Through the Lens: Setting the Mendenhall Bar

Every Spring the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Elderberry drops 18 buoys into the Gastineau Channel. These floating aids to navigation serve as markers for mariners operating on the narrow, shallow Mendenhall River Bar during the busy summer boating season. It’s a preventative measure that stops a lot of search and rescue cases before they even happen, an integral part of the Coast Guard’s mission to protect the safety of life at sea.

The buoys of the Mendenhall Bar crowd Coast Guard Station Juneau's boat garage. The crew of the Elderberry used the shelter of the garage to remove weathered markings.
The buoys of the Mendenhall Bar crowd Coast Guard Station Juneau’s boat garage. The crew of the Elderberry used the shelter of the garage to touch up the buoys and remove weathered markings.

 

An Elderberry crewmember cuts out buoy markings from a roll of reflective tape.
An Elderberry crewmember cuts out buoy markings from a roll of reflective tape.

 

Petty Officer 1st Class James Coleman straightens out chain for inspection.
Petty Officer 1st Class James Coleman, executive petty officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Elderberry, straightens out chain for inspection on the Station Juneau pier.

 

“In the summer time we work extremely hard to get everything that needs to get done in a year.”

-Petty Officer 1st Class James Coleman

Petty Officer 2nd Class Davis Alexander, a boatswain's mate aboard the Elderberry, uses calipers to check the integrity of a buoy chain.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Davis Alexander, a boatswain’s mate aboard the Elderberry, uses calipers to check the integrity of a buoy chain.

 

 

Elderberry crewmembers check a chain link for signs of corrosion before they are reattached to buoys and anchors.
Elderberry crewmembers check a chain link for signs of corrosion before they are reattached to buoys and anchors.

 

“Station Juneau has been a huge help to us. They provided a dry area to work, use of their government vehicles and use of their facilities.”

-Petty Officer 1st Class James Coleman

 

Petty Officer 2nd Class Brookes Evans, a damage controlman with the Petersburg housing detachment, attaches anchors to buoys before they are loaded onto the Elderberry's boat.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Brookes Evans, a damage controlman with the Petersburg housing detachment, attaches anchors to buoys before they are loaded onto the Elderberry’s boat.

 

Elderberry crewmembers load a buoy onto the cutter's boat from a pier in Juneau.
Elderberry crewmembers load a buoy onto the cutter’s boat from a pier in Juneau.

 

 

Coleman pilots the Elderberry's boat throughthe Gastineau Channel.
Coleman pilots the Elderberry’s boat throughthe Gastineau Channel.

 

“Most of the time you think of these guys more like family than you would coworkers. You get to know people a lot better than you would on a bigger boat.”

-Petty Officer 3rd Class Steven Newsom

Alexander holds on to a buoy as the Elderberry's boat crew makes their way toward the first drop point.
Alexander holds on to a buoy as the Elderberry’s boat crew makes their way toward the first drop point.

 

Fireman Aaron Osborne prepares an anchor and chain for a buoy just before it's dropped into the Gastineau Channel.
Fireman Aaron Osborne prepares an anchor and chain for a buoy just before it’s dropped into the Gastineau Channel.

 

“I like the aids to navigation mission due to the fact that you take something and fix it.”

-Petty Officer 1st Class James Coleman

Osborne and Alexander drop a buoy into the Gastineau Channel.
Osborne and Alexander drop a buoy into the Gastineau Channel.

 

After dropping the first two buoys near the Mendenhall Bar, the Elderberry's boat crew heads back to the pier to take two more on board.
After dropping the first two buoys near the Mendenhall Bar, the Elderberry’s boat crew heads back to the pier to take two more on board.

 

 

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Buoys, ready to be set in the Gastineau Channel, line a pier in Juneau.

 

Elderberry crewmembers take two more buoys into the channel, just the start of a long day of work.
Elderberry crewmembers take two more buoys into the channel, just the start of a long day of work.

 

“You get results at the end. We’re placing 18 aids that will help someone with navigation.”

-Petty Officer 2nd Class Brookes Evans

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