First Day Underway

[from the stabenow.com vaults, 2007]

Friday, March 16

Hello Danamaniacs, Coasties, friends and family! Once again I write from on board a Coast Guard cutter underway. Man, I love my job.

Last time it was 16 days in the Bering Sea on board the USCG cutter Alex Haley, a 282-foot medium endurance cutter out of Kodiak. This time I’m on board the USCG cutter Munro, 378 feet long with a 42 foot beam, two diesel engines, two turbine engines, and a cruising speed, depending on how many of which are on line at the time, 12 to 27 knots. She carries 211,000 gallons of fuel and she can go 14,000 nautical miles before the tank runs dry. So, if we wanted, we could go to Athens, Greece, and have 8,000 nautical miles of fuel left over. We’re not going to Athens, but I’m just saying. I like Greek food.

All I’m allowed to say at present about our destination is that it will be in the Eastern Pacific. The Coast Guard’s primary mission is always homeland security, but we’re also tasked with drug interdiction on this patrol, and you know that at the first hint of a Mayday the Coastie SAR reflex will kick in and we’ll be saving lives, too.

We undocked from Pier 6 at the San Diego Naval Station at about 10am to dock down channel at the fuel pier to load up go juice. (CWO Tony Parker told me yesterday that one refueling can cost as much as $378,000. And I whine when I fill up my car.) The San Diego channel is very narrow (from the starboardside bridge wing you could see the red and green channel buoys looking both forward and aft just by turning your head. There’s an eek factor for you.). The amount of traffic in the channel made it look like the main runway at Chicago OHare, only with water–jet skis, sailboats, tugboats, fishing boats, skiffs, harbormaster craft, a Navy warship, a container ship, passenger ferries, tour boats, a flat-bottomed Navy crane boat. We passed the warship portside to portside, both crews mustering to salute.

the Medal of Honor stars

Over the lookout station above the bridge, there is a blue cloth lashed to the railing. There is a pattern of stars on it. I asked XO Rothchild what the stars represented, a constellation perhaps? No, he said, it is the pattern of the Medal of Honor. The Munro is named for Signalman First Class Douglas Munro, the only Coastie ever awarded the Medal of Honor. He earned it for doing what the Coast Guard does best, search and rescue, only this SAR was offshore of Guadalcanal, drawing enemy fire from US Marines pinned down on the beach . He died in that action. He was 23.

I went up on the foredeck to take a photo, and bagged four gunners mates in the bargain, Josh, Josh, Tim and Greg the Chief. Two of them are younger than Doug Munro was.

stars and gunnies

Yesterday we took on supplies, some delivered on pallets, others carried on board in grocery bags. The captain buys frozen pizzas six at a time (any brand except Tombstone) and I watched half a dozen Coasties loading twelve-packs of soft drinks on board, and it took them several trips. You’d be forgiven for thinking that they’re neither fed nor watered on board, but I remember from working in the North Slope oil fields how important comfort food is to people who are away from home for long periods of time. No pinto beans on the serving line was pretty much cause for riot. This crew is going to be on patrol for three months.

I limited my shopping to Dramamine and sunblock, but now I’m kinda wishing I’d stocked up on good chocolate myself, and I’m only on board for three and a half weeks.


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9 thoughts on “First Day Underway

  1. Lynne says:

    I would give my left nut, if I had a left nut, to be aboard USCG cutter Munro right now. Not even factoring in the Coast Guard hunk appeal, being aboard a vessel doing the job that the Coast Guard does would be a humbling and amazing experience. Three cheers for the US Coast Guard!

    Please blog as often and as long as you can. If your shipmates allow you to share personal notes about themselves, your readers would love to hear details of what life is like during a lengthy patrol. You know, the daily routine, as well as exciting drug interdictions (is there a better name for that?) and Search & Rescue action. And I’d like to hear a little bit about what it’s like to stand night watch repeatedly, with emphasis on that moment when everything is just floating along normally, then -BAM! Called to action in a heartbeat. Thanks.

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  2. Pati, Carmel & Q says:

    Greeting from Florida. Enjoyed your first posting. Mom looks great!! Mom is real impressed with your blog. Q & I found the nightlights!! They are awesome. We love them. It is unseasonably cold here today. Go fiture!!

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  3. For Lynne–I imagine some monitoring of the night watch will be involved. I hung out a little on the bridge of the Alex Haley on night watch. I remember once the galley delivered hot chocolate chip cookies at midnight. On this ship we have a Greek FSCS who is cooking Greek on Tuesday night. Life is extremely good.

    For Pati–Loving it that Carmen is looking good. But then when doesn’t she?

    For Julie–Ltjg. Adrian Harris was OD for our undocking in San Diego and for getting us underway, and there are many other women on board, so I’d guess yes.

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  4. SAM says:

    Will you be seeing the coasties of the Munro in the engine room? the ones who keep the ship afloat.According to Captain Lloyd without them this mission is impossible. Take time to acknowledge the engineering crew of the Munro.Also ask them how much sleep they get underway.Thanks, SAM

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  5. My son is one of the crew serving proudly on the Munro, myself as well as his family are very excited to read your accounts of the Coasties’ activities. Please give us all the details of the various activities. I’ld love to know what the Coasties do for fun in their “down time”, Say hello to Malibu Cortese from his family. Susan Cortese of Oxnard, Ca.

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  6. Marv Joiner says:

    Hello Dana,

    See ya mentioning a fellow name CWO Tony Parker. He is a long lost friend of mine. Do you know his whereabouts or contact?

    Marv

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  7. Hi, Marv–

    I was on Munro in 2007, which is the last time I saw Tony. Far as I know he is still in the US Coast Guard, and he was when I knew him stationed in Kodiak.

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