International Lighthouse Weekend connects ham radio operators
By Sue Cook, staff reporter
POINT BREEZE – The Orleans County Amateur Radio Club OCARC was out at the lake on Saturday connecting to lighthouses and ham radio operators around the world. They set up their base of operation next to the Oak Orchard Lighthouse in Point Breeze.
By noon the first day, the club had connected with over 100 other ham operators.
In the United States they had made contact all the way to the west coast. They were also able to reach countries like Russia, Germany, Canada and Denmark.
“When we’re talking to people, I don’t think about other countries as enemies or anything like that,” said Joe Gangi, this year’s club member in charge of the event.
“Ham radio operators are different. We’re cut from a different cloth. Everybody looks at each other as equals and we have a lot of fun with this.”
The group is expecting to beat their count last year of 360 connections made.
Atmospheric conditions can affect the reach of the signal, but so far the club is doing very well and has another day ahead of them on Sunday.
Doyle Wadhams was recording for the radio operator in the afternoon. On paper, he was taking down the information of anyone they spoke with over the radio so they could verify online later.
“I try to get the call sign to verify the contact through Logbook of the World,” Wadhams said. “You also have to record the frequency you’re on and the time of the contact. All that matches up to what they input into the database and that’s how you get credit for the contact.”
The event encourages amateur radio clubs to connect with local lighthouses during the third weekend of August. Registered operators participating in the event are asked to be within 1,000 feet of a lighthouse, though they can make contact with anyone across the country in any other location.
“We do this for two reasons,” Gangi explained. “One is to promote lighthouses and their need to be kept and restored. Even though they’re not a necessity anymore, there’s still such a history behind them. This is also to promote the hobby of amateur radio.”
Gangi and the ham radio operators want to make it an annual event.
“This is a lot of fun,” he said. “This is to draw people here and let them see what we’re doing. We’ve had many people come up and just ask questions and want to know more about ham radio and its operation, and we also promote the lighthouse, too, while we’re here. It’s all a partnership of good will.”
To help promote the Oak Orchard Lighthouse further, OCARC has special postcards called QSL cards made with the lighthouse’s information on it alongside their own club information.
As operators across the country connected, the call signs can be used to obtain mailing information. OCARC then sends out cards to the addresses of other operators and receive QSL cards in return.
OCARC will also be at the lighthouse on Sunday from 8 a.m. until late afternoon or evening. The public is welcome to stop by.