As reported in a recent NY Times article, the crews aboard the Coast Guard workboat Katherine Walker, based in Bayonne, N.J., are responsible to maintain over 300 floating aids to navigation, or buoys, in the waterways in and around New York City.
The buoys “are formidable steel structures that extend deep below the surface and can reach 26 feet in height. Since buoys can be damaged by ice floes and dragged out of position, the unit hauls buoys out before winter and replaces them with stripped-down steel markers with no light mechanism. These smaller, torpedo-shaped buoys are less vulnerable to damage.”
The article continues: “The manual work hardly seems like cheating. For each winter buoy they approached, deck workers hooked it with the crane’s cable and hauled it on deck. Six crew members were needed to push the buoys, each of which weighs about 1,200 pounds, across the wet steel deck for stowing.
The links of the heavy chain that holds buoys in are twice as big as an average New York City bagel. The riggers use sledgehammers and heavy steel hooks to move the chain around the deck. Even with temperatures near 30 degrees, some crew members had stripped to short sleeves after switching several buoys.
The mooring chain was held fast by clamping into a slot in an area of the boat called the “hot box,” a spot where the crew has to be careful for fear that the chain might pop out and suddenly be ripped across the deck.
“You’re dealing with quite a big amount of weight that at any moment could become quite violent, so you have to make sure you’re not between the load and a hard point,” said Chief Troy Krotz, a boatswain’s mate.
“When that live chain starts running and you’re between 10,000 pounds of concrete and steel, you’ll lose that fight every time,” he said.