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July 31, 2013

Editorial: Bring back the automated foghorn

OK, so the foghorn warning boaters approaching Rockport’s Straitsmouth Island would sometimes sound on a clear sunny day.

And yes, it would sometimes sound much longer than the two seconds needed, irritating some residents, boaters and the U.S. Coast Guard alike.

But in converting the foghorn from an automated system based on moisture detection sensors to a manual one that can be triggered by fishermen, boaters or anyone else who can do so with their radio signals, the Coast Guard may well have created a hazard that didn’t exist before.

Rockport Harbormasters Rosemary Lesch and Scott Story raise some very good questions when they ask, with a manual system, how will those who may most need the foghorn’s warning even know that it’s there? And if a boater is not familiar with the area, how would he or she know how or when to trigger it?

Coast Guard officials note that the previous system for sounding the foghorn had other flaws and susceptibilities as well; animals, for example, had occasionally found their way into the wiring, and repair service to the foghorn had become a bear for the Coast Guard, which would sometimes have to send a helicopter out to fix it.

But despite its foibles, the automated foghorn was, in many ways, more practical, and could provide a better assurance of sounding a warning about boater safety. Shouldn’t that be the top priority?

Here’s hoping that the Coast Guard heeds the call of Rockport’s harbormasters, and restores the foghorn to its previous format. Isn’t it better safe than silent?

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