Got questions? This buoy tender sailor has answers.

We asked our Facebook fans if they could ask a buoy tender sailor anything, what would it be? And with more than 300 questions asked, it was clear you were all eager to hear more about the men and women who sail aboard “black hulls.” We picked the top five most “liked” questions and asked Petty Officer 1st Class William Vaughn, a Coast Guardsman serving aboard Coast Guard Cutter Bristol Bay.

A buoy removed from western Lake Erie aboard Coast Guard Cutter Bristol Bay. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class William B. Mitchell.

A buoy removed from western Lake Erie aboard Coast Guard Cutter Bristol Bay. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class William B. Mitchell.

How do you deal with the smell and do you still like to eat fish/seafood? – Austin West

For the most part you get used to the smell. When it’s real bad in the hot summer sun we just try to blame it on each other. A little laughter helps the bad things better.

Coast Guard Cutter Bristol Bay is homeported in Detroit, Mich., in the 9th Coast Guard District. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Coast Guard Cutter Bristol Bay is homeported in Detroit, Mich., in the 9th Coast Guard District. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

What is the strangest thing you have found attached to a buoy? – Asked by both Carolyn Brown Treadon and Sue Huddleston

That’s easy, an entire truck engine. Don’t know how it got there. It was just luck that it stayed tangled in the chain till we got it pulled on deck.

From an old buoy tender sailor: Do you ever feel bad that you never tended buoys when the ships did not have joysticks and the GPS was three guys with sextants? – Bradley Rex

To tell you the truth, I have yet to pilot one of those new fancy ones. I have had the pleasure of driving several of the Coast Guard’s more seasoned vessels, but as I understand it, it takes a lot of the fun and the teeth gnashing out of the job. GPS has been here for me the whole time but there are still a lot of times that GPS can’t tell you that shoaling is happening. There’s still the need to put it where the mariner needs it and GPS can’t tell you that either. There will never be a replacement for “seaman’s eye.”

How are they anchored in the ground floor? Is it just a heavy anchor or do you drill them? – Donna Dinizo-Ruhl

Bristol Bay was the first Bay-class tug to receive a barge specially designed to perform aids-to-navigation work in 1991. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Jorgensen.

Bristol Bay was the first Bay-class tug to receive a barge specially designed to perform aids-to-navigation work in 1991. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Lauren Jorgensen.

Most are held in place with a large concrete block, from as small as 100 pounds to up over 20,000 pounds. We do however keep some in place with a process called jetting. This process uses high pressure water to drill a hole in the sand on the bottom and insert a metal disk that’s attached to the buoy by a cable.

What do the different colored helmet signify? – Paul Piquette

They are for different job positions on the buoy deck. As you move through the qualification process on deck you get different colored hard hats for the different jobs that need to be done. For us your hard hat color is something to be proud of.

Are there any Coast Guard missions you want to know more about? Or is there a specific job you find fascinating? Leave your ideas in the comments below so we can feature it in a future “Got questions?”

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