Blaine Coast Guard a wealth of resources

Published on Thu, Jul 10, 2008 by Jack Kintner

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Blaine Coast Guard a wealth of resources

By Jack Kintner

You’re out on the water in your boat and you suddenly find yourself in trouble.
Perhaps you ran out of gas or you’ve run aground, a passenger is having a medical emergency, some vital part of your boat has broken or you’ve sprung a leak. Who do you call and what happens?

“If it’s dire, a life-threatening emergency, you put out a May Day on channel 16,” said Commander Davis Bogue of Flotilla 19 of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary based in Blaine, “but most difficulties fall short of that, and there are other ways to get help.”

Marine VHF radios have buttons that will quickly switch to channel 16 for exactly that reason. Bogue said that one of the things that can happen, however, is that a call put out over channel 16 is public, and may draw the attention of commercial salvage operators.

“One thing to keep in mind is that while commercial towing vessels can help you out, for a price, once they’ve been engaged the Coast Guard is not allowed to interfere with a commercial operation,” Bogue said, “although you may, of course, as the vessel owner refuse their assistance.”

Bogue also said that a good alternative is to call Coast Guard Station Bellingham at 360/734-1692. “They’re manned 24/7, and can dispatch the appropriate equipment to deal with the situation.”

That could be anything from a helicopter from Coast Guard Station Port Angeles for a life-threatening medical emergency to a team of local auxiliary members operating one of ten facilities, or watercraft, that have been inspected and are approved to operate under Coast Guard supervision.

These are not Sunday sailors. Most of the roughly 60 members of the local auxiliary are highly experienced sailors or power boaters, and all who participate in such missions have been thoroughly trained to exacting Coast Guard standards.

Bogue himself has over 40 years in the Coast Guard both on active duty and in the reserve, mostly out of Sacramento, California. Though the auxiliary welcomes anyone, experienced or not, who wishes to apply for membership, the weekend patrols out of Blaine in the summer and training missions in the fall, winter and spring puts a lot of highly experienced eyes and ears out on the water ready to respond.

Every mission is required to be in frequent contact with the local Coast Guard Station Bellingham with no more than 30 minutes between check-ins.

Bogue was careful to emphasize the importance of training, not only for members but also for boat owners.

“Since 9/11 the auxiliary’s primary mission has been public safety and information classes,” he said, holding up a copy of a thick training manual called Boating Skills and Seamanship. “If you just want to get the state-required boater’s card, there are a lot of places with one-day classes that will do that. But we advocate taking our eight-week course, which is two hours one evening per week.

“I’ve never had anyone take it who hasn’t come back to tell us they learned something that made the $40 fee for the book worth it.”

Bogue said the next class will be announced later in the summer.

Aside from training and operating its own member’s facilities on patrol, the auxiliary also offers vessel inspections and safety checks, currently under the leadership of Lyle Schrag.

Depending on the size of the vessel, federal regulations require certain equipment to be on board and in good working order, and the auxiliary can help you make sure you’ll pass if you are ever boarded for a random inspection at sea.

Bogue said that they plan to have a Flotilla 19 barbecue as a part of Drayton Harbor Days on August 2, “to pump up interest. We’ll have a Search and Rescue (SAR) competition and have invited the helicopter from Port Angeles and the hovercraft from the Canadian Coast Guard, both of them capable of impressive displays.”

Bogue and his wife own and operate a 48-year-old steel-hulled 35-foot Dupont Cruiser they call SAR Trek. For more information call Bogue at 206/371-5526.