Blacksod 2017

Blacksod Lighthouse Activation 2017

The 19th and 20th of August 2017 was designated as International Lighthouse and Lightships  weekend on the air. The event is always held on the 3rd full weekend in August starting at 0001 UTC on Saturday and finishing at 2359 UTC on Sunday. The basic objective of the event is to promote public awareness of lighthouses and lightships and their need for preservation and restoration, and at the same time to promote amateur radio and to foster International goodwill.

Three members of the Mayo Radio Experimenter’s Network, Dominic EI9JS, Jimmy EI2GCB and I Padraic, EI9JA, set out for Blacksod early on Saturday morning, caravan in tow, weather for the weekend was promised wet and windy with the tail end of Hurricane Gert, the second hurricane of the season in the Atlantic Ocean, it was expected to track east towards Ireland so we prepared accordingly.

The morning was sunshine and warm, after arriving we set about assembling the antennas and setting up the shack in the caravan, of course the barbecue was put on and was heating up while the work went on.

A doublet was attached to a mast mounted at the side of the lighthouse. A vertical antenna for 40 -10 meters was attached to the railings around the lighthouse and antennas for 6m & 4m was raised on a tilting-bracket stand supported by the wheel of the jeep,  all coax feeders were connected to the sockets on the outside of the caravan. Inside the coax leads were distributed to the relevant operating positions.

An Icom 7200 was used for the 20m band and a Icom 7300 was used for the 4,6,40 and 80m bands. Laptops and a dongle put us on the internet. Headset/microphones were used at both operating positions. The call-sign used on this occasion was EI44WAW which is assigned to Mayo for 2017, ( the international designator for Blacksod Lighthouse is IE0008.

As the finer adjustments were made Jimmy EI2GCB had the food cooked and ready, while we ate an enjoyable meal before settling into the pileups, the beautiful smell and activity attracted the attention of the curious visiting public using the beautiful weather to walk along the sea and the pier; curiosity brought them into the caravan to find out what was going on? Some thought it was related to the tragic incident that happened earlier in the year when the Coast Guard Helicopter Rescue 116 collided with Blackrock Lighthouse (which exists close-by) and tumbled into the sea with the loss of 4 life’s.

After our meal Jimmy EI2GCB started operating the front Hf position and had a pileup on 20m in a few minutes, meanwhile the finishing touches were put to the 6m setup, when we got on air we found the band open and started working stations.

The pileups grew; stations were looking for the call-sign “EI44WAW” which is well suited to the location and is truly located on the route of the Wild Atlantic Way, the locator square of the lighthouse is IO44XC.

Conditions on 6m was sporadic, so operations was switched to 40m, it was not long before a pile-up accumulated on that frequency.

As daylight dwindled, so did some of the bands, the excitement and the noise had made the head’s dizzy having taken its tole on a brain, not been used in a while, it was time for a well earned tea break!

While dining, we had a surprise arrival of a visitor, a Mayo native, Westport man, Tomas Moran, licensed as EI3AS, once worked in Shannon airport traffic control section. Thomas, known to the locals as “Tom”, since his retirement has been bitten by the bug for experimenting with anything electronic, is drawn again into the hobby of amateur radio!

Having heard something about a activation by the Mayo Radio Experimenters lad’s of the Blacksod Lighthouse, Belmullet, in conjunction with the lighthouse/lightship weekend on the air, decided to investigate further.

After a chat it was not long until Tom was sitting down in front of the Icom7200, a mic/headset fitted on his head, he was calling “EI44WAW, Blacksod Lighthouse on the air!

Tom had not planned the half hour visit at 9.00pm Saturday evening to last until shortly before 3.00pm the next day! Time surely fly’s when having fun! Speaking to Tom before him leaving, he told me he really enjoyed the experience and recognised the advancements made in amateur communication since his absences. Having let his licence lapse for a few years the experience and thrill of the occasion has excited Tom, who is now in the process of finding a new Qth in the county and will be renewing his membership and getting a new call-sign.

Grey-line @ Blacksod Lighthouse, 5.50am, 20/08/17

Grey line did not bring its usual dx; a Russian contest was on air but contestants seemed not interested in Lighthouses! We plodded along band conditions were poor and lacked real activity! The use of the radio’s voice keyer saved our voice’s which by now were sore and dry! Conditions were up and down, 20m was our best band.

We listened for the IRTS news at 11.00am, nothing heard at Blacksod, long skip on the frequency, heard only a few reply’s to Sean, so we knew he had been on air.

The rain arrived in Blacksod about 11.30am, we had one radio tuned listening to 3.650mhz for the IRTS news about 12 noon, the signals on the news frequency were weak, contact was made with Eddie EI3FFB reading the news, by Tom, after a few calls at the very end of the call-in, reports were exchanged and completed by our station.

Due to poor band conditions, only one radio was busy, Jimmy EI2GCB was on air. Domnic EI9JS and I EI9JA availed of a short dry spell in the weather to start dismantle the antennas that were not in use. A good pile up evolved on 20 meters for the rest of the day and all took turns in keeping the contacts piling in. By 4.30pm we were gathering up and putting the last pieces of radio and cables into the van or jeep, before preparing to set off. A total 330 contacts across three band was the count for the activation. We also had several contacts on 6m with the digi mode ft8 using the club call EI7MRE.

Once again Blacksod Lighthouse took part in the ILLW August weekend 2017, even though band conditions were down on other years we enjoyed the weekend, we wish to thank everybody who worked us on this occasion and made it into the log, we hope we helped you achieve the WAW award.

For more pictures of the weekend click here

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