26th Dec: Yacht Racing Buoy adrift

On Boxing Day afternoon I was doing a lone watch at NCI Stone Point.  The weather was poor and although we had had some swimmers in the morning (who turned very pink after a quick dip in the water) there was very little going on.  However the watch was “enlivened” by the opportunity to detect and track a yacht racing buoy which had broken loose.  The annotated photo of the radar screen shown above and the text below are reproduced from an item which I put in the NCI Calshot weekly Bulletin (which includes Stone Point as well as Calshot).

Radar tracks drifting buoy!

Boxing Day brought another demonstration of the usefulness of the radar at Stone Point which may be of interest to those watchkeepers who stand shifts at Lepe.

During the afternoon, Calshot Tower watchkeepers passed on information that the Royal Cork racing mark had been reported adrift and was heading towards the western Solent. I managed to spot one of the yellow special purpose buoys which had a changing bearing, indicating it was adrift.

As the buoy came closer to the station it was possible to identify its radar return by matching the bearing of a radar target with the bearing of the buoy using the pelorus. Placing the cursor over the radar return allowed the exact latitude and longitude to be displayed and, after acquiring the target, the radar gave the speed and direction of the buoys drift.

The picture shows what the screen looked like. Note that moving targets leave a blue shadow behind them which helps in identification (compare the boat heading northwest to the two anchored fishing boats). Matching the visual bearing from the pelorus to the bearing of the radar target provides vital confirmation. Using the telescope I could read the buoys name!

Solent Coastguard and Southampton VTS were informed of the buoy’s position, course and speed, but on Boxing Day neither were able to arrange for the buoy to be recovered. It may be still out there!