Dat’a Buoys in the Stream By Mike and Cindy Alyea
NOV. 10, 2016. OFF ST. AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA
lue Ocean Sails, our St. Augustine-based nonprofit marine science educational organization, had coordinated with NOAA to drop two Global Drifter Buoys in the Gulf Stream off NE Florida. NOAA provided the two buoys, manufactured by MetOcean of Nova Scotia, and Blue Ocean Sails provided the crew and the boat—our Irwin 43, Sea Breeze. We had coordinated teachers and students from Oregon, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, who “adopted” the buoys. Originally planned for mid-October, the trip was delayed a month by hurricane Matthew, late season offshore low pressure systems and early season frontal passages. Picking a proper weather window for the 48-hour voyage out to the Gulf Stream and back had proven to be a bit trying. Atmospheric gyrations continued to make shambles of even threeday forecasts. Our goal of avoiding northerly winds over the stream 75 miles offshore eventually gave way to the “revised goal” of northerly winds not Mike with the two drifter buoys that were deployed in the Gulf Stream. more than 15 knots over the stream. Approximately 500 students from 16 different schools were hopeful that we would be successful. First mate Cindy manned the helm, while crew Alex Reaching for the Delorme inReach satcom device, I sent a and myself braced on the aft deck preparing to toss the text message to update them all on conditions offshore, as buoys. Once on station, the arming magnets were removed we broke 60 miles off the coast of NE Florida; “Nov 10, from the buoys and over the side they went, separated by a 2016. Conditions look good. Drifter buoy deployment is a mile to avoid them entangling each other as they began GO.” Another three hours hard on the wind would pass their Gulf Stream journey. Reaching for the Delorme, a before reaching our destination in the heart of the Gulf sense of satisfaction set in as I texted an update to the waitStream. ing students and teachers: “Both buoys deployed. Mission The goal of 70 to 80 miles offshore was needed to help accomplished.” ensure the buoys would drift in the Gulf Stream for over a If all goes well, the buoys' batteries will last for over 400 year while sending hourly data updates via satellite to the days, providing NOAA and over 500 students access to NOAA data base. The data stream includes sea surface temocean current data. The path of the two buoys over the past perature (SST), positional latitude, longitude and time and several weeks has been quite different. While Dat'a Buoy #2 is available online to teachers and students for their projects has followed the traditional path of the Gulf Stream and is and studies. drifting off New England, Dat'a Buoy #1 has not escaped NOAA has been deploying Global Drifter Buoys in the the clutches of the Charleston Gyre and continues to be world’s oceans for more than 10 years, supporting ongoing trapped off the coast of the Carolina's by the vagaries of the studies of ocean currents around the globe. Participation in Gulf Stream's gyres and counter currents. the drifter buoy project by students and teachers is made possible by NOAA’s Adopt a Buoy Program, which also To learn more about NOAA’s Global Drifter program, go to provided the opportunity for the students to select a name www.aoml.noaa.gov, and click Ocean Observations, then for the buoys...they chose the names Dat'a Buoy #1 and go to the Global Drifter Program. Dat’a Buoy #2. Clever. We were soon sailing "off soundings" over a 300 fathom To sail with us, visit www.youtube.com, and search for bottom. Bottlenose dolphin joined with us darting about in “global drifter buoy by Blue Ocean Sails” to view a sixher bow wake as the breeze piped up to 15 knots and minute video of our drifter buoy deployment voyage. backed further towards north. Given the uncertainty of offshore wind forecasts, we readied the drifter buoys with Mike and Cindy Alyea founded the St. Augustine-based non-profstickers of school and student names, repositioned them it educational organization, Blue Ocean Sails, to assist, support both to the aft deck and recorded time, date and deployand facilitate marine science students, educators, citizens and ment location: 30 12.55N 79 56.20W.
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