GT8IOM - International Lighthouse on the Air Day!
It’s that time of year again to get the kit loaded into the back of the cars and head up north to the Point of Ayre Lighthouse and hopefully have a long weekend playing radio under the guise of the International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend day.
Point of Ayre Lighthouse (IM 0001)
Lat: 54 24.959’’ N / Long: 4 22.111’’ W
WAB: SC 40
ITU Zone: 27
CQ Zone: 14
A Bit of History
At a meeting of the Commissioners in 1815, Sheriff Rae pointed out that representations had been received from the Chief Magistrate of Greenock and from various trading bodies in the Firth of Clyde, that a light should be erected on the Point of Ayre to make the west coast channel completely safe.
As this area was out of the Commissioners’ jurisdiction in those days, it was suggested the ‘Sheriff Rae should write to the Duke of Atholl and ascertain if he had any objections to the establishment.
The Light Committee then recommended that the Commissioners should apply to Parliament for power to erect a lighthouse on the Isle of Man.
The Bill was passed in July 1815. Soon thereafter, a party representing the Commissioners went to Liverpool to attempt to obtain a loan from the trade associations.
The loan was necessary as the Commissioners had become liable for a large sum to liquidate the payment of the purchase money of the private right of the Portland family to the duties of the Light of May.
They were also involved in the building of the Bell Rock Lighthouse.
Loans amounting to £1,500 were obtained from the West India Association, and the Shipowners Association of Liverpool. Further loans were obtained from the Trade Association of the Clyde who would also benefit from the establishment of the light.
The work commenced late in 1815, but lack of sufficient funds made progress slow.
A further cause for delay was that the position of the light had to be altered from the original plan as it was found that the sea was eroding the coast at the rate of 7ft per year.
The lighthouse tower was 70ft high and a circular design. The actual date when the light was first exhibited cannot be accurately fixed, but it is known to have been between December 1818 and February 1819.
Some 70 years later it was found necessary to build an additional small light tower some 250 yards seaward from the main tower. Due to continuous gravel build-up, this tower moved a further 250ft seaward in 1951, and now stands out on the gravel bank. This small light was known as The Winkie.
Point of Ayre was lighted by the dioptric (refraction) method. The light revolved on roller bearings driven by a clock-work mechanism operated by a weight lowered to the base of the tower. In all but the most sophisticated lighthouse, this had to be rewound manually, the diuturnity governed by the revolution of the optic and the height of the tower.
This varies from 45 minutes at Maughold Head, 77 ft high and turning every 30 seconds, to 90 minutes at the Point of Ayre which had an eight minute revolution.
In favorable wind conditions, the fog horn could be heard at the Mull of Galloway, 26 miles away. Powered by Kelvin engines, the siren used an intermittent escape of compressed air through a shutter to give a periodic blast from the large horns facing seawards.
Thirteen selected lighthouses sent regular reports to the Meteorological Office as many of the stations were vanguards to the Atlantic weather system. Point of Ayre submitted three hourly reports to the Met Office at Ronaldsway, and these were incorporated in the international broadcasts.
The name Point of Ayre comes from Norse, Eyrr, gravelly beach, or Eriball, and Ayre Point of Ramsay.
Point of Ayre lighthouse was automated in 1993.
Now I got heavily cursed last time I wrote out the list, mainly because I blamed Ralph for eating all the biscuits and calling him the ‘Biscuit Barron’, when it was possibly me that had eaten most of the biscuits, so top make up for this I will be supplying the biscuits, and the coffee, and I will do my best to make sure that Ralph is occupied on the Morse Key so that he gets enough biscuits this time…
GD4IHC (Ralph Furness)
Biscuit Barron, Catering Manager, Joker! and Operator.
GD4WBY (Mike Jones)
Big Boss Man and Operator
MD0MDI (James Sawle)
GD4PTV (Brian Brough)
GD0NFN (John Butler)
18th August 2011
This evening was really just a quick trip to the ‘Point of Ayre’ to make sure that the pulley was in place for the dipoles, and to see where we will be able to park the vehicles and setup the equipment, so not much really happening here and no coffee pot on the go so after seeing what was what we went back to Mike’s (GD4WBY) to double check all the equipment was ready and make any minor changes that will be required.
Once Ralph (GD4IHC) had arrived with the nice Camper to be used as a shack for the station operating on the Beam antenna which will be put up tomorrow morning, we looked around to see what we would need to bring for the weekend with regards to tables, chairs, and coffee making equipment!
Mike (GD4WBY) was positioning the tilt up mast base for the Beam antenna before Ralph ran him over!
So much to do until tomorrow, and hopefully we will be able to get the antennas up tomorrow and maybe even do some testing to see what bands we can operate with the other stations.
We are setting up three different stations, and are hoping to operate most bands and modes, with Mike’s radio being setup with the beam and will be solely used for voice.
Both Ralph and myself will be setting up in the Garage area away from the Camper and will be using a full-size G5RV, and hopefully a W3DZZ which we are hoping to rig below the G5RV and 90° opposed to the G5RV, with this we are hoping to be able to use CW, Voice and Data (RTTY) modes without interfering with Mike on the Beam.
Also, although not finalized, we have a vertical as well to configure on one of the radios, more on this tomorrow!
19th August 2011
The day started of at least dry, though you could tell the weather was coming in, so before we got too caught out we got going putting up the antennas ready for tomorrow, the first and the easiest was the G5RV and the W3DZZ, as both were going to be used via the same radio based in the workshop we mounted them both on the same halyard with the G5RV mounted at the top of the lighthouse, and the W3DZZ mounted about half way down.
With the dipoles tied up and sorted out we got on with next antenna which is the Cushcraft A3 mounted upon a drive on tilt over mast base and a short pole which will allow the beam to be mounted about 20ft above the ground, and also allow us to rotate the mast by hand when needed.
With the work being carried out on the Beam, Brian arrived to supervise, and even Ralph was forced into getting the kettle on, so Brian can definitely come back again!
And there was no stopping Brian getting down and dirty with the Cushcraft, and thanks to his help the Beam was soon assembled and mounted on the tilt over mast.
The last antenna left is the Cushcraft 5 Band Vertical, this was basically left to Mike to assemble and once finished I helped raise this antenna onto its small mounting pole.
With me and Mike running around under the beckoned call of Ralph and Brian, they decided to relax and wait for Mike to make the coffees! It’s OK, we will get our own back.
The second radio is setup in the garage which just so happen to be filled with classic cars in various stages of restoration, so guess who got the short straw? Yep me! That said I managed to find a small hole in-between a few cars and the odd hydraulic car lift where I could setup a small station.
The small mascot upon the Power meter was a present from the Germans that operated at Eary Cushlin earlier in the year, I am aiming to take as many photos of his travels and events that he will be on over the next couple of years till the guys pop back to the island.
Testing the antennas out was quite straight forward, and all went well regarding that, but it became apparent very soon that the bands are awful at the moment, 21 MHz seemed about the best at the moment, with 14 and 18 MHz being very average, and the rest being very noisy and non-insistence, hopefully the weekend with sort itself out enough for us to get a few contacts in.
20th August 2011
Arrr… The weekend is here, and we all arrived at the Point of Ayre ready to do battle with the propagation, and we couldn’t really ask for a better day, the sun was out in force and there was very little wind, which as it turned out was a very good thing…
Mike (GD4WBY) started work right away in the camper on the higher bands working everything from 15 meters to 10 meters on the Beam and the Vertical, but for me, it proved to be a little harder!
I was having difficulty getting many stations at all on 80 meters and 40 meters was not much better, and it did not last long anyway, as I switched between the G5RV and the W3DZZ, I was noticing a really high SWR on the G5RV, but even with this you have to take your hat off to the LDG AT200 Pro II tuner, as even with what we were about to find, it still tuned the antenna to a 1:1.5 SWR.
Anyway, I shut down the radio and then spent a bit of time lowering the dipoles from the Lighthouse to see if I could see any problems, and then when I had nearly got them down I noticed that the 300Ω Feeder was broken in two on the G5RV.
So this meant a quick repair to the feeder, and then a small re-think to the taping up of the antenna ready for operation, and with the antennas down, I also removed the W3DZZ from below the G5RV as the results between the two antennas were too alike, and then decided to rig the W3DZZ up as a sloper away from the Lighthouse which would also enable the feeder portion of the G5RV to be pulled away from the structure of the Lighthouse itself, this proved to be a very good idea indeed.
This is what happens when you put the camera down when Ralph (GD4IHC) is around!
But as he makes a great cup of coffee it is worth putting up with, hi hi….
With the antennas now back up the Lighthouse we managed to get them tested, returned with the LDG tuner and then about 2 hours later than planned we got on the radio and started calling.
And it seemed that we had picked a good day for it!, with the grateful thanks to 2E0VOR who added us to the DX Cluster we got completely soaked all day long to the point where I at least had to keep my legs crossed as I could not get away from the radio due to the pileup.
Brian turned up fairly early on and got stuck into another pileup on 18MHz and basically put us all to shame showing us all how it was done…
Brian even got poor Mike (GD4WBY) logging for him, after all he is a slave driver!
As the weather started to turn damp and cold, we all started thinking about hot food and rest, the day itself was quite successful and between the two station we were not shy off 500 contacts which was pretty good considering that we had a good laugh most of the time, and even the odd moan that our Catering Manager (Ralph GD4IHC) was not pulling his weight enough!
I think we will have to send him to college to learn how to cook as well as making coffee! (Joke Ralph! That’s me in trouble again!).
By the time we had packed up the gear and locked up the buildings and the camper the weather had turned nasty and started to throw down the proverbial Cats and Dogs, finger crossed it will pass by the morning…
21th August 2011
Thankfully the weather that looked like it was going to dampen the day had well and truly passed over, and the sun was out and it looked like we were into having another nice day at the Point of Ayre.
The first part of the day was a lot of fun, 80 meters had died off as expected before we arrived back at the Point of Ayre and 40 meters was only throwing up UK contacts, so I got stuck into some very nice pileups on 20 meters whilst Mike (GD4WBY) and Brian (GD4PTV) got stuck into another few nice pileups on 15 meters, this carried on till the afternoon when even these bands started shutting down.
John Butler (GD0NFN) turned up in his leather bondage gear after riding his bike up to the Point of Ayre! Really the only way to travel on the roads that we have here in the Isle of Man, they are perfect for days out on the Bike….
Opps, where is the ‘Health and Safety’ officer when you want one.. Ar, that’s him hitting is head on the very low garage door whilst coming out for break and a coffee.
We all must have done this a few times during the weekend, but hay, that makes it more fun, and its always good for a laugh!
By early evening we were all getting bushed and decided to pack it in, the objective for the weekend had easily been achieved, that was to just have fun putting the Point of Ayre Lighthouse on the map, and with the finally tally in the log book being 1077 contacts for the entire weekend with the bands being fairly OK I think we did quite well and as already stated, the main idea was to have fun, and I think that that was defiantly done by all that turned up.
I must say very big thanks for Brian Brough (GD4PTV) for being a complete work-horse and really bashing out a load of contacts and for all the hard work he put in helping out Mike (GD4WBY) and the rest of the guys, plus it was nice to see a big smile on his face for the entire weekend.
And the Catering Manager (Ralph GD4IHC) did his normal monster job looking after us, and easily gave us back as much abuse as we gave out, it would certainly have been a much quieter weekend without his help and also a really big thanks from the entire crew for providing the camper, I don’t think Brian or Mike would have survived as long as they did without it…
It was also really nice to see John (GD0NFN) up at the Point of Ayre as well and thanks for operating as well, it gave me a rest which was much appreciated.
Over the next few days I will try and get the rest of the information up on the website along with a contacts maps and any other information that you may find useful, but until then I would just like to thank all of the Amateurs that contacted GT8IOM during the weekend for their time and often patience , it was very much appreciated and we hope that you had as much fun as we did for this International Lighthouse on the Air weekend, which we also think was one of the best activated Lighthouse weekends ever with loads of Lighthouse stations out there in so many different countries, so cheers people and many 73’s from the team at the Point of Ayre (GT8IOM).
The Final Scores - So to speak!
AS-002, AS-004, AS-077