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BALTIMORE — The crew aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter James Rankin (WLM 555) set the historic Francis Scott Key Memorial Buoy Wednesday in the Patapsco River.
Formalized as an annual Coast Guard duty in 1980, this year marks the 43rd spring setting of the historic buoy by a Coast Guard cutter’s crew. The specially designed aid to navigation commemorates Francis Scott Key, revered author of the poem “Defense of Fort M’Henry,” that was later retitled “The Star Spangled Banner.” Key’s poem became the official national anthem of the United States in 1931.
The buoy, which sits between the Francis Scott Key Bridge and Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor, is set each year near the spot Key observed the 1814 British bombardment of Fort McHenry and felt inspired to write the national anthem’s lyrics. The buoy is removed each year before winter.
The Coast Guard Cutter James Rankin is a coastal buoy tender homeported at the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore. The cutter’s crew is responsible for 361 buoys in the Upper Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries, including the Eastern Shore, Tangier Sound, Annapolis, and the Potomac River.
Collectively, these aids facilitate more than $60 billion of commerce to the Port of Baltimore. The cutter’s crew also is equipped to perform other Coast Guard missions, such as homeland security, search and rescue, marine environmental protection, and domestic ice breaking.