Rectangle: Rounded Corners: Detail Report of AT3VLH Veraval Light House Activation
Date: 19th to 22nd August 2022
By: Rajesh P. Vagadia VU2EXP (Rajkot – Gujarat)  M: 9898283916

"We fell in Love with Veraval Light House!" - Rajesh Vagadia VU2EXP
                                                                           - Sakshi Vagadia VU3EXP

Dear Hams,

Since long I was dreaming to operate Ham Radio from Lighthouse! Luckily this year there was 25th Anniversary global celebrations of International Lighthouse & Lightship Weekend 2022 (ILLW), It was very good occasion and I was having a purpose to participate, learn, experiment, share knowledge of Amateur Radio and to highlight & spread awareness of selected Lighthouse!

Without a second thought I have chosen Veraval Lighthouse in southern coast of Gujarat state in Western part of India. It's 34m tall & beautiful Lighthouse near Chowpatty of Veraval city. This Lighthouse aided visual navigation for marine traffic surrounded by 3 sides of the sea. The world famous Somnath Temple of lord Shiva is just at 5KM distance. This is the same place where a Pillar (Baan Stambha) is located with an inscribed message in Sanskrit “Somnath to Antarctica (South Pole) Straight Line without land”, and a huge arrow is pointing to Antarctica, the interesting thing is that this Pillar was constructed at least in 7th century CE.

The challenge was the dates of the event, exactly during these dates our one of the biggest Indian Janmashtami festival was being celebrated for 3 to 5 days, people are in vacation mood and just enjoy with family & friends! It was tough time for me to get permission from XYL!!! Considering regional festival and thin chance to get dedicated team, finally I decided to do complete Lighthouse Activation alone! I started preparing on all aspects. My plan was to utilize as many modes as I can and carryout lots of experiments. As passionate (FM) satellite chaser I was eager to try this mode form Lighthouse. Also SSB & Digital mode was in my to do list.

Seeing my seriousness & preparation my sweet daughter YL Sakshi Vagadia VU3EXP asked me to join her in my team, so now we have Big team of two hams! So now everything was planned & prepared by VU2EXP & VU3EXP!

It was to be First Lighthouse Activation from Gujarat state! I decided and get Special Amateur Radio Callsign AT3VLH from Ministry of Communication & IT, WPC Wing, New Delhi, India. Within time frame I also received written permission from DGLL & DLL authorities to operate Ham Radio Station from Veraval Lighthouse from 19th to 22nd August 2022.

I enjoy QRP operation & use home-brewed EFHW Antenna 40-10m with Icom IC-705 in portable setup, I tested it before packing it. I was likely to use it for digital mode which also served as backup option. My primary radio was Icom IC-718 loaded with home-brewed CAT & soundcard interface. I was already having 40m Inv vee Antenna, I decided to add 20/15m elements in fan dipole configuration, just before a day of my journey I finished this cumbersome antenna tuning task with help of two friends Ghanubha & Atulbhai. For Satellite operation I carried my pair of HT, Arrow & IOio Antenna etc setup. I also carried Kenwood TM-281 VHF Base with GP antenna.

Now on 18th August we were set to start our journey from Rajkot to Veraval, our Swift Car was loaded with all our rigs, antenna, cables, patch cables, connectors, psu, ropes, logbook, laptop, HTs, SWR Meter, NanoVNA, Banner, soldering kit, toolkit along with amateur radio promotional materials including QSL Cards, HRN Newsletters, QST magazines, News paper Articles/Ham Radio Books, ARISS SSTV Awards etc. There was stock for home food, medicine and mosquito repellent too.

We started our journey with full tank of fuel at 11:45 AM. With short break at Junagadh (a holy place of Mount Girnar) we reached Veraval Lighthouse at 5:00 PM covering 200 KM. There was light to heavy rain throughout journey. Even there was heavy rain alert for coastal regions from IMD department! We were welcomed by Veraval Lighthouse In charge Shri C. S. Azad Sir and his whole staff. All radio stuff were unloaded & kept to our planned radio room, it was neat rest room (with sea facing windows) just under the Light house structure, now onwards our home for four days!

I surveyed complete site and one roof corner was found suitable to erect bamboo mast & both of my Inv. Vee & EFHE Antenna. Intermittent rain & high velocity wind was the challenge for our task. There was no stairs constructed for large roof (even not needed in LH), so we need to climb with portable ladder every time. I gathered all antenna assembly material with coax cables, huge reel of rope and went to roof with few members of Lighthouse. I set the desired direction of both antennas to get maximum stations, fixed centre piece at top of bamboo mast, also 4 feet down from top I tied my 49:1 transformer box connected with 40-10m antenna element. The mast were tied with 3 strong guy ropes, two mast of 20 feet were joined to achieve 35 feet height from the ground. Enough care taken to keep antenna in desired direction and to have enough ground clearance. Rain and high velocity wind tried to disappoint us time to time, but we were firm in our installation task, we took 3 to 4 hours in antenna installation, all members of Lighthouse were very supportive and offered their best cooperation.

Phase one for Antenna installation was completed. I was needed to test SWR but before that it was necessary to setup radio station. We were bit late from our planned schedule. Me & Sakshi VU3EXP started setting up all radio gears into order, it took us 1 hour to setup our SSB & Digital station, managing coax, putting notepad, logbook, banner etc everything get ready.

It was around 11:00 PM, Lighthouse In-charge and all staff was eager to see & learn about Lighthouse Ham Radio activation. There was small inauguration kept for this First Lighthouse Activation from Gujarat with Sp. Callsign AT3VLH. All Lighthouse staff, few of our invited relatives & friends remains present. My mother Smt. Manjulaben specially been present on this occasion to bless us.

As per Indian tradition & culture any good activities need to be started with smashing a coconut, here too Lighthouse In charge Mr. C. S. Azad Sir performed this act and officially inaugurated our Veraval Light House activation. I explained present members about Amateur Radio and the motive of Lighthouse activation. Also informed about ILLW 25th anniversary celebration carried out at different Lighthouse across globe! I requested In charge Sir to key on the radio and very soon we started getting digital (ft8) stations on laptop screen! Our task for this day was successful. Though I need to thoroughly measure SWR of my 3 band Fan Dipole & EFHW but now it was must to take a bit sleep and start Radio activities from early morning.

Day 1, 19th August 2022, early morning we wake up at scheduled time 6:00 AM (IST), quickly inspected the radio setup and antenna, it was found everything normal. We took benefit of 40m (open) band and tuned to 7.045 Mhz, found frequency clear so started giving call i.e. CQ CQ CQ DE AT3VLH… THIS IS SPECIAL LIGHT HOUSE STATION - ALPHA TANGO THREE VICTOR LIMA HOTEL… And voila I got a first responding station VU2KTW from Mumbai replying my call, he was very loud & clear, we exchanged 59 reports both ways. It was good start in SSB and got many more stations on 40m. I worked few specially activated Callsign incl AU75KOC, AU75JGI etc.

My top priority was to establish at least few Satellite contact from this beautiful & huge Veraval Light House. I sorted few (FM) satellites passes including AO-91, ISS & SO-50, tracked them time to time and tried to work but NO SUCCESS!!! There was no scope for disappointment, as we were bound to learn & gain all sort of experience!

Meanwhile I started my Digital operation with FT8 mode on 20m & 15m. Having few minor glitches, but soon configured and corrected all the software & radio settings. Our first contact on digital was with station VU3UZD from Bengaluru. Thereafter we were getting good Pileup on digital and worked many DX stations from Russia, South Asia, Middle East, Japan & Europe.

Meanwhile Lighthouse In charge & staff were visiting our AT3VLH Radio Room and we were making them familiar with our Radio operation. Also some guest member & college students visited our station to learn more. We spent enough time to aware all of them about Amateur Radio, Digital Operation, Satellite Communication, Lighthouse Activation etc. They were pleased to learn about fascinating world of Amateur Radio activities. We also allow them to have some radio conversation (modulation test), which bring fun & thrill to all of them!

In the late evening somehow my 20m SWR raised too high about 5:1, no clue why at that point of time! Checked all my Radio setup, coax, connectors etc but found all ok. Now I need to inspect my Fan Dipole antenna, but was totally dark in outside with high wind & intermittent rain! Decided to inspect an antenna in the early morning. I swapped to EFHW backup antenna and added more contacts to the logbook. It is always fine to have backup options, hi..hi..
It was hectic day for us and was my sleeping time at around 1:00 AM

Overall it was mixed experience on day 1 to try different modes and to welcome many guest, students and have lots of fun, to educate & give demos.

On Day two, 20th August 2022, I was ready in the morning at around 6:00 AM (local time), inspected my 40/20/15m inverted vee antenna, and Oh, no! there was multiple turns twisted over each other on one side of the Inv. Vee element! It happened with high velocity wind caused at crazy coast of Veraval. High SWR fault was now detected. It was very cumbersome process to bring down 40 feet bamboo mast with Inv vee & EFHW antenna from roof and that too in continuous high velocity wind of around 60-70 kmph! We are quite familiar with blessings of Murphy.. hi..hi. So this was a wonderful start of our day!

I came to Radio room & checked SWR for 40m, which was around 1.3:1, so not to worry to operate this band.

Today our good fried & Net Controller of Belgaum HF Net OM Omprakashji AU75KOC (VU2KOC) invited me to be a Guest Net Controller on 7.050 Mhz with my Sp. Call AT3VLH. This was good opportunity for me to have good number of ssb contacts on 40m. The band was not fully opened even though I managed to work many stations on 40m. Most SSB stations were from VU land and few were with Sp. Calls celebrating 75th Anniversary of Indian Independence Day. Sp stations worked were AU75KOC, AU75SMN, AU75PNU, AU75YC, AU75XPN on 40m.

My EFHW antenna was having still good SWR on 40-10m, my team member YL Sakshi Vagadia (VU3EXP) started Digital operation on 15m & 20m, she was nicely handling the digital pileup and adding the contacts to the logs.

Today I decided to try & chase Satellites, been ready with my entire portable setup carrying IOio dual band antenna, pair of HT, Headset, Tracking device, tiny logbook etc. My first targeted bird was again AO-91 with 19 deg max elevation, considering the pass direction I finalize to be at the roof of the lighthouse tenement, with help of portable ladder I carefully climbed to the roof with all my portable gears. It was high blowing wind all the times much difficult to monitor the downlink. I was exactly standing beside 34m huge Veraval Lighthouse, the 1.3kg tiny cube sat was about to appear in few minutes, I double checked the frequencies, azimuth and starting elevation to aim my satellite antenna. I was giving some Sat Calls, after 2 or 3 minutes I heard a Station on AO-91, it was our good friend Lucky VU2LBW. I immediately replied with my call AT3VLH and he responded me as well, he was 59 and gave me same report for me, Cheers… so it was my 1st Satellite contact logged (at 0443z) from Veraval Light House. Just soon I found and worked other station VU3DTT on the same pass making my second sat contact. Fortunately very next pass of SO-50 satellite was just about 15 minute later, it was 67 deg overhead pass, was likely to work again with Lucky. I did swapped the antenna & changed the correct frequency, been prepared to welcome this 20 year old microsatellite orbiting at 713km apogee. It was most awesome view I could sight while waiting for bird (Sat), beautiful chowpatty & endless crazy sea in one side, huge Rayon factory in either side & Somnath temple side view at opposite end. As SO-50 Sat was arriving from SSW (198 deg) Lucky should have triggered PL Tone to activate the Satellite timer as per our mutual understanding, I did gave random sat calls on uplink frequency, and yes soon I copied very strong signal of VU2LBW, I replied him and exchanged 59 reports, was getting great signal from 250mW UHF downlink from this bird, very nice contact established & 3rd sat contact in the log! Next target was to catch & work via International Space Station’s fm repeater arriving after 3.30 hours later. I came down from the roof very carefully.

In due time Sakshi was keenly making digital contacts on 15/20m bands. It was great time to see many DX entities in logs. We took lunch break for some time and again back to the work.

Alarm just rang in my phone alerting upcoming satellite pass. Quickly prepared  my setup, climbed and reached to my favorite spot at the roof. There was bit drizzling rain, I was now used to with high winds from seashore. I was about to chase giant ISS having elevation of 19 deg from my Grid ML50EV. Been QRV and after two minutes of AOS I could again work Lucky VU2LBW from Bangalore. Found no other stations in this pass. Today was great day for me, from Veraval Lighthouse (AT3VLH) I could worked tiniest cube satellite weighing 1.3kg and also largest space station weighing more than 84000kgs!!!
My dream turned into reality this day :-)

Our motive was also to spread awareness of Light House through various Amateur Radio activities. Hence I also accepted an invitation to address  group of YL via Echolink Network. All efforts was thankfully made by YL Bharthiji VU2RBI to invite me & all participants on India Conference room in Echolink. With AT3VLH Callsign, I controlled the Echolink Net and made more than two dozen of contacts from VU & DX land. I conveyed many technical facts about Veraval lighthouse which are as below: 

1) Name:                        Veraval Lighthouse

2) Sr. No. (in A.L.O.L):  F-0410

3) Position:                     Lat: 20° 54.6’ N
Long: 70° 21.2’ E

4) Elevation:                   33 Meter

5) Characteristic:           FIW 15 Sec. (10 + 5 = 15 Sec.)

6) Range in N. Miles

        a) Luminous:         15 N Mile at T=0.74

        b) Geographical:   14 N Mile

7) Lighthouse Tower:   

        a) Type:                 Square Masonry Tower with semi circular front

        b) Height:               34 Meter

        c) Colour Scheme Black and White bands – 5 nos.

8) Optical Equipment:

        a) Make:                B.B.T.France

        b) Size:                  1000 mm drum optic with catadioptirc

        c) No. of Panels:   2 Elements (isolated type) Both tier are in use since 2003

        d) Area of dioptric portion: 275 sq, cm (corrected area 205 sq. cm)

        e) Area of catadioptric portion: 342 sq. mm (corrected area 164 sq. cm)

         f) Divergence:      11° 27.27’ (Vertical.)

9) Year of Commissioning 1967

It was great learning experience for me to control the Echolink Net and to talk and answer every individual from every corner of India and even from DX. Thank you Bhartiji for your kind invitation.

Now it was high time to bring down my main fan dipole antenna (due to high swr), which I did with support of lighthouse staff, that too in drizzling rain. I cleared all the twists on the 20m antenna elements & hanged two feet thin plastic rope tied with bit heavy stone, done this on both side of dipole elements, so it does not twist again in heavy winds!!! I also did minor tuning of fan dipole. Again we erected the large antenna to its position and tied it firmly. From radio room I measured SWR on 20m antenna and yes it worked.. very high 5:1 SWR came down to reasonably good value of 1.5:1, and my 40 m which was previously 1.3:1 got absolute resonant with 1.02:1 SWR @ 7.106 Mhz, too good! I decided and announced to use this frequency now onwards for my light house activation on 40m.

Again this whole day was too good for us having lots of success on Satellite Contacts, Digital contacts, HF Net controlling, Addressing via Echolink, Fixing HF antenna SWR etc etc. Some young staff (Arvindbhai & Yash) of lighthouse was curious and was understanding Ham radio communication going on from Lighthouse till late. It was too pleasing environment at late night around Lighthouse. There was great view & sound of Veraval Sea we could get from windows of our radio room, just mesmerizing experience! We sometime went sea side of Lighthouse to enjoy beauty of nature! Time to have a sleep at 1:30AM (IST).

Day 3, 21st Aug 2022 morning 7:00 AM (IST). Today we started with SSB on 7.106 Mhz, started giving CQ call and within few minutes I was responded by many VU ham friends Incl VU2SPF, VU2DED, VU2JOS, VU2NXM, VU3IKI, VU2SPM, VU3HMM and many more. I also checked 7.050 and had nice contact with other Lighthouse Station AT5LHK from Kundapura, pleased to have Lighthouse to Lighthouse Radio contact.

Small group was visiting our stations today. After getting 40m band down, we started working Digital on 20 & 15m, low swr certainly helped us to work more number of stations. Also we did work 4 satellite contacts via two birds AO-91 & SO-50. Few guest visited our stations and learnt about radio operation. We also went to the top of the 34m tall Lighthouse by climbing 135 steps. Enjoyed the amazing 360 degree Panoramic View from pick of lighthouse. There was super high wind blowing (felt like 70-80 kmph) and need to be careful and hold the railings. We observed the optics and learnt functioning of LH. We could see Somnath Temple which was at 5km distance. Just beside light house Crystal School was visible from Arial view, also some farther a Indian Rayon factory was visible. Front side was having Chowppati developed by Veraval municipal corporation and endless blue sea beyond it. Back side was having city view. I carried my HT and gave few calls but as I understand there were no hams available in the reach of vhf radio frequency. Me and Sakshi enjoyed the Arial view for 15 to 20 minutes and thereafter went down.

Sakshi operated & added many digital contacts to the logs. Many special Callsign found in the log and overall it was nice day activity. There was Power cut for some moments; I turned off the big switch of our Radio & PSU for a safety. Very soon I came to know it was a scheduled test of In-house diesel generator in monsoon season, to check how perfectly generator gets auto started with preset delay after actual power failure, I came to know in Lighthouse it is necessary to check twice every week to get assured power failure will Not affect the normal functioning of light house. Actual Power cut could be just for 5 to 10 seconds and immediately whole load get transferred by system on diesel generator. There is also series of batteries for backup charged by solar panels, but in monsoon diesel generator is preferred. I avoided using my radio gears for this period; we spent good time with Shri Lakhabhai and Shri Azad Sir learning their experiences. After aprox 30 minutes regular grid power was made available. We resumed our operation up to late night for around 1AM.

Day 4, 22nd August 2022 at 7:00 AM (IST). It was final day of our activation. It was bit sorrow feeling to realize next day we have to leave our lovely home (Lighthouse)!!!  But as said show must go on – I been to the Radio. Today I did handful of SSB contacts, including few special call signs like AU75BRJ, AU75KOC, AU75BGG etc. Worked nice QRP station VU3IUB operating uBitx-40 with 7W. Our whole logbook contain only 2 DX SSB contacts which were A41LD & F4WBL!!! But I was not here to chase huge score hi..hi.. We were very much satisfied with all sort of activities we did including lots of antenna experiment, digital communication, satellite communication, spreading awareness and becoming relax ignoring whole outer world!

Today I added 4 more satellite contacts via AO-91, the signal was 59++ for all the stations, I logged VU2CWP, VU2DPT, VU3DTT & VU2AAP. I could not work any other satellites though. The digital operation was going well, Sakshi was nice in choosing stations & working them, she also gained knowledge on propagation, favorable band timings, DX country prefix, effectively getting the stations etc. It was hard to believe that she can also remain away from her mom for 5 days! hi.. hi.. Small group of relatives were allowed to visit Radio room and we also been to top of Lighthouse for one final time too, preserving all the good memories of cinematic Arial view in mind & heart!

We had the best experience of our Life on this Lighthouse activation, Absolutely  memorable! It was around 12:00 AM midnight when we concluded our AT3VLH Veraval Lighthouse activation. We decided to dismantle all radio gears & huge antenna in the morning. We checked the logbook which shows total 561 QSOs – including all modes.

The Interesting summary of AT3VLH logbook is as below:

SSB Contacts: 82
Digital Contacts: 467
Satellite Contacts 12
Total Contacts 561

● We Uploaded all Logs to LoTW & eQSL

● QSL Card & Echolink contact acknowledgment will be sent who request us.

● Lighthouse Stations worked from AT3VLH; AT2LH and AT5LHK

Some beautiful IOTA stations we worked; IS0KNG Sardinia Island, GJ0KYZ Jersey Channel Island, TK5IH Corsica Island, SV5AZP Rhodes Island Dodecanese, SV9BMG Crete Island, 3B9FR Rodrigues Island, CT3MD Madeira Island

Special VU Stations worked by AT3VLH were; AU75KOC, AU75JGI, AU75SMN, AU75PNU, AU75XPN, AU75BRJ, AU75BGG, AU75IND, AU75YC, AT5LHK, AT2LH

Some notable/special DX Station worked by AT3VLH are; R110WWS, HZ1CPCF, 8I77I, 8I77S, 8H77I, 8H77N, AP75IN

Farthest distance Contact with Chile station CE2SV was for 16032 km
Second Farthest distance contact with Uruguay station CX1VH for 14586 km
Shortest distance QSO established with VU3HMM for 163 km
Worked 66 DXCC entities.
Worked 19 CQ Zones
Worked 26 ITU Zones
Worked 5 Continents; Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania & South America
Worked Prefixes: 260
Unique Callsign worked 455

71 Stations worked us more than once
4 Stations worked us 5 times; VU2KYZ, VU2DVA, VU3HMM, VU3IKI
Maximum Satellite contacts established with VU2LBW (5 contact)
QSO per Band: 264/15m, 107/40m, 75/20m, 2/17m, 12/Satellite,
QSO per Continent; Europe 258, Asia 223, Oceania 59, Africa 12, South America 9
Tot 20 Country worked; India/115, European Russia 82, Indonesia 55, Japan 35, Fed. Republic of Germany 18, Spain 16, Ukraine 16, China 15, France 15, Poland 15, Italy 13, Asiatic Russia 11, Kazakhstan 9, Greece 8, Republic of South Africa 8, Bulgaria 7, Finland 7, Hungary 7, Romania 7, Thailand 6
Top Ten Prefix worked;  VU2/69, VU3/31, AU75/11, R2/9, YB1/9, EA5/8, R6/6, RX6/6, UN7/6, F4/5


For getting permission of Special Callsign AT3VLH I am thankful to Government of India, Ministry of Communications, Wireless Planning & Coordination Wing - New Delhi. For getting Light House permission, we are very much thankful to Director General of Lighthouses and Lightships - Noida, Directorate of Lighthouses and Lightships - Jamnagar authorities. We are equally thankful to Lighthouse In charge C.S. Azad Sir and all Staff members including Shri Lakhabhai, Shri Kantibhai, Sushila Madam, Alpeshbhai, Pravinbhai, Yash etc for their excellent support & cooperation.
We thank a lot to our friend Lion Ajoy VU2JHM for his excellent supports all the times. We also thanks Amit Soni for his kind support during our whole activation at Veraval. I am thankful to ILLW, ARLS, ARSI, AMSAT-INDIA, GIAR and other organizations. I also take a note of below ham friends for great support and encouragement for our Light House activation; VU2KOC, VU2RBI, VU2LBW, VU2AAP, VU2PEP, VU2WMY, VU2HW, VU2LU, VU2DSI, VU2SPM, VU2NXM VU2SPF, VU2TS, VU2JGI, VU2CPV, VU3IKI, VU2KYZ, VU3HMM, SWL Atulbhai and whole ham fraternity for their kind support & encouragement for our First Light House activation from Gujarat state (India). I specially thank to my daughter & team member Sakshi VU3EXP for her great assistance all the times. Equally I thanks to my parents & XYL for their warm support for my radio activity. Our Special thanks to VK2CE OM Kevin Mulcahy!

Thank You all,

Team AT3VLH,
Rajesh P. Vagadia – VU2EXP
Sakshi R. Vagadia – VU3EXP
Veraval Light House  Locator: ML50EV
Veraval – Gujarat - INDIA
M: 9898283916

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