California’s Keeper Recovers Drifting Buoy

Coast Guard Cutter George Cobb approaches a wayward weather buoy that had broken free of its mooring. Photo courtesy of CGC Geroge Cobb

Story by Lt. Collin R. Bronson

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter George Cobb, working with the National Data Buoy Center, recently recovered a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration weather data buoy approximately 100 miles west of San Diego, Calif., March 19, 2013.

The buoy, number 46023, had reached the end of its service life and had broken free of its mooring.

“It had been] drifting for several weeks,” said Lt. Collin Bronson, commanding officer of the George Cobb, a 175-foot Coastal Class buoy tender homeported in San Pedro, Calif.  “We were able to find the buoy and tow it to a local recycling center.”

Termed “weather sentinels of the sea,” data buoys measure and transmit air and sea temperatures, wind speed and direction, wave height direction and duration, as well as barometric pressure changes.  This information is then compiled into weather reports and used for forecasting on which commercial, private and military mariners depend.  The information assists the National Weather Service in developing weather reports for the Southeastern Gulf of Alaska.

“This buoy has been replaced by a newer generation buoy, which is more reliable and transmits weather and sea state data more efficiently,” said Bronson.  “It was vital that we remove this buoy from the sea as it was a hazard to navigation and not something we want drifting in the environment.”

the Crew of the Coast Guard Cutter George Cobb works with wayward weather buoy

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter George Cobb works with a weather buoy that had broken free of its mooring. Photo courtesy of CGC Geroge Cobb

The National Data Buoy Center provides hourly observations from a network of about 90 buoys and 60 Coastal Marine Automated Network (C-MAN) stations to help meet these needs.  All stations measure wind speed, direction and gust, atmospheric pressure, and air temperature.  In addition, all buoy stations — and some C-MAN stations — measure sea surface temperature, wave height and period.

This isn’t the first time the George Cobb has made an unusual rescue at sea.  In December of 2012, the crew played an important role in releasing a sea lion back into the ocean.

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