Sycamore crew train for cold water survival in Cordova, Alaska

Sycamore survival swim

Crewmembers from the Coast Guard Cutter Sycamore swim 100 yards in 39-degree water in the harbor in Cordova, Alaska, Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012. The ship’s small boatcrew members participate in cold water survival training annually. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Katelyn Dacimo.

On a snowy 34-degree morning 19 crewmembers from Coast Guard Cutter Sycamore jumped into Cordova Harbor to perform their annual water survival exercise. The water temperature Dec. 12 was 39-degrees. Practicing water survival techniques is vital, particularly in Alaska where the water temperature is usually below 60 degrees regardless of the time of year.

“Performed during the winter, the survival swim prepares crew members for the shock of cold water entry, gives real world experience, and allows crew members to physically test their own equipment,” said Chief Warrant Officer Mike Brandt, the cutter’s boatswain and deck force supervisor.

All boat crew members across the Coast Guard must participate in a survival swim annually to maintain their qualification. Participants must don their survival suits and flotation devices, then enter the water. Once immersed, crewmembers practice the Heat Escape Lessening Position, demonstrate use of several survival equipment items including a signal mirror and distress signal light and then swim 100 yards.

The 225-foot Sycamore was built by Marinette Marine Corp. in Marinette, Wisc., and launched July 28, 2001. It is the second Coast Guard cutter to be named Sycamore. The ship was commissioned in Cordova, Alaska, July 2, 2002, replacing the 180-foot Sweetbrier which had been stationed in Cordova since 1976. The crew conduct aids to navigation, search and rescue, maritime law enforcement and maritime environmental protection missions throughout Alaska but has also conducted patrols looking for drug traffickers in the Pacific Ocean. In 2010 Sycamore was part of the fleet of Coast Guard vessels that responded to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

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