Nova Scotia

JJ3's excellent adventure: Nova Scotia buoy goes on a sea cruise

A Canadian Coast Guard buoy went missing off Scatarie Island, near Louisbourg, in January 2018. It was discovered on a beach in the Bahamas in March.

Buoy makes 2-year voyage from Cape Breton to the Bahamas

This buoy went missing from its position off Scatarie Island and was found more than two years later on a beach in the Bahamas. (Submitted/Al Otis)

A buoy from Cape Breton has quite a tale to tell.
The Canadian Coast Guard buoy — a navigational aid for mariners — went missing off Scatarie Island, near Louisbourg, N.S., in January 2018.

This past March, more than two years later, it washed up on the shores of Cat Island in the Bahamas.
Dave Hebert, a research scientist with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said the buoy likely had a transatlantic voyage, and then some.

Hebert said he thinks the buoy's adventure began with a fairly quick trip to Europe, courtesy of the Gulf Stream, a powerful ocean current just off the coast of Nova Scotia.

"Because the Gulf Stream is quite fast, it would take probably 40 days to get from here to the south of England," said Hebert.

"Then the currents are really slow. That's where it takes like a year to go from England to the Canary Islands, and then almost another year to go from the Canary Islands over to the Bahamas."

Two of Al Otis's friends stand at the base of a Canadian Coast Guard buoy that washed ashore in Cat Island, Bahamas. These buoys typically weigh about three tonnes. (Submitted/Al Otis)

That's where Al Otis spotted it. He and some friends made the discovery while exploring a secluded beach on Cat Island in March.

In an email to CBC, Otis said he was able to get a photo of the buoy about a month later.  

He said he spent a couple of days searching the internet for any mention of a JJ3 buoy, and eventually found a reference to the Canadian Coast Guard. Otis said he sent a report and a photo of the buoy to the Coast Guard.    

He got a response.

A Coast Guard official told Otis the JJ3 buoy is known as the Bar Reef light and bell buoy, and is only the second Canadian Coast Guard buoy known to have arrived in the Bahamas.

In the past, buoys from this region have washed ashore in the Azores and Bermuda.  One surfaced in Ireland after it broke off its mooring near Arichat.

Will stay in Bahamas

It appears JJ3 is destined for a sunny retirement in the Caribbean.

Hebert said it's not practical to retrieve them unless the buoys carry important scientific instruments.

Otis said many places along the beach in the Bahamas have old fishing buoys as decorations and he'd like to put JJ3 to good use. But he said it may be too costly to move it.

"I figured that the bell buoy would be the ultimate lawn ornament with the added benefit of a big old bell to ring when the mood struck," said Otis.   

With files from Cape Breton's Information Morning


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