Saturday, October 23, 2010

Semper Paratus for change

We were so close, yet so far when it came to our potential port call in Providenya, Russia. The SHERMAN departed the fishing fleet to make our way across the Bering Sea, cross the International Date Line, and set foot onto Russian territory on the 25th of October. Unfortunately, Russia denied our clearance and we don’t have any rubles (the currency of Russia) onboard to pay for our stop. Luckily, we will still cross the International Date Line, giving the crewmembers who haven’t partaken in the line crossing ceremony a special opportunity! More to come with the line crossing ceremony in upcoming blogs!

The Deadliest Roll

As the small boat disembarked the SHERMAN, the boarding team had high hopes that the Deadliest Catch crew would be on the fishing vessel they were about to board. The Red King Crab season had just begun, and the SHERMAN was well into conducting multiple boardings of the crab boats in the Bering Sea. The small boat came alongside the fishing vessel wishing for a better course to embark the boarding team, but there was no such luck; they were the best conditions you could hope for a day like that. The only way to get onto fishing boats is by way of jacob’s ladder and this boat was no different. As SN Timberlake was making his way up the jacob’s ladder, he was about to crawl over the ledge onto the deck of the fishing vessel when the boat hit a large wave, causing him to launch into the air. Mid-air, SN Timberlake did a tuck and roll, and somehow landed on his feet, only to realize the entire thing was caught on tape! The Deadliest Catch crew was onboard and had the boarding team sign wavers to be featured on the show. The camera crew requested some of the boarding team members fake-arrest some of the camera men for outtakes, but the Coast Guard is not allowed to put handcuffs on a civilian just for play, so that was out of the question. Needless to say, that was a big morale booster for the crew and gave some much needed excitement for the fisheries boardings. So everyone keep your eyes peeled on the upcoming season for the SHERMAN and their boarding team to make their television debut!

The Life of a Boarding Officer

So far this patrol, I have done or have attempted to do eight boarding’s met by bad weather, and on two occasions I decided that the seas and swells combined with a sketchy boarding ladder were too dangerous to overcome. My most memorable boarding this patrol was also my first. Getting to the fishing boat was not very difficult, the seas and swells were welcoming and the cutter had closed to a comfortable distance. Once we were on board, I made my way to the bridge, followed closely by my fellow boarding officer, ME1 Kastrati, and my two boarding team members: ET1 Springsteen and ME3 Delosreyes. After I introduced myself, I had my boarding team members go below the decks and check to be sure the boat was safe for us to be on. After verifying there were no safety issues, we began our standard fishing vessel boarding. The boarding team members went about checking the vessel's safety equipment while ME1 and I began working on the administrative portion of the checklist. Between ME1 and I, we went through almost ten months of logbooks, examined permits and documentation, and questioned the captain. As I looked through the logbooks, I noticed that most of the fishing trips were completed without observers. Observers are contractors that are sanctioned by NOAA who ensure that fishing vessels are targeting the correct species of fish and that the vessels are operating safely. The vessel we were on was required to have 30% of their time monitored by an observer. When I did the math I figured out that this particular vessel had only 20% coverage. About the time that we figured that out, our team members reported that they had found expired distress signals and expired water-activated releases on the emergency beacons. With all of these three violations, I requested to the cutter to terminate the vessel's voyage. When a voyage is terminated, a vessel loses out on all of the money that could be made until the violations are corrected. The cutter radioed me back and informed me that District 17 declined to terminate and that I was to issue a ticket for the three violations. I issued the ticket (possibly a $10,000 fine) and left the boat. Overall, we had been on board for about 2 hours and had just given the most violations in one boarding in as long as I have been on the SHERMAN. Our first boarding brought our team together and proved our commitment to enforcing federal fishing laws on our seas.

-ENS Patrick Sullivan