It’s been roughly eight years since the Coast Guard silenced most of the foghorns on our West Coast lighthouses to save $75,000 per year. Of course, the main reason they used to justify this move was the increasingly widespread use of GPS devices.
But 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. They maintain their system of day markers, cardinal buoys, lighthouses, etc. So, on the one hand they seem to be saying that regardless of GPS usage, it is necessary to have these aids to navigation in place. (A position I agree with.)
On the other hand, they appear to say 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, you’re supposed to rely on your GPS and only your GPS.
Wouldn’t it be beneficial to have navigation aids 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. Their distinctive sound would help confirm your location and would also avoid collisions in the fog, in this case with the land.
I spoke to a lightkeeper years ago and he said they fought the removal of the foghorns and they 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.