More than fifty Members of the Brazos Valley Amateur Radio Club (BVARC) in Houston, descended on Seawolf Park in Galveston Texas this past weekend to activate the radio rooms on two historic ships there; Submarine USS Cavalla and Destroyer Escort USS Stewart. This is part of the annual Museum Ships Weekend event sponsored by the Battleship New Jersey Amateur Radio Station. And the fifth year of BVARC participation.
This year, in addition to conventional SSB and CW communications, club members made more than forty QSO’s with other participants via satellite. In one instance, to the USS Nautilus, N1S, in Groton Connecticut; the world’s first nuclear powered submarine, whose first captain sent the historic message, “Underway on nuclear power.”
This year, ninety nine museum ships worldwide participated using mainly voice and CW. The Seawolf Park operation is unique as it is only one of two locations in the annual event that has two ships on the air from the same location.
Much of the radio equipment on these old ships no longer works due to age and lack of parts. So we have to bring our own radio gear on board.
We logged over 1,000 contacts this weekend with amateur radio operators throughout the US and Canada and as far away as Australia from Seawolf Park. The Park is an almost perfect venue for radio operations due to its proximity to salt water and lack of obstructions.
As the park is a public facility, all club activities this weekend were performed in full view of park visitors who were free to observe and ask questions. Brazos Valley volunteers also acted as guides inside the ship to explain the sights and sounds of radio communication.
This year the club decided to sponsor its own Texas Navy Certificate for confirmed contacts with all five Texas based museum ships. In addition to the Brazos Valley club, KK5W operating from the Cavalla and Stewart, the ships included Sailing Barque Elissa operated by the Tidelands Amateur Radio Society, N5E, the Battleship Texas Amateur Radio Station,NA5DV on the USS Texas in Laporte, Texas, and W5LEX, the South Texas Amateur Radio Club operating the USS Lexington in Corpus Christi. The club will verify the eligibility and award the certificate by comparing the log entries of the other participating ships.
The club also operated two VHF nets on Saturday and Sunday for local amateurs on 146.94 Mhz. The WA5CYI repeater has wide coverage and allowed us to include, NA5DV, Battleship Texas and N5E, Tall Ship Elissa, in addition to KK5W, representing the USS Cavalla and USS Stewart. More than 50 local amateurs checked in to the net over the two day period and logged contact with four of the five Texas based Museum Ships; the unofficial Texas Navy.
All in all this was a great event for the club. It demonstrated the power and flexibility of ham radio to the general public, it was a tune up field day and it was a public service to the community. The weather was great too!