CW Gets the Message Through in Wake of Hurricane Irma

10/27/2017 Any CW operator worth his or her salt will tell you that CW is the mode that gets through when all others fall short of the mark. CW certainly did the job for Chet Hogue, N3BK, who handled dozens of messages for residents of Florida’s Lower Keys in the days following Hurricane Irma in September.

“A message from a Big Pine Key man to his girlfriend, who evacuated with their young daughter and was waiting to hear how he weathered the storm, was one of about 80 sent out over the airwaves by ham radio enthusiast Chet Hogue in the days following Irma’s destruction,” reporter Katie Atkins wrote in The Keynoter in describing Hogue’s activity.

“Things here are still incredibly a mess!” Hogue told ARRL this week.

The Summerland Key charter captain, known as “Captain Chester,” weathered the storm in place. He noted that the primary frequencies handling traffic were quite busy, so he got on CW, which, he told Atkins, allowed him “to relay messages clearly.” He operated from a station at his home as well as from his boat.

According to the news report, Hogue would transmit message traffic gathered from residents trying to get in touch with family and friends outside the area. He urged anyone interested in Amateur Radio to visit the ARRL website. “It’s just neat, this system,” he told Atkins. “With a piece of wire and a car battery, you can talk around the world.”

Hogue told ARRL that he “escaped” to the Keys in 2010 after recovering from an injury suffered in a vehicle accident. “I haven't been active in some time, but have kept my 'bug-out bag' ready for just this situation,” he said. “[This] was my first emergency, as it was for many who passed traffic for me.”

Hogue’s father — also Chester — is N3VA, and his dad and some of his friends got him interested in Amateur Radio. Hogue entered the military as a teenager and, he said, realized the vital importance of communication.

Hogue used a 100 W radio powered from deep-cycle marine batteries, a G5RV antenna on shore and a fiberglass vertical antenna on his charter boat. He kept a handwritten log on a piece of cardboard.

“This is a good reason for all of us to learn CW and use it on the bands, and become skilled at sending and receiving CW,” remarked Whitey Doherty, K1VV, a CW stalwart who shared the news story with ARRL Headquarters. — Thanks to “Captain Chester” Hogue, N3BK, The Keynoter, and Whitey Doherty, K1VV



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