Radio Waves -
October 10, 2002
Eileen and Ernie Meyer in Mississauga, Ontario, home of the Mississauga maritime radio net
A few days ago, we spoke with our friend Tom in Bermuda. We've never met Tom, but we hear him on board "Little Gidding" just about every morning. Tom's one of the southern relay stations for the Mississauga Maritime Radio Net. Mississauga is a suburb of our home town, Toronto. The net was started in 1984 by radio amateurs Ernie Meyer and Doug Last. Since then, they've made 175,000 radio contacts with the help of a far flung web of shore stations. In addition to Tom in Bermuda, there are dedicated volunteers in the Bahamas, Jamaica and across central and eastern Canada who ensure that we'll be heard wherever we happen to be on the eastern seaboard, in the Caribbean, and beyond.
The net is open to all amateur radio operators. Although the majority of the participating boats are Canadian flagged, there are many cruisers from other countries who use the net. Last year 390 different boats checked into the net, some from as far as way as Polynesia, Europe and Africa.
Most mornings, at 0745 Eastern time, we tune in 14.122.5 MHz on our ham radio transceiver and hear Ernie's cheery greeting. Here in the Chesapeake we're too close to Mississauga for optimal radio reception, so we usually have to rely on one of the southern relay stations to check in. Later this fall, when we head south, we'll be able to talk directly to Ernie (a rare example of when it's better to be further away for good connections).
In an era of e-mail and satellite phones, high frequency radio nets like the Mississauga net still have a valuable place in keeping cruisers connected to the world back home. We generally check in whenever we change location and while we're on passage. We feel more secure knowing that if our landfall is delayed, there's a record of where and when we were last in touch. Our families have phone numbers for Ernie and some of the other volunteers in case there's an emergency at home and they need to contact us. One morning when we were anchored in a remote bay along the Venezuelan coast, David got the message that his sister in Vancouver needed to talk to him as soon as possible. We immediately weighed anchor and (two days later) managed to get to a telephone to settle some urgent family business.
But the best aspect of radio nets is their personal touch. If conditions are good, for example, we can arrange a "phone patch" and directly wish happy birthday to someone back home. Or we can find out how much snow just fell in Toronto while we're enjoying the sun on some tropical isle. Or we can learn the score at the previous night's Maple Leafs hockey game.
None of this would be possible if people like Ernie weren't volunteering countless hours of their time to help out. After speaking with Ernie over the air waves for eight years, we had lunch with him in Mississauga this past summer. When we asked him about his dedication to the net, he chuckled, "It's an acutely non-renumerative seven days a week volunteer job."
Thank you, Ernie, Doug, Tom and all the other radio net volunteers who make it a lot easier for us to be out here.