Sunday, August 21, 2011

A weekend at the Doringbaai lighthouse

The 21st & 22nd of August was International Lighthouse weekend for amateur radio enthusiasts.  The idea being to (legally) commandeer a lighthouse, set up as many radios & antennas as possible & then tune around anxiously while listening to the crackle of static & the occasional distant greeting from a fellow sufferer...  Since I missed the big radio exam in May, I was happily relegated to photographer duty during our stay at the Doringbaai lighthouse, 40 km north of Lambert's Bay on the West Coast :)

Amanda & I spent time exploring the Table Bay Port Authority on Friday morning while hunting for the lighthouse key, then made our way up the N7.  Vic, Chris & Keith in the Pajero took a more adventurous route from Sutherland, as did Pete & his clan.  The latter had decided to camp at Strandfontein, 5 km further up the coast from the lighthouse.

Upon arrival, the first priority was to get the antenna strung up & the radios working.  The huge mast had very little to do with any of this, but it did lend substantial credibility to the proceedings ;)

Keith lazed around up top while Chris & Vic scurried around at ground level, tying everything to everything else.

With this task completed, the uber organiser was looking appropriately chuffed with himself.


Should've taken a fisheye lens up to the top with me, but oh well - here's the 24mm view of the business end of the lighthouse.

The view from 24 metres up is really superb...

On Friday night the patchy fog produced a wonderfully eerie effect & being out there in the dark with the beams playing over the land/seascape was quite other-worldly!

Here's the daytime view to the south.

& to the east.

Plenty of bizarre rock formations out there too.

This is the Doringbaai CBD, as well as all the suburbs.  It's worth noting that we passed a liquor store & a pub on our way through to the lighthouse, & later found another pub just up the road ;)

More crazy rocks...

On Saturday afternoon we spotted some southern right whales out to the south, albeit rather far off.

Watching the whales we noticed the rainbow-coloured spray getting blown up off the waves.

Late afternoon it was time for some exploring & much more photo-taking...

This is the back of one of the abandoned factories near the lighthouse, a wall that's clearly taken plenty of abuse over the years.

Home sweet home - our very own lighthouse + fully equipped dormitory.

I got caught between trying to photograph & watch the sunset as a green flash seemed on.  I did justice to neither effort, but saw enough to know that I really did miss one - aaarrghhh!!  The twilight colours were gorgeous though.

We stayed out on the rocks to watch the lighthouse go on...

Then scrambled back to fetch a tripod for some shots looking west.

Back in the shack, the serious business of pouring drinks & collecting QSOs was in high gear...

Bill (centre) in particular was taking the matter as seriously as possible!

Eager to make a good impression (in the hope of being welcome back here again), we set about packing & cleaning up as best we could this morning.  Amanda transferred all the leftover alcohol into a single box for easy transportation &, well - bad things can happen to good people (not to mention good alcohol)...  The box gave way & several moments silence had to be observed in honour of: 1 x Jameson whiskey, 1 x Old Brown Sherry, 1 x Olof Bergh brandy, 1 x Smirnoff vodka & 2 x red wine.  The miraculous sole survivor was 1 x Gordon's gin (clearly Keith's karma was in better shape than the rest of ours).  Mercifully, a baby bottle of Amarula that hadn't made it into that fateful box was spared as well.

Meanwhile, a storm was blowing in & really churning the sea up.  Huge waves pounded the rocks we'd been perched on for yesterday's sunset photos.

With the kitchen catastrophe cleaned up, the final challenge was to transport the borrowed braai back to Amanda's relatives in town.  Space was at a premium with 4 people having to travel back to Sutherland, so somehow it seemed like a good idea to plonk the braai (still full of ash from Friday night) on top of the trailer & Drive Carefully.

Token duct tape & a confident "what could possibly go wrong?!" attitude was also applied to the cause.

But any photographer knows that getting the shot is all about patience - & in this case, maintaining a safe following distance...

It'd all gone so well, right up until that third speed bump.

No drama though - besides, that was just to get rid of the ash...

The more streamlined vehicle was soon on its way again.

& the slightly battered braai was successfully repatriated :)

On the way back to Lambert's Bay we watched this train scraping along on the 861 km long Sishen-Saldanha railway line - wonder how much was left by the time it got to Sishen?

Drinks were in order at the pub in Lambert's Bay - back where we'd originally met up on Friday afternoon...

What happened next requires careful explanation, but I'm not sure it'll help!  Anyway, in Chris' defence, he really was just innocently stretching his leg.

Our next stop was the Clanwilliam Lodge for another round & then the convoy parted ways.  I was in luck, only having to drive about 2 more hours, but the Sutherland gang ended up taking >9 more hours to get home.  The Doring river was in flood so they had to back-track through the Cederberg in the dark & then try again via Ceres.  Fortunately Grant was able to contact them on VHF from the radar dome near Sutherland, effecting an impressive 113 km contact & establishing that they were indeed still alive.


On the way home I went via Blaauwberg to check on the foam that was sure to have been churned up by the storm - always fun to see this bizarre 6th phase of matter in action...

That was a thoroughly excellent weekend - thank you guys! :)

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