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Sailing / Richard Buffum

Green Buoys? You Must Be Kidding

November 20, 1986|RICHARD BUFFUM

Have you noticed that the bell buoy lying seaward of the channel mouth of Newport Harbor is painted pea green? The buoy had been black as long as I can remember. In fact, an old Coast Pilot of 1942 I found at a Friends of the Newport Beach Library book sale lists the Newport bell buoy as black. The first buoy was set down outside the channel mouth in 1923 before the present twin rock jetties were built in 1936 and the channel, owing to breakers and a shifting sand bar, was a perilous place for boatmen.

I've been assured by the local Coast Guard District's aids to navigation officer that the paint job wasn't caused by some joker with a can of green paint who decided to liven up the old buoy.

No, it had been painted an "international official green," the officer said. It seems that in 1983 members of the International Assn. of Lighthouse Authorities, representing nearly all of the seafaring nations of the world, decided that green was nicer than black, and the Coast Guard agreed. The lighthouse authorities claimed that pea green was more visible on the sea than black under most weather and light conditions.

At any rate, all bell buoys in the United States will be painted green by the end of 1989. There are thousands to repaint--a couple of hundred at least in the 11th Coast Guard District alone, of which Newport Beach is a part. As old black buoys are hauled out and taken to San Pedro for repairs on a six-year schedule, they are repainted.

I suppose green is OK. But I feel the same way about green buoys as I do about yellow or white fire engines. Darn it, fire engines should be painted red and bell buoys black. There's something vaguely subversive about them being any other color. The next thing you know, some international authority will get everybody to agree that apple pie should be made with apricots because a wedge of it is easier to see on the plate.

Capt. Jacques Cousteau's new 103-foot research vessel, Alcyone, which will be in Newport Beach Saturday, reminds me of two great chimneys mounted on a giant paddle board. From all early reports, however, she's the most advanced sailing ship ever built.

Sailing ship? Yes. Those 33-foot-tall stacks, set where masts would be on a conventional two-masted schooner, are actually aluminum cylinders. It is a wind-propulsion system that combines the capability of a sail to adjust to the wind, employing aerodynamic principles and design of an airplane wing.

This remarkable development by Cousteau has been hailed as a technological breakthrough to rival his earlier innovations: the Aqualung, the first underwater cameras and the diving saucer.

The ship is able to sail because air circulates around the vertical Turbosail cylinders in much the same way as it does around an airplane wing. The resulting lift factor, coupled with computer-adjusted diesel support, propels the 84-ton vessel economically and efficiently. Fuel consumption, according to Cousteau, is cut by 30% to 40%.

Alcyone, named after the daughter of the Greek god of wind, may be inspected from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Boy Scout Sea Base at 1931 W. Coast Highway, Newport Beach. A seagoing view of her may be obtained when she's scheduled to pass the Huntington Beach Pier at approximately 3:30 p.m. Friday. But because of insurance regulations, no one will allowed on board.

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