WesCom News Service
BROOKINGS An errant buoy was the subject of an unusual rescue Wednesday.
The 9-ton channel marker, secured by an anchor system close to the same weight, was spotted at about 12:40 a.m. by personnel in the tower of the Chetco River Coast Guard Station in Harbor, according to BMI Jay Nilles, Operations Petty Officer of the station.
The marine safety marker had been moored about eight nautical miles from the Point Saint George reef off Crescent City when it broke loose, Nilles stated. It was spotted about 14 nautical miles from the Port of Brookings Harbor.
Fifteen Coast Guard personnel and three vessels from the Chetco River station were dispatched to retrieve the red buoy, which was being carried by wind and currents toward the entrance of the Chetco River.
The buoy, officially called the Point St. George Buoy, is meant to ensure safe passage of vessels entering the Crescent City Harbor, by marking the St. George Reef.
Because it can't be seen from Crescent City or Brookings, no one knew it was released until it appeared off the Oregon Coast, Nilles explained.
When it was discovered that the buoy was not in place, the Coast Guard warned boaters of the situation on Channel 16, reserved for messages from the guard and to report emergencies.
Because there was nothing to be done from Crescent City, the Coast Guard cutter "Dorado" and its crew stationed there played no role in the buoy's retrieval.
Trained to tow vessels, not buoys, Coast Guard personnel held a safety briefing before taking on the task of capturing the drifting buoy.
"We discussed anything that could go wrong to make sure we could handle the unusual task," Nilles said. It took little more than three hours for the Coast Guard to secure and tow the buoy so it could be tethered to a harbor dock.
For markers to become free of their anchors is not unusual, he said. The buoy did not affect navigation into the Port of Brookings Harbor.
A 225-foot buoy tender would be at the Port of Brookings sometime next week to pick up the runaway buoy and replace it with another, he said.