For the last seven years the Ocean – Monmouth Amateur Radio Club has participated in the International Lighthouse / lightship Weekend. As in years passed we were hoping to operate from the Sandy Hook lighthouse, US0035 this year. Sandy Hook Lighthouse is located on the grounds of the former U.S. Army Fort Hancock facility, which is now part of the National Gateway Park System. After Super Storm Sandy in October of 2012 we were worried that we would not be able to use the facility as the storm had caused major damage to the Sandy Hook Gateway National Park area. Working with our contact in the park system we were informed in May of this year that the lighthouse had not suffered any major damage from the storm. We would be able to once again to operate form the light… so we started to plan “Operation Stronger Then The Storm.”
Plans were worked up to operate three stations: two high frequency and one VHF station. As in past years, we were going to hang wire antennas off the top of the light tower. The decision was made to use an Alpha – delta sloper off the North East quadrant and a G5RV hung as a sloper off the western quadrant. This would give use multi-band capability with paths to both Europe and the United States. With the antennas at ninety degrees to each other interference was keep to a minimum. Having the Atlantic Ocean and Raritan Bay on either side as ground plans would not hurt either. Our first HF station was an Yaesu FT-990, running about 125 watts (phone and CW). Station two was an Kenwood TS-50 running 100 watts on phone.
Arriving at the lighthouse at 06:00 Saturday morning work started. Our first order of business was to unload our vehicles and put up the shelters and then get the antennas ready to haul up the light tower. It was about this time that Mr. Murphy showed up. Our VHF station was to be operating on six and two meters. Unfortunately, the club member who would be bringing the VHF equipment had another engagement and he forgot about and could not make it. In true Ham Radio fashion we improvised something: A small homemade J-pole was hauled up the tower along with two hundred feet of coax and mounted to the light tower railing. The other two antennas followed and we were soon ready to get on the air.
Operations commenced around 0800. We worked mostly twenty and forty meters (which was as hot as a pistol!) in the HF bands. A mobile two meter radio powered by an AC power supply were hooked up to the J-pole and we were off and running. With about forty watts output on 146.520 simplex we were making contacts as far north as New Hampshire, west to Harrisburg, PA. and south to Cape May. Our clubs premiere CW operator also put up an end fed wire into a tree and operated a solar QRP CW station (3 watts). His most notable contact was to a Lighthouse in Cuba on forty meters. Both HF Stations were running and the only issue we had was the stateside contest that started around midday. So finding a quite spot to work was sometimes a challenge.
As night fell most of the contesters faded away and the bands were once again quiet. Operations worked into the night, until the overnight crew could not keep their eyes open. One member had set up a small six-man tent and a few of us sacked out there. The others caught some sleep in their vehicles. Waking before dawn we got back on the air. During the early Sunday morning hours other club members arrived bringing coffee, donuts and other snacks.
As with all our events food and drinks were available to the members who were at the event. Our club’s resident breakfast chief was not with us this year (his blueberry pancakes were missed). I provided the needed items and hardware to serve pork rolls and egg & cheese on hard rolls for Sunday breakfast. I have not heard of any issues with my cooking as of yet, and yes I had some too. We also would offer food and drink to any of the Park Rangers or other Park personal who came by to see us.
Operations continued till 1100 Sunday. With the threat of bad weather coming in we decided to pull the plug. After dropping the antennas, packing up the shelters and doing a ground clear walk we started off the hook. Our club cannot speak highly enough of the Sandy Hook National Park Staff. Any issues or questions were promptly answered or fixed. They came by often to be sure we were O.K. and to see if we needed anything. We have been informed that we will once again be welcomed back to operate in next year’s International Lighthouse / Lightship Weekend and we will all be looking forward to next year’s event.