In 1969, while a Radio Operator (RO) for the Canadian Department of Transport, I wrote an article that subsequently was published in an excellent but now defunct magazine named "electron" (all small letters).  The piece was written under a pen name -- Robert Douglas -- which are my two given names.

The article is reproduced here, with no aim of receiving compensation in any form,  as information regarding the history of marine radio stations on the Canadian Great Lakes.  Sadly, there appears to be little first hand information available from the ROs themselves.   Few of us ever thought to document or photograph what we were doing and, the one publication of which I am aware, Come Quick Danger, evidently contains some information that is erroneous or incomplete. That's the danger with second or third hand reporting.  (For example, on page 71, the book claims that "...the Port Burwell facility was integrated at the airport just north of Port Burwell.  The call sign VBF was no longer used."  

If that's true, then I must have been dreaming when, fresh out of training,  I reported to VBF Port Burwell in the summer of 1967 and worked there for several months before being transferred to VBE Sarnia.  The Pt. Burwell station, and its call sign VBF, continued for some time afterwards.  That kind of error is to me, a former journalist, unforgiveable. 

I trust readers will find this article of interest, just as many others did when it first appeared in the July 1969 issue of electron  magazine.

As you read this article, please be aware that the information therein is based on the reality of 1969, not of today.  What you are reading is, in fact, history. 

There have been many changes in the marine radio service on the Great Lakes over the years.  Some stations no longer exist, some new ones have been created, while others now are remotely controlled facilities.  No longer is there a Department of Transport and it is the Canadian Coast Guard that operates the marine radio stations. 

HF has been replaced completely by VHF communications and all one has to do is listen on a scanner to realize that the level and extent of training being provided does not equal that which once was.  That's not to say present day ROs don't do a good job, but frankly they are not at the same level of competency or knowledge, nor do they face the same challenges.  Operating VHF-FM, compared to operating an HF circuit on an AM static-ridden frequency, is a cake-walk.

If you are or were a coast station radio operator I would be glad to hear from you and, if you are willing, to add your own experiences and photos to these pages. 

Thank you for your interest.

Bob Cooke


email: ve3bdb (at)



Great Lakes Marine Radio Page 2