A Community Devoted to the Preservation and Practice of Celestial Navigation and Other Methods of Traditional Wayfinding
From: Don Seltzer
Date: 2020 Apr 30, 10:44 -0400
I'll check David C's recollections with my NZ radio connections. And I'll tell how I got to Clipperton, also many other places, and am now spending time on celnav.
Back in the day, I read a lot of nautical and maritime literature, mostly fiction (also a lot of science fiction). I learned just a little bit of astronomy for that. Then I went and through great good luck had a successful but short career in computers and data communications. When the Patrick Obrian books became popular, of course there was an email discussion list, and someone on that list arranged for us to go sailing for a couple of weeks on "HMS" ROSE, a sorta replica of a British frigate from the US Revolutionary War era, that also happened to match pretty well the description of HMS SURPRISE in the books. We were to go from NYC to Bermuda and then Savannah.
I'd been getting back into ham radio, and ran across a way to send email from at sea that way (Winlink), so I took a setup along, and was successful. Since I already had that working, I started doing RTTY Dxing and contesting when I got home. I ended up going to a club meeting where there was an announcement that people were looking for hams to go to the legendary DX location, Clipperton Island. They'd take anyone who could pay a share. So I went, on a chartered fishing boat out of San Diego, and I was surprisingly successful as a RTTY op. I've since operated in about 20 DX countries. I also was sensitised to the tall ship community, so started looking for ships.
I did a number of trips as a "trainee", neither pure passenger nor real crew. In 2008, I got on BOUNTY for a couple of weeks, the one from the 1961 movie, and actually connected with the captain and crew. So the next year, I went to Ireland and sailed to Florida. The captain, Robin Walbridge, urged me to come back the next year and go up the St Lawrence into the Great Lakes. On that trip, I started doing electrical and electronic work on the boat, and made a place for myself, such that I was asked to come along in 2011, joining in the spring in Puerto Rico, and getting off in December in the Virgin Islands, with a lot of Europe and Atlantic islands in between.
In 2012, it was just assumed I was coming along, so PR for starts, traveling up the East Coast, until I took a break in Nova Scotia, to ride a motorcycle in the Himalayas, and then returned to the yard in Booth Bay. We splashed in late October, wnet to New London, took a bunch of submariners for a day sail on a real ship, and then set out for St Petersburg, Florida. Unfortunatly, Hurricane Sandy was more powerful than anyone really knew and zigged when we did. And things went wrong. We were prepared to abandon ship at dawn, with a USCG C130 overhead, on 29 October 2012, when the ship flipped and threw us all in the water. We were in exposure suits and ended up swimming through rigging, sometimes under water, to get clear. Eventually most of us found rafts floating, managed to inflate them and get in. The chief mate just found a floating beacon. The helo picked him up straight out of the water. Then it found the raft I was in, and the rescue swimmer got 4 of us out and into the helo before it got low on fuel. Another helo found the other raft, and got all seven out of it, and then two out of our raft. When that helo returned to Elizabeth City, we realized two people were missing; the captain, Robin Walbridge, and the newest deckhand, Claudene Christian. They found Claudene's body with contusions on her head. Robin's was never found. You can see some of us getting off a helo in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UDlc1slA8PA
I continued to work on tall ships, did a trans-Atlantic on TRES HOMBRES, worked on and for OLIVER HAZARD PERRY, and then ended up on SPIRIT OF SOUTH CAROLINA. I'd been taking courses and taking examinations, so I had a 200T Near Coastal Mate's ticket, and the captain requested that I qualify for the 200T Oceans Mate ticket, which required simple celnav. I've continued to upgrade, so I have a 500T NC Mate, and need to pass two cel nav exams to upgrade to 500T OC Mate. Recently I've been mate on LADY WASHINGTON, HAWAIIAN CHIEFTAIN, PROVIDENCE, AJ MEERWALD, ROBERT C SEAMANS and HARVEY GAMAGE. I'm N6TQS and you can see that I've been to the Isle of Man, Clipperton, Conway Reef, Little Cayman (2nd in the world in a contest), San Felix, Baker (with a side trip to Howland), Ducie (with a visit to Pitcairn), Western Sahara, Mali, the Falklands, Banaba, St. Paul, the Andamans, Lakshadweep, Swain's, Samoa, American Samoa, Norfolk, and Niue.
I also did amateur satellite comms from Ducie and Mali on AO-40. I'm not very active now, just VHF and UHF with the local energency groups and a high-speed ham digital mesh network. But I still have a 20' tower on the roof of my house with a tribander and 40M dipole. I'm rebuilding my HF station, but my house suffered from neglect while I was off on boats, so I'm catching up there.
Is that too much?