Coast Guard crews salvage sunken buoys in Green Bay and Lake Michigan

Crew aboard the Coast Guard cutter Mobile Bay, a 140-foot icebreaking tug, retrieve multiple sinkers and flooded buoys Aug. 24, 2015, at Gravely Shoal buoy 4 in Lake Michigan. Mobile Bay crews worked with Station and Aids-to-Navigation Team Two Rivers, Michigan and the Coast Guard dive locker east to locate and salvage sunken aids-to-navigation. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Nathan Jones/Released).

Crew aboard the Coast Guard cutter Mobile Bay retrieve multiple sinkers and flooded buoys Aug. 24, 2015, at Gravely Shoal buoy 4 in Lake Michigan. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Nathan Jones).

CLEVELAND — Coast Guard crews recover 11 buoys and 13 sinkers with mooring chain ending a 5-day salvage operation Friday in Lake Michigan.

Members of Coast Guard Cutter Mobile Bay, a Coast Guard dive team and crew from Coast Guard Station Two Rivers and Coast Guard Aids-to-Navigation Team Two Rivers, Michigan searched for the sunken aids in both Green Bay and Lake Michigan.

The sunken buoys, chain and sinkers retrieved during this operation will be sent to a commercial repair facility for refurbishing if possible and put back into inventory for future use in the Great Lakes maritime transportation system providing a cost savings in new buoy construction and by removing potential hazards in the waterways.

Planning for this salvage operation began during spring aids-to-navigation patrols when Mobile Bay’s crew visually located several of the sunken buoys on the bottom.

The six-person Coast Guard dive team assigned to this mission are permanently attached to Coast Guard Dive Locker East in Portsmouth, Virginia.

“The coordinated effort of the dive team, cutter personnel and ANT Two Rivers has been a tremendous opportunity to use many of the search and salvage techniques that we train with,” said Chief Petty Officer Loren Powers, dive team leader. “Getting a chance to train two of our newest dive school graduates in aids-to-navigation diving, salvage and searching methods with a real impact from each dive has been a rewarding opportunity for all involved. We look forward to future Great Lakes operations.”

Over the last five to seven years, 22 of the winter ice hulls and associated mooring chain and sinkers have gone missing. These “winter mark” buoys are streamlined to minimize ice catching any protruding structure on the buoy allowing it to ride under moving ice without dragging the sinker off position or damaging the hull and then resurface when the ice gives way.

Two Rivers joined the effort by providing a boat crew and their aids-to-navigation boat as a suitable working platform for the dive team and their gear.

Cutter Mobile Bay, homeported in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, is responsible for all Green Bay aids-to-navigation and those off the west coast of Lake Michagan down to Sheboygan, Wisconson, 113 buoys in all.

“The success of this salvage operation has been a direct result of a tremendous team effort” said Lt. Cmdr. Cary Godwin, commanding officer of Coast Guard Cutter Mobile Bay. “From the planning and coordination; to the flawless deployment of the divers at the dive sites by the small boat crews; to the divers prowess locating and readying the buoys and sinkers for retrieval; to the buoy deck personnel skillfully lifting the knotted moorings and flooded buoys on deck; to the bridge team safely maneuvering the cutter dangerously close to shoals and hazards, I couldn’t be prouder of the effort of all involved.”

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