Sunday, February 7, 2016

Not Anything=Nuthin Worthwhile

I can't think of anything worthwhile to write about tonight. Ideas flit
through my head, and I can dredge up a pithy phrase or two, but nothing
sticks beyond that. 

The weather is pretty crappy, but we found a nice lee. It's colder than I'm
used to. I have to...gasp...turn off the a/c in my stateroom if I want to
work at my computer. I'm expecting to wake up at some point tonight and hear
the low vis sound signal blowing from the bridge. It's muffled by two decks,
but it's still enough to pull me from sleep to wonder what's going on. Or it
sinks into my dreams as the horn on an 18 wheeler, or the vibration of a
garage door opening.

We have special plans for watching the game tomorrow evening. I'm very
grateful for the satellite tv connection -- it takes a good bit of the sting
out from being underway for the game. 

I need to do laundry tomorrow. Need more socks. I like to wait until Monday
when it's Chiefs' and Officers' scheduled day, but Sundays are open game.
I'm telling myself I'll get up early to get it done with before too much
more of the crew wakes up, but the likelihood is high that, given the chance
if operations are slow, I will be somewhat sluggish in the morning. Socks,
shmocks...I have a couple ratty pair in the back of my drawer for when I get
super low.

Oof, it's OER season for the LTJGs. I'm about 80% done with one, haven't
started on the 2nd, and the third is due to me in 4 days. The JGs are doing
a great job, so the evals are pretty easy to write...if I had the discipline
to sit down and do it. I got a couple of lines written after dinner this
evening, and felt like I nearly accomplished something. 

Yup, nuthin worthwhile to write about tonight...

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Friday, February 5, 2016

Crew Trivia

We've had a good run of Tuesday Trivia Night this patrol. Except this week.
This week Tuesday Trivia Night was on Wednesday because we were busy with
boat ops on Tuesday. FS1 DP is a wonderful host, coming up with diverse
categories and tough questions.

EO Loves Pickles and Sauerkraut!!!! and XO Loves Asparagus!!!!!! destroyed
the first two rounds. We may have had a slight advantage because our team
consisted of CO, EO, OPS and me. However, we went down in flames last night
with a team name of EO's Haircut (it's a long story about hair cut
appointments made a week ago, cutting the line, and missing Evening
Reports...). We ended up in second to last place -- especially shameful
because we only got 5 of 10 state capitols correct. We did however get 8 of
10 in the Food/Drink category, and I protested the stupid question about
"What mixture is tempura dipped in?" when "panko" was the wrong answer, and
"batter" was the correct one.

However, I have an idea for a new category of questions: Crew Trivia, made
up of interesting tidbits about crewmembers onboard. For example:
-- Who was the lead singer in a Scream-o band (like an "Emo" band, but with
a throat destroying screamer as a "singer")? Answer: SN NC
-- Who got a tattoo of DILIGENCE's name on their uh...cheek? Answer: PO AP
-- Which DDG did CO serve on as Navigator? Answer: USS HOPPER (DDG 70)
-- Whose father spent time as an NFL team coach? Answer: SN RS
-- Where did SN EW get his first name "E"? Answer: it's the shortened
version of a family name, and yes, it is just the letter "E"
-- Who worked at a mortuary before joining the CG? PO JM
-- Who was on a CG vessel that grounded? Answer: OPS (sorry, no way to
maintain decent anonymity with that -- and it wasn't his fault. The river
shoaled.)
-- Where did FN WD go to college? Answer: The Citadel

I think there's plenty of good material for lots of questions in our crew
alone.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Underway OOD Board

We had our first underway OOD qualification board for our first year Ensigns
this afternoon. ENS LR (aka, ANAV = Assistant Navigator) did a fabulous job.
Though not necessary, she quoted COLREGs ("Rules of the Road" for making
sure ships don't collide out at sea) nearly verbatim. She rattled off all
six movements of a ship. She laid down a mo-board (maneuvering board = a
plot of vectors to show how ships are moving in relation to each other)
while we peppered her with watch situations and questions. 

Qual boards are a rite of passage in the Coast Guard. Experienced
watchstanders grill the boardee with questions with a couple of purposes in
mind: first, to test the bounds of the boardee's knowledge. The standard
line is that the qualification earned is the minimum knowledge required to
safely stand the watch. Newly qualified individuals are exhorted to keep
learning their craft and increase their proficiency in all aspects of the
details. They start with the basics, and gain the nuances through hours upon
days upon weeks upon months upon years of experience of actually standing
the watch. 

Second, qual boards test the boardee's judgment. One of my favorite
questions is "would you rather be the give way or the stand on vessel? And
why?" I know what my answer is, and by the way the boardee answers, I gain
insights into how they think about driving the ship, maneuvering with other
vessels, and making decisions. I find out how they perceive the stated
priorities. 

Third, qual boards create stress in the boardee in a safe environment.
Boards are stressful, there's no doubt about it. You're sitting in front of
four to six people that have, collectively for ANAV today, nearly 32 (!!)
years of sea time, that know their shit, have seen and survived scenarios
you could never even dream of, are asking you difficult, technical and
nuanced questions and are listening closely to your questions, judging
everything you say. But it's safe. You can say stupid stuff in a board, and
not steam the ship into a hazardous situation. Unlike on the bridge on watch
where if, in a stressful situation, you say something stupid, you could run
the ship aground, hit another vessel or put your shipmates' lives at risk.
Some people freeze, some people babble, some people mumble, and some people
fake it. But stress is inevitable on watch. How the boardee deals with it is
something incredibly important for the CO to know.

If you're sitting for a board, you've already completed the Personnel
Qualification Standard (PQS, pronounced pee-que-ess) package, stood numerous
and varied watches, had a pre-board where the second year junior officers
put on a mock/trial board to give some sense of what a real board will be
like, and stood part of a busy watch with OPS so he can evaluate your actual
performance on watch. Do folks sometimes choke at the real board even after
all that? Sure. It happens. But they go back, stand a few more watches
maybe, study a bunch more, make more reports to the CO, whatever it is they
need to work on before going back in front of the board. Everyone sleeps
better at night when they're confident in the watchstanders' ability.

This qualification is a **huge** one for JOs. It is typically their first
major qual they earn after commissioning. For officers that pursue an afloat
career, it is the first of hopefully many OOD quals, one for each ship on
which they sail. I still have my first qual letter. And my second. And my
third. And my fourth. (I didn't give myself a qual letter on the two ships I
was CO on :)) While each one is only a piece of paper, they represent
success at a major effort to learn a new language, master technical and
unique skills, and understand the ship as a sum greater than its component
parts. 

CO read a brief snippet from The Caine Mutiny soon after he congratulated
ANAV on earning her qualification this afternoon: 

"On this day Willie took a mighty leap upward in life. He stood the
noon-to-four watch as officer of the deck. Keefer was present to correct any
disastrous mistake, and Captain Quegg himself perched in his chair
throughout the watch, alternately dozing or blinking placidly in the
sunshine. Willie conducted a faultless watch. It was a simple matter of
staying on station in the screen while the convoy zigzagged. Whatever his
inner shakiness, he kept a bold front, and maneuvered the ship firmly. When
the watch was over he penciled in the log:
 12 to 4--Steaming as before.
   Willis Seward Keith
   Ensign, USNR
He had signed many logs for port watches, but this was different. He put an
extra flourish to his signature, and thrilled as though he were entering his
name in a historic document." (p 239-240, The Caine Mutiny by Herman Wouk,
Little, Brown and Company paperback version)

"Whatever his inner shakiness, he kept a bold front, and maneuvered the ship
firmly." Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. And that confidence earned today
with her first qual will be solidified and burnished through the crucible of
watches yet to come. 

Congrats, ANAV!

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Where Did My Day Go?

Last time I really knew what time it was today was around lunch. After that,
I have no idea what happened to the day.

Well, that's not entirely true. I can list where my time went -- I stood
some watch on the bridge while there was training for most everyone else on
the messdeck; I lost a couple hours after that at my computer until dinner;
I ate dinner (beef goulash was delicious); and then lost a couple more hours
at my computer, the nightly OPS brief, and waaay too much time at Evening
Reports that morphed into an Awards Board meeting. And now, all of a sudden,
it's 8:30 pm, and I'm just getting the POD for tomorrow published. 

I don't think I got done what I meant to do today. I meant to work on LTJG
Department Head OERs. What I actually did was send emails and plan the
Evening Reports/Awards Board meeting. Which I suppose is useful and
productive in its own way. But those dang OERs aren't going to write
themselves. I know, I know, I still have nine days until they're due to the
CO, but I'm easily distracted. Before I know it, those nine days will have
shrunk to three and I'll be in a panic. Maybe not a panic, but I'll be a lot
more stressed about finishing them up. 

Ramble, ramble, ramble, ramble.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Monday, February 1, 2016

The Derelict Dinghy and Other Sunday SAR Adventures

We piped boat lowering detail for the CB-OTH (Cutter Boat-Over the Horizon) 
this morning at 0800, right on time per the POD, for an early Sunday personnel 
transfer from shore. As the boat deck was getting ready, a lookout spotted a 
white cap that wasn't crumbling away like the others after a few moments. 
Breaking out the binoculars, I saw it was a small white dinghy bobbing along 
in the waves.

A small white dinghy floating along with no one in it doesn't sound like such 
a serious thing, but to us in the Coast Guard, we tend to think that maybe 
there was someone supposed to be on that dinghy that is now in the water with 
no one the wiser. A report like that starts the whole SAR (search and rescue) 
machine a-churnin'.

We got the OTH in the water, and the coxswain and crew went over to 
investigate. The dinghy only had one oar, some Coke bottles floating in the 
few inches of water onboard, and a good bit of algal growth poxed all over. 
The crew read off the HIN (hull identification number, like the VIN on a car), 
and we passed the information to our local Sector. And then the OTH went on 
their merry way to make the personnel transfer happen. DILIGENCE stayed on 
scene with the dinghy.

After a few moments, we heard "PAN PAN, PAN PAN, PAN PAN..." (pronounced 
pahn-pahn) over the radio, with Sector passing all the details on VHF-FM 16 
about the vessel's description (6 foot, white dinghy) and location (so many 
miles off mumble mumble mumble), requesting assistance from any mariners in 
the area. We stayed on scene with the dinghy, while we waited for our small 
boat to get back with our passengers. In the meantime, we saw a Coast Guard 
Auxiliary flight overhead, conducting a VS (victor sierra, sector search with 
a single unit) search looking for anyone that might have fallen overboard from 
the dinghy.

Sector used the HIN we gave them to figure out who the owner of the dinghy 
was. They called and made sure he was ok -- he was. Then we towed the dinghy 
back to the local Station with our CB-L (Cutter Boat-Large). Or really, the 
cox'n and crew of the CB-L tipped all the water out of the dinghy, and then 
hauled it onboard the CB-L, strapped it down to the deck and went on their 
merry way. Maybe not standard, but took a heck of a lot less time than towing 
the thing.

On the way back from returning the dinghy to shore, the CB-L was diverted to 
go search for a vessel whose EPIRB (electronic positioning indicating radio 
beacon) went off. They looked around in the position given off by the EPIRB, 
but didn't see anything -- no debris field, no foundering vessel. Sector used 
the registration information on the EPRIB to contact the vessel's owner to 
make sure they weren't in distress.

The Coast Guard takes safety of life at sea (SOLAS) stuff seriously. Please, 
folks, make sure you have your safety gear, it's in good working, and you know 
how to use it when you go boating. Make sure your EPIRB is properly 
registered. File a float plan. Not all cases turn out as easily and happily as 
our couple of SAR cases this morning.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Good Enough

This is one of those days when I can't think of anything that's worth
writing about. It's been a decent day. Sunrise yoga, field day, material
inspection, quarters, burgers for lunch, a lazy afternoon with a little bit
of watch thrown in while the JOs had their Town Hall with the CO and Command
Chief, dinner, rendezvous with a patrol boat to transfer migrants, evening
reports, and a quiet evening (hopefully). Yup, that sums up the day. No big
thoughts, no great insights. No huge successes or massive failures. 

I'll call today good enough.

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**

Saturday, January 30, 2016

It's Been Slow

It's been slow here recently, which was fairly easily explained by the poor
weather up until Wednesday morning sometime when the wind eased off its
howling. But the weather has been good for a few days now -- or at least not
bad. Maybe the wind is out of the wrong direction? I don't know. We've been
speculating about why things are quiet. 

And quiet is not bad, not by a long stretch. It's just odd. We've been
keeping busy with lots of boat training and drills. 1 January starts a new
quarter, new semi-annual period, and a new annual period. All our drill and
certification calendars reset at the start of the new year, so we have a lot
of drills to get through. So the quiet time is coming in handy. 

It is a little unsettling, though, to plan a full day's worth of training
and know there's a dang good chance that we won't get to do any of it if we
get busy with operations -- because operations always come first. I know
when I was OPS, my XO and I had a running joke about how many times and how
thoroughly I blew up his POD. It's not so funny any more...

We're also getting through Town Hall meetings with the CO, Command Chief and
the various paygrades. I'm usually a tad nervous putting these on the POD
because a) I know they're really important, b) they usually take at least an
hour, and often times a lot longer, and c) they're really important. The
Town Halls are a chance for the crew to speak directly with the CO about
what's on their minds. They bring up great ideas for improvements, concerns
we as the command haven't thought about, and vents we haven't heard before.
They also offer the CO and Command Chief the opportunity to explain things
on a more individual level to the folks who are actually doing the work.
That's why they're really important.

So all in all, I'll take the slow days, even if I don't understand why we're
having them. OPS can blow up my POD tomorrow. Or better yet, the next day...

LCDR Charlotte Mundy
Executive Officer
USCGC DILIGENCE (WMEC 616)
**UNDERWAY**