Battered Baltimore buoy gets some Sailabration love

Francis Scott Key buoy
(Candus Thomson/Baltimore Sun)

It's a much-battered part of the Baltimore Harbor scenery, bobbing in the water just above the Key Bridge on the way to the Inner Harbor.

Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of boats—including Tall Ships and Navy warships--will pass by the Francis Scott Key buoy this week on their way to take part in Sailabration, Maryland's Star-Spangled commemoration of the War of 1812. The buoy sits on the spot where the lawyer and amateur poet Key watched the British Navy's relentless shelling of Fort McHenry and the fort's response—the raising of the American flag.

The two-ton marker has been on duty each summer since 1976. It has been rammed and smashed by massive cargo ships and recreational runabouts. A replacement is in the works.

Every fall, the Coast Guard Tender James Rankin takes the Key buoy out of harm's way, plucking it from the Patapsco River and delivering it to the Curtis Bay Coast Guard Yard for its annual checkup and spa treatment.

This year, Seaman Connie Radford and Auxiliary member Bill Elliott of Bel Air sanded the roughest spots, primed the metal and outlined the white stars and red and blue stripes with masking tape.

The colors, for the record are buoy red, indigo ("It doesn't really look like indigo but that's what the can says," Radford confides.) and plain, old white.

First they roll out the blue, then the red and finally the white.

Radford is from Eureka, Calif., and has been in the Coast Guard since last year. She's thrilled that she's in Baltimore for Sailabration and that she was able to play her little part in the event.

"It's a lot of history," she said. "And I'm getting to live it."

ALSO SEE: Baltimore Sun coverage: War of 1812 Bicentennial

Recommended on Baltimore Sun