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:
- USS Joseph P. Kennedy (DD850) (NB1CR), a destroyer that served from 1945 to 1973. Its service included supporting the Mercury and Gemini manned space programs.
- NSS Savannah (K3SAV), a nuclear powered merchant vessel, now in Baltimore, MD harbor.
- USS Wisconsin (BB-64) (N4WIS), a WWII-era battleship that saw battle late in the Pacific war, then during the Korean War, and then, remarkably, was re-commissioned to fight during Desert Storm in 1990. Now berthed in Norfolk, VA.
- Tall Ship Elissa (N5E), a sailing barque now berthed at Galveston Island, TX.
- SS Valley Camp (K8V), a Great Lakes freighter, berthed at Sault St. Marie, MI.
- USCGC Ingham (NR4DL), a US Coast Guard Cutter with a distinguished record. Built in 1936, served in each of the major WWII theaters, and through the Vietnam War.
- USS Cobia (SS-245) (NB9QV), a WWII-era submarine, at the Wisconsin Maritime Museum in Manitowoc.
- Red Oak Victory (K6YVM), CW contact, a WWII victory ship, now berthed near where it was built, in Richmond, CA.
- SS Ticonderoga (W1T), a 1906 steamboat in Shelburne, Vermont
- RMS Queen Mary (W6RO), the famous passenger ship, now berthed in Long Beach, CA. Voice of America did a 2 minute video story about the ship and its radio club.
- USS Pampanito (SS-383) (NJ6VT), a WWII submarine now berthed at the San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf in California.
- USS Iowa (BB-61) (NI6BB), the WW II battleship, now berthed in San Pedro, CA.
- USS Midway (CV-41) (NI6IW), a post-WW II aircraft carrier, now berthed in San Diego, CA.
- Tall Ship Star of India (NS6OI)
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