Merrimack River

Bill Noyce, AB1AV, and I pushed off from a sandy shore in mid-morning.
Even our over-active imaginations couldn't foresee the adventure that was
ahead... Herons swooping past the canoe closer than we'd ever seen,
bald eagles soaring at treetop level overhead, and the quiet of a wilderness
stretch of river that hasn't seen development. All that... and a riverside
QRP radio excursion complete with an antenna that stretched nearly
200 feet across the river... from one shore to the other which landed
us a QSO an entire ocean away.

We chose Bill's  canoe over my aluminum Grumman.
Bill spent five months building the 17 footer in his garage,
and it's exquisite... made from strips of wood carefully glued
over a form and finished with beautiful ash gunwales.

Bill's no stranger to the outdoors. In mid-August he spent more than a
week in the White Mountains camping and hiking with his family.
He's been a Scout leader for years, and it shows... he came fully
prepared with rain gear, first aid kit, man-overboard throw rope,
and most importantly his ATS-3 and box of radio gear. All we
really needed was the radio.

The Merrimack River between Franklin and Concord, New Hampshire
is wide, fairly shallow with a moderate current. It snakes through farmland,
and is lined with hardwoods and rich cornfields. The area is rife
with wildlife. A heron stands in the shallow lee of an island so
still, you think it might be a branch of a fallen tree sticking up.
He takes off, flies low just a bit to the side of the canoe revealing
the secrets of flight and posture of outstretched legs. Around the
bend a bald eagle surprises us by launching from a nearby tree
branch and climbing above the water and turning left across our
bow. The beavers have made tracks up the river bank and into
the cornfields where they haul their booty back to the river
leaving a trail of cornstalks.

Sand bars jut out as the river turns and there are plenty of resting
places and quiet open areas. As lunchtime approached, we had
no problem finding a spot. As we neared the shore, we eyed
the trees for potential antenna branches. "Bill, let's run an
antenna right across the river! Think we could?" I asked.
"Why not," he answered. So we started adding up our wire
and rope supply. "I've got two rolls of wire" I said. "One
is about 90 feet; the other is about 65 feet." I had a couple
of 50 ft. hanks of dacron and another 100 foot
roll of cord. We were set. On the opposite shore we threw
a rope over a branch about 30 feet above the water and tied
the end to a root. We attached the wire and paddled back
toward our chosen operating site paying out the wire
behind the canoe. Once on the shore we threw another
rope to about 30 feet, spliced the two rolls of wire with
a knot and a twist and setup an inverted L. The wire
lifted beautifully above the water and we had an antenna...
a glorious antenna. About 150 feet of antenna, right over the river!

I sat right down on the sand then connected the wire to my ZM-2
and hooked up the ATS-2 on 20 meters. There was no wire
left for a counterpoise, so we went with what we had. I tuned
down from 14.060 and there on the FISTS frequency was
W7PFZ calling CQ! He came right back to me and the grin
on my face probably frightened every beaver for a mile
up and down stream. Phil was a 599 from Washington
state. He gave me a 569.

After a quick lunch, Bill gave a listen on 40 meters. There were
several loud stations but all in QSOs.

Because Bill had to be home by 5:00, we decided not to hang around.
Bill took the canoe over to the other side to untie the line.

Our schedule was relaxed and smooth. After packing up, we pushed off
and headed around the next bend and the next.

By mid-afternoon we'd covered 12 miles in five hours and reached our
pull-out just north of Concord. As we brought our gear back to the car,
we talked about our next adventure... perhaps we should make a longer
trip of it... more time for operating, perhaps camping overnight. 
We wanted more... more quiet scenery, more time surrounded by the
sounds of summer and the sounds of shores beyond our own.