SOS Radio Week
Cumbria sits on the north west corner of England, it is normally noted for the lake district, one time the home of William Wordsworth, Beatrix Potter and favourite amongst walkers who flock to the central part of the county to scale the largest mountain in England, Scafell and the 214 Wainwright fells. These fells and lakes run down the centre if the county with the Irish sea running the length of the county to the west.
Cumbria has a long history with the sea, Whitehaven, the home to George Washington’s grandmother and in 1778 staged the ill-fated, and thought of as the last attempt by John Paul Jones (US Naval leader) to invade England. Cumberland, as it was then, was a centre for smuggling and features in royal letters as a source of tobacco and spirits.
Nowadays the invaders no longer invade and the smugglers are long gone, but the connection to the sea means that the rugged and unforgiving coastline is home to volunteer lifesavers who rely on donations from the public to maintain their status as an essential emergency service. These RNLI, Royal National Lifeboat Institute, stations are manned by co-workers, friends and neighbours who risk their lives in any weather to come to the aid of vessels or people in trouble on the water.
The Workington & District Amateur Radio Club has members close to 3 stations. In the south, St Bees, in the centre, Workington and to the north Silloth. There are boats stationed at Whitehaven but these don’t have the benefit of a roof over their heads.
In 2011 the club decided to focus on ‘activating’ our local lifeboat stations as part of SOS Radio Week. We also decided to call on a neighbouring club to produce a set of stations that would have the Lifeboat Cumbria, LBC callsign suffix. So we have settled on stations with the callsign’s as follows:
GB1LBC – Silloth – activated by Workington
GB2LBC – Workington – activated by Workington
GB4LBC – St Bees – activated by Workington
GB5LBC – Barrow-in-Furness – activated by Furness
We thought it would also be nice to add a bit of chasing to the on air fun and introduced an ‘award’ for contacting all 4 stations across the 2 weekends of SOS radio week. Nothing serious, just a bit of fun.
SOS radio week is held over 2 weekends and one week during January. Barring disaster we activate both weekends in all of the stations with the aim of raising awareness of the volunteer crews . These activations are can be in calm and settled weather but invariably in cold and wet conditions. 2014 saw St Bees station actually having the ideal vertical as it was under sea water as the unusual tides rose several meters above the norm and threatened to put the lifeboat station in the sea!
In amongst the radio the operators and club members rattle tins and hassle local businesses to contribute. Our initial thoughts were to raise a couple of hundred quid each year and to our surprise we raise between £1000 – £1500 each year. So over the last 3 years we have raised close to £10,000 and nationally to date SOS Radio week has raised over £15,000. For our stations the funding gets split amongst the stations and it allows the crews to buy equipment that isn’t centrally funded by the main charity. Each year we are really pleased to be able to hand over the various cheques and some of luckier members have been able to go out when the crews are practicing in calm seas.
None of this would work without the organisation of the lifeboat ARC, SOS Radio week and the amateurs who patiently wait as we work the lists in a pile up, donate to the cause and of course the brave volunteers we support.
To date we have raised over £8000 for the charity and had thousand’s of qso’s over the years. Its our flagship special event that has entertained us and frozen a few of us solid!
Railways on the air
L’al ratty is the narrow gauge railway that travels from Ravenglass to Eskdale. Workington & District ARC have set up special event stations as part of railways on the air. Although much less demanding in terms of preparation than the SOS radio week, this is our second ‘must do’ special event station.