We camped out at the Clearwater Casino to make our commute to Hell’s Gate marina that much easier since we needed to be there at 0700. We rolled in, got our boat assignments and set about trying to find our boats. I got pictures when I could, but sadly I usually ended up busy during the most exciting parts so there weren’t any pictures done.
This was a failure on many levels. Some of the boats didn’t have their numbers up and finally in the end it was hop on any boat you can to get where you needed to go. I never ended up on my originally assigned boat and in hindsight that was a good thing. The boat I was assigned to didn’t have any EMTs on board, the one I ended up on did. So in the event of an emergency the EMTs would have had a communications line they wouldn’t have had otherwise.
We rolled up the river and got on station on the high side of Wild Goose. At about that time the race was actually starting. I set up the antenna and radio and about that time a sheriffs boat came over. Here’s why HAM radio will never die, he needed me to relay out messages for him.
With all their repeaters and radios he could not successfully communicate with his dispatch. But alas, I couldn’t hit the repeater we were using. I fell back on plan B. Transmit on the repeater out put frequency and listen on the input, still couldn’t get a hold of anyone. When that failed I tried simplex, and still there’s nothing. The boats start coming by and thankfully there’s no real issues.
Finally I try calling out again on simplex and there’s AE7HR, the finish line, and he’s talking with someone else. During a lull I call in and have him check me in with net control by relay. It ends up that he had a shot into Heller Bar where we had another ham on a land station. The land station had a straight shot into the repeater and net control. We had communications!
We kept watching the boats go by and then we had a disturbing call. There were only 14 boats and the finish line. The cruncher was that the last boat had crossed the finish line. I called in that we were going mobile since we had seen the boat go by. Immediately we headed upstream searching for the missing boat. It took a whole 30 seconds.
Boat 312b had blown a valve just after passing our location. He was able to limp downstream under minimal power on his own. We then reported to the start finish line since my boat captain had some business with some of the other captains. While there I was transferred to the start/finish boat. Ends up AE7HR was across the river and down stream. In hind sight I shouldn’t have left the boat I was on since it left the EMTs without communications and the boat I moved to didn’t have any other safety personal. This time around all I did was relay when boats crossed the start line for their return leg back down stream.
After the last boat was headed down stream we went to pick up AE7HR and his equipment. The Start/Finish boat now became the sweep boat. We moved down river making sure all racers were safe and off river before we passed. There were two boats that were dead and towed to Heller Bar. After which we went screaming down stream with me calling into net control demanding a meeting after to discuss the upstream failures and discuss solutions for tomorrow.
All things considered it could have been much worse and this was the first time the race had been run on the Snake since 1992. None of the ops were familiar with the propagation of the area and it was a royal learning experience. While we all admitted it could have been better, none of us were surprised at issues considering the fact it was the first time we had done it here.
We had an end of the day BBQ with beer and brauts at one of the local Ham’s place of abode. We had nice discussions and got to know each other better since some of us had never met before. One apologized to me since when I first came on the radio he and no clue who I was and though I was some boat captain that was also a ham and was wanting to dish out some crap.
We helped move a firebox for the ham and chatted for another couple hours. Eventually the wife and I left and headed for the store to grab Gatorade, Water, and a few other things necessary for the next day.
When we arrived Friday night we were told to just grab a spot in the camping area. We grabbed a spot out of the way so we would bother people in the morning since we had to wake up early. At the same time we tried to isolate it from the noise of the road and highway. When we got home Saturday night someone parked their camping trailer in front of the tent. I was a bit annoyed but was exhausted and didn’t feel like becoming a total prick. The wife and I called it a night and headed to bed. It was a good thing because I had no idea what laid ahead for me tomorrow.