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Posts Tagged ‘USCG’

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We first got to know Chris Branning when he was barely out of diapers as part of Disney’s Morning Light program, and as a former shipmate of Mr. Clean (poor kid – ed)), and as he’s gone from grommet to sought-after offshore navigator to helicopter rescue pilot, we’ve seen what an incredible young man he has become. And when Charlie and Mark from Team Alvimedica brought him aboard their Volvo 65 during tryouts, we were extremely excited to see it – and not for Branning’s sake.

We see the US-skippered Alvimedica as having a genuine chance of really impacting the sport’s perception here in America, and Branning would make that about a hundred times easier.  Branning is the anti-yachtie.  He’s soft-spoken but extremely bright, wears his heart on his sleeve, is tall and good-looking without being intimidating, and he just oozes honesty and character.  In other words, he’s a media dream.  Add to that the fact that his job as pilot of a USCG Search-and-Rescue chopper makes him one of the only human beings on Earth that this divided America unanimously loves; the most ignorant redneck fisherman on the Florida panhandle is just as much of a fan of USCG rescue pilots as a Wall Street investment banker sailing his Concordia out of the NYYC.

Which makes this video all that more poignant, because no matter how much we wish it was, is isn’t a crew profile.  Rather, longtime SA videographer and now VOR moviemaker Sam Greenfield put this movie together to show us that best intentions are not always enough, and that life can sometimes get in the way of the perfect opportunity; thanks to his demanding job saving lives, Branning will be watching this VOR from afar.

As you’d expect from a guy of his character, Branning is still 100% supportive of his friends, and he sent a few words over to share his thoughts on what they’ve done:

“I think it will take years before what the sailing world realizes what Mark and Charlie have done. For sailing to progress as a commercially viable sport, to compete against the mainstream sports especially in the USA, the process of fund sourcing had to shift. Sailing doesn’t need another watch captain, skipper, rigger, or trimmer; though we greatly appreciate the talents of those roles. Sailing needs “board-room” sailors. Educated, professional sailors who can take off the foul weather gear, put on a suit and walk into the board room to pitch, present, argue, defend, convince, cajole, and earn the money to go sailing at the highest level. That is what our sport needs. Few people can fathom the amount of work and risk that takes.  Charlie and Mark, in their mid-twenties, did just that.

“They brought another boat to the starting line of the Volvo Ocean Race, and in the process, they paved the path for younger sailors to do the same.  Did they change the sport forever?  It’s too early to know that.  But they did something no one has ever done here, and I salute them for it.”


August 27th, 2014 by admin

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Screen Shot 2014-08-27 at 9.56.00 AMUPDATE:  The US Fifth Fleet Public Affairs Office got in touch with us on Thursday morning to confirm that indeed an Iranian motorized dhow was the boat fired on.  Not a sailboat.  And for the 200 millionth time this year, American journalists prove they are idiots.

Sailing made the major international news last night when news sites everywhere began reporting that the a RIB from the USCG Island-Class Cutter Monomoy fired a single warning shot at an Iranian ‘sailboat’ yesterday in the Arabian Gulf, though we suspect that, as usual, they’ve got it somewhat wrong – at least the part about the sailboat.  As far as we can tell, the US 5th Fleet reported only that a tender to the Monomoy fired a warning shot at an Iranian dhow in response to the boat pointing a .50 cal machine gun at the RIB, which was approaching the Iranian boat for an inspection.  While there are certainly sailing dhows in the area – some of them pretty awesome – we suspect that stupid reporters and editors are behind this one; a quick search for the word ‘dhow’ could certainly lead a moron reporter and editor to think the US was trying to sink a sailboat despite the fact that there are far more non-sailing dhows than sailing dhows.

Of course the USCG is pretty useless, too.  When we tried to verify the dhow story with the Commander responsible for media inquiries at USCG HQ, we found his voicemail to be full – and this is the guy whose primary job is to field phone calls from reporters.  We’ll update you if his e-mail inbox isn’t over its limit.



August 27th, 2014 by admin

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SA’er Clove Hitch shares a less-than-satisfactory story of the ‘folks who keep us safe.’

The Friday evening of Memorial Day weekend, my buddy and I headed out on our little shitbox modest yacht in the Chesapeake. It was steady 14 with gusts to 21 and building; we were under a no. 3 job and a reefed main but still overpowered. We headed north  to the Bay Bridge, warming up a bowl of chili I’d made the night before. It was the kind of glorious nighttime sailing I’d so missed: Clear skies, bright stars, big wind, and other than us, no one around.

Except, of course, the US Coast Guard; and here’s a poem about what happened.

On a moonless night with faded stars
10 billion candle power seen from afar,
throbbing white, flashing blue, red, green and bright
the Coast Guard approaches with search lights.

They boarded with a bash or two and a bonk,
muscle-bound youths tatted with nautical-themed sleeves,
more ink than had my Grandpa that served on the Gleaves.
We lingered in irons while they sniffed about

and put their boots in chili they had spilled,
cabin sole covered, aluminum bracket killed,
paint torn off, though they gave us a touch of theirs.
You mariners on the whale-road beware:
your knowledge, gear and skill are no shield
to the Coasties you must always yield

when they come in the night blazing ignorance.
They came up to leeward and there was on audible “crunch” when they bashed into our transom/side, while two guys scampered on. One coastie had more badass ink than I’d ever seen: His name in signal flags, anchors, and so on, and all of 22 years old. His buddy plops down in the cockpit with his check list, slapping the seat with his hand.  ”This is wood, right?”

I’ve heard people say the CG doesn’t know much about boats, but I never really believed it until then. We told him it was fiberglass. Next, he asks about our auxiliary power. “We have a 6 horse,” my buddy says.

“You have twin sixes?”

Uh, no. Sure don’t.

I dug around and we got through their little safety check. They were polite, but seriously ignorant, and seriously damaging. The next morning we noticed that they took off some of our shiny new paint, giving us some of their own as is to say, “Our bad, have some of our paint since we took some of yours’.  They had also crunched an aluminum bracket on the transom that holds on the rub rail/hull-deck joint cover.

UntitledNow, some might say, “It’s fine to talk shit about the Coasties, but they are out there saving lives, so have some respect, and STFU.” To this, I offer a humble retort: When I was an ambulance crew chief, if we ever damaged stuff on our way to a call we’d catch all kinds of shit. Hell, even blazing lights and sirens on our way to a sick infant, some townsfolk complained that we were being bullies on the road and our chief had to give us some grief. Now, just imagine if we were playing bumper cars because there was somebody sick? Would that fly?

All I can say to my fellow sailors is that if the CG is going to board you, spring into action. They may or may not wait for you to get your main sail down, they may or may not wait for you to get fenders rigged. But if you do have time to deploy fenders, put every fucking one you have out.


May 31st, 2014 by admin

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After our massive disappointment in the Robert Redford stupid-fest ‘All Is Lost‘, our ears pricked up when the New York Times Sunday Mag printed a long and brilliantly written piece on a NY fisherman’s near-death experience last Sunday.  Like Redford, the NYTMAG has millions of fans, and the story has been the most clicked-on thing over at for 8 days now.  So what’s the problem?

Author Paul Tough, recent author of a book touting how ‘Grit’ helps children succeed, romanticized moron fisherman John Aldridge so heavily in an effort to make a good story that he gave millions of fisherman – most of whom still haven’t heard of personal EPIRBs or sleep deprivation – hope that somehow, their ‘grit’ and a good pair of sea boots are enough to get them past working practices that make their job one of the most dangerous in the entire world of employment.  We understand how an author might want to leave this out of his story; just like in the Redford moronopic (or any one of ten thousand hack-n-slash movies), if a tragedy is easily avoided but for ignorance or hubris, it’s hard to cheer for the protagonist.

The Anarchists are already on it, but so was outspoken safety consultant (and ex USCG SAR-dude) Mario Vittone, who published a snarky response to the piece on Thursday called ‘Trying Very Hard To Die”.  It ain’t the first time Mario and SA have agreed on something, and we consider his piece on kids and drowning from 2010 to be required reading for every parent on the planet.  Here are his ‘five responses’ to the ‘inescapable danger’ that, according to the Times, today’s commercial fishermen face.  Hit GCaptain for the full article.

1. Never work alone on the deck of an open boat while 40 miles offshore when the boat is on autopilot.

2. If you are going to work alone on the open deck of a boat while 40 miles offshore in the dark, consider wearing a life jacket.

3. If you go offshore for a living, consider spending about $275 on a Personal EPIRB.

4. Try to sleep more than zero hours every 24.

5. If you work on a boat where one person is awake while the rest of the crew sleeps, then 1. Reconsider that arrangement, and 2. Spend five dollars on an alarm clock

January 6th, 2014 by admin

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