Coast Guard buoy washes ashore, could take weeks to remove

Courtesy photoStudents from River Valley Charter School in Newburyport check out a huge navigational buoy that washed ashore during the nor’easter this week. The Coast Guard is working to remove the buoy and eventually anchor it back in the Merrimack River.

NEWBURY — Each day, River Valley Charter School students visit Plum Island Beach to learn more about erosion, tidal energy and other scientific facets of the coastline.

But on Thursday, the students were understandably more eager to climb on a massive buoy that washed ashore near 37th Street during the nor’easter Monday and Tuesday. 

“It’s lots of fun to play on,” Lila Treem said. 

Lila said she thought it would be a lot smaller than what was described to her while en route from the Newburyport school. 

Fellow student Ruby Lathan agreed. 

“The storm must have been crazy,” she said. 

The buoy, weighing about 13,000 pounds, had been anchored just east of the Merrimack River entrance and marked the northern side of the channel before it broke loose and ended up on the beach, according to U.S. Coast Guard official Jeffrey Nardello. 

Nardello said a plan to retrieve the buoy was in the works. It involved lifting the buoy with heavy equipment owned by Newbury and Newburyport, placing it on a truck, and driving the buoy back to the Coast Guard’s Boston station.

From there, the buoy would be placed on a cutter and carried north to be returned to its location. 

But Nardello admitted it was just a plan at this point. 

“If that doesn’t work, we’re going to have to look at other plans,” he said, adding that any resolution could take weeks. 

In the meantime, Nardello said mariners are being advised the marker is no longer where it was supposed to be and acknowledged that until it is returned, navigating the mouth of the Merrimack would be a little more dangerous. 

“Be cautious, be wary, and don’t rely on it,” Nardello said. 

Nardello asked people not to climb on the buoy, pointing out that it is just on sand and not solid ground. 

“By all means, I would stress people don’t mess with it,” he said. 

Ever since the buoy washed ashore, it has become a star attraction with hundreds of people a day stopping by to take photos and feel the indentations along its harsh metal surface.  

River Valley Charter School science teacher Ellen Link, a coastal science expert, said her students typically collect sea glass, shells and even trash as a way of learning more about the beach. But the buoy, she said, provided a teachable moment. 

“What I want is for them to know, to notice, the power of the ocean to shape their lives,” Link said. 

Link said she first learned of the buoy Wednesday and overnight received permission from school officials and parents to include the buoy as part of their daily trek to Plum Island Beach. 

Staff writer Dave Rogers can be reached at drogers@newburyportnews.com. Follow him on Twitter @drogers41008.

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