For cruising boats with single sideband radios (SSBs), one of the morning and evening pastimes is to listen to, and possibly check in to, one of the “nets”. These are frequencies that, at predetermined times of the day, are open to sailors (and others) to check in, find out what the weather is supposed to do, listen to where other boats are, tell where your boat is, and generally pass information. The three nets that I listen to most often are the Sonrisa net and the Amigo net, both of which meet in the mornings, and the Southbound net which meets in the evenings. Oftentimes I can’t hear anything because the signal propagation is poor or I’m in a bad spot. Sometimes, although rarely, I check in to the nets. Rarely because my signal isn’t usually all that strong although, at times, I’m told it is. However, almost every time I check in I end up by wondering why I bother expending the battery power to do so. Last night was sort of a worst-case. It would have been better of they hadn’t been able to hear me at all. The following is not an exact transcript but is close enough to the actual exchange to be credible.
But first, two notes of explanation. First, when it’s difficult for the net controller to hear someone, another radio operator will often fill in as a relay. Second, because of the difficulty people seem to have with the name Siempre Sabado on the airwaves, we have been toying with the idea of a name change, or at least a “radio name” change.
Net Control: Anybody else want to check into the Southbound Net? Me: Siempre Sabado.
Net Control: I got your signal but couldn’t make out the name. Try again. Me: (louder) Siempre Sabado.
Net Control: Still having trouble with the name. Give it another try. Me (taking a different track): Dude
Net Control: Still not getting it. Try again and maybe someone else can relay. Me: (louder and waiting a beat after keying the mike) Dude.
Relay: I think it’s Prelude.
Net Control: OK, relay, go ahead and take the check-in.
Relay: Prelude, Prelude, how do you read?
Me: It’s sailing vessel Dude, not Prelude and I read you loud and clear. Relay: Oh! The Dude! Sorry about that. Go ahead with your check-in.
Me: This is sailing vessel Dude, whiskey-delta-echo-8-3-5-8, also known as Siempre Sabado which no one seems to be able to say. We are Steve and Lulu and we are currently anchored in San Juanico where we are getting 10-12 knots of wind from the east.
Relay: OK, I didn’t get all that I didn’t get the names. Could you come back with the names of the people on board? Me: Steve and Lulu.
Relay: OK, I think I heard you say Renaldo and Dolores. Is that correct? Me: No. It’s Steve and Lulu.
Relay: Can you give me a phonetic spelling?
Me: Sierra-Tango-Echo-Victor-Echo and Lima-Uniform-Lima-Uniform.
Relay: OK, I definitely got the Lima-Uniform-Lima-Uniform. And what did you say your location was? Me: San Juanico.
Relay: OK, Dude, I have you anchored in San Juanico. Did you say you had winds out of the Northwest at 12-14 knots? Me: No, the winds are out of the east.
Relay: Oh, right, you have 10-12 knot winds from the east. Correct? Me: Roger.
Relay: OK, any traffic? (yeah, right, like I’m going to try to pass a message off to someone) Me: No, I’m clear.
Relay: OK, thanks for checking in. Did you get that Net Control?
Net Control: Yeah I finally got that it’s Eve and Lulu at anchor in San Juanico with 10-12 knot winds from the east. At first I thought he was sailing in El Salvador and going 12 knots and I thought “shit!”. OK, anyone else want to check in to the Southbound Net?
PS: the exchange was actually way more confusing than this “transcript” would indicate but I couldn’t remember it all.