Lessons for the Day

[from the stabenow.com vaults, 2007]

March 17

A little before nine a.m. I felt the ship turn hard right rudder, so I went up to the bridge. We spotted a fishing boat on the radar. The captain says that drug smugglers often use fishing boats as mother ships for go fasts. The go fasts will bring the drugs out to the mother ship, the mother ship will ship them north, where another go fast will pick up the drugs and bring them ashore. Or the mother ship will act as a refueler. Or any one of a number of possible combinations.

Ops (operations officer LT James Terrell) confers with Captain Lloyd. The vessel hasn’t answered our hail but we’ve seen buoys in the water, they’ve got pots on deck and a line out. The vessel is a legitimate fishing vessel. We come down its starboard hull at a safe distance so our wake won’t disturb their work (we’re running the port turbine and making 22 knots) and peel off. “Just exercising our muscles,” the captain says.

As the captain points out, while we were querying the fishing boat, the majority of the crew was doing a field day, which means deep cleaning the ship (everywhere you looked, including the bridge where the action was taking place, there were people with whisk brooms, dust pans, rags and bottles of cleaning fluid). It’s a regular Saturday morning chore, which (barring emergencies) is a light work day when the regular crew is off.

My very own door.

AT 1400 Ltjg. Kevin Beaudoin, aka Weps which is short for Weapons Officer, holds a briefing on Alien Migration Interdiction Operations, or what we do if we pick up a boatload of migrants. He has issued a briefing memo for all attending, which is everyone from the EO (Engineer Officer LT. Todd Raybon) to the food service officer (FSCS George Minos). Due to what sounds like long experience the Coasties have a plan for every possible contingency, and as Captain Lloyd says, that will leave them free to deal with the unexpected emergencies that invariably crop up. Engineering provides a place to poop, pee and shower. The FSO provides three meals a day. The doc (Chief Eugene Mason) puts three people on call for medical emergencies. The LEO (Law Enforcement Officer LTJG John Holderman) provides security and records events with film, digital and video cameras.

They even go into the details of how to get babies on board, on a boat via the hoist versus handing up over the side. Nix on the latter, too dangerous, and they can turn the boat around quick enough if they have a lot of migrants to board. Chief Marc Blecman, in charge of providing clothing and blankets (in line at breakfast my first day on board he introduced himself as “the head maid”), makes a good point—after migrants have been floating around for three weeks, eating bad food and getting no exercise, none of them are going to be in any shape to climb a jacob’s ladder. It is decided that the best bet for all around safety will be a combination of jacob’s ladder and accomodation ladder. The migrants’ meals are required to be bland so as not to overload the sanitation measures. Senior Chief Minos says we have 500 pounds of red beans and rice on board, so no worries anyone is going hungry.

It’s like listening to someone set up a small, temporary town. Kinda not wondering anymore why the Coast Guard was the best thing that happened to New Orleans after Katrina (see also here). The discussion bleeds over a little bit into what happens if we pick up detainees, which is the official term for suspected drug smugglers. Mostly we’ll be dealing with much smaller numbers, as go fasts only hold about six people. A lot less stress on personnel and supplies but a lot more attention paid to legalities.

They’ll be doing a walk through of the AMIO process later in the week. I get to be a migrant. I am humbled by the honor.

CWO Jimmy Olson at the ready

That afternoon the bridge pipes steel beach, and I go aft to find half a dozen lines in the water and hamburgers on the grill. This is my kind of ship.

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Dana View All →

Author and founder of Storyknife.org.

11 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Dana, thank you for the wonderful narrative you are providing from the CGC Munro. Between Capt. Lloyd’s ‘Family Grams’ and your blog, we feel very connected to the cutter and her crew even though we are 3k+ miles away. Our son Christopher is making his second patrol, and has already seen and done more than his dad did during his 20 year CG career. We are very proud of him! If you happen to run into him during your daily routine, let him know that our Rangers (the NY hockey club variety) looked really impressive against Boston. The rookies were remarkable. Thanks again for doing what you do. We look forward to reading future posts.


    Chris & Terri

  2. Dear Dana, It is just wonderful to read your life aboard ship and see our SON’s name in print. I have read your last book and several of the earlier ones. Thanks so much for you insight. The hambergers sounded good. Life aboard a boat is great isn’t?

  3. this is great!! I can’t wait to read more of your stay on the ship, our son is also on the utter Munro
    SN Vazquez-Vidal David, can’t be more proud him.

  4. I am a Coastie “MOM” and I agree with Chris & Terri, I appreciate hearing a little something about what the crew is doing on a day to day basis. It was Greg’s B-Day on St. Pat’s Day and I missed him. Thanks for giving us a look into thier lives.

  5. Hi Dana, his name is SN Chris Susalis. Believe he is working with the Bosn Mates in navigation.


    Chris & Terri

  6. Dana, Thanks so-o much for being our eyes and giving us the best insight on our son’s first duty, the Munro! Between the Capt.’s “family grams” and your narratives…I’m beside myself! You’ve given us the most awesome gift of being able to experience life on the cutter concurrently with our son. {though, he’s probably working a lot harder!}Best of luck with your journal & sounds like you’ll have a great time. Can’t wait to read your books! Our son is part of the Engineering dept., J. Ramirez :] If you get a chance, give him a BIG “PROUD OF YOU” Hug from TX! THANKS- Coastie Parents

  7. 3/21/07
    Dana, Were you able to find my son, Dominic Cortese AKA Malibu Cortese and see what he is doing in his “down time”? Best of luck on your adventure!
    Susan & family

  8. For Louise — Hello, again! Delighted to have you along for another virtual ride.

    For Susan — Stay tuned.

    For Lou and Mondo — Ditto.

    And thanks to everyone for the virtual ridealong. Makes me feel like I’m contributing something to the patrol.

  9. Dana we are like the other parents that have posted comments, very appreciative of your daily blogs. Our son Carson Russell is aboard the cutter, and we search your blogs and pics to see if he is in the events of the day. His grandparents and other family members read your page and call often to see if we have read the blog of the day.
    It is disappointing that you are only on there for a limited time, but we will always treasure the memories that you have provided to us and many other parents.

    Thanks for all that you have posted.
    Dean and Ronda Russell the proud parents of OS3 Carson Russll.

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