Mariners rely on navigational buoy bells and gongs to find their way on the water when visibility is low. In Maine, that is common. But over the past nine months, nine bells and gongs have been stolen off buoys in Penobscot Bay and the U.S. Coast Guard is offering a reward to catch the culprits.
The buoys are important aids to navigation, and by stealing the bells and gongs, people’s lives are being put in danger, according to Trade Only’s sister publication, Soundings.
Stealing the bell off a buoy is a federal offense and removing it is no easy chore. Each bell or gong weighs close to 400 pounds, so the perpetrators are not doing the crime from a skiff. The thefts began late last year and have continued.
Locals and the U.S. Coast Guard believe they are being resold at nautical shops or for scrap. The bells are made out of copper, and the metal is valuable, although not nearly as valuable as the sounds of the bells are to mariners going through the fog.
“These thefts not only reduce the reliability of our aids-to-navigation system and put lives at risk, but they also create a burden and expense to the taxpayer for the buoy tenders and crews responsible for maintaining the aids,” Lt. Matthew Odom, chief of the Waterways Management Division for Coast Guard Sector Northern New England, told the Portland Press Herald.