Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton Arctic Patrol – Aug. 31, 2008

Journal Entry – Aug. 31, 2008 – Arctic Ocean

Position: Arctic Sea, 66-33.3N, 168-20.4W

Weather: Winds: NE 7kts. Temp: 45 F. Sea Temp: 48 F. Seas/Swells: 4 foot.

Coast Guard Cutter Hamilton Arctic Patrol

Crew Journal:

WHEC Hamilton was about to make Coast Guard History as I finished the evening the meal and headed towards the Armory. Just as I got comfortable in my favorite chair the bridge began to pipe “Now set the LE Bill, set the LE Bill. Blue Team on Deck, Boarding Team consists of LTJG Brook, ENS Edes, CWO Haldeman, GM1 Schoknecht, and GM1 Wilson.” Immediately GM1 Schoknecht and I raced up to the LE Staging Area, donned our MSD-900s, and waited to be issued our Law Enforcement Gear. At first it seemed like a typical boarding that presented no particular challenges to our highly experienced boarding team. Some of the team members have conducted hundreds of boardings pertaining to various types of CG missions such as Fisheries Enforcement, Recreational Boating Safety, and Drug Interdiction. “This is different. You are making history Wilson. No Coast Guard Cutter has done a Law Enforcement Boarding in the Artic since the Cutter Bear of the Revenue Cutter Service,” CWO Haldeman said. As things started to sink in about all the hype, I realized we might be making history but really this was no different than any other time we go out. You’ve got to stay focused, fall back on your training, and make the mission happen.

As I headed down the Jacob’s ladder into the Over the Horizon Small Boat I got a better idea of what the sea condition was actually like. It was sloppy with four to seven foot waves, and it goes with out saying that the water is cold up here. Finally, we were away. BM1 Young, the Coxswain, raced the team over to the vessel Geraldine home ported out of Alameda, CA. Once on scene we realized the 47 foot vessel was too small for the whole team to embark. LTJG Brook, Boarding Officer, made the call and instructed the team that the Assistant Boarding Officer, ENS Edes, and I would be the only ones to go over. The Coxswain skillfully pulled our small boat along side. In a matter of seconds all three of us were over the rail safely. “It would have been something you would have seen in an action movie like Bad Boys,” said GM1 Schoknecht. Once onboard we greeted the skipper and crew of the Geraldine. As the BO and ABO started with all the formalities I began to climb down into the engine room and commence the Initial Safety Inspection. Both Engines were immaculate, and there was barely any water in the bilge. I was impressed. It was almost like the boat had never left port before. By now the skipper informed LTJG Brook and ENS Edes of his recent engine troubles, particularly a possible governor malfunction. The governor malfunction prevented the vessel Geraldine from coming down to idle speed by freezing the throttle controls. Quickly, LTJG Brook called over to the Cutter asking for assistance. Hamilton answered the call and sent over a highly experienced small boat mechanic, MK2 Angulo. As the small boat raced back and fourth between the Cutter and vessel Geraldine, the boarding team continued with the boarding. I started to check for all required safety gear, immersion suits, pyrotechnics, and life rafts to ensure the vessel would be able to respond to any type of emergency. As we wrapped things up, MK2 Angulo arrived on scene. He spoke with the skipper and vessel’s engineer to see if we could offer assistance. Of course MK2 Angulo decided to climb down into the engine room and get a better look at the problem. I was impressed as I tried to offer him a hand. MK2 had a vast knowledge of the vessel’s configuration as he inspected the governor malfunction thoroughly. It felt like a hundred degrees down there and with the sea condition being less than tolerable, MK2 struggled but continued on. “That is what we are out here to do. Help people!” said ENS Edes. Finally, after MK2 completed his inspection, and offered the vessel engineer on how to correct the malfunction. This problem was deemed not as threatening as it first appeared and that they could fix it at their next port of call, Nome. The call was made to disembark the vessel. Prior to leaving, the skipper and all crewmembers thanked us for the help and praised us for our service to our Country. And with that, the first ever CG law enforcement boarding of a vessel in the Arctic Ocean by a modern High Endurance Cutter came to an end.

This is what makes it all worth while, the sheer fact that we go out to help others. That to me is what the Coast Guard was founded upon, and that is the reason why I wake up every morning to do the mission to my highest ability.

Article written by:

GM1 Joshua G. Wilson

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