Aids to Navigation Team Sitka demonstrates multi-mission capabilities

SITKA, Alaska – A Coast Guard Aids to Navigation Team Sitka 41-foot Utility Boat crew patrols Sitka Sound during the third opener of the 2011 Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery ready to respond for a maritime emergency April 4, 2011. The UTB crew served as a communications platform for a Coast Guard Auxiliary boat crew and a Ketchikan-based 25-foot Response Boat – Small crew during the fishery opener. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Lally.

 

A boatcrew from Aids to Navigation Team Sitka was preparing to get underway to conduct hoist training with Air Station Sitka Thursday evening when they were alerted that the 38-foot wood-hulled fishing vessel Fireweed had begun taking on water in 34 mph winds and five-foot seas. The vessel’s bilge pumps were struggling to keep up with the rate of water intrusion and the one person crew needed immediate assistance.

The boatcrew, trained in search and rescue and damage control, immediately switched from training mode to search and rescue and diverted to the Fireweed’s location near St. Lazaria Island, 14 miles from Sitka. Upon arrival they found the Fireweed crewman had regained control of the situation. The boatcrew then escorted the Fireweed back to Sitka. Coast Guard Air Station Sitka was in the process of launching a helicopter to respond but stood down after they were notified that the vessel was no longer in immediate distress. 

“This case illustrates the diverse nature of our units and their ability to adapt and respond to any situation regardless of their primary mission at the time,” said Capt. Scott Bornemann, commander, Coast Guard Sector Juneau. “ANT Sitka was one of several resources we used last weekend to search for the overdue vessel Kaitlin Rai, a search that resulted in two lives saved.”

The variety of units in Alaska allows the Coast Guard to layer resources and respond in different ways. While the air station was ready and available in this case the ANT boatcrew was up to the task. This layered approach becomes more difficult, however, the farther west and the more spread out resources become. The Coast Guard has vast distances and limited infrastructure challenges to overcome in its efforts to keep mariners safe in Alaska.

“Our cutters, aircraft and command centers are staffed around the clock  and ensure that we are always ready to respond to emergency situations,” said Bornemann.
ANT Sitka services 105 beacons, lighted and un-lighted, throughout Southeast Alaska ranging from lighthouses to day boards perched precariously on cliff-sides. A majority of the beacons are serviced with the assistance of Air Station Sitka. In addition they use a small boat to reach some aids and this vessel serves as training platform for the air station to practice hoist operations, a skill used regularly to conduct rescues of mariners in distress.

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