On the Water

Navigational Bell Buoy

Unlike car drivers on land, navigators at sea have no road signs to indicate speed limits, dangers, or routes. Navigational buoys are floating objects anchored to the bottom that serve as aids to navigation. Their distinctive shapes, colors, and other markings provide information indicating their purpose and how to navigate around them.

The placement and maintenance of navigational buoys are essential to shipping, since they often provide the only guidance for channel locations, shoals, reefs, and other hazards. If damaged by collisions, extinguished, or broken loose from their moorings, the Coast Guard will repair, replace, refuel, or relocate the failed buoy.

Designated an 8X20 LBR, this particular type of buoy was used by the U.S. Coast Guard Lighthouse Service on the East Coast from around 1930 until the early 1950s. It measures 8 feet in width and 20 feet high, and the letters mean Lighted, Bell, and Radar Reflector. It originally weighed ca. 15,600 pounds, including the 225-lb bell. The bottom of this example was removed to fit into the gallery.

It was designed to be deployed in shallow, protected coastal waters and could be seen about two miles away in daylight. The light on the top was powered by batteries stored under the round hatches in the large bottom compartment. The bell was rung by the rocking of the buoy in the waves.

ID Number:
ferrous metal, copper alloy
12 x 8 ft.; 3.6576 x 2.4384 m
US Department of Transportation, U.S. Coast Guard Fifth District (through Paul Glahe)