Although the crew of CGC ELM often operates just a stone’s throw away from shoal water and other dangers while servicing buoys, it is rare to recover buoys from the beach. On Tuesday, January 26 2010, ELM faced up to the Delaware shoreline 1 nautical mile north of Indian River in an attempt to recover Brigantine Inlet Wreck Lighted Buoy WR2, an aid normally stationed forty miles to the north that went adrift following a Nor’Easter.

The buoy recovery was initially attempted with shore side personnel and the cutter’s small boats. With the help of Coast Guard Station Indian River and Delaware Department of Natural Resources, a front-end loader pushed the 8X26 into the surf line. ELM’s surface swimmer brought a towline from one of the small boats and it was hooked to the buoy. It became apparent the small boat was not powerful enough for the job, and the cutter commenced an approach on the buoy, using the other small boat as a guide for soundings along the route toward the beach. A 15 knot breeze from the west compensated for an along-shore current, allowing the ship to approach on a controlled heading roughly perpendicular to the beach. Once the small boat had connected a line from ELM to the towline already connected to the buoy, a precisely controlled strain was taken on the tow line by using the ship’s Dynamic Positioning System offsets. Slowly the buoy was pulled through the surf and out to sea where it and both small boats were recovered.

Lessons learned from this evolution will come in handy… ELM has two other buoys on beaches that will require a repeat of this performance.