ILLW 2004 - Cape Bruny AUS-024




Over the weekend of 21 & 22 August, Peter VK7TPE and Roger VK7XRN ventured to the Cape Bruny Lighthouse to participate in the International Lighthouse/Lightship Weekend,  ably assisted by WICEN member Steve Sharples and his XYL Rhonda. 
Peter and Roger's XYL's must have had a premonition of the conditions to come because both were stricken with colds and pulled out at the last minute.  Fortunately, they had produced masses of food for the weekend prior to being stricken.  So - with food for six, the residual four intrepid adventurers met at the Kettering ferry on Saturday morning and departed for their overseas expedition.
Met at Cape Bruny by lighthouse caretaker Andy VK7WS, the group immediately set to.  One station was to be established at the keeper's cottage and another at the lighthouse itself.  Both stations were equipped with Icom 706's, one with an Icom AH-3 tuner.  The cottage station was to have an Off Centre Fed Dipole and at the lighthouse, a longwire from Peter's Land Cruiser to the top of the lighthouse.  Now came the interesting bit.  A gale was blowing - gusting to over 70 knots, that's 130 kilometres per hour or, in the old money, over 80 miles per hour.


A three section 9 metre aluminium mast with two sets of guys was raised close to the site of the original mast near the cottages.  Unfortunately, one pair of guys was not adequately held on to as the mast was raised.  Now - 7mm polypropylene rope attached to a point 9 metres above the ground in a 130 kilometre per hour breeze adopts a horizontal attitude.  A person of a nominal height of  something under two metres can only stretch so far.  The ensuing antics were greatly appreciated by a group of Japanese visitors.  Their shrieks of laughter are clearly audible on the video tape shot by Rhonda and commissioned by the ATV group.  The oriental mirth was doubled when the local friendly possums ambled over to see what all the fuss was about.

After some delay, a short lull allowed the wayward guy to be captured and secured, enabling the antenna installation to proceed.  A ring placed around a guy on a supersonic anemometer mast rode up the guy, raising one end of the OCF Dipole, the other being attached to a lanyard on our mast and raised to position.  Unfortunately the antenna ran above the cottage iron roof which, together with a relatively low height, disabled its use on 80m and reduced its effectiveness on other bands.

Next came lunch to replenish the energy dissipated in the gale.  Adequately re-energised, Peter set off up the hill with Andy to the lighthouse to fix the longwire.  Andy went up the tower to rig a pulley and lower a halyard to Peter at the bottom.  Bitter earlier experience taught Peter to hang a large shifter on the halyard to ensure it's descent.  However, Peter was to experience further difficulties.  The plus 70 knot gale was measured at the anemometer adjacent to the cottages.  The lighthouse is somewhat higher and more exposed, so the strength of the wind can only have been greater.  All Peter had to do was to wait at the base of the lighthouse whilst Andy lowered the shifter weighted halyard to him.  Now - lighthouses tend to be liberally coated with paint.  Paint is smooth and provides little grip for a slimly built wind blown Amateur.  Fortunately for Peter, as he was slowly blown around the lighthouse base, he came upon the recessed doorway which gave him some purchase and prevented him joining the nearby pair of wedge-tailed eagles enjoying the blow.
The next stage was relatively easy.  Minor connections and adjustments and we were on the air.  Conditions were spasmodic to say the least.  Between the two stations, we made only about sixty contacts on 20, 40 & 80metres.  The two most exciting on 20 metres being Alaska,  Gene AL7HY in Anchorage (not at a lighthouse) and Seth K1YS in Palmer.  Peter also met Maggie GB2GOL at the Great Orme lighthouse in North Wales.  A couple of ZL contacts were made, the remainder being VK 2, 3, 4 , 5 and 6.  We did manage a contact with VI7CL on King Island.  Unfortunately, when conditions were reasonable, many non lighthouse participants took advantage of the on air activity, using up scarce openings.  Never the less - all good fun.
Our call VK7OTC/p provided some interest, giving us the opportunity to tell of its historical significance.  The Cape Bruny lighthouse being the third oldest in Australia, built in 1836 with convict labour, also provided commentary.  An interesting anecdote - one VK2 contact told us that his assistant, sitting at his side, knew Cape Bruny well - he had been born in Lunawanna - which, for those unfamiliar with the area, is the closest settlement to Cape Bruny.
Our description of the weather conditions we were experiencing brought little sympathy.  VK2 stations took great pleasure in telling us of their temperatures in the high twenties and calm conditions.
The Cape Bruny gales continued overnight with heavy rain, but dawn brought sunshine, rainbows  and terrific views to Pedra Branca and snow covered mountains in the south west. The most spectacular view was the problematic mast and dipole - still standing.

A few more contacts before breakfast, then a break to do a live cross-over for the VK7 Sunday morning broadcast from the lighthouse.



Unfortunately, the ferry was calling and we had to leave - but not before Andy had shown us the beginnings of the Cape Bruny museum, including a standard lighthouse issue Bendix transceiver transferred from WWII bomber duties. 
We also viewed the new diesel generator, battery bank and inverter which powers the station
- though not the current solar powered Cape Bruny light. 

A quick trip to inspect the the top of the lighthouse, in the now calmer conditions, and to recover our halyard pulley, concluded our introduction to the International Lighthouse/Lightship Weekend - highly recommended to the stay at homes for next year.  However, take your lead boots and hang on to those guy ropes!