The Story: VK9MAV Marion Reef Isl. & Whitsundays Isl. [Part 3 – Final]

by Andy VK5MAV/VK9MAV

Coral Sea Adventure
Part 4 (final). And routine days by days …

Coral Sea Adventure

Part 4. «Comin’ in on a wing and a prayer…”

Behind all these worries and IOTA, in the background, I constantly had the thought – and how will I get out of here? And the perspectives were not easy. I could contact via satellite phone to a diver ship somewhere nearby – maybe the current tour was ending soon and they could bring me back to the continent – no matter to Mackay or another town on the coast. Or I could contact Ron and ask, in extreme case, to send the same high-speed boat. However, both options implied very high additional costs and uncertain dates.

What to do?

But this thought was not the main thing, it was just constantly present. All consciousness was consumed by the fear of missing short periods of propagation, the fear that magic could end with the sudden activity of the Sun, and a constant scratching .

Work on air has already begun to get some kind of order and go into the framework. The callers have got idea how I manage the pile-up and after PSE PSE PSE NA/VK /DL /UA transmitted almost everyone stopped calling. Unfortunately, at the very beginning it did not bring almost any effect. But realizing that I would just do QRX for a while, almost everyone accepted the rules of the game. I did not limit dupes, understanding perfectly how hard everyone would want to be in the log. However, in last days of activation I started to send Dupe or QSO b4 to particularly zealous fans. Some did make up to 5 dupes on the same band. What for? For me this is a big mystery.

Also, it was bit inconvenient that many Japanese stations (apparently because of the standard setup?) loose first dot in the transmission. Along with the beautiful manner of not responding if the call sign is wrong at least in one character (I really appreciate it), it caused delays – at first I automatically reacted to OA, being afraid that propagation is open to South America, and I missed it. Then realizing that this is most likely JA, the time was lost for a response / repeated reply, and a character had been sent by me incorrectly. I’ve noticed Japanese stations here, because about 50% of all QSOs have been conducted with them.

Of course, my “merits” are counted as well. The key moves around the desk, mozzie bite at the most inappropriate moment, the roar of gusts of wind. And just fatigue.

On June 22, I again woke up from a rhythmic tap on the water tank. No longer frightened, got out of the tent and was greeted with welcoming smiles of the same Michael and Cathy. They, as it turned out, decided to stay around bit longer, fishing, and decided to replenish clear water supplies. And then Michael said to me “You’ve been here for a few days on the island. When are you returning to civilization? “I began to explain the difficult situation with the return. Interrupting me in mid-sentence, Cathy smiled. “Well, we thought so. Especially I – you, males, think that the main thing is to get involved into a fight. How to get out of it, you do not always imagine”. There was nothing to discuss, the true is true, and I, smiling in return, did not say anything.

And then a proposal came out and it was impossible to refuse.

“We talked to friends yesterday. They are waiting for us in Bowen, it’s about 200 km from Mackay. If you want, we can take you with us. On the continent, you’ll figure it out without any problems”. I tried to recall the map,” And how are you going to go – on the high seas parallel to the Great Barrier Reef or in more calm waters, between the GBR and Australia? ”

The answer was the one I hoped for – of course, in a more peaceful area. Then I asked the second question – you will still go through Whitsundays island group – maybe throw me there? The reaction to the question was unexpected – the couple looked at each other and laughed – as it turned out, they planned to stop for a day at the island of Scawfell. After asking for a minute, I digged into the IOTA Directory, downloaded to the laptop, and made sure that Scawfell Island is in the OC-160. Bingo!

Seeing that I’m just happy, Michael and Cathy decided their today visit is finished and went to the yacht, warning that they prefer to sail at daytime and tomorrow at 8 am I have to have everything packed already.

I started packing right away, leaving only a GP for 40 m, a transceiver, a generator and a laptop. Everything else by the beginning of my last propagation on OC-267 was dismantled and packed – a tent, a dipole for 20 m, food, water, garbage bag, etc. I left myself only a sleeping bag, into which I climbed completely. It was warm and comfortable to work on the air, but too tight.

At 20.30 UT (6.30 am local time) I did make the last QSO with PY1VOY and packed the remaining equipment.

Good wizards did not keep me waiting – Michael on the inflatable boat appeared around 7 am. 6 round trips (the boat is small), and all my luggage is on board of the yacht Lady D, not new, but neat, 12-14 meters long. To my delight, all the loading took place at a high tide, and I did not have to carry anything too far, since the boat approached almost to the canopyJ.

 Frankly, to my shame, I immediately went to the cot and turned off almost until the arrival to the OC-160, having slept for about 10 hours in a row. And even more upsetting is that I did not make a single photo of my rescuers. At first I put it off for later, and when I woke up, I realized that we were almost at OC-160. Besides, it was raining outside.

The landing was quick.

Scawfell Island is much closer to Mackay (about 60 km or 2-3 hours by boat depending on the boat and weather). It is a fairly popular holiday destination and equipped better. In particular, in addition to the canopy and rainwater tank, there is also a toilet and additional tables for picnics.

Unfortunately, since it was Friday evening, a family with children had occupied the canopy, and I had to settle on a separate table. It served me both as a shack and as a bed. I looked there, sleeping wrapped in a sleeping bag, weird but I didn’t care.

The island itself is slightly mountainous, with tall trees and an equally high tide. Remembering the previous experience, GP was installed similarly, with an attempt to repeat conditions in which it worked perfectly. The dipole – as well. However, it turned out in the morning that I fixed the center of the dipole badly and it blew off in the wind. But there was no any power left to fix it, and I left it as it is.

I cannot say anything very interesting or unusual about operation from OC-160. Most likely, the volume of impressions exceeded the volume of my short-term memory, so I remember it in pieces.

It was necessary to explain repeatedly to each new arriving company, what I’m doing here and why I do not do fishingJ. In addition, there were complaints about the generator’s noise, interfering with sleeping children.

The weather was cloudy all the time, with intermittent showers.

In periods of lack of propagation I was able to ring Chris at Mackay. He was pleased me that on Sunday 25th of June he has a client for fishing for the whole day, on Wet Hooker, and will be able to pick me up around 10 am to return to Mackay before fishing.

Having worked till 2 am on Sunday and having last connection with SP3NNH, I fell asleep, going to wake up at 8 o’clock and slowly pack everything.

Opening my eyes, the first thing I saw was Chris, who had already jumped off the boat. As it turned out, the weather forecast changed for the worse and he decided to pick me up as quickly as possible.

Hastily gathering everything, we loaded and set off on the return journey. Chris warned that there will be a whining, since the excitement of the sea is 3-4 points, plus a wind of 3-4 points. In addition, the return trip will take longer, since most of the way he plans to pass not by the shortest distance, but hiding behind the islands.

I, as before, sat on the locker in front of the windshield, now firmly clinging to the handrails and not letting go off them for a second. The boat was running at its 40 knots, constantly bouncing off the waves. Water rinsed all with regularity in a few seconds, and it was cold.

Passing between picturesque, even in such a gray and unfriendly weather, numerous Whitsundays islands about an hour, Chris threw off his speed and hid in the shade of a private (with the airfield) island. Completely filled the tank with fuel, checked everything, he warned me that it would be worse after that, because we go out into the open part of the way to Mackay.

Indeed, it was much worse. The boat periodically took off on the waves, and flying 4-5 meters in the air, fell to hard water from a height of about a meter, all at the same speed of 40 knots. Actually I had an impression that the boat has a secret dream – to be an airplaneJ.

All this did not last very long, as, once again jumping high; the boat began to fall back. I almost self-deprecated the movement of my body down with my hands, and at that moment the boat hit harder from below.

At that moment I realized that maybe that’s it. Finito. I lost the vision, replaced by a burning, unbearably white light, flooded the world around. Attempts to breathe ended with nothing. Plus the spine has turned into one pillar of pain. All this lasted no more than 3-4 seconds, but it felt like an eternity.

Chris noticed immediately that something was going on with me, and slowed down a bit. It gave me time to catch my breath and recover. I understood very well that there is no other option than to continue moving. Therefore, I comfortingly waving my hand and shouting through the roar of the engine and the wind something unreadable and stood up, fixing hands on the side of the boat.

At that moment, the wave hit again and everything happened again, since I just did not have time to fix myself yet. But this time it was a little easier, and we continued the way to Mackay.

The remaining 2 hours I remember vaguely, sagging all this time on tightly bound with the handrails hands. When we finally came to Mackay, I could barely get on board of Norval and, with all my strength showing that everything was OK, slide inside, where I fell into the bunk. The next few hours I tried to get warm and fall asleep, but everything was in vain. I did have no strength to go to the hotel, which was about 500 m away. Relaxed a bit in the evening, I was pulled myself by hands, crawled out onto the deck.

By this time Chris returned from fishing with the client. He looked carefully at me and forced to go to his house to take a hot shower (the shower was available at Norval, but you can imagine yourself how piss-like it is J).

Chris’s mum, a retired nurse, was happy to remember her previous work and drove me into a hot bath with salts, where I was laying for about half an hour, after that I was fed by dinner and interrogated.

We quickly found a common language with her, because in addition to the cordiality and comfort, which simply stood as a warm cloud around her, both turned out to be cat-owners. And her 3-year-old red handsome cat Basil accepted my presence too, with a restrained sniff and rubbing against the palm of my hand.

To beg for the night would be fair at all, I felt better after the bath, and I asked Chris to take me to the hotel. There, the first thing I did was to re-book flight for a day later, because it would be crazy to fly tomorrow, and there were still things to do – to send the generator, antennas and everything I could to Adelaide.

The next day Chris drove to Norval in the morning, where by that time I came in already, spent good half an hour walking slowly from the hotel. He loaded all my boxes into the boat, and then, passing through the harbor, into the ute.

Although my condition wasn’t too good, I still had some interesting things to see in the marina while waiting for Chris. And make the final selfie for memory.

Mackay CBD with the transport company office is far enough from the marina. After spending half an hour, we got there and I made out the delivery (it’s all already arrived, within 6 days).

Then I was taken back to the hotel, where I stayed for another day waiting for the plane home.

I will not say that the flights were easy; it was a bit uncomfortable to sit. By the way, the plans for Marion and the police interest came up again on the way back. In addition to the security check, I was carefully, to the smallest corner and soles, “sniffed” by a special device, apparently in search of traces of drugs.

But at home – Larysa and cat met me with great joy. This event everyone can imagine himself. For 2 weeks now I am at home, on pills and painkillers, but now I almost try to bend my back J. I hope tomorrow the doctor will say something good, as the preliminary diagnosis sounded unpleasant. And I would not want to be absent from work for too long, summing up colleagues.

Here, finally, the end of the story.

Pro – I could never make myself a birthday present better than this. I felt great with multinational support. 4,500 QSO. Over 100 DXCC countries from each of the islands. Lost more than 5 kg of live weight. Survived simply perfect pileups.

Contra – I have no headset any longer. I have no transceiver any longer (three hours submerged into salty sea water on the way from OC-160 to Mackay, and 3 days with water inside, until I finally gathered up and opened it, washed and dried – alas, everything was corroded. However, an easy explosion when turned on, a broken display and a pair of broken knobs made it clear that the repair would cost more than the new one). Uncertain physical state.

Future plans:

This year I fulfilled my promise to myself to activate at least 2 islands. In 2018 – one island awaits its hour, it remains only to arrive there. Another one – in the process of finding an official who will take the trouble to issue a permit. And the third one – in process of understanding how to get there, everything else is ready. All three – below 20%, that is “rare” in the IOTA classification. Alas, it depends not only on time and money, but also on the ability of my work to pay me enough to buy a new transceiver J. For now all perspectives are vague.

What Next?

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