A month ago Stephen KK4IBB and I WA2JQZ tried to operate the Alabama QSO Party for the first time. The idea is for hams outside the state to work folks in the state, including as many counties as they can. For us here, we try to work everyone, including as much variety of states and Canadian provinces as we can. It is a 12 hour affair, from 11 AM to 11 PM CDT, once a year on the first Saturday in June. It was something completely new for us.
Stephen arrived at the station a little after noon, and I got there about a half hour later. Stephen already got us started on 20 meters. We had a hard time finding any Alabama QSO stations at all on 20. The band was busy with so much else going on!
However Stephen did find something interesting, which he told me about when I arrived. He had contacted a museum ship, the destroyer USS Joseph P. Kennedy (DD850) with the call sign NB1CR. I then showed him a website printout I had brought with me, which listed 104 museum ships and nautical museums that were operating that weekend — it was also Museum Ship Weekend, and that had caught my attention too.
We carefully tuned through the band, but we managed to contact just one caller for the Alabama QSO Party, N2MM.
But along the journey, what we found we liked was to talk to the ships. We eventually found six. We also worked a lighthouse in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island (operated by W1SYE), in a completely different event. And there was a military commemoration in Stewart, Florida, another event. I think we were very tempted to just forget all about the Alabama QSO party and keep exploring. We definitely enjoyed discovering the ships, and learning some nautical and military history.
There’s more to the museum ship story. But I want to save that for another post. Thinking it made sense to work from the high frequency bands to the lower, we eventually gave up 20 meters (which seemed like the real “party” band — it was a non-stop party), and moved to 40. Where could the Alabama QSO Party be?
We eventually found something we were looking for. On 7.24 MHz we came upon a group of Alabama stations working together. I counted 5 stations, each from a different county. One of them, N4DTC, Marvin, called “CQ Alabama QSO Party”. When other hams would call in, he made the QSO, then invited the caller to work each of the other Alabama participants. We gave them a call. It took time and patience, yet it was very effective.
By then it was mid-afternoon, and it was time for Stephen to go. I decided to stay, and joined that 40 meter group. Some of the Alabama members left or took breaks, and some others joined in too at various times. While I was there we had participants from the counties of Cherokee, Elmore, Lamar, Lee, Limestone, Madison, Montgomery, Talladega, and Walker. With them I logged about 50 Alabama QSO Party QSOs. Rob KB5EZ later told me that usually we don’t work so many for that event. So we ended up doing pretty well after all. For many contests we’ll tune and seek contacts. And lately we’ve been calling CQ on our own more too. Here was something new for me as well, a spontaneous net had come together to help everyone who chose to participate.
Rob also later told me I had met Marvin before. He is KL0ET. He visited the club earlier this year after he returned from Afghanistan (where he was T6MC). He did an excellent job on our frequency, keeping everything running smoothly and friendly. N4DTC is the club station at the Drake State Technical College here in Huntsville.
Of the contests I’ve participated in over the last year and a half, the Alabama QSO Party is definitely the most locally oriented. True, the VHF contests often have a local character when there’s no propagation; but when those bands open suddenly, we visit neighbors near and far. The Alabama QSO Partly invited everyone to come to meet us. In turn, as I saw we did, we genuinely offered our hospitality. I felt part of a community.
To close, these are the eQSLs we received for the Alabama QSO Party. (We posted them small. But click on them and you’ll see more detail.) They are a nice variety.
Thank you everyone who contacted us.
– Gary WA2JQZ