Category Archives: Maritime

Nature’s Voice

It has been a very busy week. One hail and wind storm followed by a mad scramble by yours truly up on to the roof to tape some trash bags over now fully opened sky lights, all whilst dodging what seemed to me to be bolts of lightning.  Casually falling, partially at least, off the top rung of my good friend the “Ladder”! Have I said that I am entirely too old for this sort of thing? If not, then let me say so here and now. Insurance adjusters have come and gone, landscapers have worked their magic once again removing old shredded shrubbery and newly minted weeds so that once again “Casa Cuesta Mucho” looks fresh. The tally for the week is one new roof, new guttering, pool decking repaired (or will be at some point) and one totaled automobile. It seems insurance companies do not repair hail damaged 11 year old cars, no matter how nice their condition and low the miles on the odometer. For a very brief moment on Tuesday afternoon I found myself hearing Nature’s Voice. Nature spoke to me for what seemed an eternity while the canary, the dog and I huddled in our front bathroom with me leaning on the inside wall which was vibrating significantly for the first time in my memory. The noise was horrendous, not from the dreaded “Train” one is supposed to hear if a tornado is present, but rather from the sound of softball (yes softball) sized hail stones breaching our sky lights and tearing shingles from the roof. 2:12 PM to 2:21 PM was a very long nine minutes for us “hiders in bathrooms”. So much for bravery in the face of disaster.

I have not been able to get to the gym at all since Tuesday afternoon. Just way too many things happening and so next week we will begin anew. A fresh start to a lifelong journey to lose more weight and tone up a bit. The trip to the roof on Tuesday told me I was not doing enough as the old body was sore for two days after that trip up the ladder twice with the roof scramble mixed in. Old age is a sneaky critter. It doesn’t tell you outright that your not in good shape, it slithers up on you through good books and television and sitting in front of computers and radio sets like a perverted dose of junk food for the mind. I am not entirely sure what destroys your body and ages you most; a book or a Twinkie. Probably both are guilty.

Speaking of books, I completed QTC ( I have a message for you) this morning. I had purchased it some months ago and when I got distracted it was put up on a shelf and so, while waiting insurance people/calls etc this week, I got a bit restless and found it again where my wife had placed it. This is another find at the ABE Used on line book store. It turns out used words read just as well as new words and are much cheaper. QTC was written anonymously by a ships RO (radio officer) about his life on board merchant ships while being employed as a wireless operator. I enjoyed it a lot and anyone with a Maritime background or just a dose of curiosity should read it. It has a chapter at the end detailing and diagnosing the Titanic tragedy. A lot of ink has been devoted to this subject but this is, I believe, a unique view. The book inspired me to make this post and to, as I almost always do, switch on my radio and listen to quite another version of Nature’s Voice-that of HF. HF Radio is spectacular in its’ own right and my life is wed to it. At my earliest stages of life, I cannot say why or how,  my DNA became part of the aether, or at least developed and affinity for paying it a lot of attention. First as a Ham, then as a shipboard maintainer of comms gear and now once again as a Ham. A Radio Ham throughout my Navy days, I had little opportunity to actually get on the radio as it was wartime. Sporadically there were opportunities but they were infrequent ones at most. We are now in the part of the year where I celebrate my radio anniversary: this year is 53 years of almost continuous involvement with radio in one way or another. Although the early years were filled with wonder, via learning and world wide travel, I must say that these later years are much more rewarding. I now have the time, have some knowledgeable friends, and can take the time necessary to let things gently simmer along until the component parts are fully ripened and (I will not say fully understood) at least partially recognized as valuable and ordered and stack ranked into their proper places in nature.

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG

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Posted by on April 8, 2012 in Maritime, Morse, Radio


Veteran’s Day Rant

First a bit of history.

I came home from Viet Nam in 1971 after having served for 9 years on four aircraft carriers in 4 oceans. I wont detail them all here for that has nothing to do with my point. Just for reference, my Father served in WWII and Korea. My son plans to enter the Air Force after college. Our family “gave at the office”. With that in mind let me make a few points for which I fully expect some flack.

I find the current craze of “Thanking Servicemen” for their service a little disingenuous. If someone attempted to thank me for my service I would probably say something like; “Thanks but give something back-go join up or do the Peace Corps or Public Health Service”. A bit of advice: if you are going to say thanks at least find a guy that has been shot at. In my nine years I was never shot at unless you characterize a 500 pound bomb falling off the wing of a F-4 Phantom just three feet over my head as being shot at. Those bombs don’t arm themselves until a small propeller on the bomb twists off the arming wire long after it is airborne and way far away from me in my ET shop near Radio Central.

Performing service to America via Armed Services is decidedly a two way street. Confused kids coming out of high school with no immediate prospects can find a home and an education within the services. Its a wonderful way to grow up a little, get an education, make a career and learn to feed a family. It is not altruistic as we tend to think of when visions of WWII’s immediate threat to the country comes to mind. We have not had an immediate threat to the country since WWII and that judgement includes 0911. That was a one shot wonder and I refuse to dig a foxhole for that sort of attack. So in essence, giving a little gets one a lot IMHO by joining in the service.

I learned a trade, I grew a little and I gave a little back for the pleasure of getting a lot. No thanks necessary, thank you very much. Your country needs your help: pay your taxes, join a service and thank your fellow citizens that way.Give a little back friends.

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG


Posted by on November 11, 2011 in Family, Maritime, Stuff


The Gift

Sometimes Mother Nature conjures up a surprise or two for old duffers like me. Today it was fog. Yes, real dense heavy fog just like the fog we used to experience when we lived in the San Joaquin Valley in California. Fog so thick it can be cut with a knife. I usually go walking before dawn so that when I wear cans during my walk and listen to my mp3 player I can see the headlamps approaching from any direction and not have to worry about hearing oncoming traffic. Today I got my cans and  head wet from foggy condensation. Fog like this is a rare event where I live as there is no swampy or nearby large bodies of water. The ground must be saturated by a recent rain and the temperature must be just right before it forms properly. I can recall just a single other fog event like this in the past 22 years. Today’s fog was a sort of gift in that it reminded me so much of California and the good times we had with our Ham Radio friends there. It also conjured up some memories of running across the Golden Gate Bridge when I was on an exercise gig. I found myself remembering the early morning runs across the bridge and experiencing the Bridge Fog Horns warning shipping traffic of bridge abutments and other invisible dangers to shipping. There is no sound quite like those large and loud fog horns on the Golden Gate Bridge on a gray early morning. There is a radio station in SF with a call sign of KFOG and they play a bumper sound bite of those Golden Gate horns but it doesn’t come close to hearing the real thing. Perhaps the magic in the hearing requires walking or running across the bridge with the attendant mist or condensation being part and parcel to the whole thing in order get the desired effect. Anyway, when I arrived home and after my morning chores I switched on 10 Meters and again reveled in the nice band openings. After a while I leaned back in the old office chair and closed my eyes with the band playing softly on the background and wondered about what it was like looking out across the Bay, way back in the twenties and thirties, watching a China Clipper take off from its base at Treasure Island on the Hawaii leg of that long journey. There is an awful lot of history in that brief glimpse, and an awful lot of radio history as well. Each Clipper carried a Radio Officer and a lot of those fellows were Hams.

Ive completed the Don Wallace book now. It has been two days since I stopped reading and I still cannot get it out of mind and cannot comprehend all of that history. We tend to skim over the happenings of the past. Instead of comprehending the trials and lessons learned, history and our mind conspire to compress time into glimpses and small chunks. Methinks we do a disservice to the past this way: or maybe I am getting old and surrounding oneself with historical stories and brick-a-brack is a way to feel more comfortable in an ever more frenetic world. For whatever reason historical things seem to be a source of some solace for me.

Ten was nice again this AM. Stations either worked or heard in a short time included: DL5FCZ, HA3FTA, UY0ZG, UT7UJ and some others I didn’t take the time to note. As I complete this short entry I notice that the fog remains. It wraps me up in a blanket of great memories and I cannot think of a more pleasant way to begin a day.

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG

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Posted by on October 24, 2011 in DX, Maritime, Radio, Stuff


Short Book Review

Last week I mentioned that I had seen mention of a new book called “Radioman” in the monthly K9YA pdf magazine on line. In fact I ordered the book from Amazon and read it here on Saturday. From a radio perspective it didn’t detail radio nits and bits as I had imagined but it did in fact give me another detailed window into life in the nineteen forties and before. History placed this man in some very unique places during WWII and his tale is well worth the read. From CCC Camps prior to the war, through a fortuitous assignment to Pearl Harbor just before war broke out onward to the Battle of the Coral Sea and later through the end of WWII this tome is well written and offers a viewpoint of those people that came from a different time. I’m a bit of a history nut anyway but IMHO this one is well worth the trouble one would go to to find it.

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG

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Posted by on July 31, 2011 in Maritime, Radio, Stuff


True Confessions

This short blurb began life titled “Why I do what I do” but True Confessions sounded more appropriate to me. This post was triggered by some remembrances brought about by reading an article in the latest K9YA Telegraph. I’m not exactly sure of the particular genesis but something in the August issue reminded me of how I came to be an Electronics Tech in the Navy when all along I really wanted to be a Radioman. Perhaps it was the link to a new book referenced on that site ( here) My inclination to become a radioman came from a pre Naval career as a Ham Radio operator and a burning desire to make radio work and reduce the “mystery” involved. Mind you I didn’t have a lot of on-air experience, however, I did know the code and was fascinated by wireless comms.

With a Tip O the Hat to my readers indulgences here, this is meant as a sort of fill in the blanks for my kids should they ever wonder why I spent so much time in front of a radio.

When I graduated from High School I didn’t have sufficient personal direction nor desire to go to college so my Father suggested (err.. entirely too calm a statement) the Military as a source of vocational training and perhaps assist in my maturation process. 🙂 I had many interests at this time of life, some of which included physics, radio, astronomy etc. Since the Navy had a great vocational training program for electronics and I had a hearty interest I joined up with the intent of going to ET School. Well best laid plans and all of that jolly rot…When one joins up the first thing you find out is that recruiter promises are “best effort” at most and pure fallderall at worst. When you get to “Boot Camp” your are subjected to a battery of aptitude tests to see the best place you can serve in Uncle Sam’s Canoe Club. Here then was the rub. It was 1963, October. Viet Nam was in full tilt and there were lots of openings for Radiomen on Swift Boats along the Mekong Delta. It seems they were sinking at a rapid clip just about then and so billets opened up swiftly – pardon the obvious pun. Not that Swift Boat duty wasn’t wonderful, but I wanted Electronics (32 weeks training at the time) and radio school was a long way short of becoming a technician with a post Navy jobs advantage over anything radioman related. There were only so many shore stations outside the Military and so post Navy jobs would be limited. So getting back to those pesky battery of aptitude of test, they included Morse Copy testing, Electronics, Maths, verbal component, typing and some others I cannot recall. Basically the Maths and Verbal components were sort of an IQ test and the others were really aptitude testing for much needed billets (such as radioman, electronics tech etc etc).

Okay, so where is the confession in all of this? Well as should be obvious, I need to fail typing and Morse and max math, verbal and of course electronics which was carefully disguised as a physics test. How did I manage to ferret this logic out while working eight to twelve hour days with no sleep and running around (in formation no less) getting all manner of shots and fitting into new uniforms that didn’t fit all the while trying to figure out what was happening to me?  I write it off to shear terror or good luck, I’m not sure which. At the end of the day I had successfully failed Morse -being careful to avoid missing all the characters as that would be a dead giveaway for sure and also the typing test which for me was dead simple. My manual dexterity to this day is, shall we say, challenged let alone a bleary eyed kid with no sleep in front of clacking infernal machine with no soul. It all seems so obvious now looking backward but it must have been terrifying to me but I try to blank that sort of memory out and in this case I seem to have managed that quite successfully!

At the end of the day I managed to manage my career and gave up my dreams of sitting circuits for old Uncle Sam. My dreams of enjoying the vagaries of HF propagation and challenging things like keeping terminations alive 24X7 while underway drifted into obscurity in exchange for a technical career that had some legs. And so here we are forty eight years later and I can safely say I have no regrets about any of it. But I am making up for lost hours sitting circuits by driving my family crazy wondering why I am so infatuated by radio. So, as Paul Harvey used to say; and that’s the rest of the story.

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG

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Posted by on July 27, 2011 in Maritime, Radio


Maritime Radio Day shifts to a weekday

This year MRD is happening during the week. Local Thursday/Friday April 14/15. You can find details here. Apparently this change meant to help avoid contests, QSO Parties etc. I enjoyed this activity last year and used it as an excuse to find and sign with my old ships call signs.  Signing with a report showing my last ship was NUSA was kinda kewl. This year I will be visiting my son so participation will be limited.

Other recent activities include finding a spare QSK board for my long in the tooth amp and some pin compatible dip sealed relays in case that board does not show up….I’m just waiting for parts now. The watched pot….fingers crossed.

The IC-735 arrived in what appears to be good physical shape, however no power cord was included so I have to build one and I have run out of time. I plan to run this radio off of a set of gel cells and will probably get all the things to assemble the spare/backup station next week. This next week will be very busy with visiting son, working on amp, contest club meeting and what seems like an unending number of home projects. Sometimes I wonder how we found time to work as we did for 40 odd years.

I continue to have difficulty adjusting to the new keyer. It just does not “feel” the same as my Logikeyer-5. Now begins what I hope is a short retraining  period so that my abysmal error rates drop back into the realm of acceptability. Right now it is terrible. Like anything else, these devices have a personality of their own and that man-machine interface is quirky. The Logikeyer seemed more forgiving of my sloppy fingering somehow.

Okay, it is time to set and wind my old school mechanical clocks so I bit you adieu.

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG

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Posted by on April 10, 2011 in Family, Maritime, Radio


It’s spring and the sun spots are waning…(?!)

Is it thirteen or fourteen straight days sans spots now? OMG! Shadows of summer past. Hopefully this will not last and is just a version of the long suspected double dip sun spot bottom. Livingston and Penn aside, this has to come off of zero at some point; and hopefully for more than a month at a crack.

This afternoon I visited the Lone Star DX Club meeting and enjoyed a nice presentation by Randy N0TG about the planning stages of this upcoming fall 2010 CY0 expedition. A nice time was had by all and lunch at Spring Creek BBQ was excellent.

Postings here have slowed a bit. I attribute the slow scribblings to spring and things to do outdoors. Its been lovely here in North Texas and surprisingly pleasant temperature wise. It is indeed nice to get to May without any nasty 90’s temperatures. Today is outdoor BBQ hamburger day with all the children and out of town visiting aunt’s in for a few days.

Just tuned over to the Saturday broadcast from KSM. Propagation is terrible for the 8 Megger cw broadcast. I can hear them but just. Have a listen on 8438.3 Khz. They are QRU listening on various inputs channels; one of which I believe is 7050 Khz.

Thanks for reading my Blog. Best, Chas W5PG

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Posted by on May 1, 2010 in Family, Maritime, Radio