USCGC Farallon trades tropical beaches for Arctic breezes
Posted by PA3 Meredith Manning, Tuesday, July 14, 2015
After more than 9,000 miles and 46 days underway, the 110-foot Coast Guard Cutter Farallon finally arrived at its new homeport in Valdez, Alaska, July 13, 2015.
Crewmembers aboard the Farallon said goodbye to their family members and left San Juan, Puerto Rico, May 27th to deliver the cutter to Valdez where it replaces the Coast Guard Long Island. Through five foreign nations and a hurricane, they experienced exotic locales and danger on the high seas.
The Farallon’s port calls included Cartagena, Columbia, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico and Bocas Del Toro, Panama, where the crew had the opportunity to explore beautiful beaches and go zip lining through the rain forest.
“It was great experiencing other cultures and places and I was able to do it with an awesome crew,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Julio Ruiz, an engineer on the Farallon.
It was during their transit through the Panama Canal the night of June 6 that the Farallon crew passed the Cutter Long Island, as it transited to the Atlantic Ocean. Ordinarily, the occasion of two cutters passing one another would bring both crews onto the decks to render honors to one another. However, navigating the canal at night required careful attention and both crews put safety first while making the challenging trip.
The crew met another challenge on the way to Cabo San Lucas when they encountered Hurricane Carlos. The storm created 15-foot seas and 50-mph winds that tested the abilities of the crew and prepared the cutter for the kind of weather it might encounter in Alaska.
“Those were the worst seas I think we have seen in my year aboard the Farallon,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Nathaniel O’Connell, operations petty officer.
While the first half of the trip brought on some unique challenges and enjoyable foreign port calls, pulling in to San Diego was especially rewarding for the crew as it represented being back in the United States. Moments after the ship moored at Point Loma Naval Base in San Diego, crewmembers immediately called loved ones for the first time in almost a month.
After reconnecting with loved ones in San Diego, the crew made their way north to San Francisco where they said goodbye to their commanding officer, Lt. Nolan Cain, during a change of command ceremony. His departure represented the first of many to come for the San Juan-based crew. With a new commanding officer, Lt. Lee K. Crusius, the Farallon continued the transit north to Valdez.
Following port calls in Victoria, B.C., and Ketchikan, Alaska, the Farallon crew began the final leg of their transit. As the cutter eased into the Gulf of Alaska, the weather was calm and welcoming, a huge relief to the crew after the challenging sojourn. As the cutter approached the Valdez Narrows, Seaman Mathew Huber raised the National Ensign on the mast signifying that the Farallon had made it to Valdez.
“It was definitely a long transit and a learning experience for me, but I am honored to have been part of this homeport shift and this crew,” said Ensign John Ramirez, operations officer aboard the Farallon. “Over the past 46 days we came together as a family and I would serve with any of these guys again. Not many ensigns can say they sailed a ‘110’ from Puerto Rico to Alaska.”
Over the next few days, Farallon crewmembers will begin departing to their new units as the Long Island crew takes charge of the new Valdez cutter. After a 30-year career serving the Coast Guard’s Seventh District in conducting counter drug and alien-migrant operations, the Farallon will transition to serve the Seventeenth District with a different crew. She is ready to answer the call of the nation, as she had done since she was commissioned in 1986.