Wow, what a weekend!
After months of planning, organising, and working with the local council (who were very good and helpful) the International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend had finally arrived. A keen group of volunteers and Hilderstone Amateur Radio & Electronics Club (G0HRS) members arrived at Joss Bay car park for 11:00 UTC and started to assemble a portable HF station whilst the North Foreland Lighthouse stood tall in the background.
Within 20 minutes we had the station set up using my “shack in a box” on a sturdy table and a inverted “V” antenna cut for the 40M band with the centre supported by a heavy duty 10M fibreglass pole.
We found a clear spot on 7.127Mhz and managed to stay there all day working pile up after pile up. A “tag team” system of operators and loggers taking turns using the GB0NFL callsign brought the band to life and put the North Foreland Lighthouse on the air. Operators for the day were John (G7OHO), Ian (M0CAG), Chris (G0VUT) and Bob (2E0ATZ).
After an hour of sunshine the rain moved in and the wind picked up. Luckily we had a large van to shelter in thanks to Ian (M0CAG) so we moved the station into the van and continued to operate in the dry.
Despite 30MPH winds and the patches of rain, we managed a great afternoon with a total of 102 contacts in 4 hours. We closed down the station at 15:35 UTC and packed away just as the rain re-started.
We met at the operating area in Joss Bay at 11:00 UTC and once again set up with an inverted V for 40M. Unfortunately, we didn’t have the luxury of M0CAG’s van today so we crossed our fingers and set up in the open on the cliff top once again being watched over by the North Foreland Lighthouse.
An enthusiastic John (G7OHO) was first to operate and started to tune around 40M in an attempt to find some Lighthouse stations for our log. After a few contacts, John decided to stick on 7.157Mhz, call CQ and wait for the contacts. He didn’t have to wait long as the calls came back and a huge pile up developed. The first page of the log was quickly filled with 20 contacts in 30 minutes and I’m sure I saw smoke coming from Chris’s Hand (G0VUT) as he tried to fill the log out and keep up with John!
After a quick change of operator, Chris (G0VUT) was on air and continued to work the mass of stations calling GB0NFL using his “last 2 letters” method which proved very effective and managed to work 17 stations in 25 minutes. Another swap and it was my (M0LMK) turn. The pile up was still going strong and it was very hard to pick out callsigns but after another 25 minutes I had managed to work 19 stations with the expert help of Len (G0GNQ) keeping me on track and updating the log.
Another change of operator and an enthusiastic Chris (G0VUT) took to the microphone again and produced another 25 contacts in 45 minutes out of the very noisy pile up.
The wind had picked up and rain was on its way as Bob (2E0ATZ) took the hot seat and commenced our final run for the ILLW 2013. The conditions on the band had deteriorated but the pile up was still going strong. Bob (2E0ATZ) was unstoppable and worked station after station managing 38 contacts in 55 minutes.
We closed down the station at 15:00 UTC having totaled another 118 stations for the day bringing out total number of contacts for International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend 2013 up to a respectable 220 in a total of 8 hours of operating.
My personal thanks go out to all who helped to plan the special event station and everyone who attended over the weekend and helped get GB0NFL on the air (John, G7OHO), Chris (G0VUT), Ian (M0CAG), Len (G0GNQ), Don (G4TKR), Bob (2E0ATZ), Erwin (G4LQI), Chrissie (Unlicenced) and Kadriye (unlicenced).