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After hearing strenuous objections from mariners this fall, the U.S. Coast Guard has decided against removing several navigation buoys surrounding Martha’s Vineyard. Red buoy number 4 in outside Vineyard Haven Harbor and a series of buoys that mark a course through Robinson’s Hole, among those originally targeted for removal in a cost-cutting move, will remain in place.
Last spring the Coast Guard announced a plan to remove or modify 43 aids to navigation in waters surrounding the Vineyard, and said it would seek public comment. Buoy marking the entrance to Cuttyhunk harbor flashes Morse code alpha, aiding mariners at night. — Mark Lovewell
Coast Guard spokesmen said this week that final decisions were heavily influenced by a September public meeting held in Vineyard Haven.
“The public vetting process was very helpful. We have a much better appreciation of how valuable they are to mariners,” said Edward LeBlanc, civilian chief of the agency’s Waterways Management Division.
“The concerns we heard from the public weighed very heavily on the decisions we made,” said senior chief boatswain’s mate Timothy Chase, who is the Coast Guard’s top expert on navigation buoys. “We want to hear what our users have to say.”
Red buoy number 4 marks rocks and shallow water just inside West Chop. At the meeting on the Vineyard and later in written comments, boaters argued for it to stay.
“The feedback we got was generally consistent. A lot of people were opposed to that,” Mr. LeBlanc said.
The Coast Guard will also leave in place a series of seven navigation buoys that mark a narrow channel through Robinson’s Hole, one of the passages through the Elizabeth Islands between Vineyard Sound and Buzzards Bay.
The passage is considered difficult by recreational boaters, especially during inclement weather. But mariners said they often use Robinson’s Hole as a course to safer water when sea conditions include strong tides and prevailing southwesterly winds.
The Coast Guard had hoped to shift boat traffic mostly to Quick’s Hole, a much wider and easier to navigate passage about two miles west of Robinson’s Hole. That passage is heavily used by commercial fishing vessels and small cargo barges.
“Our thoughts were, it seems as if we’re inviting people into a very dangerous waterway by putting aids there, where there seemed to be a very viable alternative,” Mr. LeBlanc said. But he added: “We listened, and we’re going to keep those aids.”
Whether number 9 buoy in Edgartown harbor stays or goes is still under discussion.
The Coast Guard has yet to make a decision on green buoy number 9 inside Edgartown Harbor, which marks a spot where boaters must make a sharp turn toward the mooring area to avoid an area of shoaled water.
Edgartown harbor master Charlie Blair has been discussing the proposed removal of the buoy with Coast Guard officials. He said if they do decide to remove the buoy, he will install a replacement at town expense.
“They took away [buoys] 11 and 13 about a decade ago and we just put them in privately,” Mr. Blair said. “If they come and get it, we’ll have another seasonal buoy.”
The large red and white CH bell buoy outside Cuttyhunk Harbor will also remain in place. Boaters consider it helpful in approaching the tricky channel into Cuttyhunk, especially after dark.
“It was the only lighted buoy offshore on the approach, and it made perfect sense [to keep it],” Mr. Chase said.
Also partly the result of feedback from mariners at public meetings, the Coast Guard now plans to remove or modify several other buoys that were not on the original list, including two off Oak Bluffs town beaches.
Green buoy number 1, which marks Lone Rock off Inkwell Beach, will be removed later this month.
A green and red junction buoy just off the Steamship Authority pier will also be removed.
In Vineyard Sound, the green buoy LS off Cape Higgon which marks Lucas Shoals will also be removed. The water there is considered deep enough for all but the heaviest ships to pass safely, Coast Guard spokesmen said.
The Coast Guard also plans to remove green buoy number 5 off East Beach, which marks the edge of Muskeget Channel.
Buoy maintenance an ongoing effort, Coast Guard spokesmen said.
“We want to get it right, that’s the main point, for both the mariner and the taxpayer and the Coast Guard,” Mr. LeBlanc said.