The Harbor Column:

Bidding bon voyage to LORAN-C

January 28, 2010|By Mike Whitehead

Big news for those who are still navigating with LORAN-C aboard their boats, as the Coast Guard has announced that the LORAN-C transmission will be discontinued Feb. 8 at 2000 Zulu time (noon Pacific time).

LOng RAnge Navigation, commonly known as LORAN, is a navigational system that uses radio signals to determine your exact position. However, with the popularity and enhanced navigational tools, GPS has pushed LORAN to same fate as the VHS tape. Many older boaters remember plotting on the charts with the TD lines that have been eliminated on the charts. Fishermen loved LORAN-C to find an exact fishing spot, and boaters used LORAN as a backup system to GPS.

Rumors are that some stations may stay online, but do not expect any signals a year from now, except those operating in the Russian, American or Canadian LORAN-C chains in accordance with the international agreements.


The Federal Register certified the termination of LORAN-C, and the Department of Homeland Security reports that the system is not needed as a backup for GPS. Additionally, the Federal Register states that the safety of maritime navigation will not be adversely affected. The shutdown of LORAN will leave boaters with only GPS and no backup system should GPS satellites stop working.

I did my own unscientific survey of boat owners I know, and no one had LORAN aboard their vessels. I must preface this survey, however, as most whom I spoke with own newer boats, unlike the lone commercial fisherman trolling the coastline who may still rely on LORAN. Goodbye, LORAN, as you have guided me up and down the Pacific Ocean.

Tip of the week is: Do you know how to operate your vessel’s GPS system in the event of an emergency? Many times I have heard boaters in distress relay the wrong latitude and longitude coordinates displayed on the chart plotter. Remember, the plotter might be displaying the vessel’s position, a waypoint, or where the cursor is.

The skipper should show someone else onboard how to read the GPS, should the skipper become injured or in the bilge trying to prevent the boat from sinking after hitting an object in the water.

MIKE WHITEHEAD is the Pilot’s boating columnist. Send marine-related thoughts and story suggestions to or go to .

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