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Radios in Lighthouses

Forum to discuss all areas of lighthouse technology such as optics, fuels, fog signals, radiobeacons, daymarks, construction, etc.

Postby jaymatt1978 » Tue Jan 03, 2006 3:59 pm


First I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year. Here's hoping all of us go on some lighthousing
adventures in 2006! Secondly I was discussing lighthouses with another amateur radio operator and
we both wondered what lighthouses have or had in the past, working VHF marine or other radios. I
know the Twin Lights lighthouse has a new marine radio parked on channel 16, the Coast Gaurd
emergency channel, as part of a display. Also for operational lighthouses it might be useful for
lighthouses to have weather radios in them to monitor tidal information. Any information is
very much appreciated.
Thanks a lot
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Postby Hersh » Tue Jan 03, 2006 10:41 pm


Justin, when I was a keeper on the DeTour Reef Light this summer, the marine radio was a very important piece of equipment. It was nothing special, just a commercially bought unit hooked up to a DC converter with a large antenna clamped onto the railing around the gallery. We did a fair amount of talking with our people on land and the boat captain that brought the visitors out to the light. It was easy to slip into the role and imagine being a Coastie back in the 30s checking in with USCG Soo control.

I don't have a good photo of the antenna setup they used on the light back in the '30s, but in this shot of the light under construction you can see the two horizontal bars coming off of the gallery, cables were strung from those down to the main deck railing and the whole thing was an antenna. It was a pretty ungainly system, but I guess it worked pretty well until the technology improved.

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Postby jaymatt1978 » Wed Jan 04, 2006 9:47 pm


Yeah I hear you Mike. The thing about the weather radios is they can run either on electrical or battery power backup. I would advise the folks involved in the various lighthouse groups bring this topic up at a meeting or something. The weather radios aren't very exspensive and yo-u can pick them up at your local Radio Shack for around $50
The marine radios are more for showing off, like they do at the Twin Lights lighthouse here in New Jersey.Although since lighthouses are used for navigation it would only make sense if they had a marine radio to monitor traffic.
If I ever was involved in a lighthouse group, the first equipment donation I would make would be a weather radio to put either in the lighthouse itself or in the keepers quarters!!
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Postby Hersh » Wed Jan 04, 2006 10:03 pm


I don't think we had a weather radio on DRL, it would have been nice to have. That's one of those things I've been wanting to buy for myself but haven't gotten around to it yet.
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Postby Kevin vk2ce » Thu Jan 05, 2006 12:43 am


That's a good question Justin. None of the lighthouses I have visited in Australia have had radios of any kind other that the usual commercial ones. I made the suggestion to the caretakers at Greencape a few years back that they should have some kind on radio there even if it was only VHF to communucate with the Parks people who own the lighthouse. I believe that has been done. Shipping these days depend on satellite comms, GMDSS and HF radio frequencies on 2, 4 and 6 megs. These rigs are quite expensive and require a licence to operate. I guess as 90 percent of our lighthouses are virtually unmanned, the need for radio comms is non existent.
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Postby jaymatt1978 » Mon Jan 09, 2006 3:37 pm


Just another follow up for those who might be a little confused. The weather radios that are available in general electronic stores like Radio Shack and, if you are near the shore, provide tidal information a few times an hour. This can be very useful for lighthouse operators!The newer ones can be step-up to only go off when bad weather is approaching your area. The older weather radios don't have this feature and can get annoying, they go off if bad weather is in a 75 mile radius! You can't talk with these radios, just to be clear! They have a builtin power supply and antenna!
The marine radios are the ones you can talk to the Coast Gaurd and other boats with. I have seen these type of radios in a couple of lights and think it's a great little addition to any display
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Postby Terry_Pepper » Wed Jan 11, 2006 8:58 pm


Menards sells a nice little portable weather radio for about $19.00. It also has a built-in flashlight. I keep mine in my truck with me at all times, and it has proven to be very useful.

We have a VHF marine radio at the Cheboygan River Front Range light. The main receiver/transmitter is located in the lantern, and we have an 8' fiberglass ground plane antenna attached to the gallery railing. The neat thing about this unit is that it has a small portable wireless unit about the size of a home cordless phone. You can clip it to your belt and carry it all around the station with you, and you are able to receive and transmit through the main unit in the lantern.

It was by carrying this remote unit with me while working in the station yard that I learned of the imminent departure of the MACKINAW last fall, some photos of which I posted that day in the Great Lakes forum here on Lighthousing.net.
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