Storms Drive Delaware Bay Buoy CH Ashore at
Dewey Beach, Delaware

By Bob Trapani, Jr.

Stranded buoy on Delaware Beach
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

The unexpected sight of a stranded
buoy greeted beachgoers in
Dewey Beach, Delaware

The recent northeast storms that wreaked havoc along the New Jersey and Delaware beaches left behind a hulking “memento” upon the sands of Dewey Beach, Delaware, on April 19, 2003. High winds and heavy seas broke the mooring for Delaware Bay Approach Lighted Whistle Buoy CH, stationed 3.5 miles east of Cape Henlopen, and swept it ashore, eventually leaving it stranded in the surf near Dagsworthy Street in Dewey Beach.

Senior Chief Dennis Dever
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

Senior Chief Dennis Dever,
Officer-in-Charge,
USCG Aids to Navigation
Team Cape May

Tourists and locals alike were stunned to see the buoy “high and dry” while marveling at its sheer mass. According to Senior Chief Dennis Dever, Officer-in- Charge of Aids to Navigation Team Cape May, New Jersey, the buoy is “35 feet long, 9 feet wide and weighs 19,000 pounds.” Senior Chief Dever added, “it’s mooring consists of 200 feet of 1.5” chain – each link weighing about 25 pounds, attached to an 18,000 pound rock that sits on the ocean floor to hold the buoy on station.”

The mammoth size of the Delaware Bay Approach Lighted Whistle Buoy CH isn’t the only noteworthy aspect about it. The red and white-stripped buoy, which helps guide commercial shipping in and out of the Delaware Bay, also sports a very unique white signal light when on buoy duty and not uncharacteristically marooned on a resort beach.

Aux. Bob Trapani stands next to buoy
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

USCG Auxiliarist Bob Trapani
stands next to beached buoy

According to the U.S. Coast Guard Light List, the light’s characteristics – Mo (A) W, means, “a light in which appearances of light of two clearly different durations (dots and dashes) are grouped to represent a character in the Morse code.” The buoy is also equipped with a whistle and a device called a RACON to further assist mariners in navigation. The Light List describes a RACON as a, “a radar beacon which produces a coded response, or radar paint, when triggered by a radar signal.”

The buoy’s recovery was the essence of teamwork at its best when it comes to different entities working together. A crew from Coast Guard Station Indian River Inlet discovered the wayward buoy on Easter Sunday. From there, Delaware’s Division of Soil and Water stepped up with a yeoman’s effort and “creatively extracted the partially buried hull, pulling it to the foot of the dunes and away from the water,” for the Coast Guard according to Senior Chief Dever.

Buoy's massive hull
Photo by Bob Trapani, Jr.

A view of the wayward
buoy's massive hull

In the interim, the Coast Guard buoy tender WILLIAM TATE, based out of Philadelphia, will set a smaller temporary buoy in place of the beached CH Buoy. Coast Guard ANT Cape May will then work with Delaware’s Division of Soil and Water to remove the wayward buoy from the sand dunes at Dewey Beach. Senior Chief Dever describes the recovery process, saying, “When our trailer arrives, DNREC will drag the buoy 80 feet to the road and hoist the buoy onto the trailer with their crane – then restore any damage to the sand dunes.”

One wayward buoy promises to leave its mark in the annals of Dewey Beach history before the Coast Guard rectifies the situation and places the massive aid to navigation back on station in Delaware Bay along the shipping channel.

Created: April 2003