1871-1900 Yaquina Head Lighthouse Letter books

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Pages That Mention Aids to Navigation Officer

Coast Guard District narrative histories 1945

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Causes of radiobeacon failures were generally easily repairs, but it was the duration of these failures which the District Coast Guard Office worked incessantly to overcome. Monitor stations experienced great difficulty, at times, in notifying an offending station of its inoperation due to the frequent inability to make radio contact with the radiobeacon station which necessitated routing the message through other stations or agencies. Heavy storms in the area destroyed telephone communication and on occasion, visual signals had to be relayed to certain stations. Alarm units, as noted above, were not perfected, so frequently radiobeacon stations were unaware of their defective operation until notified by the Monitor Station. Had there been some means for notifying, under all conditions, the radiobeacon station of its faulty operation immediately after the failure was detected, the duration of faulty operation would have been greatly reduced.

Although the radiobeacons in this District were not operating at 100% efficiency, it was the opinion of the District Office that the beacons were operating on a par with beacons throughout the continental United States. This was determined by the reports from mariners and airmen who used beacons as navigational aids and was also due to the determination of the Aids to Navigation Officer to increase the efficiency of the beacons.

A radiobeacon buoy with a working range from 7 to 50 miles had been developed and was considered in the 13th Naval District the year before the war. Trials were made on batteries in some of the rough waters along the coast and on the Columbia River Bar. The batteries proved too fragile so dry packs were tested; these, too, developed defects. As the packs cost $40.00 a piece, much experimentation proved too costly. The District Coast Guard Officer saw the advantage of a perfected radiobeacon buoy in that a string of such buoys along the coast, 15 to 20 miles apart on the 30 fathom curve, would eliminate the necessity of the UMATILLA REEF LIGHTSHIP; the removal of the Lightship would counteract the use of tenders servicing the equipment (buoys had to be serviced every 4 months), as well as the cost. The Aids to Navigation Officer and the District Coast Guard Officer were both in favor of the establishment of a radiobeacon buoy at Grays Harbor Entrance where there had been considerable agitation for a Lightship; this station was within easy run for the CGC MANZANITA. Had the buoy proved applicable to conditions at Grays Harbor, buoys could have easily been installed at Duntze Rock, Yaquina Bay, Tillamook Rock, Umpqua, Coos Bay and Wherever tender equipment was available.

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miles from Mason City to the Canadian border. A question arose as to whether or not Roosevelt Lake constituted part of "the navigable waters of the United States" as interpreted by the laws. In March, 1944, the Law Officer advised that Roosevelt Lake was navigable and, together with the Columbia River which flows into it and gives rise to it, furnished a water way for foreign commerce. With this fact established, it became necessary to establish aids to navigation along the lengths of this lake. At that time, there was very little traffic on Roosevelt Reservoir but it was the opinion of local marine interests that the traffic was bound to increase not only commercially but in pleasure craft following the war. Numerous hazards existed that made travel especially dangers under the conditions as they then existed. In a meeting between the Superintendent of the Coulee Dam and representatives of the District Coast Guard Officer, location were proposed for spar buoys to be anchored in the lake and provide the shortest run from Grand Coulee Dam to Kettle Falls, Washington. These locations were consistent with assumed limitations of 20 feet of water at buoy locations with a maximum reservoir drawdown at elevation 1208 and a minimum distance between the buoys 1/2 mile; the normal elevation of the reservoir when full is 1290. An investigation made by the Aids to Navigation Officer determined that 27 lights and 10 reflectors would suffice to mark the lake. The Bureau of Reclamation was in favor of the establishment of 51 buoys but the District Coast Guard Officer felt that buoys would be impracticable for several reasons. Due to the lowering of the water to different levels which would cause different shoal areas to appear and changes would have to be made in the buoys to keep the channel safely and effectively marked. Furthermore, the mountainous land area which formed the bottom of the lake together with the deep water, rendered use of buoys inadvisable; for in many places the buoys would be moored in over 200 feet of water which would require large buoys and, consequently, the services of a buoy tender. Unlighted buoys were not considered, for, as such, they would be inadequate. For these reasons then the Aids to Navigation Officer determined that the 27 lights and 10 reflectors would be adequate. These lighted aids would consist of a battery box on a concrete foundation with a 200mm lantern with a focal plane of 12 feet. Aids were to display a white light of 90 candlepower, flashing either every 4 seconds, 6 seconds or 10 seconds, and were to be serviced by the Seattle Operating Base twice a year with half of the batter cells being relieved at a time. The Bureau of Reclamation extended the use of one of its boats to be used in establishing these aids and in the servicing of them.

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The District Liaison Officer suggested a system for the control of coastal lighthouses as employed by the Canadian Navy to be initiated in a similar way for U. S. Lighthouses. The Canadian Plan consisted of a broadcast three times a day at regular hours to all lighthouse keepers along the Coast. The system was divided into lettered plans; i.e., Plan "A" meant to keep lights burning bright, "B", submarine scare and all lights must be extinguished, etc. The District Coast Guard Officer did not accept this recommendation as the District plan then in use provided for extinguishment or relighting of any or all lights on a few minutes advance notice. The District system had the following advantages:

(a) It provided more positive communication and means of checking receipt of instruction.

(b) It provided greater security and more flexibility of instruction.

(c) It did not depend on any outside agency.

Proposals for dimming coastal lights were di(s)approved because of the unlighted gaps between lights which would have existed when the lights were dimmed.

A test blackout was held in March, 1942, for all Lifeboat and Light Stations. As a result of this test, it was decided that Seattle Radio Station, Westport, would, in the future, broadcast a whistle blast preceding the instructions for blackout. Upon hearing the whistle over the air, all personnel standing radio watches were instructed to copy the message which followed and notify their Commanding Officers. Because of the possibility that telephone communications between Lifeboat and Light Stations might not be available at the time a blackout was ordered, all Light Stations which were radio-equipped were ordered to maintain a radio watch during the entire time the light was burning.

Revisions of the Blackout Plan^1 were made periodically to keep each section of the District cognizant of any changes in that particular area. After each revision, holders of Blackout Plans were ordered to destroy copies of previous Plans by burning. In 1945, a complete coverage of state railroad bridges, covering the area as far east as the Cascades, was completed and included in the Plan. It was advised by the Aids to Navigation Officer that similar blackout regulations be continues during peace time so that any confusion, in the event of a similar emergency, might be eliminated. It was further recommended that tests of the Plan be made occasionally be effecting a total blackout as there was no

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assurance that the plan in use was, by actual test, perfected. This recommendation was made to the Navy by the Aids to Navigation Officer in the early period of the war; the recommendation suggested that such a trial be made during the summer and in daylight when weather conditions would not necessitate mariners' dependence on lights or sound aids. This proposal was not approved.

Although at the cessation of hostilities, the Blackout lost its purpose for existence, the Plan was kept current in the even there should again be use for it. A complete revision, however, was necessary as the "S" signal for blacking out and relighting aids was cancelled by the Communications Officer. Without the "S" signal, the Plan in effect at the end of the war was not feasible. The Commandant, 13th Naval District, ordered the Port Townsend and Oak Bay aids relighted, an act which virtually ended the Blackout as these were the last two extinguished aids to return to operation. The Blackout had served well.

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The directive from the Chief of Naval Operations, in addition to authorizing the transfer of equipment, also urged the establishment of new RACONS wherever the need for them was apparent. Headquarters was also directed to transfer RACONS to Coast Guard property wherever feasible. At Tillamook, Oregon, Shelton, Washington, Coast Guard personnel were messed and quartered with the Navy as the RACON Stations were facilities of those activities. However, at Astoria Naval Air Station, the RACON Station was a facility of the Astoria Operating Base and the men were billeted there. Seattle RACON Station, although a facility of the Naval Air Station, could not provide accommodations for the Coast Guard personnel; the men were placed on subsistence and quarters and lived in the nearby town of Kirkland. All other RACON Stations were established near a Coast Guard unit where the men could be billeted. (Exception was RACON at Oceanside where personnel were quartered with Army. See paragraph concerning Army RACONS.)

Prior to the Navy's transfer of all pulse equipment to the Coast Guard, all matters dealing with electronic aids had been handled by the District Communications or Communications Engineer Officer. However, in compliance with Headquarters' new policy regarding the electronic aids, the operational activities of the RACONS became the responsibility of the Aids to Navigation Section (under Operations). The following specific duties of the Aids to Navigation Officer were listed as follows:

(a) Obtain from the Chief of Naval Operations pertinent information concerning the specific Navy RACONS to be transferred to the Coast Guard.

(b) Obtain approval form the Chief of Naval Operations for the establishment of new units and decommissioning of old ones.

(c) Conduct a study to determine the operational requirements for the RACON system.

(d) Determine the operational requirements for various areas and furnish this data to the Office of Engineering for procurement of the equipment and the preparation of budget estimates.

(e) Recommend operating and supporting (non-technical) personnel complements for RACON Stations and set up priorities for assignment of these personnel.

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