VIRGINIA BEACH -- She spent 13 months at sea with nothing to hold her down. And then Joaquin came into her life.
The hurricane pushed the errant green buoy toward Virginia Beach, and a storm finished the job. On Thursday morning, U.S. Navy personnel pulled her back into the water, where she was hoisted on the deck of a Coast Guard cutter.
Buoy No. 5 is a shoal marker once positioned in 45 feet of water near the Virginia-Maryland border, about 10 miles northeast of Assateague Lighthouse. Buoys like this mark channels and hazards such as a shoal, or sandbar, under water.
The 19-foot hunk of metal went missing in September 2014, having broken free from an 18,000-pound cement block.
She's been bobbing around ever since.
"Where this thing has been in the last 13 months is a complete mystery," said Chief NyxoLyno Cangemi, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesman.
They had written her off as lost at sea after months went by with no sign of her. On Oct. 3, a storm pushed her to the beach at 6th Street.
A Navy battalion from Fort Story brought a tow line from a tug to the shore and affixed it to the 6,000-pound buoy.
"It's like towing a car out of the dirt," said Josh Pfenning, who brought his 16-month-old son, Benjamin, to the Oceanfront to watch.
The tug dragged it into the shorebreak and to the cutter. They also removed another buoy from Sandbridge Beach.
"There she goes," Cangemi said. "Your 13-month journey is over."
They'll put her to work again soon.
"We'll get you fixed up and back on duty in no time," he said.