Sgt. William Halliday, head of the sheriff's department's water patrol, wrote a letter to Coast Guard Commander C.V. Teeney on April 8 laying out problems with the lighthouse's light, which was replaced in 2008.
Halliday says the new light, a VRB-25 made in New Zealand, is not bright enough to assist boaters with navigation and could lead to more stranded boaters.
It is my opinion that this lamp for the Wind Point Lighthouse is not an adequate replacement for the original lamp and does not provide the identifying characteristics nor intensity that is needed for the purpose it was originally constructed.While his letter raises concerns specifically about lighthouse's light, Halliday also notes electronic navigation has replaced nautical charts on most boats. This is a big problem if the boat's electrical system fails. Halliday writes:
I have also had 17 years of responding to distress calls on Lake Michigan and have found that the art of plotting on a nautical chart has become nearly nonexistent. Upon inspections after calls for assistance, in most cases, there are no local charts on board. In some instances, the skippers were using road maps and in one case a restaurant place mat to navigate.Here is Sgt. Halliday's letter to Commander Teeney:
Commander C.V. Teeney
Coast Guard Sector Lake Michigan
2420 S Lincoln Memorial Drive
RE: Wind Point Lighthouse
Dear Commander Teeney:
Thank you for your letter dated December 21, 2009, detailing the observations of the Wind Point Lighthouse light from your patrol boat. I was very impressed with your new utility boat, slated to replace the aging 41-foot boats.
The reason for my response to your letter, is to impress upon you and your colleagues how important the Wind Point Lighthouse is as a local aid to navigation. We should focus our efforts in keeping the light not only with the proper flash sequence, but also with sufficient intensity to do the job that it was originally intended to do.
In what I would assume was a cost savings decision, the original lamp was replaced in the fall of 2008 by a VRB-25 light, manufactured in New Zealand. I have read that this particular light has been used in over 400 applications by the U.S. Coast Guard across the country. In certain applications, where the light sweep span is 180 degrees and beam intensity is not a major issue, I am sure that this lamp is sufficient for those needs. However, on this particular light, the functioning span is nearly 240 degrees. In our on the water observations, as you remember, showed that this light displayed secondary flashes that you describe in your letter as "due north" and "due south." In my observations, the secondary flashes would be more accurately described as being visible from nearly 30 degrees, both ways, from the compass points of 0 degrees and 180 degrees. Considering that most boat traffic in the area would be traveling in a north to south, or a south to north course, relying on this aid to be readily identified by its flash sequence becomes even more crucial.
It can be argued that, in this age of electronics, identifying these aids are less important. As a Department of Natural Resource and Coast Guard Auxiliary instructor for boating safety, it is well taught that electronics do not take the place of the use of plotting on a chart. I have also had 17 years of responding to distress calls on Lake Michigan and have found that the art of plotting on a nautical chart has become nearly nonexistent. Upon inspections after calls for assistance, in most cases, there are no local charts on board. In some instances, the skippers were using road maps and in one case a restaurant place mat to navigate.
As with the intensity of the light, this light should be readily seen from as far away as possible. Local boaters, in the past, describe their positions as a bearing from this very visible and distinctive aid. This assists us to provide quick response to boaters in distress. As you remember, when we attempted to locate the flash from over 10 miles away, it took a bit of time and looking to pick up the light. In a distress situation, time is going to be a factor, especially if they are attempting to identiff the light against a lighted shoreline, and especially in conditions of restricted visibility. Therefore, the intensity of this light is very important.
It is my opinion that this lamp for the Wind Point Lighthouse is not an adequate replacement for the original lamp and does not provide the identifying characteristics nor intensity that is needed for the purpose it was originally constructed. Flash sequences should be accurate and match what is printed on local charts and on the Light List. As mentioned earlier, we should continue to work on instructing the boating public to rely primarily on navigation from charts and use their electronics as a check. That being the case, it is imperative that the flash sequence to aid navigation be accurate from all points of approach. The flash intensity should be strong enough to be recognized from as far a distance as practical.
I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this and other matters of mutual concern with you at your convenience.
Robert D. Carlson, Sheriff
By: Sgt. William R. Halliday
OIC, Racine County Sheriff Water Patrol
Wind Point Lighthouse; that's Venus at right
Photo by James Jordan 2007 (More great pictures by Jim HERE.)