>Another day on the CGC Alex Haley

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16 OCT:

Wow, what a bumpy ride last night. The weather forecasters were right-on with what they told us to expect as we encountered 12-15 foot seas on the beam (side of the ship), and an occasional 20 footer that felt like a big pot hole. Big waves and swells hitting the side of the ship cause us to roll a great deal and is just uncomfortable for everyone. When we left Dutch we were traveling with seven crab boats, but as the seas picked up four of them turned toward the sheltered waters of Akutan Bay. I wish they all would’ve turned because we would’ve gladly joined them. We’re through the worst of it now and the seas have come down, though I doubt anyone slept last night; I didn’t.

Here’s what’s going on today:

1000 – We set flight quarters to refuel our helicopter that was checking out all of the fishing vessels to ensure they were safe and to show the CG flag so the fishing fleet would know that
we are out here if they need our help. We sent the helo to Cold Bay two days ago, instead of carrying them in our hangar, as we left Dutch Harbor because we knew rough weather was ahead of us and we wanted to ensure that they would be able to launch if they were needed for a SAR case or medical evacuation from one the fishing boats. Typically, we can launch the helo up to a max of about 10-foot seas and 30 knots of wind; we certainly exceeded that last night, so it was the right call to move them ashore.

1050 – The helo was late arriving overhead, but they finally showed up and refuel then headed out to identify vessels for us and another CG cutter, the ACUSHNET. ACUSHNET, the oldest cutter in the fleet, is home ported in Ketchikan, AK and is conducting part of her patrol out here with us in the Bering Sea. We are always glad to see her and are looking forward to a possible joint training opportunity together next week.

1200 – Now set the boarding bill: We came across the F/V Provider, home ported in Kodiak, and hasn’t been boarded in over seven years. Seas continue to settle and are now down to about 8-feet, which is very manageable for us.

1445 – Boarding team returns. This boarding took a little over two hours to complete. I don’t know how that compares to other cutters but this seems to be our average for a fishing vessel this size. Much of the time is spent inspecting the ship’s logs and their safety equipment. On a crabber we don’t get to inspect their catch because it all goes into a holding tank that keep the crabs alive until they reach the processor plant ashore, so we can’t inspect to see if their catch is of legal size. Perhaps the biggest consumption of a boarding officer’s time is spent educating the boat’s captain on proper log keeping. Alaska fisheries are the most complicated in the U.S. and the rules change frequently. As was the case with the F/V Provider, they hadn’t been boarded at sea in over 7-years and there were problems with his logs. When we find errors we take the time to explain what errors were found then try to help them correct them if possible so that no violations (with fines) are assessed.

1500 – MATH 105 on the mess deck, National Grad School in the wardroom. Our underway classes continue. Both classes are more than half way competed and our students are doing well, though there were a lot of tired eyes in the classrooms.

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Today’s pictures show our boarding of the fishing vessel Provider. The first three pictures show various angles of the boat. While the seas may not appear too tough, the swells are running at about 8-feet. These swells cause the boat to pitch and roll considerably and make boarding it difficult. In the case of this crab boat they also have many pots on deck (not really pots but square metal cages that the crabs crawl into to get to the bait). As you can see in the pictures this boat has a lot of pots on deck. This is because it is the first full day of the season and he hasn’t had time to put them in the water yet. With all of these pots on deck the boarding team has to find a way to get to the wheel house to meet the captain. There is a narrow access among the pots for the crew to use but our boarding team, with all of their gear on, couldn’t squeeze trough; so it’s up and over. In the second to last picture you can see Ensign David Gilbert and Ensign Joseph Walton walking across the tops of the pots. ENS Walton is in the last picture by himself. You can see a lot in his picture. You can see how much gear our boarding teams wear and you can see how the posts are stacked, then add in a rolling sea and you can see that keeping your balance is challenging at best. These young guys do a great job!

Commander Jones

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