The foghorn at the entrance to Cleveland harbor is now activated via VHF radio instead of by automatic fog-sensing equipment. As a result, the horn has been blaring almost non-stop since the experimental device was installed in August.
Coast Guard officials had hoped to cut operating costs of certain foghorns on the Great Lakes by eliminating fog-sensing equipment. As an experiment, the equipment on Cleveland’s horn was dismantled and VHF-based equipment was installed.
The plan has apparently backfired, however, since boaters have enjoyed activating the horn so much that more batteries may be needed for the foghorn, effectively raising operating costs for the foghorn instead of lowering them, according to Coast Guard officials.
“The Cleveland horn seems to be operating much more than necessary,” said Lt. j.g. Corey Henige, planning officer for the Aids to Navigation Branch in Cleveland. “Boaters think it’s so cool to turn the horn on that it keeps getting turned on, even on bright, sunny days.”
To activate the horn, the transmit button is clicked five times in quick succession on VHF channel 15. The horn will then operate for the next 30 minutes. The experiment will last for one year, Henige said, and then will be evaluated for further use or discontinuation.
Coast Guard officials hope that the novelty will eventually wear off and a clear idea of cost savings will be possible. “If the plan is successful, then we’ll be able to have significant cost savings by eliminating fog-sensing equipment. If boaters keep using it this frequently, though, then we’d have to install more batteries and there wouldn’t be any cost savings,” Henige added.
Commercial vessels do not use sound signals for navigation on the Great Lakes, so foghorns remain in operation for use by recreational boaters.