Friday, October 25, 2013

Changes to the Buoys on the Swinomish Channel

The American Tugs are built in the small town of La Conner, Washington.  A rural farming and fishing community located along the banks of the Swinomish Channel. The Channel is a navigable waterway that links Puget Sound to the San Juan Islands area north of The Strait of Juan De Fuca. 

The significance of the Channel is that it is navigable year round, and in all weather.  When the Straits are really rough, the Channel is a safe alternative.

When heading towards port we all remember to use the "Red Right Returning" which means we keep the red buoys on your right hand side when returning to port... well the Swinomish has always had a bit of weirdness.  The Town of La Conner would be the Port, but there are harbor entrances to both the north and south.  The point of convergence (where the buoys changed from red on the right to green on the right) was actually a couple of miles north of town and not at the Port itself.

American Tug 41 - Intermezzo next to one of the culprit marks

The Coast Guard is now changing the convergence to the Town of La Conner.  I am very happy to see this change.  The old point of convergence was literally in my back yard as I live on the Channel, boaters would stop, circle around, try to pass between a green buoy and the very close shoreline.  It was very confusing to many boaters (those not using a chart...) as the color of buoys changed for no logical reason.



The U.S. Coast Guard is proposing changes to the buoyage in Swinomish Channel. The following excerpt and graphic are from the Local Notice to Mariners 35/13:
The USCG is proposing to move the point at which the ATON in the Swinomish Channel change the general direction of marine traffic. In channels such as Swinomish, where vessels can enter the channel from two different directions, there must be a point where the colors and numbers on the ATON switch to conform to the rule of red ATON on the starboard side when returning from sea. 
The current ATON configuration changes direction at Swinomish Channel South Entrance Buoy 26 (LLNR 18875), approximately two miles north of La Conner. Multiple mariners have stated that this point of change is arbitrary and confusing. For this reason, the proposed new point for the change in direction is in the vicinity of the city of La Conner, the logical destination for vessels returning from sea. The following aids to navigation will remain in the same position, but will change their color and number: 
Swinomish Channel South Entrance Buoy 22 (LLNR 18860) to Swinomish Channel North Entrance Buoy 33; Swinomish Channel South Entrance Buoy 23 (LLNR 18865) to Swinomish Channel North Entrance Buoy 34; Swinomish Channel South Entrance Light 25 (LLNR 18870) to Swinomish Channel North Entrance Light 32; Swinomish Channel South Entrance Buoy 26 (LLNR 18875) to Swinomish Channel North Entrance Buoy 31.

Thanks to Mark Bunzel and the Waggoner Cruising Guide for bringing this to my attention.