Aiding the Heartland
Posted by PA3 Casey Ranel, Friday, October 28, 2011
The United States has more than 25,000 miles of inland navigable waterways, almost all of which are in the eastern half of the country. 10,300 of those navigable waterways are in the Eighth Coast Guard District. The most navigated of these is the Mississippi River, which is the fourth longest and the tenth largest among the world’s rivers. The upkeep of the Mississippi River’s many aids to navigation falls within the districts responsibility to ensure the safe flow of commerce; the life blood of America.
The Mississippi rises in Minnesota and flows southward for 2,230 miles until it reaches the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way it drains into its tributaries in all or parts of 31 states between the Rocky and Appalachian Mountains. With all this navigable water, rules of the road have to be set and followed.
“Aids-to-navigation is important because it shows mariners where dangers lie, and can include shallow water, obstructions or mishaps on the waterways,” said Petty Officer 1st Class John Sadler, a boatswain’s mate assigned to Coast Guard Marine Safety Unit Pittsburgh. “Aids-to-navigation facilitates the smooth flow of commerce by promoting a safe route of navigation for mariners to follow.”
In order to navigate the water or to help plan a trip, it is helpful to have a chart. Charts show the nature and shape of the coast, buoys and beacons, water depths, land features and much, much more.
“It is imperative to know the difference between different types of aids-to-navigation,” said Sadler. “Taking the time to learn about different aids-to-navigation and their meaning could easily prevent you from damaging your vessel, or far worse, you and your crew.”
The Coast Guard operates and administers the United States ATON System, which is intended for use with nautical charts and has the goal of promoting safe navigation on the waterways. Safety signals are maintained by different types of Coast Guard and ATON teams that are positioned on waterways across the U.S.
Two of the different types of teams include the 240-foot ice-breaking cutter that navigates through some of the coldest waters in America as well as the 65-foot River Tender’s that navigate through the sandy or muddy bottoms of America’s waterways.
From muddy bottom rivers to 14-foot seas to ice-filled waters, the Coast Guard has a tender that can handle any day board, buoy or beacon light to keep America’s waterways safe and moving.