My Most Recent QSO's

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

It was Like Speaking to a Ghost.

The last time I saw the USS New Jersey was in 1968. This battleship was in the Tonkin Gulf, along with us, during the Tet Offensive. We used "red lights" to preserve our "night vision" on the signal bridge, and on a clear moonless night, after an hour or so in the dark, I could see like a hungry cat searching for an elusive mouse. If you're looking closely, you can see a slight curvature of the earth on the horizon at around 10 miles and the protruding masthead light from another ship. The white "bow" and "stern" lights of this large ship were easily visible as soon as they appeared just above the horizon.

It was important to know "who" was in the area at that time, and we had a method of identifying every new "light" on the dark sea. I focused my search light and sent the Morse Code pro-sign equivalent to "halt, identify yourself, or be fired upon" and after a brief pause, they replied "This is the USS New Jersey -- fire at will". I turned to my shipmate and said "wow....I just told the New Jersey to identify herself or I was going to blow her out of the water". I never forgot that "challenge" even tho it was 46 years ago.

I have many memories from that period of time, some of them not so good, but when I heard the New Jersey (NJ2BB) last weekend, and was finally able to work her again, (in civilian life) it was like speaking to a ghost for me.

Photo by Greg Hume-Wikipedia 

This weekend, I was also able to work several more ships. The most memorial to me was LST-325. I have a personal history with this ship; it was in our home town of Charleston WV last year. The previous year, I found this ship in Marietta Ohio and was able to use their ships radio to work a Coast Guard Museum radio station near Los Angeles California. A few weeks ago I worked one of the LST 325's crew members (W8AU/M) who was driving along the interstate near Columbus Ohio. It was a long and enjoyable QSO.

Wikipedia Public Domain Image 

The Nuclear Ship Savanna is the first ship of it's type I've worked. I had no idea some cargo ships were nuclear powered? This was a big surprise to me.

I also worked this Canadian warship on the Great Lakes.  

Photo by Rick Cordeiro- Wikipedia 

This was the warship Haida located near Ontario Canada. (a fantastic signal by the way).

I've changed my "radio" focus since getting both my DXCC and WAS awards. (QRP at five watts or less of power and indoor stealth wire antennas). I work an occasional DX station with my "new straight key" but get my most joy from  long conversations at a slow 15 wpm speed.

There are several hams that I enjoy talking with very much. I like the "Special Event Stations", and will continue to work them, but I will be writing about friends and interesting places in the United States for awhile.

My "free time" has become very limited with my father approaching his 93rd birthday, and my five grand kids growing like billy goats. There's just not enough hours in the day......


PE4BAS, Bas said...

Great story John, I just missed the "boat" weekend. I knew they were on but I was busy with other things. Radio is at last place in summer.
73, Bas

Jspiker said...

Hello Bas,

Glad you enjoyed reading it. I've always enjoyed talking to "ships". I guess salt water never leaves the veins of sailors.

reactor safety pros said...

Glad we worked each other on June 7. A new club, a new ham Shack, new call sign (based on the ship's original call), BUT using the old ship's original vertical antenna, very rewarding indeed. We are going to decide on QSL card design real soon and start sending them out.

I appreciate your account about speaking to a ghost!

Nuclear Ship Savannah
The World's First Nuclear Merchant Ship and the only United States Nuclear Merchant Ship

Jspiker said...

It was a real pleasure to work you also. I'm familiar with several US Nuclear Warships but NEVER realized a "merchant cargo ship" was ever built in the United States which had this fuel.

I'll look forward to working you again. This is a real treat to have you in the log book.

Thanks for the contact!

This Winding Road said...

John, what an experience you had and I loved the fearless response you got from the USS New Jersey!

Working where I do, we have the USS Cassin Young floating out front. I love this ship! Since working here, I've been aboard her a few times and I'm like a kid everything I get to go aboard. It inspired me to begin researching and reading more of her history and a history she has.

I sadly missed the ships weekend because as you mentioned, life really is crazy for us at the moment. I've not made a contact in months and I miss my shack time! But, I'll return again when time allows. Weekends are short and weeks feel very long in this faced paced world down here. I miss the 49th's slower pace for sure.

Great read and thanks for sharing a bit of your personal experience, one to remember for sure!

Jspiker said...

Hello Phil,

The Cassin Young and the Corry are about the same size but our ship had "twin mounted 5" 38 Caliber" turrets on the bow and fantail. With dual propellers and dual rudders, the destroyers were highly maneuverable and could function in tight quarters.

I still have vivid memories of the Corry. Sometimes a smell, sound, or touch can take me back 46 years to the days when we fired 3,000 shells in a three week period.

I'm glad the Young is near you. Is the radio room still functional?