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- N8PPQ/LT -

Muskegon Lights Activation
August 6th, 2022

South Breakwater Lighthouse, Muskegon

I was fondly remembering the successful Stannard Rock Lighthouse activation, as published in August, 2022 QST, when the impulse to activate Muskegon’s lights struck. This was on Monday, August 1. The US National Lighthouse Weekend started August 6. I had less than a week to pull things together, but felt that after Stannard Rock, this would be cake. I was mistaken. The only easy part was getting permission. The head of the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy, which owns the lighthouses, is Jeff Shook – KB8TTK. I didn’t need to explain a thing. He had even read my recent QST article!

Muskegon has two lighthouses that are listed on the Amateur Radio Lighthouse Society (ARLHS) World List of Lights. According to its rules, I could activate both by operating within sight of them.

But I wanted to work right there at the breakwater light. I saw that its concrete base is 40' across with steel ladder rungs inset under the deck on both sides. At home, I cut and welded square tubing to slip behind and hook over the rungs, and protrude up about 5’ above the deck. Into this, I would insert a 12’ length of square tubing and into that, two 8’ lengths of telescoping fiberglass round tubing with a final short fiberglass tube insert that has an eye made of 14 g antenna wire. These would support the ends of my half-size G5RV antenna. (The fiberglass supports were left over from Stannard Rock.) A line shot over the lighthouse would support the center. At 63’, my wrist rocket could do that. I would attach a line to a lamp pole 100’ from the light to pull the center away and get it directly between the end supports. My 2m antenna was a quarter-wave mag-mount stuck to a pizza pan.

It took 6 runs with a wheel barrow to get the gear out there. This followed 2 dashes out the night before to measure and test fit the welded pieces. At about 1 mile from the parking lot to the light, this was much harder than Stannard Rock, which was 45 miles from the dock! I was on the air by mid-afternoon Saturday. I mostly worked the CW contest as N8PPQ/LT, just because it was so easy to log a lot of calls that way. I’ll follow up with a nice QSL card to all of them. I enjoyed this part, and talking with all the people who kept asking about what I was doing. (I told them about local clubs and invited them to visit us!)

The bad part started about 3:00 AM. Wind had been picking up and lightning was on the horizon. The dredging boat that was working round-the-clock pulled anchor and made for harbor. I tried moving my tent to the leeward side of the lighthouse but there was no escape. I put all my radio gear into the tent in totes - to protect them from rain and to help hold the tent down. I tied the tent to the lighthouse in four corners. A tall wave suddenly swept over the deck. The tent crashed against me, and I knocked over the table to my other side. I had time to gather everything that wasn’t in the tent and stash it on the small platform by the door to the lighthouse before another tall wave hit. When the canopy piece ripped apart in the wind, I collapsed the tent. Tall waves started to arrive in groups of 1 to 3 every 5 minutes, covering the deck to mid-calf depth, (about 1’) and moving at about 10 mph. The tent ripped free of three of the four tethers. All my radio gear was in this bag, which used to be my tent, mere inches from the abyss! I took a picture but it’s hard to make out because of the darkness and the fog from my water logged camera.

The brunt of the storm passed to the north and by daylight things had calmed. My laptop was destroyed but its hard drive has been recovered, along with my contact log! All my radio gear survived, although it got as wet as the computer! In all, I figure things couldn’t have been better! It was a challenge. It was scary. It was costly. But it was an event I’ll never forget, and one I’ll never need to try again!

Muskegon Lights

Muskegon Lights is our local branch of the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy, and is located at 1431 Beach Street, near the Coast Guard station at the Muskegon Channel.

For more information about the Muskegon Lights, see the links below.

Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy

The mission of the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy is to promote the preservation of Michigan’s lighthouses and life saving station structures along with the artifacts associated with them. We will accomplish this through education, interpretive displays and artifact preservation.

For more information about the owner of the Muskegon Lights, see the links below.