Two different days

[from the stabenow.com vaults, first posted February 18, 2004]

What a difference a day makes.

sunrise on the Alex Haley 2/17/04

Yesterday we worked with another cutter, testing an electronic positioning system that will help the Coast Guard prove cases in court, which required ten hours of steaming back and forth, pinging the other ship on radar and recording both positions every two minutes.

It was a gorgeous day, sunshine, calm winds, mild swell, blue-white Aleutian Islands floating to the southeast on a deep blue sea. It would be perfect if we were launching the helo for a SAR case or doing boardings, but no. This is also a part of the job, though, so the crew sucks it up and gets to work.

Today was a light-year in the opposite direction. It’s partly cloudy and the wind has picked up. I go up to the bridge at dawn and we are literally surrounded by the lights of fishing vessels. Ops is calling one vessel after another, identifying boarding opportunities. He finds two, both roughly 165-footers fishing Pacific cod. By 9am we’ve got the starboard small boat in the water and are loading our first BT, aka Team Alpha. They board the first F/V (there is some very nice boat handling going on here which is a joy to witness) and come back to pick up Team Bravo and take them to the second F/V.

An ATON (aid to navigation) report comes in about a broken navigation light about 160 miles away. They want us to see what’s wrong with it and if we can fix it and if not to find out what it will take to fix it. Our aviators are good to go but the Captain is more cautious. What if a SAR case comes in? In the end, in the Coast Guard spirit of “We can do it” (the motto of the USCG is semper paratus, always ready), he gives the go, we retract the hangar, roll out the helo, and unfold the rotors.

In the meantime Team Alpha calls in and says they are go for pickup so we send our small boat over to pick them up, and while we’re doing that Team Bravo calls in for pickup. The small boat brings back Team Alpha and goes and gets Team Bravo. We hoist the small boat back on board and pretty much the instant it hits the cradle the conn brings the ship onto a flight course (wind coming across the port bow) and we launch the helo, as not one but both skippers of the boarded vessels call the ship to compliment us on the professionalism of our boarding teams.

This all happened before lunch.

Later I say to Ltjg. Jansen, boarding officer for Team Alpha, “Two days could hardly be more different.” He says, “After a while they kind of blur together and start looking the same.”

I look at him like he’s an alien from another planet and reply, “Well, it’s a good thing you’ve got me on board to tell you they aren’t.”

The captain, reading over this posting to the blog, says with what I believe is sincere puzzlement, “Gosh, we were busy.”

Well. Yeah.


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