From Steel to Foam

Monday, February 12, 2007
Dawn breaks and envelops the northern New Jersey shoreline with a golden glow on an early December morning as a boat crew from Aids to Navigation Team New York braves the bitter cold winds of the Shrewsbury River, N.J., embarking on their annual winter buoy change. “The importance of the buoy change is for the mariner,” said Senior Chief Joseph Wright, Officer in Charge of ANT N.Y. “Most people don’t realize the damage ice can cause. They think, even I did, that ice just freezes and stays still, but in a channel the ice moves with the tide and waves.” “The large chunks of ice push down the regular buoys under the water and damage the buoy and lighting equipment attached to it,” added Wright. Seasonal buoy operations begin in different waterways at different times of the winter season. The dates are listed by local charts and light lists for each particular waterway. The ANT began their mission in the Shrewsbury for the 2007 season on Dec. 15, 2006, they changed out 60 aids in three days, two days ahead of schedule. Using the crane on their 49-ft. Boat Utility Stern Loading vessel (BUSL) the crew lifts the foam buoys on to the deck guided by the directions of the Buoy Deck Supervisor. The buoy deck crew then detaches the mooring gear and reattaches it to the new steel hulled buoy. Once the new gear is secured the winter buoy is released back into the water. These evolutions can be done swiftly and effortlessly by a veteran crew, which is why the process has been dubbed “clip and goes.”

The buoy deck can be a dangerous place and safety is a top priority. “Teamwork is critical on the buoy deck during seasonal evolutions to ensure the job gets done and everyone goes home safe,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Joshua Namowitz. The camaraderie and close-knit bond that develops between the buoy deck crew makes this one of the most gratifying and fun jobs in the service, said Namowitz. Spring will come and bring warm weather, sunshine, fresh foliage and the switch from steel-hulled buoys to lighted foam buoys. ANT NY will then again “clip and go” throughout the waterways of N.Y. and N.J. ensuring properly marked channels and safe travel for mariners.

By PA3 Angelia M. Rorison U.S. Coast Guard Public Affairs Detachment New York

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