KENNEBUNKPORT, Maine — Maine has seen its share of shipwrecks.
Lighthouses and fog signals have greatly reduced the number of shipwrecks on the Maine coast. The U.S. Coast Guard says Maine’s 30-year-old fog signals are prone to fail and need constant maintenance. So they’re being swapped out, but not everyone welcomes the change.
On a sunny day, fishermen and mariners have no problem navigating the dozen islands surrounding the harbor at Cape Porpoise. But when it’s dark or foggy, they rely on Goat Island Light and its fog signal.
“You want to hear the foghorn go off. To me it’s very comforting,” Theresa Willette of Coastal Maine Kayak & Bike in Kennebunkport said.
Right now, foghorns are triggered automatically in bad weather. But the Coast Guard is replacing them with fog signals which are triggered electronically.
“The only way you can set this off is if you have a VHF radio,” Willette said. “You hit 83 and click the button five times to set off the foghorn and light.”
Lt. David Bourbeau of U.S. Coast Guard says the new system will be an improvement.
“We think it’s going to be a more reliable system for the mariner who will be able to use it on demand whenever they need it,” Bourbeau said.
But Goat Island Lighthouse Keeper Scott Dombrowski worries about boaters who don’t have marine radios.
“It makes the people who are ill-prepared, have the smallest crafts, and are the least familiar with the area more vulnerable than ever,” Dombrowski said.
The Coast Guard has already switched over six lighthouses in Maine, and will soon install electronic fog signals in 17 more lighthouses including Spring Point Light and Portland Head Light.
“This change is coming,” Bourbeau said. “And if they do rely on the fog signal for navigation, they’re going to need to pick up a marine radio.”
Willette, though, worries about boaters unprepared and caught off guard when fog rolls in.
The Coast Guard understands that not every boater is going to have a VHF radio. So right now, they’re working on an app where you can use your cell phone to trigger the foghorn.