A wet and windy International Lighthouse weekend 2001 at Cape Otway.


Based on a nice experience last year and again invited by members of the Central Highlands of Tasmania Radio Amateur Group I drove down to Cape Otway via Geelong on Friday afternoon 17 August. The Geelong repeater on 147.000 has excellent coverage and except for the certain areas in the Otways and along the coast itself I was able to keep in contact with other travelling participants.

The campsite itself at the Lighthouse grounds is secluded by dunes, low T-trees and other shrub. Just as well, as the weather was quickly detoriating towards the weekend.

Upon arrival I met David (VK3JKY) and Claureen (VK3LCM) who already had their caravan in place and had the annexe up. This proved to be a safe haven during the weekend itself.

Other participants were Kieran (VK3BTV), Dale (VK3LBJ), John (VK3MGZ) and myself (VK3GER)

First a vertical antenna was bolted to the caravan roof to enable participation in the usual contacts on 80 meters with other members of the Central Highlands of Tasmania Radio Amateur Group. Another one was set up (with an extensive number of ground radials) for 40, 20 and 15 mtr. Together they could at times be heard whistling. It was amazing to see them flexing in the wind, trying to pull the guy ropes loose. Between rain showers and quickly fading daylight John later on rigged an inverted V. Several hands were needed to secure the flexing aluminium pole against heavy gusts of wind, while sorting out guy ropes and fouled other flying ropes. Heavy duty pegs proved essential in the sandy soil.

The last light was used to further secure the annexe with extra guy ropes and pegs against squals, some with hail and thunder. Shortly after the mains power was lost. As it turned out a few trees had come down over a road and damaged the mains supply for a period of 15 hrs. But we had come well prepared and with a generator soon buzzing outside no further power problems were encountered and hot coffee and other liquids were tried to fight the elements. A special CHT quiz on HF later that evening, conducted by Kieran as mobile quizmaster had to be abandoned for a while, as severe static in the air and increasing high pitch static and popping noises from the speakers made us fear for the radios. The night brought relief for those with accomodation in one of the buildings, while others lay in their tent or car listening to the howling of the wind, drumming of rain on the roof, and alarming noises of bits of sheet metal flying around. (As it turned out part of the steel top blew of a water tank). The wheater station the next morning indicated maximum gusts of over 90 km. 

On Saturday morning a third station was set up, powered by a 120AH Sealed battery (still no mains power!)  utilizing shelter from rain and wind in an extinct garage close to the building which used to be the signal station. This sand stone building used to operate as signal station since 1854, first with flag signals, later with the old telegraph, sounder and paper tape equipment; relaying telegrams between the main land and King Island via a cable on the sea bed. Due to the high currents this cable was damaged on the rocks and progressing technology and the high cost of maintaining the cable caused operation to be ceased 1894. The building is now slowly being resurrected with support from the Ballarat University and FOCO (Friends of Cape Otway), and there are plans to set up a communications museum.

As HF-antenna a Werner Wulf Vertical (borrowed from FAMPARC) was set up next to the building. Initial readings were quite out of specs, But with the welcome help of an available antenna analyzer reality proved theory that in spite of other opinions these antennas do need some sort of ground plane. After having put this in place and some reshaping of the external loading coils, the resonant frequencies and impedances dropped back to the correct values. Dale (VK3LBJ) our ex PMG postmaster proved his weight in gold as he quickly built up an impressive list of contacts on 14 mHz with his trusted key.  Soon overseas stations were piling up to work our special event call VK3OWL.This was extended during the day and early evening. The majority of contacts came from the States, Canada, Europe and Asia, proving the effects of time and the moving grey line around the globe.

Another very flat inverted V was set up in the afternoon for 1.8 mHz and worked surprisingly well, given its low clearance and radiating elements partly laying in wet trees and shrubs. That same evening we learned that rain and exposed capacitors do not like each other at full duty cycle. A capacitor made up from tinned double sided circuit board and part of a matching circuit at the base of a Dave-Special Vertical arced over in heavy rain while tuning up on 21 mHz and lost some of its required surface area.

The next morning there was some temporary relief and patchy sun, just showing it still existed. We used that opportunity to move the HF station from the garage to a veranda from the Telegraph building, in an attempt to make our operations more visible to the odd tourist visiting the area. Those few were very interested in what was going on, seeing operators battling with wind and log sheets, and shaking their heads about those weird noises which somehow were transformed into clear text.

Later that Sunday afternoon the 2000 log and QSL cards received were presented to the current lighthouse keeper and his wife, while the weather closed in again, the horizon disappeared and the rain changed from vertical to horizontal.

The weekend itself had a lot of HF activity on all bands, as it coincided with the RD contest.

Claureen VK3LCM is presently finalising the logs, and as I heard a few days ago the first QSL card has already arrived.

The dismantling of stations, antennas and consequent packing up on Monday morning proved to be a wise decision as the weather improved quickly. Still it took a few days afterwards in central heated rooms to get the caravan annexe try and ready for the next outing.

All in all I am looking back on a very successful weekend with a group of very dedicated people who tried everything to make the event a success.

                                                                                                                                Gerard VK3GER


Radio’s used:

Kenwood TS570, TS140, TS130 and TS50 (Coincidence?)


QSL to VK3LCM via the Bureau.


The lighthouse (91 mtr above sea level)

(Old light): 1000W, 120V, mains power and diesel standby, range 26 Nautical miles or 48.15 kilometers.

(New Light): 36W 12V, solar panels and batteries, range 19 Nautical miles or 35.18 kilometers.

(For more information http://www.lightstation.com/techdata.htm)


For the 2001 lighthouse event 46 countries had registered, with a total of 357 light houses/light ships (29 from Australia).


Weather station reading 21-8 1200AM: Temperature 45 gr. F / wind Chill 20 gr. F / Humidity 69% / Dew point 36 gr F / Wind 51.5 km / Pressure 29.64.