Helping the Coastal Amateur Radio Team with the 1st Annual Richmond Hill Wounded Warrior Fishing Rodeo

Yesterday, I participated in the 1st Annual Ft. McAllister Wounded Warrior Fishing Rodeo assisting the Coastal Amateur Radio Team with communications support.  It was an honor to help with an event giving back to those that have been wounded in service to our country.  The last I heard was that there were 90 soldiers that went out with event on 60 boats – what a great turnout! I haven’t been on a boat and out on the water in years so yesterday was great fun.  I’m so happy that Larry Lowe, AF4MI came to me a few months back and asked me to be a part of this inaugural event; I’m ready to sign up for next year’s event!

I was placed on a communications support boat, eight of which were strategically placed throughout the coastal area to relay communications from the fishing boats on Marine VHF Ch. 68 and coordinate response to any emergencies via the 145.470 Riceboro repeater.  Amateur Radio Operators also helped keep track of which boats had checked back in at the Ft. McAllister Marina for weigh-in and which boats were still out at the end of the event.  David Little, KD4NUE did a great job operating KK4BTD, the net control station, throughout the day.  A special event station using the callsign W4W was being operated in conjunction with the fishing rodeo and it will continue to operate through today.  Amateur Radio Operators that participated (and I apologize if I’m leaving anyone out) were:

  • Larry Lowe, AF4MI
  • Laura Lowe, KJ4RRQ
  • Erika Huckaby, KJ4VMK
  • David Lowe, KF4JCC
  • Sam Davis, KJ4UKZ
  • Ken Reynolds, KJ4ULA
  • Damon Webb, KJ4VML
  • Steve Miskelley, KK4DJR
  • Glynda Little, KD4NUF
  • David Little, KD4NUE
  • Terri Tillman, K4TMT
  • Greg Tillman, N4VAD
  • John Gough, KJ4VMM
  • Kevin Bell, KW4B
  • Bill Gary, KT4KH
  • Gene Martinez, KK4DJS
  • Scott Spurlock, N4SES
  • Philip Neidlinger, KA4KOE
  • Lyndy Brannen, ND4XE
  • Mark Aulick, KF4MLT

I met Bernie Johnson at his house in Richmond Hill just after 0600 and we were on the water by 0630 in his 20ft Grady White “We Two II” for the next 10 hours. We first went out to the south end of Ossabaw Island where Larry, AF4MI and Sam, KJ4UKZ were setting up a station on the southern tip of the island.  While off of Ossabaw Island, we were in the middle of a massive school (the correct terminology?) of sort of translucent white and purple almost globe shaped jelly fish most of which were the size of a ping pong ball or a golf ball.  I have no idea what kind they were but there were so many of them you could never have hoped to have counted them all!

Early morning sunrise

My selection of gear for the day was the Yaesu VX-7R with a Diamond SRH-77CA antenna as my primary radio with the Icom IC-91AD for backup.  The backup radio was never needed nor was the second battery I brought for the VX-7R.  Bernie’s boat had a 12v power port so I also brought an inverter in my backpack in case we needed to charge anything off of wall warts (the need never arrived). The inverter may have been overkill, but I’d rather have had it and not needed it than to have run out of battery and been out of communication. I also brought along the Uniden BCD396XT and had it on in the background mostly listening to some milair activity (the 125th FW out of Jacksonville was active offshore several time in the late morning and afternoon).

The BCD396XT and the Yaesu VX-7R with Bernie's GPS and Depthfinder

Shortly thereafter we were sent to the Intracoastal Waterway marker near day beacon 124 and Walburg Creek.  We remained in that area for the rest of the day except when we went back over to Ossabaw Island to pick up lunch from Larry and Sam in the early afternoon.  The day started off hot; early on there was no breeze so it the temperatures really got up (and the boat’s instrumentation showed the water temperature at 86-87 degrees). Later in the afternoon, the breeze picked up and conditions became more tolerable.  In between the hourly roll calls by David at KK4BTD and monitoring Marine VHF Ch. 68 for any calls or emergency traffic we watched boat traffic go by, swapped stories, and basically enjoyed a good day out on the water.  We saw one USN or USMC CH-53 fly overhead and one UH-60 (probably one from the OLR at Hunter on a test flight) flying around the area but we never heard them on the BCD396XT;  Bernie is a retired pilot, so that led to some good flying stories.

View from our post near day beacon 124
View from our post near day beacon 124
View from our post near day beacon 124

From my perspective in one of the communications support boats, the event seemed to run smoothly (mind you however, my perspective was not the best to judge that from).  There was only one medical emergency; someone on one of the fishing boats became dehydrated and the boat brought them back to the marina. David Lowe, KF4JCC did a great job relaying traffic between the fishing boat and the marina where amateur radio operators at KK4BTD made arrangements to have Bryan County EMS meet the boat when it arrived.  Another fishing boat experienced mechanical problems and had to call Sea Tow to come pull them in; this was also in David, KF4JCC’s area and he was able to relay in to KK4BTD that the vessel would be late getting back in.

On the move during the 1st Annual Richmond Hill Wounded Warrior Fishing Rodeo

In any inaugural event such as this, there are lessons to be learned and next year’s event should run even smoother on the communications side.  The 145.470 repeater worked excellent, providing handheld coverage for the area fishing rodeo used.  The only surprise (to me at least) was that it seemed to provide weak handheld (but easy base or mobile) coverage at the Richmond Hill Marina; I surely thought that HTs there wouldn’t have been a problem.  That however, is an easy problem to solve in the future.  A dual band mobile set up to crossband repeat at the marina would allow the operators there to run low power UHF and get into the 145.470 via the crossband repeater.  The crossband repeat radio could run off of a deep cycle marine battery pretty much unattended for the whole day.

Around 1630, Larry secured Bernie and I from our post and we headed back in.  Conditions were a bit rougher than in the morning, so it took us a little bit longer to get back in that it did for us head out in the morning.  Listening to the Marine VHF radio and to reports from the amateur radio operators at the marina, the fishing boats seemed to meet with varied levels of success; some reported good catches, others didn’t.  We did catch one report of a 24lb barracuda being weighed in at the Marina! Weather was becoming a concern at the time and we could see some lightning off to the west.  Some of the other boats reported some light rain, but as of the time we moored up thunderstorms hadn’t become a problem.  All I can say is that I had a great time and I’m so thankful that Larry asked me to help with it. I believe that CART did an excellent job on their first major event, they should be proud of what they did yesterday! Next year, I’ll be glad to help out again!


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