Our View: Keep Chatham Harbor On The Map


If you’re not a mariner, you’re not apt to care about buoys. Here’s a worthy exception.

The Coast Guard, which maintains large, offshore aids to navigation, has proposed removing the lighted whistle buoy “C” off the entrance to Chatham Harbor. Doing so would be a mistake.

Landlubbers can think of the “C” buoy as a highway exit sign. The offshore waters are like a long, featureless highway, and in the dark or when Chatham’s infamous fog rolls in, all landmarks vanish. If you’re on a commercial fishing boat or a pleasure craft, that buoy is a key reference point for the small, shifting gap in the barrier beach that leads home.

The Coast Guard has argued that the buoy is unnecessary because the harbor entrance channel isn’t a federally maintained channel. Strictly speaking that’s true, but the wandering harbor entrance leads to Aunt Lydia’s Cove, which is federally maintained. We understand that the Coast Guard is under pressure to do more with less resources, and offshore buoys are an expense. But this one is worth saving.

It’s also true that the “C” buoy is often pushed off station by heavy weather. The solution to that problem is a bigger anchor, not the removal of the buoy. It’s even conceivable that at some point the buoy should be moved closer to the north cut, once that inlet is firmly established as the main harbor entrance.

Aside from the obvious safety benefits, there’s another, less tangible reason to keep the “C” buoy. It’s validation that Chatham Harbor remains a viable port, worthy of adequate navigational aids—and worthy of its Coast Guard presence at Station Chatham. The unpredictable weather, changing bar and heavy surf off Chatham isn’t justification for removing the buoy; it’s the very reason the buoy is necessary in the first place. It’s also the very reason Coast Guard Station Chatham is needed.

Whether you’re a mariner or not, we encourage you to send your thoughts about the “C” buoy by email to Coast Guard Lieut. Arthur Frooks at arthur.e.frooks@uscg.mil prior to the Feb. 7 public comment deadline, referencing Project 01-18-041.