Coast Guard Launches Operation Fall Retrieve

The annual operation ensures vessel safety in the Great Lakes during the icy season by retrieving buoys.

The 9th Coast Guard District has begun its annual buoy retrieval program called Operation Fall Retrieve, according to an article posted on the the Coast Guard's blog. The program ensures the safety of vessels traveling in the Great Lakes during the winter months.

The operation's goal is to retrieve 1,278 navigational aids. According to the Coast Guard, the operation is set to be completed in December and is the largest domestic ATON (aids to navigation) recovery operation in the US. The 1,278 aids are removed during the winter months because of lower traffic. The aids are then replaced with smaller, lighter buoys called "wintermarks" that can ride beneath the ice.

To complete the operation, USCG employs six cutters; five ATON teams; five small boat stations; the Lamplighters, who are civilian employees who manage inland waters in northern Minnesota; Canadian Coast Guard crews; the Saint Lawrence Seaway Development Corporation; and members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. The number of aids to be removed totals roughly half of what stays put year round. The ATON system uses colors, lights, shapes, and numbers to help mariners navigate the waters throughout the year.

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