Dungeness Crab Gear Work: Buoy Painting

The Dungeness crab season begins each year with between three and four weeks of gear work before the boat is ready to go. The first part of gear work always begins with Buoy Painting.

George has about 600 buoys to paint. Some buoys are new and need to be painted for the first time, while others are older and have peeling paint that needs to be touched up.

Buoys must be painted so that the gear of each boat is distinguished and recognized from that of the other 220-plus boats in our Dungeness crab fleet. If each boat did not have its own original buoy-paint scheme, the buoys would all look the same and nobody would know whose were whose.  A picture is also taken of each boat’s uniquely painted buoy and sent to the State for filing.

It takes George and the crew about five full days to paint and tie (attaching the line that will secure the buoy to the crab pot) all of the buoys.

One year, George and I were taking an easy drive through Oysterville when, to George’s surprise, he spotted one of his crab buoys attached to the buoy-decorated fence surrounding the home of a Coastal resident. Apparently, the buoy had broken free from its accompanying crab pot out on the open ocean and washed ashore. (About a month later, we got a phone call that one of his crab pots was sitting upon the dock in Ilwaco, just a little further south. Coincidence?)

Fishing wives and other family are not exempt from buoy painting.

I’ve painted buoys at the beginning of more than one season. My dad helps sometimes, and so does George’s dad when he visits at this time of year. It’s not an easy job: The weather is freezing and the work is long. It didn’t take long during my first year of buoy-painting before I marched down to the fisheries supply store and purchased the full Carhartt insulated suit to wear to keep out the chill.


Pictures of painted buoys (and our beloved Toby, who is still doing miraculously well despite his cancer diagnosis last March. That diagnosis came with the removal of his left eye and a thirty-day life expectancy. We are now eight months beyond!) :





  1. Hi, nice pics.

    Question – where do you get the bright buoy paint, or, what is it called?


    Netarts, OR

    • Hi Gary! Thank you so much for the comment and mentioning the pics. G finally got into port and answered my question about the bright buoy paint. He said he gets it at LFS (Lummi Fisheries Supply) or at Redden. I wonder if Englund Marine sells it? In any event, he said any fisheries supply store should carry it. And it is indeed called buoy paint! :-)

  2. Hi Jen, I love your site! I came across it when I was looking for ideas on painting my bouy’s and ended up staying here for awile watching a cool vid and reading your stuff. Is Toby a Pit? We also have a Pit and he is our big baby. Hope Toby is doing ok, it must be tough on your family. Thanks for all of your doing’s here on the site and I hope you guys have a great season (if it ever happens). You are now a bookmark…… Steve

    • Well Steve, thank you! I’ve been called a lot worse than “bookmark” before, so I really appreciate it! :) Kind words make my whole week.

      You know, our dear Toby passed away last April after stoically and successfully battling his cancer for three years. He was diagnosed at four-years-old and passed away when he was seven. It happened very suddenly last spring; his system just crashed unexpectedly and that was it. But he thrived with alternative vet treatments and a special diet for so long…especially after being given thirty days to live by the traditional vet following the original diagnosis.

      I still can’t even think about his big cute head and adorable ears without crying. He was an amazing dog and representative for not only pitbulls but all dog breeds. I love pitbulls, too. We are fostering one right now, Ryder, who reminds me a bit of Toby and helps take some of the sting of his passing away.

      I hope you have a fantastic and safe crab season, too! Ours is set to begin on the same day my third baby is due, and G does not crab close to home. This should be a really interesting start to everything, right? :)

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