Coast Guard searching for missing San Francisco Sea Buoy

SAN FRANCISCO — At approximately 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, the Coast Guard received a report from the San Francisco Bar Pilots that the San Francisco Approach Lighted Whistle Buoy SF, commonly known as the “Sea Buoy”, was missing.

The Coast Guard has issued a Safety Marine Information Broadcast concerning the missing buoy to ask boaters to keep a sharp lookout. The Sea Buoy is a large red and white aid to navigation used to mark the offshore approach to San Francisco Bay. It is 32 feet in height, 9 feet in diameter, and weighs 26 tons. The buoy is also equipped with a radar beacon, commonly referred to as a “RACON”, that is no longer transmitting. Unlike channel buoys that warn transiting mariners of a channel’s boundaries, a “sea buoy” indicates to mariners that there are unobstructed waters on all sides. The buoy’s station is approximately twelve nautical miles west of the Golden Gate Bridge. Anyone with information concerning the buoy is requested to contact the Coast Guard at 415-399-3547.

The Coast Guard Cutter ASPEN, a 225-foot buoy tender homeported in San Francisco, is currently in the process of setting a replacement buoy and will then continue an ongoing search for the missing buoy. The buoy’s absence has not impacted maritime traffic within the San Francisco Bay approach area.

An investigation is ongoing to determine whether the buoy was struck by a passing vessel. Although one vessel passed through the area immediately prior to the time the buoy was reported missing, there is no visible evidence that this particular vessel struck the buoy. The Coast Guard immediately dispatched units to the buoy’s station following the initial report and found no sign of debris or pollution.

If adrift, this large buoy poses a serious hazard to navigation, especially in periods of reduced visibility. Mariners are reminded to keep a watchful eye in the area and report any information to the Coast Guard.

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