John Vonderlin: Buoys will be Buoys


From (Dr.) John Vonderlin

Email John ([email protected])

The Year was 1892


Hi June,
    This is from the July 21st, 1892 issue of “The Morning Call.” This story about the types and maintenance of shipping buoys along the West Coast is just one of a number of stories the Madrono appears in through the years. Our rugged coast and not so pacific ocean saw to that. Enjoy. John
The   Tender   Madrono   Starts   on
Her   Southward   Trip
To   Visit   All   the   Stations   and   Replace   Buoys
Between   San   Francisco   and   San   Diego.
An   Outline   of   the   Steamer’s   Work
The   steam   lighthouse-tender   Madrono
left   Broadway   wharf   yesterday   morning
for   the   southern   station   of   the   local   buoy
and   lighthouse   district,   to   be   absent   three
weeks.   During   this   time   the   tender   will
take   up,   examine   and   replace   all   the   buoys
between   San  Francisco   and   San   Diego.
The   operations   will   be   directed   by   Com – 
mander   Thomas   Perry,   U.   S.   N.,   and   the
steamer   will   also   take   down   enough   sup – 
plies   to   certain   lighthouse   stations   to   last
for   one   year.
The   work   of   changing   and   repairing   the
buoys   is   quite   important,   for   these   aids   to
navigation   are   often   struck   by   passing
steamers,   broken,   penetrated   or   drifted   out
of   position   by   passing   steamer   in   the   night
time.   In   such   cases   either   the   line   of   flota – 
tion   of   the   buoy   is   altered   and   is   seen   with
difficulty,   or.   being   removed   from   its   true
position,   it   becomes   a   source   of   danger   and
a   false   guide   instead   of   an   element   of
The   Madrono’s   deck   when   she   left   looked
as   if   an   assortment   of   gigantic   pumpkins
had   been   dumped   on   it.   She   carries   all   the
different   classes   of   buoys,   namely,
“whistlers,”   bell,   nun,   can   and   spar   buoys,
each   of   which   has   a   utility   of   its   own.
Where   a   buoy   is   found   to   be   simply   foul
and   rusty   it   is   taken   up,   scraped,   repainted
and   put   down   at   some   other   point   on   the
trip,   being   replaced   by   one   of   the   new
buoys,   If   the   buoy   is   damaged,   it   is   brought
back   to   Goat   Island   station   for   repairs   and
a   new   one   put   down.
The   first   stopping   place   of   the   Madrono
on   this   trip   will   be   Point   Montara,   in   Half – 
moon   Bay.   Next   she   will   stop   successively
at   Pigeon  Point,   Ano   Nuevo,   Santa   Cruz,
Point   Pinos   and   Point   Sur   in   Monterey
Bay;   Piedras   Blancas.   San   Luis   Obispo.
Point   Harford,   Point   Conception.   Santa
Barbara,   Point   Hueneme.   Point   Fermin
and   all   the   stations   in   San   Diego   Bay.
The   Madrono   is   a   sister   ship   to   the   Man – 
zanita,   which   is   the   buoy   and   lighthouse
tender   for   the   Oregon   and   Washington   dis – 
trict.   A   quarterly   round   trip   is   supposed   to
be   made   in   each   district.   The   Madrono
will   be   remembered   as   the   craft   which
took   out   the   body   of   King   Kalakaua   to   the
Charleston   when   the   latter   went   to   Hono – 
The   different   kinds   of   buoys   which   the
Madrono   carries   are   all   represented   in   San
Francisco   harbor.   The   whistling   buoy   is
on   the   bar,   six   miles   out.   It   consists   of   an
iron   pear-shaped   bulb,   12   feet   across   at   the
widest   part.   floating   12   feet   out   of   the
water.   Inside   the   bulb   is   a   tube   33   inches
across,   extending   from   the   top   through   the
bottom   to   a   depth   of   32   feet   into   water,   free
from   wave   motion.   The   great   bulb   which
buoys   up   the   whole   mass   rises   and   falls
with   the   motion   of   the   wave,   so   that   as   the
buoy   falls   with   the   wave   the   air   in   the
tube   is   compressed   and   forced   with   great
violence   through   a   whistle   at   the   top.   The
sound   produced   can   be   heard   miles   away
and   is   of   an   inexpressibly   mournful   charac – 
The   bell   buoy   is   usually   put   down   within
harbors   or   in   shallow   water   or   in   rivers
where   the   sound   range   is   shorter   and
smoother   water   prevails.   It   has   the   ad – 
vantage,   like   the   whistling   buoy,   of   acting
in   fogs,   which   render   all   other   buoys   use – 
less,   since   they   cannot   be   seen,
The   spar   buoy   is   simply   a   long   conical
log,   painted   with   colored   horizontal   stripes,
so   as   to   make   them   conspicuous.   They   have
the   disadvantage   of   being   exposed   to   injury
from   the   propellers   of   passing   steamers,
but   are   otherwise   cheap   and   serviceable.
The   nun   buoy   is   almost   conical   in   form;
the   can   buoy   is  “” in shape   the   frustum** of   a
cone   nearly   approaching   the   cylinder.””(sic)   It is   laid  
down   according   to   a   fixed   rule,   well
known   to   navigators,   and   channels   opening
from   the   sea   have   red   buoys   with   even
numbers   on   the   right   and   black   with   odd
numbers,   on   the   left   side.
**Frustum, frusta, or frustrum is a portion of a solid–usually a cone or pyramid–which lies between two parallel planes cutting the solid. Try Wikipedia if you need a diagram of one, I did. Enjoy. John





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