Guiding the way
Posted by kmetcalf, Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Throughout the waters of Houston and Galveston are a nearly invisible pathway of swift currents and deep channels that many ocean-goers must navigate. One of the units tasked with ensuring all vessels are able to safely navigate these waterways is Aids to Navigation Team Galveston.
ANT Galveston is made up of 16 men and women and is charged with ensuring that approximately 700 aids to navigation are working correctly 24/7. These teams of aids to navigation specialists utilize both boats and helicopters to help ensure that the ATON is in its proper place and working correctly.
The primary job of any ANT is to ensure that the waterways of their area are marked properly with buoys, channel markers and ranges and match the most up to date charts. This vital mission ensures that all recreational boaters and tankers with larger drafts are able to safely navigate what might otherwise be hazardous waterways.
Another benefit of marking the channels in this way is being able to get an early warning for suspicious activity among boaters. Those traveling outside of the marked channels are more easily identified as a vessel of interest to be investigated. With the many energy industry related facilities dotting Houston’s waterways, this advanced warning can help locate potential threats to the nation.
The varying terrain covering the coast of Texas offers many challenges to these crewmembers and, often these aids to navigation are not accessible by boat. In these cases, ANT members will work together with members of nearby Coast Guard air stations to get transportation to otherwise inaccessible islands or use the station’s amphibious vehicles in swamp regions.
This work in the busy Texas waterways means the team members work with the public on a daily basis and often this allows members to have the most up to date information on discrepant aids in the area. Tips about discrepant aids like these assist crewmembers with latest data that might otherwise go unnoticed for longer.
The work to repair these damaged or moved aids is never an easy task to accomplish and often puts the person working on it at no small risk. Whether it’s hanging onto buoy towers and dayboards over the water or the sometimes towering range lights; the members face these dangers bravely.
“In the summer it’s not too bad to work aids like this because the water’s a lot warmer and you can dry off quicker,” says Petty Officer 3rd Class Chad Post, a boatswain’s mate at ANT Galveston. “But in the winter it can get way too cold with all of the splash you get. That’s when it starts to get bad.”
“Sometimes though some of the new guys are a little scared to climb up there and they just hug the light and deal with whatever’s on there so you don’t fall. They get over it though; I mean, if they don’t you really can’t get anything done around here.”
The men and women of ANT Galveston provide this largely unrecognized job throughout the waters of Houston and Galveston, to ensure all vessels are able to safely navigate the waterways.