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    Lighting the Way: Aids to Navigation Team Puget Sound

    Lighting the Way: Aids to Navigation Team Puget Sound

    Photo By Petty Officer 2nd Class Ali Flockerzi | Coast Guard Chief Petty Officer Joshua Reeve, a boatswain’s mate stationed with Aids...... read more read more



    Story by Petty Officer 2nd Class Ali Flockerzi 

    U.S. Coast Guard District 13

    A Coast Guard crew from Aids to Navigation Team (ANT) Puget Sound keep a wary eye out while beginning a long overdue trip to Anacortes, Wash., to service important navigational markers along the way.

    “Every time we go out there and make sure a light is working or a buoy is where it’s supposed to be, that’s a potential life saved,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Pierce Overbeeke, a boatswain’s mate stationed at the ANT. “Our job is to be proactive in order to prevent future waterway mishaps.”

    Activity on the waterway depends on safe navigation, and aids to navigation (ATON) crews are an indispensable part of the navigable waterways component.

    Today, the Coast Guard establishes, maintains and operates approximately 49,700 visual aids to navigation, requiring the efforts of 2,564 military personnel assigned to 76 cutters, 61 aids to navigation teams, and four small boat stations with aids to navigation responsibilities.

    Of those 49,700 aids, ANT Puget Sound maintains over 300, making sure the lights are “winking and blinking,” or in good, working order.

    Maintaining these aids means nothing if mariners don’t understand what the aids represent or do. Lighthouses, buoys, fog signals and day beacons all make up the navigational “Rules of the Road” for boaters.

    Collisions are the number one type of accident on the water and the rules of the road exist to keep boats from colliding with one another and dangerous objects.

    “It’s good, hard work and at the end of the day you’ve done something that is tangible,” said Overbeeke. “Fitness is also a huge part of what we do.”

    With the smaller buoys weighing up to 205 pounds, chains topping out at 210 pounds and sinkers weighing a whopping 500 pounds, being an ANT crewmember is an extremely physical job.

    The Coast Guard crew services these hefty markers by dragging them aboard their boat, scraping off barnacles and seaweed, checking the chains for weakness, peeling off and replacing reflective tape, then scrubbing them clean. Ultimate makeover: buoy edition.

    Muscles and stamina are not only required for servicing buoys, but for climbing ladders 45 to 70 feet high, depending on the tide, in order to reach and service fixed lights. The crew dons climbing gear to perform their tasks as safely and efficiently as possible.

    When they aren’t on the water, the crew works out together to stay in peak physical condition, playing ultimate Frisbee, lifting weights, doing high-intensity interval training, or going on group hikes while carrying chains or shackles.

    The physicality of working ATON is one thing, but the dangers and stresses of the job are very real. Sometimes, the crew works upwards of 12- to 18-hour days, often laboring until dusk to service one more aid before calling it a day.

    In order to prevent potential mishaps, the crew wears hard hats, safety eyeglasses, full-fingered leather gloves, composite-toe safety boots, a personal floatation device, and a fixed blade knife.

    “There’s a potential to get bacteria in your eyes, hit your head, or get cut up while working,” said Overbeeke. “That’s why we wear so much gear; safety is the top priority on our boat.”

    Servicing Aids to Navigation is not a glamorous job and isn’t often highlighted, but it is vitally critical in the prevention of search and rescue cases our Coast Guard men and women perform daily. Danger, grit, and elbow grease are just small aspects of what go into ensuring the Seattle boating community is safe and aware while out on the water.



    Date Taken: 09.07.2016
    Date Posted: 09.08.2016 18:05
    Story ID: 209084
    Location: SEATTLE, WA, US 
    Hometown: CROWN POINT, IN, US

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