You are looking at a picture of two Sea Captains who just happen to be ham radio operators. A few days ago they had never heard of each other, but little did they know that their passion for ham radio would bring them together in a most unusual way.
The story began when Captain Yuri Bodrov, UT1FG/MM, left a Pacific port in Nicaragua bound for Montreal Canada with a route that would take his cargo ship through the Panama Canal and into the Gulf of Mexico. Yuri, an avid 6 meter and satellite operator, reported that his 12v power supply had failed shortly after leaving port. The bad news was relayed amongst those of us who had been following Yuri and working him in wet grids as he traveled. Brainstorming started with ideas tossed around via emails. One idea was to buy a power supply and ship it Fedex to Yuri's agent in Panama and hope it got there in time. But Yuri felt that there would not be enough time for that to happen. We only had a few days.
A quick google search for Amateur Radio Clubs in Panama quickly turned up the Panama Canal Amateur Radio Association (PCARA) at http://www.qsl.net/pcara/. It was a very nice page with information about those who were very active in the club. HP2ECP was the president and when his bio was opened on qrz.com, there was a surprise. He too was a Sea Captain! If anyone could help with this problem, it would be Captain Manolis Joannou. An email was quickly sent asking for possible assistance. Then nothing.
Time was running out and the best prospect of pulling off the impossible was unreachable. A quick email was sent to everyone else listed on the webpage and then a response. HP1AC emailed to say that he had forwarded the email to HP1CQ, the new callsign for HP2ECP. Later Captain Manolis would advise that he was having trouble with his old email address and that was why there was no response.
The next email from Manolis was encouraging. He would find a power supply and deliver it to Yuri. Specifications were discussed and the hunt for an appropriate supply was undertaken. Yuri thought that he would be delayed at the Canal for at least two days but it was not to be. HP1CQ would find that Yuri was scheduled to go on 8 March and there was no time to waste. Captain Manolis would find a 30 amp supply that would work on the ship's 220 volt system. He knew his position and set out to deliver the supply.
On the way out to the ship in his Launch, Captain Manolis would snap this picture of Yuri's ship. Soon he was on board and a new friendship was made. The two Captains would spend an hour together before parting. They probaby traded stories about their adventures on the high seas as well as their experiences with ham radio. Only they know for sure what was discussed.
Just before midnight on 8March2012, Yuri was at the Gatun Locks. He had already made his way through the Miraflores and Pedro Miguel Locks. The webcam at Gatun captured this picture just before he entered the first lock.
In a few hours Yuri would be sailing into the Gulf of Mexico and working the satellites with a new power supply. He would email the next day to express his sincere thanks to HP1CQ and all of those involved in making this happen. Reflecting on what had transpired in a few short days was a reminder that ham radio is more than just making contacts with each other; it's about helping one another when the need arises. Ham Radio has no boundaries. It doesn't matter if we are from different places, we are in the same hobby together. And when there is a need, hams come together to help each other. This is the story of just one instance of that. It is an inspiration to all of us and a great example to follow.
A very special thanks to the Panama Canal Amateur Radio Association and all of its members especially Captain Manolis who took the challenge and made it happen despite all of the difficulties. It had to be a rewarding experience for him and one that will not soon be forgotten by everyone that was involved in some way. The next PCARA club meeting would be one not to miss!