Bristol crew maintains area's 250 aids to navigation

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You’ve been able to keep your boat away from rocks, you’ve been warned about special regulations, and you’ve navigated safely around the bay, all because of the aids to navigation. Who takes care of these important landmarks?

On Rhode Island’s east shore, at 1 Thames St. in Bristol, is a Coast Guard Station commonly known as ANT Bristol. This is a specialized group tasked with maintaining 250 aids to navigation (ATONs) in this area, as well as 12 lighthouses and other shore ATON structures. Why are these so important? They mark dangers such as rocks and wrecks, and boaters navigate by ATONS. They must be where the chart says they are, and, if lighted, giving the proper signal. ANT Bristol covers Narragansett Bay, the rivers that feed it and Block Island, too. At the station, there is a 49-foot Buoy Utility Stern Loading boat which is their primary workhorse. They also have a 26-foot trailerable ATON boat and a 20-foot ATON small boat.

At the station is a 12-person crew, including Boatswain’s mates, Machinery Technicians, Damage Control Person, Electrician’s Mate and some junior personnel. There is one more important member of the crew. A couple of years ago the crew took up a collection and adopted a rescue dog from the Middletown Animal Shelter. This tan bundle of energy is named Wrangel after a Coast Guard cutter in South Portland, Maine. He does watch-standing, keeping the CG personnel company, and is great for morale.

The ANT Bristol crew goes through vigorous training with emphasis on their specialties. Boatswain’s Mates get trained in boat handling, search patterns, weight handling equipment and boat maintenance. Machinery Technicians receive training on boat mechanics and other equipment. The Damage Control Person gets trained in building and construction and technical knowledge on lighthouses. The Electrician’s Mate is trained for lighthouse duty and is also a certified boat engineer.

Where do these Coasties come from? The Officer in Charge of ANT Bristol is Elijah Reynolds from Cape Cod, but others come from California, Montana, Maine and many other states. The typical tour of duty in Bristol is about four years. I am told the crew enjoys being stationed in this area.

ANT Bristol also works with the Coast Guard Auxiliary verifying hundreds of private aids to navigation in the area, ranging from No Wake buoys to fixed structures, and even the lighthouses maintained by marinas, Navy, yacht clubs and more.

The recreational boater can help, too. If you come across an aid to navigation that seems to be way off station, or has a light that is not working, or is the wrong color, give ANT Bristol a call at 401-253-9585 and let them know.

Here’s to our hard-working Coast Guard crew at ANT Bristol. Thanks for helping to keep our boaters safe.

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