The Story: VK9MAV Marion Reef Isl. & Whitsundays Isl. [Part 2]


Coral Sea Adventure

Part 2. “We’ll go, we’ll rush on deer in the morning early …” (One of popular Soviet songs in 1970s)

And so, when it was already beginning to dawn, Chris asked me a simple and obvious question that changed everything …

“The Norval trip did not take place. He is now being amended for 2 weeks or more. All your plans and dreams have collapsed. And you don’t have too much time – the permits ends on 30th of June. But think out-of-the-box. All the tourist marine business in this area is held not only by Norval. Many ships go to the area not only for fishing. Divers, researchers. Ron is not you, he’s been in this business for more than 20 years, and he has friends and colleagues. Did you ask Ron to find out if anyone was coming to the area soon? “

The question was acknowledged by all those present to be reasonable, but postponed until the morning – Ron’s day and night were too hard to wake him up. Moreover, I myself saw that he is going through not only because of financial losses, but also because of me.

The end of our talks had a beneficial effect on me, and even a sleep came at once. Not for long, only for 2 hours, but when I crawled upstairs (sleeping places – under the deck), Ron was already there, preparing the boat for repair.

Immediately after my question asked, he reached for the phone. I, trying to not frighten off my luck, went to the deck, where Chris and Frostie, absolutely fresh, were engaged in bringing unlucky anglers from the harbor to the shore by a motor boat.

In less than 15 minutes, Ron came to me and, smiling, said: “There’s my friend’s mother-ship is moored near Diamond Islets at present time. There is a large group of divers. He needs to get some goods delivered and Norval had to bring them. You understand that Norval for a long time will not go anywhere, but he needs the cargo. So I decided to send a speed boat. If you want, you can go with them. Go out now. But there is no comfort there at all. The trip will take 7-8 hours. The weather forecast is excellent. Not Marion reef, but you will be happy with Diamonds as well, won’t you? ”

To say that I was dumbfounded is not to say anything. This does not happen. But – it is necessary to jump now and here. It’s good that all the things were not unpacked (I did not know about the headset yet). Chris and Frostie immediately threw them into the boat. A small boat, a cruising speed of 40 knots, but can do up to 50. The official name is “South Wind”, but above was the unofficial “Wet Hooker”.

Quickly poured a breakfast prepared by Frostie, I, accompanied by the same guys Frostie and Chris, jumped aboard. As it turned out, they are going go with me. Anyway they had nothing to do on the Norval, until the mechanics came in to repair the box.

It was about 8 am. And we rushed away …

Chris is at handwheel, to the right of me is Frostie’s turban. Chris (and Frostie, who succeeded him) stood at the handwheel all the way, I was sitting on the locker in front of the windshield (later, much later, good memories of a comfortable locker will bounce into me, and very much).

We were rushing almost non-stop, only a couple of times the engine was stopped to refill the fuel tank. The weather was really excellent; visibility was “one million” and virtually no waves. I still have the impression that I even had a nap a couple of times (though, without unclenching hands on the handrails for a second). To talk, alas, there was no possibility – a powerful engine roared so loud that the noise was continuing for a couple of hours when arrrived.

The first thing I was thrown to the nearest island and helped to transfer the whole cargo (especially when they saw how amusing I am limping – alas, the consequences of doing sports 30 years ago), and then they left to pass the goods.

Worried, first of all I rushed to unpack, connect and switch on the electronics – I was very afraid that boxes could not stand the trip. Hurray – the generator was wound up at once; everything else was also lit up. Only task remained was to put up antennas. Alas – at this point I learned that I no longer have the headset and will have to work with the internal speaker of the transceiver and CW only.

By the way – I got the royal conditions there. On the island was a canopy with a huge and a rainwater tank. As it turned out later, the Queensland government, through a special program, installed similar amenities on many islands where camping is allowed. But in this case – perhaps it was not built by the government, but by companies whose ships use Diamonds as a shelter in case of bad weather.

Frostie and Chris returned soon, got rid of the cargo and bringing me more food, which, in their opinion, was absolutely necessary for me, since I did not take it enough.

In my terms – it was enough. For 6 days – 8 cans of canned sausages, 4 cans of tuna, several packets of crackers, 2 large chocolate bars, tea, coffee and 20 litres of water.

But they brought two more 2-liter canisters of milk, a kilo of smoked chopped bacon, a couple of loaves of bread and a box of Coke cans. Unfortunately, I did not have a refrigerator and the milk stood peacefully, sour, until some time. I conscientiously ate bacon for two days, and then, in order to avoid poisoning, I threw it into a large plastic bag, where I collected all the garbage.

They also brought a few cans of beer and salads (but this is more for themselves, before going back to Mackay). We celebrate the arrival and I was left alone. Chris on the left – sits, Frostie lies.

Ok, now is a time to put antennas up. The beach, as seen in the previous photo, is great and has a lot of space. But the antennas could not be erected too far away, and they stood on the edge of the beach, a meter from the shore. Cables were not too long – I took 30 metres ones. But as it turned out – this was for the best.

40 m GP got up easily within an hour, with 8 counterweights in a circle. Unfortunately, the installation of 20 m VDA took longer time, may be 3 times more, because of the inconvenience of installing alone and a strong permanent wind, besides constantly changing direction. During installation, the antenna fell several times, but eventually got up and fixed with plastic (important) anchors. It was already an evening, the tide started already and water level began to come up slowly and imperceptibly.

Compare with the photo above – it was taken from the same point.

The bands were empty, alas. Both 40 m and 20 m. And it was not the antennas that were to blame for this. VSWR for VDA was 1.4, for GP – 1.1. Only thing to do was to wait.

Approximately at 6.30 UT the 40 m band began to open. First Chinese broadcasters and all other sound garbage became to be heard. Long CQs did not bring back any response, but at 7.17 UT – the first QSO with VK3GA happen !. Then another couple of Australian stations – and RA0FF, then K6VVA after. The band was alive! Approximately up to 8 UT the work went so-so – one QSO in 3-4 minutes. But then, apparently, Japan opened and rushed! All in the heap – the US, Japan, Russia, Europe … The rate reached 4-5 QSOs per minute. The pile-up was lasting until 13 UT, when I broke down and went to sleep right on the table (on the first day I did not put the tent).

I tried not to stretch the pile-up too wide, the main operation was 1 UP. Although there were operators who called DOWN almost at my frequency. First of all, alas, I had to answer Big-Guns calling in the chaos, since they blocked everyone. Then pass through the pile-up answering to those whom I can distinguish and the selection of quieter stations along the edges. I repent, sometimes I answered those who was DOWN, but to people familiar, so as not to teach the rest to the bad J. Almost all noted that I was passing through 40 m loudly – believe me, you all passed as well as local stations practically.

However, it wasn’t possible to sleep for a long time – very cold weather (around 14C) and mosquitoes (this is a separate story). So at 17 UT, I again sat down behind the transceiver and all continued – but now 99% of all QSOs – Europe. The same pace was maintained until 20.30 UT, when I realized again that callsigns were no longer perceived by me. I rang Larysa by satellite phone to calm her down and say that I’m all right. Alas, I could only call from 2 to 4 am local time on all days on the island. The rest of the time, the satellite, hanging over Singapore, dropped calls, or was busy, or 90% of the packets were lost and a gibbering gruel appeared.

In addition, I constantly exchanged SMS with Andrew EU7A, who voluntarily took over the duties of the pilot, for which I am very grateful. But even SMS sent through were short, not more than a couple of lines – everything else were lost.

I slept again on the table – I did not want to put up the tent at night. But besides that it’s cold, it was also very humid. Many thanks to Larysa, who insisted that I take an electric blanket with me. Otherwise, it would be quite uncomfortable.

I slept for a couple of hours. Slowly opened my eyes, the portable electric boiler did make hot water for a cup of coffee (again thanks to Larissa), and only then, accidentally glancing towards the sea, I understood – I have problems. And they are huge.

To be continued.

See also Part 1

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