Off The Starboard Bow

Coastal Data is at Your Fingertips...but Keep a Lookout for the Buoys!

Mario C. Aguilera October 11, 2011

Many anglers and boaters may not know it, but with a few strategic clicks on the Internet you can have access to near real-time oceanographic measurements to help safely and effectively navigate and fish the fluctuating ocean conditions found off the coast of Florida. The Coastal Data Information Program (cdip.ucsd.edu), based at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at U.C. San Diego, works in partnership with the Southeast Coastal Ocean Observing Regional Association (secoora.org) and local maritime communities to deliver observations of ocean wave height, direction and period as well as sea surface temperature updated every 30 minutes online and hourly on NOAA Weather Radio broadcasts.

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Photo: Scripps-CDIP

The backbone of this vital information system is a network of buoys positioned at key locations that collect observations and transmit data 24 hours a day. Many of the buoys have been observing and reporting this information in Florida’s coastal waters for over a decade.

…CDIP administrators quickly replaced the buoy at a price tag of around $60,000. The buoy is once again back in business approximately six nautical miles northeast of Fort Pierce Inlet.

The information gathered is extremely beneficial to mariners, weather forecasters, coastal planners, scientists, beachgoers, and yes, the fishing community. However, with this service and wealth of information comes a warning: please be aware of CDIP buoy locations as you navigate Florida’s coastal and offshore waters. Although these buoys feature bright yellow paint and emit a yellow flashing beacon at night, they can easily be overlooked. That was the case last May when a ship struck a CDIP mooring off Fort Pierce, causing the buoy to break loose. Because of its valued data transmissions, CDIP administrators quickly replaced the buoy at a price tag of around $60,000. The buoy is once again back in business approximately six nautical miles northeast of Fort Pierce Inlet.

Other CDIP buoys off Florida’s east coast are operated in collaboration with the U.S. Navy and are stationed at Fernandina Beach near the Florida-Georgia border and at Cape Canaveral. There’s also a CDIP buoy off Florida’s Gulf Coast, approximately 82 nautical miles west of the entrance to Tampa Bay. It’s certainly ok to fish near weather buoys, but it’s essential you take caution of the expensive equipment.

Although the timeliness and utility of such data are breaking news to some Florida residents, the CDIP program is now in its fourth decade of operation. What started as one wave instrument off San Diego in 1975 is now approaching 50 buoys supported by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, with buoys stationed off California, Oregon, Washington, North Carolina, Virginia, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam, Puerto Rico and Florida.

While there are numerous NOAA National Ocean Service weather buoys in service that monitor wind speed and direction among other data, CDIP buoys are unique in that they record precise wave conditions through highly accurate accelerometers. The value of CDIPs data has blossomed over the years and is beneficial whether you’re a commercial mariner or recreational angler. Next time you check the marine forecast visit the CDIP website and view all of the valuable data. Give it a try and spread the word…and please keep a lookout for the buoys!

CDIP Buoy Hot-Spots

  • Fernandina Beach / ID # 41112 (30°43’7″ N 81°17’34″ W) / Approximately 7.5 nm east of St. Mary’s entrance
  • Cape Canaveral / ID # 41113 (28°23’59″ N 80°31’48″ W) / Approximately 3 nm east of Cape Canaveral entrance
  • Fort Pierce / ID # 41114 (27°33’5″ N 80°13’31″ W) / Approximately 6 nm northeast of Fort Pierce Inlet entrance
  • St. Petersburg / ID # 42099 (27°20’25″ N 84°14’42″ W) / Approximately 82 nm west of Tampa Bay entrance

Glossary

  • WVHT – Significant Wave Height is the average height (meters) of the highest one-third of the waves during a 30-minute sampling period.
  • SwH – Swell height is the vertical distance (meters) between any crest and succeeding trough.
  • SwP – Swell Period is the time (seconds) it takes successive wave crests or troughs to pass a fixed point.
  • SwD – The direction from which the swell waves at the swell wave period (SwP) are coming. The units are degrees from true north, increasing clockwise.

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