From the deck plate of the Bertholf: Alaska Patrol
Posted by PAC Sara Mooers, Thursday, May 12, 2011
As one of the Coast Guard’s newest assets, the national security cutters bring operational capabilities the fleet needs for mission success. The enlisted crew of the service’s first NSC continue to share their unique perspective on how the fleet’s newest class of cutters will perform in the world’s most challenging operating environments from the deck plate of the Bertholf. You can also check with Coast Guard Compass for the view from the wardroom, focusing on the capabilities of the Bertholf and the crew’s adaptability that make their missions a success.
Written by Petty Officer 1st Class Andrew Rothdeutsch, a machinery technician aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf.
I am assigned to the auxiliary division, “A-Gang”, which is part of the engineering department. Working in A-Gang is a challenging job; we have a wide array of machinery to maintain all throughout the ship. Some of the equipment that I maintain daily is the reverse osmosis fresh water making systems, ship fuel systems and the cutter’s small boats.
I also stand engineer officer of the watch. While on watch, I and a roving watch monitor all of the engineering spaces, propulsion and auxiliary machinery, and the heating, ventilation and air conditioning. We are also the initial response team for any type of engineering casualty such as an engine overspeed or a lube oil leak.
This past week I trained newer personnel by running them through basic engineering casualty control exercises which on the cutters we call BECCEs. I impose a “pretend” casualty, something like an engine or bearing issue, and grade that person on how they respond to the exercise. I make sure they take the appropriate steps to safely secure the machinery and prevent any further damage.
Sometimes the drills go smoothly because you’ve got a seasoned engineer who has done this a hundred times before on different Coast Guard ships and has probably seen the real thing. Then you have the new guys and things can get interesting. Not in a bad way, but in a way where we go from rigorous, fast paced evaluation mode to a slower paced, walk and talk through each step or training mode.
No matter how we run the BECCEs they are a great learning tool to prepare these engineers to properly handle all situations that may come up while they are on watch and in the engine room. This is one of my goals this patrol, as it would be any patrol, to train the newer personnel and pass on my knowledge with what I’ve learned and experienced these past two years. Training my fellow shipmates when I can will get them qualified at their watch stations and help them throughout their careers.
Some might think the cold waters of the Bering Sea would cause havoc for the machinery on board, but it’s actually not that bad. Our reverse osmosis units are making better water up here than they would on an EASTPAC (Eastern Pacific) patrol. During fuel transfers I have to run an extra heater or two in order to warm up the fuel going through the purifier. Usually the fuel is at a warm 85 degrees Fahrenheit down south not the chilly 40 degrees Fahrenheit that I’ve seen up here.
I guess with the colder weather, our generators do a little more work to supply power to keep the ship warm. So if there was a down side to the Bering Sea, it would be that it’s cold, but like ships before her, Bertholf was designed to handle it.
I am also a part of engineering casualty response team and am a primary responder in a damage control drill. During a recent drill we simulated a collision with a submerged object so I rushed to the bow thruster room to check for damage. As I’m climbing down the ladder to the space, I saw a “bulkhead damage” sign, and reported it to engineering control center. Since the water coming into the space would be near freezing, I could not make repairs, so I and two other responders had to leave and let the repair team come down and take care of it with the proper cold weather attire on. We ended up passing the drill.
This trip is actually my third time to the Bering Sea. I was stationed aboard the cutter Polar Star from 1999 to 2001 and deployed for two north trips. We actually went through the Bering Sea and on up to the north coast of Alaska, in the Arctic Ocean, making stops at Nome and Barrow. When we were that far north it was daylight 24 hours a day. In 2001, I remember being involved with the search and rescue of the fishing vessel Arctic Rose crew, which capsized and sank in the Bering Sea as we were making our way back down from Barrow. We ran search patterns just south of St Lawrence Island, going against 80 knot winds and 40 foot seas for four days straight. I was amazed when I saw six inches of ice build up on the ship’s bow and entire port side due to freezing sea spray.
I was also deployed for a south trip while on the Polar Star, making a six month voyage to Antarctica and back. There are a few differences I notice between the two cutters I have ventured with to the Bering Sea, the crew is about 60 sailors smaller on the Bertholf and the Bertholf doesn’t roll as heavy as the Polar Star. However, the seas are just as rough and it is just as cold as I remember it being 10 years ago.
Petty Officer 1st Class Andrew Rothdeutsch ensures the ship’s machinery contiues to run efficiently and the crew is trained to respond to engineering casualties. He has been stationed aboard the Bertholf for two years and has been in the Coast Guard for 12 years. He grew up in Moorpark, Calif., and is married and with three daughters.