Search This Blog

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Nuns And Cans

Nope.  Not these kinds of Nuns.

th[2] (2)

And not these kinds of Cans.


It’s these kinds of Nuns and Cans.


Today while I’m waiting for parts for the Journey, I went down to St. Louis and visited my son, Ryan’s Coast Guard cutter, the Cheyenne.  Ryan is the Chief Engineer on the cutter, responsible for all the machinery, running gear and equipment.


Many folks have asked what is the Coast Guard doing on the Mississippi River?  Well, the rivers of the United States are used for all kinds of water borne commerce and the Coast Guard is tasked with providing Aids to Navigation, also known as buoys.

The red buoys are called “Nun” buoys, sort of from the shape of the buoy which resembles a Nun’s habit.  The green buoys are called “Cans” again because of their shape.

You can see the front of the cutter’s barge is loaded with buoys to get underway on another trip to service and replace missing or damaged buoys.


The Cheyenne is a 75 foot long tugboat that has a barge attached to its bow.  There is a lot of equipment on the barge.


The buoys are held in place by concrete “Sinkers”, which are attached by a chain.


The barge carries two small boats to access buoys and other navigational aids that are in water too shallow for the cutter to reach.


There is a crane on the barge to lift the boats in and out of the water as well as lift buoys.  It is the tan colored structure on the barge.


The Cheyenne is powered by twin large CAT diesel engines.


It has two smaller Cat diesel engines that drive the cutter’s generators.


One more diesel powered generator, this one a Detroit Diesel which powers the barge equipment.


The cutter is controlled from the bridge.  It looks like something from Star Wars.  It is unusual because it does not have a wheel or helm.  Steering is done by the handles on each side of the chair.  There are two handles on each side which control two sets of rudders for maneuvering in tight spaces.


This is the view, where all the work can be observed on the buoy deck on the barge.


The cutter was built in 1961 and despite its age it is in top shape and excellent running condition, a credit to its crew.


The crew takes great pride in their ship.


It may not be a very glamorous job, it has lots of dirty  and dangerous physical work servicing the buoys, but it is very important to American commerce. 

Just a little view of some of the unsung workers of the Coast Guard.

Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave a comment.



  1. Having spent a good part of my life alongside the Mississippi I still have not seen a tug boat or tow boat tug or tow anything, they are always pushing. Go figure.

  2. Interesting post - I had no idea the buoys were called nuns and cans.

  3. That was an interesting tour of the CG cutter. I've only been on one and since I was terribly seasick, I didn't take the "tour."

  4. Really interesting Paul. I am learning so much from you about the Coast. Guard and their work. Loving the water the way I do, maybe I should have been a Coastie. Do they have a sailboat division?? :-))

  5. Thanks for the insider information;o)) I know I just don't usually think about all the work that goes in to making our waterways functional and safe!!

  6. Great tour- very interesting. Thanks for posting.

  7. And here I thought maybe you were getting some religion...

  8. I enjoyed reading that. I always thought the little tug operators were just doing their job. I didn't realize the coast guard operated many of the tugs. Interesting. Since I like red the best I would probably have a tendency to deposit more of those where they shouldn't be. I wonder if that would really matter.

  9. Interesting post. Our thanks to the men behind the scenes that make our lives better!

  10. Agree. This was new, unthought about information for me.

  11. Almost makes me wish I was back on the job-almost:)

  12. Thanks for a great tour of the Cheyenne. It sure is clean looking ship-shape vessel. Your son must be quite proud of it.