To the Editor,
It’s been roughly eight years since the Canadian Coast Guard silenced most of the foghorns on our West Coast lighthouses.
I seem to recall that this was going to save them $75,000 per year in maintenance costs. Of course, the main reason they used to justify this move was the increasingly widespread use of GPS devices.
But here’s the part of their logic that I just don’t understand: this same coast guard still feels it’s necessary to have all their visual aids to navigation in place to this day, and, presumably, well into the future.
Even with more widespread use of GPS in 2011, the coast guard maintains its system of day markers, cardinal buoys, lighthouses, etc.
So, on the one hand, they seem to be saying that regardless of GPS usage, and the amazing capabilities of a properly functioning GPS unit onboard the boat of a knowledgable user, it is necessary to have these aids to navigation in place. A position I agree with.
On the other hand, they appear to be saying that these aids are only necessary when visibility is good. When visibility drops and the fog rolls over you so fast you think someone stole the bow of your boat, well, then you’re supposed to rely on your GPS and only your GPS.
There’s something backward about this thinking.
Wouldn’t it be beneficial to have aids to navigation available when you can’t see where you’re going? Obviously, they’d have to be signals that are heard rather than seen – in a word, foghorns.
Not only would their distinctive sound help confirm your location, it would also accomplish what foghorns on boats and ships continue to do: avoid collisions in the fog, in this case with the land.
Lighthouses with foghorns have always served this dual purpose, regardless of the weather. They’ve let mariners know where they are while warning them away from the shore, where there’s not enough water to float your boat.
I spoke to a lightkeeper years ago who said they fought the removal of the foghorns and would welcome their return.
Now that the government has indicated that staffed lighthouses are here to stay, I’d like to see, or hear, those lightkeepers turn on the foghorns again, whenever the fog drops in.
It’s an inexpensive way to keep this foggy coast safer.