Cutter James Rankin's commanding officer, Lieut. Justin Strassfield, says placing this buoy is extra special. Photo: Dan Duffy

PHOTOS: Star-Spangled Buoy Splashdown

It’s an annual sign of summer in the Patapsco River, near the Key Bridge: the appearance of the distinctive Francis Scott Key Memorial Buoy. Painted in stars and stripes and placed in the vicinity where Key is said to have penned the Star-Spangled Banner, it’s a patriotic reminder of Baltimore’s critical role in America’s independence.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter James Rankin, homeported in Charm City, set the buoy, and like all nautical markers, it’s much larger on dry land than it looks bobbing in the water.

The buoy, which sits between the Francis Scott Key Bridge and Fort McHenry, is set every summer and removed just before the winter. It’s been the job of the Cutter James Rankin‘s crew to maintain the buoy and keep its seasonal schedule since 1980.

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“Of our 69 seasonal buoys we service, this Francis Scott Key Memorial Buoy bears a special significance commemorating his site of inspiration,” said Lt. Justin Strassfield, commanding officer of the James Rankin. “We’re proud to do our part aiding safe navigation for recreational boaters, commercial mariners on the Chesapeake Bay, and Chesapeake watermen fishing for oysters and crabs, among many other things.”

Bay Bulletin contributor Dan Duffy was aboard the 175-foot buoy tender when its crew placed the star-spangled buoy. See the stages in the images below: