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No longer local knowledge

The northeast corner of Scotland has historically had a problem with severe weather breaking away a north cardinal mark in Wick Bay.

Remnants of an old breakwater outside the harbour pose a significant hazard to vessels. A spar-type buoy for summer use only had been suggested but it was thought it would be unable able to survive the winter in such a rough environment; the area around Wick Harbour is quite exposed, so when bad weather from a particular direction arrives (mainly the east) big rolling swells are produced.

Without an appropriate mooring, big waves can pick up the buoy and throw it. As the wave moves through, the buoy lifts the chain which creates the drag to pull the buoy over the top of the wave and then back into position. However, if the buoy is still going forward when it runs out of chain, it will merely stop dead: and that’s when things break. However, with the right mooring, a buoy can ride out these challenging conditions.

Hydrosphere undertook a simulation using the IALA-approved Calmar Mooring Line Calculation Software, during which it became apparent the site did not suit buoyage in that position. It was decided to deploy a port hand mark, the Mobilis AQ-1500, further out into deeper water. Although only 1.2m in diameter, the buoy has a deep buoyancy of about one and a half tonnes — meaning it rides out severe conditions well and is fully capable of surviving the worst Scotland can throw at it. Along with the 55m chain and 2T sinker, the buoy featured a self-contained solar-powered light, as well as a 1m wide polyethylene daymark and radar reflector.

The harbour’s port closure signals were also in need of an overhaul, Hydrosphere installed three VEGA VLL-43directional lights, which are mounted horizontally. Thirty degrees divergence and excellent intensity enable a decent output from a small amount of power. The lights are controlled by Hydrowatch, a remote monitoring and control system that has been developed in house by Hydrosphere.

The lights were quoted as giving a nominal daylight viewing distance of about 0.7 miles; but in practice, good results of up to around 2 miles, even on a bright day, and night-time distances in the region of 10 miles are being achieved.

Deputy Harbourmaster Ian Cormack said: “Feedback from our stakeholders has been very positive on both these projects and we look forward to continued business with Hydrosphere”.

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