Seeking adventure, work on a 110-foot cutter

JUNEAU, Alaska – Seaman Frank John Iannazzo-Simmons, a deck hand aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Liberty, demonstrates the proper technique for plotting a position on a chart while the cutter is moored in Auke Bay April 20, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst.

JUNEAU, Alaska – Seaman Frank John Iannazzo-Simmons, a deck hand aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Liberty, demonstrates the proper technique for plotting a position on a chart while the cutter is moored in Auke Bay April 20, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst.

Imagine yourself on a 110-foot steel vessel being tossed about by the waves of Alaska’s frigid waters and you still have to complete tasks, stand watches, keep track of vessel movements and keep a vigil lookout for anything that could potentially harm the vessel.

This is what two Coast Guardsmen stationed aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Liberty in Juneau, Alaska, get to experience for their first tour in the Coast Guard. Ensign David Boyle, operations officer of the cutter Liberty, and Seaman Frank John Iannazzo-Simmons, a deck hand aboard the cutter, work with 15 other crewmembers to patrol the waters of Southeast Alaska.

The crewmen aboard a 110-foot patrol boat have to work closely every day relying on each other.

“Life aboard a 110-foot cutter has its own set of unique challenges for every crewmember,” said Boyle. “Many of us are tasked with things that our counterparts on larger cutters would not be. For example our seamen are expected to be qualified boarding team members, cutter surface rescue swimmers, small boat crewmen, and navigators of the watch, all while still performing their other duties.”

Iannazzo-Simmons and his fellow seaman have quite a hefty task list they are expected to keep up with aside from the duties in the cutter’s deck department.

“We’ve been tasked with such things as splicing line, painting the cutter, maintaining rescue and survival gear, editing track lines on our navigation system and charts and cleaning the cutter,” said Iannazzo-Simmons.

Both Boyle and Iannazzo-Simmons agree the small size of the crew has its good and bad days. Both said having a small crew helps with camaraderie, but when one person is not able to deploy then the crew is stretched thin.

“Having a single member absent for a patrol puts a lot more stress on the rest of the crew because they are filling a valuable position on the cutter,” said Boyle. “With one person absent for a patrol, other members are forced to step up and fill that person’s position on top of their other duties.”

Boyle and Iannazzo-Simmons both agree that despite the unpredictable recall schedule and deployments, the experience of life aboard a 110-foot cutter is worth it.

A rich history of going to sea and serving our country surround the men and women of the Coast Guard. Boyle and Iannazzo-Simmons get to be a part of that history by serving on one of the Coast Guard’s 41 110-foot island class patrol boats.

“The many tasks a crewman receives on the cutter both underway and in port can be rough on a person,” said Iannazzo-Simmons. “I’ve enjoyed my time here and would recommend to anyone who enjoys an adventure and doesn’t mind hard work to spend it on a 110-foot cutter, because it’s an experience that not many people receive.”