WIND POINT - Local officials say the Wind Point Lighthouse light is too dim and poses a boating hazard, but area boaters are mixed on the need for a stronger light source at Wind Point.
The light "is functional. It helps in the fog and everything," said Sam Slaasted, 18, of Racine, a recent Park High School graduate who helps run fishing charters on Lake Michigan. "It's fine the way it is. I don't see a problem."
Boaters including Slaasted agreed brighter is better when it comes to lights on the water, but some said they're not sure a brighter light is necessary at Wind Point.
"You can see it from five or six miles and that's enough," said Marc Elsmo, 61, of Racine, a service manager for Racine Riverside Marine, 950 Erie St.
But Mark Derenne, an employee at North Beach Marine, 39 Reichert Court, disagreed and said the light cannot be seen from far enough, especially in fog.
"In this climate we have a lot of fog early," said Derenne, 46, of Racine, "so you need as much light from that lighthouse as possible because you don't know where shore is without it."
Boater Carolyn Grenyo, a 66-year-old retired woman from Mount Pleasant, said the dim light causes hazards for boaters coming in after sunset. And boater Loren Buirge, 39, of Racine, said the light also causes problems for those not from around Racine and therefore not familiar with the area's underwater rocks and reefs.
That's part of why local officials have petitioned the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to replace the Wind Point Lighthouse's current light, a Vega VRB-25. Those officials say the Vega is too dim, has limited rotation and flashes incorrectly, all things the Racine County Sheriff's Department considers safety hazards, especially for water rescues.
So they've requested the Coast Guard replace the Vega with an Aero Beacon DCB-24R light, which was used in the Wind Point Lighthouse without incident for 35 years until 2007 when it broke. At that time the Coast Guard replaced it with the Vega, a move based on the Vega's greater energy efficiency and cheaper price; the Vega costs about $12,500 while a new Beacon would cost about $26,000, according to representatives of New Zealand-based Vega Industries, which makes the Vega, and the Carlisle & Finch Company, which makes the Beacon in Cincinnati.
Local officials said it's no wonder the Vega comes at a lower price given what they see as lower performance. The Vega can be seen from 16 nautical miles away while the Beacon could be seen from 29 nautical miles. The Beacon also had more degrees of rotation and flashed once every 20 seconds, an amount consistent with Coast Guard light guides, while the Vega often has double or triple flash problems within those 20 seconds, said local experts. They are waiting for a response from the Coast Guard's top office about replacing the Vega with the Beacon.
Boater Elsmo said he's not concerned by those issues and questioned if the lighthouse is needed at all since so many boats now rely on GPS for navigation. While Elsmo wondered about the lighthouse's functionality, other boaters wondered how someone could question the need for the lighthouse.
"GPS and chart plotters are nice but not everybody has them or not everybody's using them properly," said Buirge, who owns The Pit BBQ at 1215 DeKoven Ave. "We shouldn't get rid of the old way just because we have the technology."