Working During Winter For Boating Safety

by Brian McArdle, Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 33

In the late fall and throughout the winter, there is a sharp drop off in recreational boating. However, that is the busy season for the maintenance of the buoys and day beacons, commonly known as markers that help keep us safe on the water.

One of the responsibilities of the Coast Guard is the placement and maintenance of Aids to Navigation (ATON), also known as markers or buoys. The waters of the Chesapeake Bay and our rivers are marked to assist navigation by the U.S. Aids to Navigation System. This system employs a simple arrangement of colors, shapes, numbers, letters and light characteristics to mark navigable channels, waterways and obstructions adjacent to these.

ATON can provide a boater with the same type of information drivers get from street signs, stop signals, road barriers, detours and traffic lights. These aids may be anything from lighthouses and sound signals to lighted or unlighted buoys. Each has a purpose and helps in determining location, getting from one place to another or staying out of danger. The goal of the U.S. Aids to Navigation System is to promote safe navigation on the waterway.

“These all have to be maintained and monitored,” said Frans Kasteel, a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary Flotilla 33. “Floating buoys must be constantly monitored to insure that they maintain their position. Lighted Aids to Navigation must function to assist the vessels operating at night. Two Federal Regulations the boating public must be aware of: that they do not obscure a buoy or marker by anchoring too close and they cannot tie up to one.”

Members of Flotilla 33, headquartered in Kilmarnock, Va., assist the Coast Guard in maintaining and monitoring ATON’s throughout the year. Lately, auxiliary members have been working with the Coast Guard to remove abandoned bird’s nests from the day beacons/markers. Each year, the Osprey constructs a new nest for the season even if an old nest is still there. Only after each hatchling has flown the nest, Coast Guard personnel clean the markers of abandoned bird’s nests enabling the Osprey to build a new nest in the spring.

“Auxiliary members are vital in assisting the Coast Guard in maintaining Aids to Navigation”, commented Boatswains mate 1st Class George Rau, Officer in Charge of Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team Milford Haven. “In our area of responsibilities there are 534 navigational aids and the auxiliary’s assistance makes our response time quicker and provides additional year-round monitoring of existing aids.”

“The Auxiliaries main concern is boating safety,” said John Mill, Flotilla 33 Commander. “In addition to boating education and vessel safety checks, aids to navigation is an important factor in helping to keep our families safe on the wat

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