Coast Guard Cutter Alder prepares for ice season by removing aids to navigation in Great Lakes

Great Lakes Coast Guard NewsDULUTH, Minn. — The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Alder, a 225-foot Seagoing Buoy Tender homeported in Duluth, commenced removing and replacing aids to navigation last week as part of the annual Operation Fall Retrieve.

Operation Fall Retrieve includes the removal or replacement of vulnerable lighted buoys with unlighted buoys better suited for ice. Moving ice, a distinguishing characteristic in the Great Lakes, can temporarily submerge a buoy or drag it off station. This destroys the buoys light signal equipment, rendering it useless.

The Coast Guard reminds all mariners to use caution due to the changes in the buoyage system.

The crew of the Alder is responsible for removing or replacing 59 ATONs in Lake Superior and Northern Lake Michigan.

“The crew of the Alder will ensure that the Great Lake’s waterways remain navigable, safe and secure to all mariners, both professional and recreational,” said Lt. Cmdr. Anthony J. Maffia, commanding officer of Cutter Alder.

The waters of the U.S. and its territories are marked to assist navigation by the U.S. Aids-to-Navigation System. This system employs a simple arrangement of colors, shapes, numbers and light characteristics to mark navigable channels, waterways and obstructions adjacent to them. ATONs facilitate safe and efficient maritime activity in the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Seaway region by marking safe passage for domestic, international, commercial and recreational vessel traffic.

Aids to navigation 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 lighted structures, beacons, day markers, range lights, fog signals and landmarks to floating buoys. Each has a purpose and helps in determining location, getting from one place to another, or staying out of danger.

The Alder, a true multi-mission platform, is one of the most advanced vessels afloat within the Great Lakes. It is capable of performing Coast Guard missions of aids to navigation, icebreaking, search and rescue, homeland security, law enforcement and marine environmental protection.

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