Dial-a-Buoy877-BUOY BAY

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You set out in your kayak from a canoe launch somewhere along the shores of the Chesapeake Bay—the same geography traveled by Captain John Smith some 400 years ago. As the first English settler to fully explore the Chesapeake Bay, Smith traveled more than 2,000 miles during the summer of 1608 in an open "shallop" boat with no modern conveniences.

But your trip is quite different. While you are also in an open boat, you are equipped with a cell phone and waterproof maps of the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail—the first water trail in the National Park Service's National Trail System—giving you many advantages that the early explorers didn't have.

In particular, you have access to NOAA's Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System (CBIBS), a network of observation buoys that mark points along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail. These on-the-water platforms merge the modern technologies of cellular communications and internet-based information sharing. You can pull out your cell phone and check out real-time weather and environmental information like wind speed, temperature, and wave height at any of the buoys. Unlike John Smith, you know what's ahead of you, and can decide on an alternative plan to strike out for a landfall closer to home—protected from the elements and sheltered from the growing waves on the Bay.

Not only do these "smart buoys" give you real-time wind and weather information, they can to tell you something about John Smith's adventures during his 1608 voyage. The system provides voice narration—available via toll-free 877-BUOY-BAY or at this website—of natural and cultural history for the area you're traveling through on the trail. Akin to "podcasts"- these vignettes let trail users and shore-side classrooms learn about the local history of these waterways, making the water trail a paddle through time as well as space.

Enjoy exploring the smart buoys of the NOAA Chesapeake Bay Interpretive Buoy System at this website, by calling toll-free 877-BUOY-BAY, or via smartphone apps for Android and iPhone.