This summer has been amazing. I spent the first half in Washington, D.C., and the second half in Newport, Rhode Island (life could be a lot worse, but I’m just happy that I haven’t been assigned to the middle of nowhere in Texas or Alaska!)
Yesterday marked the end of my second week aboard CGC Juniper, a 225-foot oceangoing buoy tender home-ported in Newport. I reported aboard in the middle of June on a Saturday, had two days to hang out with friends and get used to living on a boat, and then Monday hit.
That first Monday morning, we got underway at 0800 for a full week of buoy-tending. I was so overwhelmed at first: I didn’t know where anything was, or how anything worked! I definitely felt like a fish out of water. I slowly got my feet underneath me and figured out shipboard life, which was good, because I didn’t have much time for anything else after standing watch on the bridge for 12 hours a day! I love being on the bridge though. You can see so much, and I really like how the junior officers get a lot of practice steering the ship. One of my classmates and I got the opportunity to practice our ship-handling skills during man overboard (MOB) drills; it was cool to take something we’ve practiced on the Thames River in Nautical Science lab classes and apply it to “the real Coast Guard.” MOB drills are much easier when you have thrusters in your bow and stern that can move the ship sideways! (I’m really happy though that my classmate Justin Davis and I didn’t “disqualify” in the MOB contest, unlike some of the others!)
My first week came to an interesting close when we almost hit a submarine outside of New London, and then saved a sea turtle! We had a really close call with a submarine on the surface as it was transiting toward New London, and Juniper was returning to Newport. The bridge team hadn’t realized until the last minute that the small black dot near the water was actually a submarine: our commanding officer ordered emergency backing bell (emergency astern) to avoid a collision at sea. That was scary but really cool! Just two hours later, we saw a leatherback sea turtle tangled in fishing line. We deployed our small boat and helped untangle the sea turtle. The feeling of helping a helpless sea turtle is unparalleled!
My second week aboard Juniper was just as busy as my first. I spent the week working on the deck, with the non-rates who maintain the buoys that Juniper services. Buoy tending is dirty work, but I enjoy it. I had the opportunity to “shoot the tube:” crawl inside a hallow whistle buoy to scrape the marine life out of it, but I panicked when I got inside the tube. I hope we have another whistle buoy to service before I leave, so I can conquer my fear! I have a newfound respect for all the work and dirty stuff the “deckies” (the non-rates in the deck department) do. I look forward to seeing what the next week brings!
I will write more about what I learn in a later entry. Until then, as always, contact me at Peter.M.Driscoll@uscga.edu if you have any questions or comments. Finally, having celebrated my three-year anniversary of R-Day last Friday, I want to wish the incoming Class of 2018 the best of luck! I hope to see all of you in the fall!
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