K4RLC Field Report: POTA with Blackbeard!

Many thank to Bob (K4RLC) who shares the following guest post:

POTA with Blackbeard in Bath, North Carolina

de Bob (K4RLC)

While in Eastern North Carolina for the North Carolina QSO party, I decided to take a trip to visit historic Bath, North Carolina, the oldest city in our state and one of the original 13 colonies.

Bath, named after the English Earl of Bath, was founded in the late 1600s. It soon became the first port for the Carolina colony, then soon thereafter, the center for the colony’s government.

While I enjoy the wilder side of POTA, like state forests and game lands, and the mountains of SOTA, these historic sites often have a vibe that lets the mind wander back in history.

Additionally, two historic houses had recently been added to the POTA program: the Palmer-Marsh House (US-10388)  and the Bonner House (US-10263). The Palmer-Marsh House was built in 1744 by Captain Michael Coutanch, the original governor who came from the Isle of Jersey. The house was sold around 1762 to Robert Palmer, then later to the Marsh family around 1805. It is deemed the oldest standing house in North Carolina. While this state historic/POTA site had been activated on SSB, it had not been activated on Morse code yet, and it was appealing to me to be the first CW activator.

Palmer-Marsh House

It was a quiet clear Saturday morning with beautiful Carolina blue skies and chilly temps when I arrived at the Palmer-Marsh House.

The house itself was closed and open only to guided tours, however there were large open grounds with pathways, benches, and a family cemetery for the Marsh family. I had my North Face RECON pack full of the Elecraft KX2 set up I’ve taken overseas, and ready for almost everything.

On the bench near the cemetery there were no overhanging ancient oak branches. I set up the KX2 and laid down the screen wire counterpoise. On top of that, I put a 17 foot Chameleon whip which is resonant on 20 M CW, without wire counterpoises, and running only 5 watts.  The key was the CW Morse SP4 key.

Not knowing what would happen, I called CQ and was quickly answered by multiple stations wanting to work this new POTA site for the first time.

KX2 Setup in the Palmer House back yard
Palmer Family Cemetery

This entire section of town is loaded with historic houses. If you walk a few blocks down Main Street to Bonner Point, turn left on Front Street, and turn left again on King Street toward the visitor center, you will cover over 300 years of history, in a few blocks.

While the visitor center in the old school building is a POTA site, I chose the other POTA site in Bath – the Bonner House, built around 1830. This is the second house on the site, as John Lawson, the founder of Bath, built a house there which no longer stands. The entire original town boundary is considered a National Register Historic District.

I walked down Main Street to Bonner Point and Bonner House. From the Bonner House, I was looking into the Pamlico River sound fed by Bath Creek, with its deep blue water.

It took a moment to process, but I soon decoded waveforms of a school of dolphins playing close to the shore. They were incredibly graceful and efficient breaking the water. My over analytic mind tried to discern a pattern – could they be responding to the sound of Morse code? Or, simply a highly evolved graceful sea creature at play.

Bonner House
Looking at Pamlico Sound

In just a few hours, propagation seemed to have changed so it was difficult to make the requisite contacts still on 20 m CW with the same KX2 and antenna setup. My mind wandered back in history to the historical street sign to my right that said that Edward Teach had made his home here in 1713, while taking a brief break after the King’s pardon.

Most people know Teach by his more famous nickname of Blackbeard the Pirate. My mind time traveled, and I wondered what it would be like to have sailed with Blackbeard and his outrageous exploits in his time, or what he would’ve thought of the KX2 in our time!

Teach sign at Pamlico Sound

Not wanting to leave the site right away,  I enjoyed the typical lunch my YL Alanna K4AAC makes for a me on sojourns away from home – a really good peanut butter and jelly sandwich with  fruit punch Gatorade and a Reese cup. It’s great brain food for all the cognitive processing needed for Morse Code.

After a wonderful morning taking in Bath and being the first to activate the Palmer-Marsh house for POTA CW, I packed up my KX2 kit and headed off for nearby Goose Creek State Park (US-2731) where the other Dr. Bob , W4TTX and I were setting up as NC4QP, a bonus station for the North Carolina QSO party.

As there is still one more POTA site to activate, a return trip to historic Bath is on the list to take in its wonderful ambience, watch dolphins and daydream about Blackbeard playing radio.

7 thoughts on “K4RLC Field Report: POTA with Blackbeard!”

  1. “a really good peanut butter and jelly sandwich with  fruit punch Gatorade and a Reese cup. It’s great brain food for all the cognitive processing needed for Morse Code.”

    So *that’s* the secret? I need to change my diet immediately! Ha ha!

    Another wonderful report, Bob. You know, I’ve never been to Bath. I have been to Washington, NC, before, though and had I realized Bath was so close, I would have made it a point to spend some time there. This is now on my NC bucket list!

    Thanks for another great report, Bob!

  2. Thanks for the great read Bob, CW & some history of one of the 13 Colonies. Pretty perfect activation I’d say 🙂

    1. Gavin – so glad you enjoyed the report. It was a fun activation. My Dad’s family left central London (when they got out of the Tower) and came to the US around 1760. They had a land grant from King George near Charlotte, North Carolina. Unfortunately, we were not loyal servants to the Crown, and participated in the Revolution….looking forward for a return trip to London next year to celebrate my 75th Bday. Cheers. Bob

      1. That’s great you can go back so far. Here official records start at 1850 and before that you have to go to Parish records and haven’t had to a chance to do that yet. However I have a great uncle who arrived at Ellis Island in 1914 and then disappeared.

        Here in Lugton, near Dalkeith, just South of Edinburgh our street’s most famous resident is the Philadelphia architect Robert Smith who designed Carpenters Hall where the first Continental Congress met. He also may have transferred to the other (winning) side but the less said about that the better 😉


        Visiting Philadelphia this summer to take a tour of his buildings, it’s a fascinating period of history.

  3. Fun read. I live in a town in NJ that was first settled in 1681. General Washington had an encampment hear during the Revolutionary War. The American flag was first flown here at the Middlebrook encampment, and the was a noteworthy battle here in town (Battle of Boind Brook). It’s fun living in a place with so much history.

  4. Great CW work Bob. I live on the opposite side of the Pamlico River pretty much directly across from Bath. That doesn’t make for a quick jaunt to Bath, as I have to drive about 90 miles round trip because of the river. There is a ferry that crosses from Bayview which is close to Bath and cuts off miles but not time of travel. Excuses, excuses…. I know hihi.
    I’ve activated the visitors center before the other two entities were added plus multiple times at Goose Creek as the local club Pamlico Amateur Radio Club (I’m currently President) do POTA outings occasionally to the Park and we have done our Field Day several times at Goose Creek.
    I enjoy the Blackbeard Connection and there’s a terrific museum in Morehead City full of artifacts from Blackbeard’s sunken pirate ship the “Queen Anne’s Revenge”. In fact my first vanity callsign was N4PIR in respect for the ECU Pirates and Blackbeard. When I got deep into doing exclusively QRP CW on HF I found a short, easy to copy callsign, NG9T. Only 3 dits. I miss the pirate theme to my callsign but not many people realized what it signified for me.
    Thanks for sticking with such a long reply. I’m sure that we will cross paths on the POTA airwaves if we haven’t already do so.
    Keep up the great POTA work!
    73 de NG9T dit dit

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