The bell buoy is back

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Aspen, a 225-foot vessel manned by a crew of 49, sailed north from San Fransico to service buoys in the local area — including one in Depoe Bay last week. (Photo courtesy of MK3 Madison Leguillon)

Coast Guard cutter crew replaces safety signal

DEPOE BAY — After a visit from the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Aspen and its crew last week, Depoe Bay can hear the ringing of the No. 2 bell buoy once more.

The previous buoy sank last winter, leaving local mariners without a key navigational aid that helps to keep those on the water safe. Now, the sunken buoy has been recovered and a new red bell has been installed in its place.

“The No. 2 bell buoy, when you’re coming back from the open ocean, keeps you in the channel,” explained Chief Derek Seehagen of U.S. Coast Guard Station Depoe Bay. “There’s a reef, a shoal area or reef, that that buoy will mark. So, it keeps you in deeper water.”

An old saying popular among mariners is “red, right, returning,” which refers to keeping the red buoy on your right when returning to port.

The USCGC Aspen, a 225-foot vessel manned by a crew of 49 people, sailed out of San Fransico to service a few buoys in the central coast area, as the current buoy tender for this area is undergoing maintenance, Seehagen explained. This also provided an unusual training opportunity for the break-in coxswains at the station.

“It's not common that Coast Guard ships come that close to Depoe Bay, a lot of the ships are well offshore, so it was a challenge for us to get out next to them,” said Seehagen. “So we took full advantage of that — we had one of our gentlemen get one of his last signoffs for coxswain, so now he’s ready to sit in front of a formal, oral board in front of his peers.”

Should he pass that board, the break-in coxswain would then demonstrate his abilities in a practical exam on the water. Seehagen said he hopes to have that person certified and working on station in Depoe Bay.

“It was a great opportunity,” said Seehagen.

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