Office of Management and Budget gives
the Coast Guard’s Aid to Navigation Office
(ATON) $4.4 million for new projects,
which must somehow be divided between
all nine Coast Guard districts. The current
shortfall for new projects is $11 million
and growing. According to John Mauro at
the Coast Guard’s 1st District ATON office,
there have been years when a large portion
of the money went toward a single project. He cites as an example the Ambrose
Light Tower, which was damaged beyond
repair by the tanker Aegeo in 1996. The
1st District thought the light was no longer
needed, but when the harbor pilots objected, the Coast Guard had to come up with
$4.5 million for repairs — 100 percent of
the entire budget for that year! (The shipping company eventually paid $2 million.)
One thing the Coast Guard must
consider when apportioning money for a
new buoy is who stands to benefit. Projects
involving military and commercial shipping
are given priority. Another consideration is
the level of support, or lack of support, for
possible changes. Given the huge number of potential ATON projects vying for
money that must be evaluated, it doesn’t
take much to sink a proposal. Details for
proposals are published in the local Notice
to Mariners along with a request for comments. That’s it; the Coast Guard doesn’t
mail letters to interested parties and there’s
no announcement on the evening news.
With most people, Mauro says the
tendency is to make comments after a
decision has been made. After the 1st
District placed lights on some buoys in
a recreational boat channel, the Boston
Harbor Pilot Association submitted a complaint that the various blinking patterns on
the buoys near the shipping channel were
confusing. This is most likely what happened at Lower Middle, the pile of rocks
in Boston Harbor. The multiple, often conflicting, uses of Boston Harbor are a major
consideration, and according to records
at the 1st District, a proposal made by
the Coast Guard to light the two buoys at
either end of Lower Middle was published
in the Notice to Mariners, Volumes 3599
and 4399. There were several letters in
opposition to the proposal from professional captains — and none in support.
You Want To Make Changes?
Here’s What To Do
There are something like 40,000 mark-
ers in U.S. waters, which is far more than in
any other country in the world. Despite the
impressive number of markers, a comment
that was made by just about everyone we
talked to in the ATON program is that it’s
impossible to mark every rock and shoal.
It’s up to boat owners to avoid damage by
knowing the basics of navigation and using
their charts. Mauro acknowledged that the
Coast Guard realizes that many boaters
don’t: “They run hither and yon and that
can be dangerous.”
The Coast Guard wants to know of
areas that are a problem. How you
go about contacting them could give
you a valuable head start getting the
Write a letter (be polite) to the Aids
to Navigation Office at the Coast Guard
district headquarters (2100 2nd Street,
SW, Washington D.C. 20593). You’re
wasting your time writing to a local
Coast Guard station, and phone calls
tend to slip through the cracks easily.
Read the Local Notice to Mariners
(information concerning proposed
changes aren’t given in Notice to
Mariner VHF broadcasts). The time to
make comments — the more people
who write, the better — is before an
action has been taken! Local Notice
to Mariners can be accessed for each
district at www.navcen.uscg.gov
Don’t expect things to happen immediately; changes take time. The squeaky
wheel gets the oil, so be persistent. A
BoatU.S. member in Maryland wrote
27 letters before a marker was installed.
Think cheap. A day marker is much
more likely to be funded than a proposal involving larger buoys, or lights, etc.
If all else fails, you can get permission
from the Coast Guard to install a private marker, for which you will then be
responsible to maintain.
Bob Adriance has written
more than 500 articles
for Seaworthy, the quar-
terly BoatU.S. Marine
boaters to avoid acci-
dents. Seaworthy is
sent free to BoatU.S.
ers; paper subscrip-
tions are $10 a year.
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