Cutter crew completes patrol, training in Alaska winter conditions

CGC Long Island in Valdez

The Coast Guard Cutter Long Island is moored at the pier Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012, in Valdez, Alaska. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The Coast Guard Cutter Long Island, homeported in Valdez, is one of seven 110-foot Island Class patrol boats stationed throughout Alaska. The crews’ are typically underway for a total of 185 days a year and their primary missions include search and rescue and law enforcement. Most recently the crew returned home from a successful six-day patrol through Prince William Sound, one of the richest fishing grounds and most environmentally sensitive areas in the nation.

The patrol, covering 460 miles, was a standard living marine resource enforcement patrol, during which the cutter crew conducted fisheries boardings and surveyed Stellar sea lion rookeries and haul outs to ensure all commercial fishermen were operating safely and in compliance with federal regulations. The boardings conducted were successful and no violations were found.

“I really enjoy being on a patrol boat in Alaska because of the variety of missions and challenges associated with an extreme climate,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Jordan Everitt, a machinery technician aboard Long Island.

Preparing for surface swimmer ops

Petty Officer 2nd Class Luke Berghuis, a boatswain’s mate aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Long Island, prepares to enter the water in Hogg Bay, Prince William Sound, Alaska, for surface rescue swimmer training Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Fishing operations in Prince William Sound and the Gulf of Alaska are slower the last three months of the year, according to Lt. Adam Disque, commanding officer aboard Long Island, so the crew uses this time to conduct training and maintain their underway proficiency.

“The winter is a great time for us to get caught up on some training,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Luke Berghuis, a boatswain’s mate aboard Long Island. “Summer in Alaska is very busy operationally because it is so short. In the winter, our training teams come up with some remarkable ways to keep us guessing at what drills are coming our way. We concentrate on the situations we are most likely to encounter as we operate. This includes search and rescue, law enforcement, medical training along with our internal emergencies such as fighting fires and man overboard.”

Surface swimmer ops

Petty Officer 2nd Class Luke Berghuis, a boatswain’s mate aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Long Island, conducts surface rescue swimmer training in Hogg Bay, Prince William Sound, Alaska, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

The winter months force the crew to deal with extreme cold, reduced daylight hours, ice and debris in the water coupled with high winds and heavy seas. The quickly changing conditions can be a challenge. In September the cutter responded to a search and rescue case to rescue hunters stranded on an island in a severe storm. The storm brought 60 to 70 mph winds and 13-foot seas pushing the limits of the cutter’s operating parameters. A Coast Guard helicopter forward deployed to Cordova from Kodiak was able to locate and transport the hunters to safety and the Long Island returned to port.

“The crew has done a tremendous job in the most extreme conditions,” said Lt. j.g. Kyle Schaffner, executive officer aboard Long Island. “Our summers are spent doing plenty of boardings and traveling across a huge area of responsibility. Our winters are spent battling heavy seas, long nights, mountains of snow, and high winds. For this, we get the opportunity to patrol some of the world’s most unbelievably pristine and unique environments. I don’t think any of us would trade it. It’s truly a great experience.”

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