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The Weepecket Buoy: A Thrilling Exercise in Cabin Fever and Deductive Logic

Posted on Wednesday, March 4, 2015 at 7:24 PM MST /9:24 PM EST/

As many of you know, this has been an absolutely brutal winter here in southern New England. With 10 foot piles of snow all over town for almost 6 weeks now, it's safe to say that cabin fever has set in big time. Here you will find an exercise in puzzle solving and cabin fever that will remind you that, yes, we are all a little crazy.

On Friday, February 20th, I decided to go around and take some pictures of the ice flows that had invaded Cape Cod. Buzzards Bay was freezing over and Great Harbor in Woods Hole had completely frozen over. The last time there was sea ice like this was in 2005, so it's not like this happens every year.

The next day, February 21st, I was going through and editing my pictures and noticed a strange object on the rocks to the left of the Spindle and the green #7 buoy in Woods Hole Passage. You can click on the image to enlarge.

Left: Ice Flows Between Woods Hole and Nobska on February 20th
Right: Strange Object on the Rocks to the left of the Spindle and No. 7 Buoy in Woods Hole Passage

Being the middle of February, the possibility of it being a small boat seemed quite unlikely. I zoomed the image in as far as I could, but I couldn't tell what the thing on the rocks was. It was close to two miles from where the picture was taken, so I shrugged it off and forgot about it.

Fast forward a couple days to where we're driving down Water Street in Woods Hole. As I passed MBL, I glanced out at the harbor. Something was out of place: there was a large red gong buoy sitting right off the Steamship Authority dock - that definitely shouldn't be there. With Cabin Fever firmly in place, it was time to start figuring out where it came from.

The Mystery Buoy Sitting off the Steamship Authority Dock in Woods Hole

The obvious guess was quickly ruled out: the #2 bell at the entrance to the ferry channel was still sitting proudly right where it should be. Next stop was at the sea wall to have a look with the binoculars. It was a bit hard to see with all the glare, but I could make out a "6" on the buoy.

Left: A Closer Look at Our Mystery Buoy and Its Number
Right: Our Mystery Buoy Sitting Near the Entrance to Woods Hole Passage

My family and I spent that evening pouring over charts trying to figure out which buoy it was. Unfortunately, the three #6 buoys around were not gongs, and the only #6 gong in the area was down off Cuttyhunk, over 10 miles away. Seems quite unlikely. The only other possibilities I could think of would be the #26 buoy off Nobska and I was only seeing the 6, or that it was an 8 and I had misread it.

I went back to Woods Hole the next day with my big telephoto lens to take hi-res shots of the mysterious buoy. Through the lens, I still pretty confident that I was seeing a 6. I then swung by Nobska, and confirmed that the three #6 nuns were all still right where they should be. And even more stumping, the #26 buoy was still sitting off of Nobska, right where it should be. We were truly stumped.

Left: The No. 26 Buoy Sitting in its Natural Habitat off Nobska
Right: Ruling Out Two of the Three No. 6 Buoys in Woods Hole

After I got home and pulled the pictures off the camera, I was able to do a close-up analysis, and finally got my first break.

Uncovering the Truth. That sure looks like an 8.

The tricky son-of-a-bitch…an 8 disguised as a 6. Now the pieces start to fit together. The only #8 gong buoy in the area is the Weepeckets buoy, which would be a straight shot through Woods Hole Passage to plant itself off the Steamship Authority dock perfectly aligned with The Strait. Its position in Buzzards Bay with large ice flows and lots of current put it in prime real estate for an attempted escape.

Now, back to that object I saw on the rocks in Woods Hole Passage while shooting those initial shots of the ice from Nobska. Now that we know that the Weepecket buoy made it through The Hole, putting two and two together with the timing of the object on the rocks and the arrival of the buoy in Woods Hole, I’m pretty sure that the object I saw on the rocks was in fact the Weepeckets buoy. It appears that it attempted its escape through Woods Hole Passage a few times, ending up on the rocks, before it successfully found its way down the main channel.

Left: Object on the rocks certainly looks like our buoy leaning towards us.
Right: Closer look at what is probably the top of the Weepecket Buoy.

I’ll leave you with some more shots of buoys out of place, and some ice around the Woods Hole area, and make sure to check out the rest of the photos. Another interesting fact to note is that the #2 buoy at the entrance to Broadway has been missing for a while, too (we think it probably sank, it was sitting very low in the water in December).

Left: Edge of the Ice Flows in Great Harbor, Woods Hole
Right: The Coffin Rock Buoy has Gone on an Adventure, too.

Hopefully something that begins to resemble spring will show up soon. It’s been a long winter.

Posted In: Education

Tagged: Woods Hole, Winter, Snow