Medina Journal-Register — Radio Operators from around the world will be including the Oak Orchard Lighthouse in Internatinal Lighthouse Lightship Weekend, Aug. 17 and 18. It is the first time the lighthouse is participating in the event fully.
“We were allowed to participate a few years ago, but only because of the story behind us,” said Peg Wiley, vice president of the Oak Orchard Lighthouse Museum in Point Breeze.
“We had to get permission to participate,” she recalled, noting how the lighthouse reconstruction had not yet been completed. “We participated as guests, so this is our first year as an actual lighthouse.”
Wiley explained how the lighthouse’s participation over the weekend “is a function of amateur radio (ham radio) operators around the world.
“We have a number registered now, and we’ll be an annual participant now,” Wiley added.
The Orleans County Amateur Radio Club (OCARC) is spearheading the ham radio operations for the event. Terry Cook, the club president, said he and his fellow club members will contact as many participating lighthouses as possible over the two-day event.
“It’s a full weekend deal, and a lot of people will probably be hunting for us because it’s our first year as an official participant,” he said.
Cook said he has “always been fascinated with ham radio” and has managed to tweak his own so that he can communicate as far as Portugal.
“You can talk all over the world thanks to a piece of wire,” he said. Some radios are better than others, and that is reflected in their price. “You can go cheap, or you can spend thousands,” he added.
Ham radio operators must have a license and pass certain qualifying tests, Cook noted. In past years operators were required to know Morse code, but he said that is no longer the case.
The OCARC has 35 members, Cook said, and he expressed hope that at least a third help with the lighthouse event. He said one of the newer club members, Joe Gang, will handle the weekend’s organization in 2014.
Wiley said ham radio operators’ participation during the weekend is a “good exercise in communication” because their ability to stay in contact with each other on several levels is vital “if the grid were to ever go down.”
She explained, “These are the guys who can still talk to each other if something major ever happens at the regional level or state level or national level. No one else will be able to communicate if the normal methods are out.”
The radio operators at the lighthouse will have a map to pin each location they contact, and Wiley, who added that Oak Orchard Lighthouse is “lucky to be included.”
While the lighthouse is operational, it is not considered an official “navigational aide.” The permit for the lighthouse is good for two nautical miles, which precludes it from being on the charts as an aide. It is, however, listed as a “private aide for navigation” and could show up on some charts.
“The original lighthouse was an official aide, but with the reconstruction and the overall lack of need, we’re using part of the weekend to bring some focus to the lighthouses that remain and their history,” Wiley said.
“We’re looking to focus on those that are possibly abandoned, auctioned off, or torn down.”
As for the Oak Orchard Lighthouse itself, its annual dinner is the Saturday of International Lighthouse Lightship Weekend. Tickets cost $65. For more information, go online to oakorchardlighthouse.org.