But … for some reason I just couldn’t seem to get up the gumption to press the rig’s ON button. I had a severe case of the blahs this last weekend. I spent most of the day Saturday reading and watching a couple of movies, and took a nap! No apologies … it felt good to veg out a bit. Outside it was rainy and at times a wintry mix … just a nasty day to leave the house.

My wife’s birthday was earlier in the week, and our son took us all out to dinner on Sunday evening at a popular smokehouse in the area. I decided to splurge and order prime rib … that was a mistake! That was one of the toughest slabs of meat I’ve come across in quite a while. It tasted great, but I had a sore jaw from all the chewing. Oh well, it was a nice family get-together. Too few of those nowadays.

Last night was a bit lackluster for FT8. I made a few stateside contacts, but things were pretty sparse. I did try to catch the 9L1 in Sierra Leone on CW, but he had quite a pileup going and I was not a lottery winner! Good operator at the key, though … he was owning that pileup!

73 de Dick N4BC