Museum Ship Weekend (June 7 & 8, 2014)

During the Alabama QSO Party ops on Saturday June 7th, Stephen KK4IBB and I WA2JQZ also contacted several historical ships.  We were aware that weekend was Museum Ships Weekend.  And although the museum ships weren’t our first priority, they caught our interest.

The Museum Ships Weekend is an annual event.  This year 104 museum ships and maritime museums participated.  They all seem to have ham radio clubs dedicated to those ships and museums, or they seem to have local clubs who support them and operate their special events.

During our Saturday June 7th ops, Stephen KK4IBB found and contacted 6 of those ships (while I logged).  Their station operators told us something about the ships and histories.  We learned at least some were operating from their radio rooms.  As I tried to visualize that, I realized also we were contacting different kinds of ships, with a diversity of histories. Now they were settled as museums in many places around the country and around the world.  Visualizing all that made the experience richer.

I decided to return to the club station on Sunday afternoon, to see if I could contact some more.  These are the ships we contacted that weekend, in the order we found them:

We also contacted these museums, each on CW:

  • Watson Museum (K1USN), the site of the Fore River Ship and Engine Company, which built ships during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, now the Watson Library & Research Center in Braintree, MA.
  • National Museum of the Pacific War (N5P), a dedicated museum to the Pacific and Asiatic theaters of World War II, in Fredericksburg, TX. Begun by Admiral Chester Nimitz.

We heard other ships too, but didn’t succeed in contacting them.  I heard the Swedish submarine Nordkaperen on CW, but the signal was faint, and I didn’t believe I could get through other stations working it.  We heard the USS Nautilus in Groton, CT, the first nuclear powered submarine.  They had long pileups, and they stopped operating before I could get in.  (I visited that ship museum years ago, and didn’t feel a loss.)  It therefore made sense to try the less popular ships, which nonetheless also gave us more diversity and a larger maritime story.

I noticed the CW operations tended to be more relaxed, perhaps because fewer hams tried contacting the museums that way.  When I contacted the Red Oak Victory and The National Museum of the Pacific War, their operators took time to tell me about their museums and to chat with me.  The Red Oak Victory operator said good-bye with some nice nautical sayings (“with a following wind…”).

Many of the voice contacts, though, were also thoughtful.  I didn’t feel I was on a Disney ride.  Instead I felt I was speaking with real people, who could tell me something they knew about.

If we try the Museum Ships Weekend next year, we should give it more time.  As we found this year, the bands were already crowded with many other activities.  Some of the large and famous ships attracted pileups.  But with 104 museum stations operating, there is enough to go around, and the less-well-known can be interesting, and they may have more time to talk with you.

73, Gary WA2JQZ

NR4DL 20140607 WA4NZD 20m USB Ships Museums FL

The eQSL we received from the USCGC Ingham ARC. To date this is the only eQSL we received from the Museum Ships Weekend ops.

We earned a First Place award again!

The results for the 2014 ARRL International DX Phone Contest were just published. WA4NZD scored First Place within the Alabama Section, in the Multi-operator Single Transmitter Low Power category!

The contest was during the first weekend in March 2014.  We operated Friday night, Saturday and Sunday.

Our point score was 43,605, with 168 QSOs and 95 multipliers.  Within the global community we placed #2015 out of 4102 entries.

It is still too soon for us to receive a certificate.  We only learned the news by carefully checking the just published online article, ARRL International DX Contest – Phone 2014 Results .  You will see us on page 20, the Regional Leaders by Category Page, under the Southeast Region column.  The results are grouped by categories; we are with the MSLP (Multi-operator Single Transmitter Low Power) group.  The others shown in that group are other state leaders in the Southeast Region for that category: N4XI (VA), AJ4DT (FL), WA4NZD (AL), and WA1F (GA).  We weren’t in competition with the “heavy hitters” of these contests, who typically run scores above a million.  We are in a niche of our own.

Our operators who accomplished this were Matt KA0S, Rob KB5EZ, Kalen KK4KLT, Don N4MSN, and Gary WA2JQZ.  Rob, Kalen, Gary, and Matt operated Friday evening.  This was Kalen’s first contest.  Don operated on Saturday*.  And Gary came back on Sunday.

For us this was a chance to operate and practice our skills, and have some fun in ways that don’t come every day.  Many other hams around the world participate.  It is fun to meet them, and in doing so to recognize that the world is really a diverse place.  With many hams on the bands from so many places, you can notice propagation conditions and how those change over time.

We operated on 10, 15, and 20 meters, and just briefly (for 4 QSOs) on 40 meters.  10 meters was fortunately wide open for parts of the late afternoons.

We significantly increased our DXCC credits with this contest.  Some of the stations that gave us first-time Logbook of the World (LOTW) confirmations for their countries were JL1SAM (Japan), TF3W (Iceland), J75Y (Dominica), LX7I (Luxemburg), YS1/NP3J (El Salvador), HC2AO (Ecuador), and TO5A (Martinique) — to name some which quickly stand out in the record.

As we are not in competition with the “heavy hitters”, our contest operations are relatively relaxed.  Such activities make good learning experiences, no matter how much or how little experience you have.  Because hams of different experience levels and interests operate, they each will make different decisions, based on their needs and how they perceive their situations. Everyone influences what happens.  And so you get a richly diverse environment.

We’re in a unique niche to get such an award.  Nonetheless it reflects genuine and good things about us.  Congratulations to all of us!

- Gary, WA2JQZ


ARRL DX SSB Contest 2014

Rob KB5EZ and Kalen KK4KLT warming into the contest as it started Friday evening. This was Kalen’s first contest.

ARRL DX SSB Contest 2014

Rob KB5EZ at the mike with Gary WA2JQZ logging.

ARRL DX SSB Contest 2014

Matt KA0S at the mike, working the contest into late Friday evening. Don N4MSN continued working the contest on Saturday. And Gary WA2JQZ returned on Sunday afternoon.

* PS note — That Saturday, March 1st, was the Birmingham Hamfest. Rob KB5EZ and Gary WA2JQZ drove there with Craig Behrens NM4T and Jim Spikes N4KH, and they had an extra adventure of their own. Craig gave two forums based on his Caribbean DXpeditions. Besides participating in the hamfest, on the way back they stopped at an I-65 rest stop south of Culman, and operated QRP CW and JT65 until dark. The ARRL DX contest was only for phone, and so, operating CW and digital, they didn’t participate in the contest from the field. Malcolm K4MLP also attended the Birmingham Hamfest.

2013 NASA Picnic & June VHF Contest

Posted by Gary WA2JQZ with Rob KB5EZ.

We are catching up with interesting stories that we didn’t have the chance to write earlier. This story is now also posted in our Activites menu.

[You can click on images to see them larger.]


Marshall Amateur Radio Club tent set up in the NASA Family Picnic area. We had the portable mast with a rotatable VHF antenna. Rob’s G5RV Jr wire antenna was strung to the trees.

On a sunny Saturday June 8, 2013, the Marshall Amateur Radio Club took part in the annual NASA Family Picnic at MSFC. We set up under a tent, surrounded by child-friendly activities and other clubs.  But also the band stage was located not far away. We had access to power. And, a water cooler was conveniently located right next to us.

Don N4MSN set up a portable antenna mast close by, from which we deployed a VHF antenna. Rob KB5EZ set up a G5RV jr wire antenna in the trees for HF. We operated with the Yaesu FT-950 for HF and 6 meters, and the FT-897 for VHF/UHF.


Portable mast with VHF antenna

The weather for the day was beautiful. Many people of all ages stopped by to visit us. Members of the club took turns talking with folks and operating the radios, and enjoying the day. The center director and his wife dropped by the tent at the beginning of the event. We made a lot of folks aware of the club as well as ham radio in general.



Alan WB5RMG discussed ham radio by the Marshall Amateur Radio Club tent.


John N4CNY

We made a few HF contacts, mostly digital modes due to the QRM (loud sounds) from the band on the nearby stage. Yet that weekend also was the ARRL June VHF Contest, and we succeeded in making a few local phone contacts on 2 meters as well.

Matt KA0S and Rob KB5EZ

Matt KA0S and Rob KB5EZ.

Several young boys and girls, with their families, spent time with us. Some were delighted to have us teach them Morse Code and help them practice. According to their interests and curiosity, we showed educational brochures, engaged them with some deeper understanding and fun, and talked about next steps they could try.


Ghee WL7C with a young visitor. The ARRL pamphlet says, “Dreams begin here ….”


Studying Morse Code sheet while Ghee WL7C took a radio break.

Matt KA0S and Jenny M

Matt KA0S and Jenny M. operating.

After the picnic concluded some members returned our equipment to the shack, and continued to operate for the ARRL VHF Contest into the evening. Some members returned to the shack on Sunday too, and again continued to operate for the VHF Contest.

During the picnic, propagation at 50 MHz and above was poor. But back at the shack, 6 meters sometimes opened to the U.S. southwest. And then we had 6 meters “magic”.

Below are some of the eQSLs we received from our VHF Contest contacts. Some QSLs are from north Alabama where we are located. And some come from the openings to Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona.


AK4QR 20130608 WA4NZD 6m SSB June VHF EM64 AL_50pc K4TD 20130608 WA4NZD 6m CW EM64 AL_50pc NM5S 20130608 WA4NZD 6m CW DM75 NM_50pc W0RIC 20130609 WA4NZD 6m SSB DM79 CO_50pc W4YZJ 20130609 WA4NZD 6m SSB June VHF EM64 AL_50pc WA4DXP 20130608 WA4NZD 6m SSB June VHF EM64 Huntsville AL_50pc W4ENN 20130608 WA4NZD 6m CW June VHF EM64 AL_50pc KJ4UGO 20130608 WA4NZD 2m SSB June VHF EM64 AL_50pc W0FRC 20130609 WA4NZD 6m SSB June VHF DM78 CO_50pc NQ7R 20130608 WA4NZD 6m SSB June VHF DM42 AZ_50pc


And that’s how the story almost ended. We had a beautiful day, and we enjoyed it. We shared our hobby and interests with out visitors, and in turn stretched their horizons and interests. We enjoyed working together. We enjoyed operating on the radios and talking with folks near and far. And we got to participate in the VHF Contest too, especially with some nice propagation openings…

But the following year, we received a surprise in the mail:

June 2013 VHF 2

We had been awarded First Place within the Limited Multi-Operator category, for the Alabama Section, for the June 2013 VHF Contest!

Probably not many other folks in Alabama operated in this category. But nonetheless, that was sweet!

Your N4A QSLs are on the way…

N4MSN and N4CNY replying to QSL cards for our N4A event.

N4MSN and N4CNY replying to QSL cards for our N4A Apollo 11 45th Anniversary Special Event.

We received over 200 QSL cards for our Apollo 11 45th anniversary special event station N4A, that we operated in July. This afternoon we met after work to respond to them, with our special event cards.

During the past week Matt KA0S and Don N4MSN set up a database for our contacts who mailed us, and Stephen KK4IBB printed individualized signal reports for them. Rob KB5EZ also set up a complete checklist from our log. Today we systematically responded to almost all of the cards we received. We read to each other messages that were included. Many interesting individualized cards were sent to us, including some nice stamps.

Just a few cards are not matching our log record, and we suspect some may be intended for the W4A Apollo anniversary station that was set up by the Huntsville Amateur Radio Club at the US Space & Rocket Center. Whatever the case, we’ll investigate each outlier.

We sent our mail out this evening.

KB5EZ placing QSL cards in envelopes for sending.

KB5EZ placing N4A QSL cards in envelopes for our contacts.

Our QSL card team members this evening were John N4CNY, Don N4MSN, Rob KB5EZ, Gary WA2JQZ, Tina WA8U, and Stephen KK4IBB.

We anticipate we may continue to receive more QSL cards for the Apollo event, especially from overseas.  We will respond to those, once they come.  This evening’s work gave us a chance to look together at the whole group of cards, and talk about them.

Our N4A special event QSL card.

Our N4A special event QSL card.


“Keep those cards and letters coming …”

This gallery contains 6 photos.

Thanks to our many Apollo 11 anniversary contacts… Two weeks after the Apollo special event (July 17-22, 2014), we have received about 200 QSLs in the mail. We logged over 1200 contacts and we anticipate more will come. On ARRL … Continue reading

Apollo 11 45th Anniversary Special Event Station N4A

The Apollo 11 Saturn V, as it rolled out from the Vehicle Assembly Building at Launch Complex 39 at the Kennedy Space Center.

The Apollo 11 Saturn V, as it rolled out from the Vehicle Assembly Building at Launch Complex 39 at the Kennedy Space Center in 1969.

Our Apollo 11 45th Anniversary Special Event Station N4A was an outstanding success! Thank you for contacting us, and thank you for commemorating this special anniversary with us.

Rob KB5EZ starts the Apollo 11 anniversary special event during lunch break on Thursday July 17.

Rob KB5EZ started the Apollo 11 anniversary special event during lunch break on Thursday July 17, operating 17 and 20 meter SSB.

45 years ago Apollo 11 landed on the Moon, and astronauts first walked on the lunar surface.  President Kennedy was probably right, that no other single space project of that time was more impressive to mankind, nor more important for the long range exploration of space.  The space programs of the 1960s with the Apollo lunar landings deeply influenced several generations, including us here.  Our special event was intended to help all of us reconnect with that heritage.

Our operation was timed to coincide with the actual dates of the Apollo 11 mission, which was launched July 16, 1969, reached lunar orbit July 19, landed on the moon July 20 with the EVA walk that evening, and splashed down on July 24 (CDT).  We operated from July 17 to 22 (CDT).  On the 20th and 21st we played short audio clips of the landing and EVA moonwalk communications.

We were one of several NASA amateur radio clubs commemorating the anniversary; the others were WA3NAN at Goddard in Maryland and NA8SA at Glenn in Ohio.  Also participating were the Huntsville Amateur Radio Club operating at the US Space & Rocket Center museum using W4A and W4R, the Cradle of Aviation Museum K2CAM on Long Island (not far from where Grumman built the Lunar Modules) and the actual Grumman Amateur Radio Club WA2LQO.

We logged 1225 QSOs.  Most QSOs were on SSB, but some were CW, RTTY, and FM as well. Most of our operations were on the 17, 20, and 40 meter bands. Our contacts were from most of the US states (including HI and AK) and several territories,  6 Canadian provinces, and more than 30 countries.  Our longest-distance contacts were with Japan on 17 meters. We also contacted 3 of the other special event stations (WA3NAN, W4A, and K2CAM).  The NASA Johnson station in Texas W5RRR contacted us. Some of our contacts had worked with the Apollo Program or other aspects of the space program. When we had time and there was interest, we and our contacts shared memories from that period.  Our operators were KA0S, WA2JQZ, KK4IBB, N4CNY, N4MSN, KB5EZ, and WA8U.  We also had invaluable logging help from Jenny McCollum and Joe Randolph. Our QSL card was designed by KK4IBB and KA0S, with help from Jenny, and additional help from club members This was our most successful event since we reactivated the club a few years ago.

We QSL with Logbook of the World and eQSL. Paper QSL cards are available with an SASE to WA4NZD MSFC Amateur Radio Club, c/o Donald Hediger, ES32, NASA MSFC, Huntsville, AL 35812, USA. Our email contact address is wa4nzd/at/gmail/dot/com.

Jenny logging, Matt KA0S operating RTTY and SSB, and John N4CNY.

Matt KA0S operated RTTY and SSB Friday evening, with Jenny logging, and with John N4CNY.

Rob KB5EZ operating RTTY on Saturday with Stephen KK4IBB. Rob also tried 2 meter FM and Internet Radio Linking Project (IRLP) to Alaska and West Coast reflectors.

Rob KB5EZ on Saturday, with Stephen KK4IBB. Rob operated RTTY, and also tried 2 meter FM and the Internet Radio Linking Project (IRLP) to Alaska and West Coast reflectors. Stephen operated SSB Saturday and Monday afternoons.

Gary WA2JQZ operated Saturday afternoon on 17 and 20m SSB. Band conditions were poor, but sufficiently to the western US and Pacific.  That enabled contacts to Hawaii and Japan, and also to a few QRP stations in the US southwest.  Gary also operated CW.

Gary WA2JQZ operated Saturday afternoon on 17 and 20m SSB. Band conditions were poor, but opened sufficiently to the western US and Pacific. That enabled contacts to Hawaii and Japan, and even to a few QRP stations in the US southwest. Gary operated CW and SSB on several days.

Don N4MSN at the mike Sunday evening, with Tina WA8U logging.

Don N4MSN at the mike Sunday evening, with Tina WA8U logging. Don operated or logged several of the late night shifts, on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday.

Joe, who is studying for his ticket, logged late night Sunday with Don N4MSN

Joe, who is studying for his ticket, logged late night Sunday with Don N4MSN

US Space & Rocket Center

You can learn more about the space program and the heritage from Apollo by visiting the US Space & Rocket Center – the visitor center for the NASA Marshall Space Flight Center and Redstone Arsenal — located on I-565 in Huntsville, AL. Its outdoor Rocket Park tells the story of U.S. rocket development during the 1950s and 60s. The Saturn V replica is a prominent landmark, visible from many miles away. Inside the Davidson Center building you can get close with a real Saturn V, plus many more items of Apollo and American space program hardware. The US Space & Rocket Center is the home of Space Camp.
* * *
The NASA Marshall Space Flight Center developed the Apollo Saturn launch vehicles, and continues to serve a major role for the country. Its work supports all the major NASA directorates. Marshall is now developing the heavy-lift Space Launch System (SLS), which will give the country again the ability to send heavy payloads to deep space.

Apollo 11 45th Anniversary Special Event Station – N4A

The Marshall Space Flight Center Amateur Radio Club (MARC), WA4NZD, will be operating a special event station to commemorate the 45th Anniversary of Apollo 11. Continue reading