This is the final installment in our 5 part series on the Maritime Mobile Service Net by John Emery
Four Decades and Going Strong!
Four decades of service have not dulled the skill or dedication of the MMSN. While many amateur radio operators see their time on the air as “just a hobby,” the members of the Maritime Mobile Service Network see their time on 14.300 MHz as the place “Where Emergency Communication is a Commitment!”
The MMSN management and members invite you to visit the Net’s website at www.mmsn.org where you can see more reports like this one taken from the Net Log (Recent Events) dated May 4-5, 2007.
On Friday May 4, 2007, at approximately 1340z, a “Mayday” call was relayed to the Intercon Net Control station, Wes KI0A (also a MMSN Net Control) in Tyler TX.
W7DUG and N5OTB reported that SV Sailabout (non-ham) was calling “Mayday” on the frequency but, due to propagation conditions, was not being answered. (In an emergency, a ham license is not required to call for help on the MMSN frequency.) KI0A could not hear Sailabout well so he handed the frequency to Fletcher KA4BPR (MMSN Net Control in Dothan AL). Sailabout was a 35′ vessel, Norwegian flagged, with two people onboard, Captain Gunnar and Grethe.
With the assistance of relay stations, the position of the Sailabout was determined to be approximately 05-53.0S x 100-46.0W, or about 700 miles Southwest of the Galapagos Islands. It was also determined that Sailabout had suffered damage to the bow when the forestay was lost. At this time, Sailabout reported that they were taking-on water and had about one meter in the boat but the pumps were working. Sailabout reported that the seas were six to eight feet with 16-18 knot winds out of the south-east. Captain Gunnar was also concerned that the mast might come down which, aside from the obvious damage, would also take down the radio antenna.
USCG Alameda was notified and apprised of the situation. KA4BPR was assisted by many other stations (both on the air and over other net communication channels) in gathering and relaying critical information for the USCG.
At 1425z, at the request of the USCG, Sailabout activated their EPIRB and the signal was received and plotted. USCG was able to contact and divert two vessels to the assistance of Sailabout. The commercial vessels were the MV Belnor and MV Ivory Dawn. However, both vessels estimated a significant period of time before they could arrive at Sailabout.
Two private sailing vessels also changed course and began to head to Sailabout’s assistance. They were Colleen and Tom on SV Mokisha (non-ham) and Ute and Paul M0PWJ on SV Damarri. Damarri estimated five hours while Mokisha estimated 12 – 14 hours. Ultimately, Mokisha had to abandon their efforts as they were battling headwinds and high seas and not making any progress.
Sailabout was able to get underway and changed course towards Damarri. The net maintained a regular radio schedule with both vessels and updated the USCG, as they did not have direct communication with Sailabout.
At approximately 2200z, Damarri estimated that he would be near Sailabout approximately 0400z (May 5). Damarri reported that the seas were now 12 to 14 feet with strong winds. However, it was clear from the updated positions that both vessels were closing on each other
At 0137z (May 5) Damarri reported that he has made visual and VHF radio contact with the Sailabout. Damarri did not attempt to transfer the two people from Sailabout due to the wind and sea conditions. Damarri stood-off approximately 1nm from Sailabout, to avoid a collision. All was reasonably well onboard both vessels, although both crews were extremely fatigued. Sailabout reported the leak was still under control but the mast was of greatest concern.
At 1100z, the Intercon Net resumed operations and communication with Dumarri was re-established by the relay stations. Both vessels are standing-by for the Belnor and their situation was unchanged. The net maintained a radio schedule with the vessels and updated the USCG with position and condition reports throughout the morning.
At 1530z, SV Damarri confirmed that MV Belnor had arrived and transferred both persons from Sailabout to Belnor. Sailabout was abandoned at sea. This occurred at 05-07.5N x 101-23.8W. The Belnor would take Gunar and Grethe to Panama while Damarri continued onto the Marqueses.
The net received significant assistance from Gene KI4EYF on SV Queen Mary, in Honduras. Gene had good contact with all vessels and net control stations and he was able to relay critical information, updates and instructions to and from the vessels. Without Gene’s assistance, this situation would have been much more difficult to deal with under the poor radio conditions. Well done Gene!
Also, Al on SV Griffith (WDB6077) and Bob KB1DEC on SV Shamal kept the family of Sailabout in Norway advised via telephone. The net also received assistance from Judy and Greg aboard SV Lone Star Love (WDB6076) with some relay assistance.
Considerable thanks to Beryl VP5DB (Provo, T&C Islands), Dale KR4OR (Miami, FL) and Bob K5SIV (Austin, TX). These three stations were on-the-air for most of the incident and they, with the assistance of other net control stations, maintained communication with the USCG and the vessels and relays. There were several other controllers who assisted with the incident and many thanks go out to them. There are just too many to list!
Certainly, not every day on the MMSN is like this. Like good sailors, the Net Control stations are on the air 365 days a year “swabbing the decks and polishing the brightwork.” MMSN also serves vessels at sea by posting their positions and comments to the Net’s ShipTrak ( http://shiptrak.org/ ) service for family and friends to access. The Net also participates in the Marine Observation Program of the National Weather Service as well by relaying “eyewitness” weather reports from vessels at sea. Non-emergency hours are filled with developing relay stations world-wide who can be available to the Net, the U. S. Coast Guard and those in harm’s way when the “Mayday” call comes in.
Coast Guard News would like to say Thank You and Happy 40th Anniversary to the MMSN, “Where Emergency Communication is a Commitment!”