Friday, February 20, 2015


19 February 2015 – 1550 EST

Never a dull moment – remember that comment about shipping having boring days interrupted by a few hours of excitement? This afternoon at about 1400 the cadet radar observer picked up a transponder signal on the three centimeter radar. It could have been one of two things – a “SART”, a Search and Rescue Transponder from a boat or survival craft – or a navigation buoy adrift. The signal on the radar looked like a Morse Code B, but multiple dots indicate the SART. The Second Mate called the US Coast Guard Rescue Command Center in Norfolk to see if there were any distress calls or a Notice to Mariner’s alert to a missing buoy. They had no reports and asked if we would go take a look. So, we changed course and head toward the signal. While en-route we insured that our rescue boat was readied, and that our search lights worked properly. As we approached the signal on the radar, we positioned extra lookouts with binoculars. The Second Mate took the conn, while I remained out on the wing. Of course, this never happens on a nice day – so we were out there in
jackets, watch caps and gloves to ward off the 38 degree air, driving snow, 35 knot wind and thick patches of fog. We approached to windward at about three knots bringing the radar signal to a passing distance of about two tenths of a mile. A sharp eyed Fourth Class lookout spotted the object first – a navigation buoy.

Of course there is neither a need nor the possibility of a buoy being positioned in 3,000 feet of water 150 miles off Delaware. As we passed close we identified the number “2” on the side. Everyone could relax, it wasn't a mariner in distress, but a wayward buoy. 

I know the Chief Mate and Bosun were happy they weren't going to have to go for a boat ride in 12-15 foot seas! In these conditions it would be impossible to recover the buoy, so we called it in to the RCC, and departed the scene.

First Class Cadet Alexander Bryant was the Cadet Officer of the Watch, He was working closely under the supervision of LCDR Colleen McRae and Second Mate Melissa Turner, and the whole deck watch did a great job, and certainly learned a valuable lesson about rescue operations and the responsibility mariners hold for their brothers at sea in distress.

Anyone missing their #2 buoy? Between the winds and ocean currents, I expect it will land in the United Kingdom in about a month or two!

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