The lighthouse for marine navigation

The spiral staircase inside the towerUsing the extensive network of Lighthouses, Lightships and Buoys provided and maintained by Trinity House, accurate plotting of a ship's course can be carried out by the navigational officer on board.   The ship's course can be continually updated by taking compass bearings on two fixed navigational points marked on Admiralty charts.  In hours of darkness and poor visibility only lighted navigational aids, distinguished by their characteristic signals such as lighthouses, lightvessels and lighted buoys are of use.

In recent years, radio beacons set up around the coast - originally by Decca - have been used to transmit individual navigational signals and even more recently satellite navigation has been developed as a very sophisticated form of positioning vessels.  Of course, these systems require interpreting skills to plot courses and are therefore prone to error and system failure.  Atmospheric conditions also affect their accuracy at dawn, dusk and during fog.   By and large it is only commercial vessels which are equipped with sophisticated satellite equipment, and many recreational craft and smaller fishing boats and lifeboats still rely largely on visual navigational aids.

It is therefore essential to continue to have vital back-up from visual lighted aids.