Lighthouse on the Air

What a summer for going portable we had. It really made the choice of heading to Inis Oírr for the lighthouse on the air weekend an easy one. However planning the event was set in motion much earlier this year when an application to Irish lights for access to the site was met with a favourable response.  The call sign EJ4INIS was applied for, now all we could do was wait and hope for good weather.

Our plan was to run two stations keeping a mixture of ssb, digital and cw available over the weekend. This created a lot of equipment to haul to an island so it was agreed to load up a van and ship it out ahead of the weekend. This made it possible to avail of the air service for a quick 10 minute trip, indeed this was a great choice as it was a clear day and the view of islands and Cliffs of Moher was spectacular from the plane.

Larry EI9CN, Damian EI2HG and Enda EI2II were the first to get to Inis Oírr on Friday 16th of August, after a quick check in we headed the two mile trip to the other side of the island to where our new station would be.  Lighthouse number IE0012 was its name, standing 34 meters it is one of the tallest in the country. Built in the 1850’s it went through a number of changes until it was finally automated in 1978 and placed in the care of a local attendant.

We set about picking a spot for the station and getting the antenna setup. Using the lighthouse as a support, the windom was rolled out. A second 34 meter lighthouse would have been handy but we had to make do with some poles for the other side, still it was going to be interesting how it would behave as a sloper. Next we made up the G3TXQ Hex Beam, every time we bring this antenna out it gets quicker to assemble. Using a small rotator and a tripod it operated brilliantly at only 18ft. Amazed at how quick the day goes we realised if we didn’t head for food there would be none, still at least all the outdoor work was done with the morning promised wet.

Saturday morning came and so did Brian EI8IU and Axel EI8IX, the shack was in good order by now and some fine signals coming in on both 17 & 20 meters especially to the pacific region and Far East. Unfortunately conditions any higher didn’t prove great and efforts on 40 meters were hampered by high noise levels, later to be identified as local. Most lightly suspect was a nearby ESB transformer probably suffering with poor earthing in all the dry weather. Good electrical bonding to rock is never easy!

Never the less plenty of fun was had, tea drank and pileups managed. Fair play to Alex for some of his many runs on the key. All too quick the weekend was over and the packing up began.  Seldom does it all fit back into the van the same size as when packing to go on these trips, even though we did manage to avoid the duty free.

One couldn’t finish without commenting on the lovely island, with its Father Ted shipwreck, walking trails, history and welcoming locals it’s an enjoyable place to spend a weekend.  Our thanks to the helpful staff of Irish Lights and especially the local lighthouse keeper Micheál Ó Catháin. This was the first trip that Galway Radio Experimenters Club have made to Inis Oírr and I expect won’t be the last.

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