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