>Working with NOAA

>SYCAMORE used the past week to service buoys in Prince William Sound for NOAA, the National Oceanographic & Atmospheric Administration.

There are four NOAA buoys in Prince William Sound that provide local mariners, fishermen, the marine industry, and Valdez Vessel Traffic Service with current wind, wave, and weather conditions. They are located at both major entrances to the Sound, Hinchinbrook Entrance and Montague Strait; near Passage Canal for the town of Whittier; and in the center of the Sound. There are also weather stations on Bligh Reef Light, Potato Point and Middle Rock in the Valdez Narrows, and Spit Point near Valdez.

These buoys and stations provide data that the National Weather Service Forecast Office uses to make marine predictions. Here is the current prediction for Prince William Sound: http://pafc.arh.noaa.gov/marfcst.php?fcst=FZAK51PAFC#PKZ125 All buoy information can also be accessed by the public through the National Buoy Data Center (NBDC) webpage: http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/. Each buoy has its own page showing full reports of weather and wave data each hour for the previous 24 hours and basic information about that buoy. This is the page for the center buoy: http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/station_page.php?station=46060.

SYCAMORE services NOAA buoys on an as-needed basis. Technicians from the NBDC office in Stennis Space Center, Mississippi fly to Cordova and get underway with the ship. SYCAMORE handles the heavy work of hauling the buoys onboard and deploying the moorings, but the precise monitoring equipment is all serviced and calibrated by the trained technicians.

Right: SYCAMORE retrieving Passage Canal buoy 46081 for a hull relief. The larger replacement buoy is waiting on deck in the foreground.

This trip, we serviced the PWS center buoy, 46060; relieved the Passage Canal buoy, 46081, and replaced it with a larger hull; and decommissioned the Montague Straight buoy, 46107. Working with NOAA buoys is always a challenge, as we must be mindful of the delicate instruments perched on the uppermost points, but the recent weather and freezing spray built up thick ice in the cages, making the retrieval evolutions that much more challenging. However, once the buoys were secured on deck, the deckforce had a blast breaking away the ice with their big rubber ice mallets.

Left: SYCAMORE deckforce removes ice frozen to a NOAA buoy.

Left: SYCAMORE sets out a larger 6 meter hull in place of the previous 3 meter 46081 to monitor Passage Canal and Western Prince William Sound.