Sycamore setting out the summer seasonals

Seaman Justin Lubore shows what happens when you take the deckforce out to the beach.

Seaman Justin Lubore shows what happens when you take the deckforce out to the beach.

 We are into the month of May which means summer is officially started here in Cordova. The annual kickoff for CGC Sycamore is the establishment of the Orca Inlet channel buoys and the Copper River delta lights. The significant majority of boat traffic in Cordova happens between May and September while the famous Copper River salmon are running. For this reason, we have 22 seasonal aids that watch vigilantly from May1st to September 30th, but are retired to the buoy yard for maintenance and repair during the slow winter months.

The Orca Inlet channel buoys are small foam buoys put out every summer in Strawberry Channel southwest of town. The buoys are only in place for part of the year as the channel is very shallow and shifts regularly throughout the year. The buoys usually return to their approximate positions from the previous summer, but can be adjusted to better mark where the main channel is at the time of establishment. The 18 buoys are small enough to be set in place with one of the cutter’s small boats. They will stay out through September, guiding the fishing fleet to and from the delta fishing grounds.

The Aviation Support Facility Cordova helicopter flies over Cordova with a tower outbound to the delta.

The Aviation Support Facility Cordova helicopter flies over Cordova with a tower outbound to the delta.

The Copper River delta towers are four 16-foot tall steel towers set up on the main sandbars that make up the mouth of the delta. Since the sandbars shift so dramatically each year, the towers are not placed to mark the mouths of any of the channels, but rather serve as consistent reference points for mariners sailing up and down the otherwise featureless shoreline. We work closely with Aviation Support Facility Cordova to establish and retrieve the seasonal aids, and service year-round aids that are difficult to reach by ship. With the help of the helicopter, Sycamore crewmembers fly out to each sandbar with shovels and gear to prepare the tower sites, digging a 12 foot by 12 foot hole for each tower to sit in. Back in Cordova, the helicopter crew hoists each tower from the buoy yard, flies out to the delta with a tower hanging beneath, and sets them in the holes prepared by the Sycamore crew. The towers are anchored in the sand to weather the high winds and storms common on the delta, with lights and dayboards visible to mariners for miles offshore. They remain out on the sand until the beginning of October when we dig them out and the helicopter brings them back into town for the winter.

BM2 Jeremy Braasch puts away gear after completing work on the Grass Island Channel Light.

BM2 Jeremy Braasch puts away gear after completing work on the Grass Island Channel Light.

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