Sunday, June 26, 2016

Fare Thee Well, Boundless Deep

Unless craziness ensues, I have sailed my last on the mighty warship DILIGENCE.

We ended our patrol in the Florida Straits with six interdictions and 600 people onboard who were attempting to illegally immigrate to the United States. I had to give up on my goal of blogging every day underway. I felt like I was writing the same post over and over again -- all about how the AMIO (alien migrant interdiction operations) mission is hard. More on that in a moment.

On the way home, we got our asses kicked for about 18 hours by a strong system that was blowing from the northeast at 30 knots sustained winds and seven to nine foot seas (though the bridge watch swears they saw at least one 14-footer). We slid out of the Gulf Stream to see if that would settle the seas at all. It might have. Barely. I never "pulled the trigger" (i.e., gave in to the need to puke), but my belly ached like someone had punched me repeatedly. 

The weather finally settled, and we got the flight deck tent taken down and put away, a freshwater wash down done and AMIO supplies stowed in MAA stores (the most forward space on the ship, which can become an anti-gravity chamber when we're pitching in the seas). At our sunset Quarters, we recognized a number of people who were departing the ship when we got home, pinned Cutterman pins on our newest Cuttermen, and then followed the whole shebang with a cigar social on the fantail. I nearly missed my last sunset from sea trying to figure out how to pay for a van to take dependents down to Southport to catch a ride out to us the next day. I raced from the fantail, up to the flight deck and then the stack deck and the bridge deck and finally to the open bridge to see if I could catch the sun as it sunk below the horizon. Then I made my way back to the fantail to enjoy the Golden Hour.

Our river transit was smooth, if very windy. I took over the Conn a couple legs before we went under the power lines that cross the river. Slowed down to launch our cutter boat so they could trailer the boat and then be line handlers on the pier for us. Passed a light tanker just south of the State pier ("I'm light, he said; I'm pretty small, he said" as he took up most of the channel, and made us glad there wasn't another vessel moored at the State pier). The Cape Fear Memorial Bridge came up to welcome us home. We got a standing ovation some of the Riverfront restaurants' crowd. And I made a glorious starboard side to approach on the pier, had all lines over, and main diesel engines and the helm station secured within about 15 minutes (even with waiting for the line handlers to get back from trailering the cutter boat), And ended up *exactly* where I wanted, no shifting of lines needed. Mike drop.

Then there was a blur of families, entering port requirements and finally Quarters on the pier where we recognized more of the folks who were leaving when we got back from patrol. 

Another one in the books.


About halfway through this patrol, I made a concerted effort to stop referring to the people on our flight deck as "migrants." They are *people.* Sure, a group of people who have a special circumstance in common (i.e., illegally migrating to the US from Cuba by way of handmade, not very sea-worthy vessels). But calling them migrants felt dehumanizing, for both them and me. 

And the night that four of them jumped overboard to try to swim the five miles to shore tested all our patience for their dedication to their dreams. We picked up two of them relatively quickly, but the other two evaded our boat crews for over an hour, until one of them got too tired to swim any more (duh -- FIVE MILES!!) and the other was brought reluctantly onboard the small boat and then restrained so he couldn't jump over again. At that point, it's a Safety of Life at Sea issue, and not so much an immigration issue. People DIE without the appropriate safety gear on the open ocean. Even if they jump overboard themselves. 

All this is said from my comfortable seat of privilege and First World problems. And that's why I couldn't come up with anything new to say for the last couple of weeks of the patrol. I had already said it, wasn't adding anything new, didn't have any good solutions for making things better for our guests or for our crew, and was on the verge of an excoriating rant on the futility of being on the pointy end of the spear tasked with enforcing failed public policies. Screaming into the gale.

And now the hardest bit. This is my last post. I hope I have brought enjoyment and insight into our underway world to my readers over the last seven years. Maybe a couple chuckles and fond remembrances of shared experiences. 

It's been a wild ride, and I truly appreciate every time someone clicked on one of my posts. You, my readers, never failed to bring a smile to my face when you reached out to tell me you spent your precious time with my thoughts and perspectives. And I have never stopped being surprised and delighted at the breadth of my readership.

It's time for me to move on. I hope to keep writing in a different (yet to be determined) forum. The last few months, I have felt constrained by the need to be mostly positive on this blog. The burden of positive leadership weighed heavily on my keyboard, limiting how fully I could paint the picture of my experiences. I will always strive to keep a positive outlook and not focus on all the things that are wrong, but most all times, life is more nuanced than I think is fair to share in this forum. The people who work for me rely on me to provide solutions and keep them in the tools to get their job done. Not whine and complain that those tools are hard to find and oh, by the way, might not be effective for getting us to the end goal anyway. 

If I had better tools to suggest, I would be writing a different post right now. I'm hoping that in freeing myself from (my admittedly self-imposed) constraints, I can move my thinking and writing in a different, more productive direction. 

Thank you all, again, for your support, comments, remembrances and thoughtfulness. I will cherish you always.

I shall never rid the salt water from my veins.


Andrew Frazier said...

XO, it was a pleasure sailing with you and your blogs brought some interesting insights that sometimes made me think or chuckle about our life at sea. I wish you the best and hope our paths cross again someday in this small Coast Guard world.

Anonymous said...

Well, Girl, on to that horizon. You will be missed. -- Azulao

Brother Pilot said...

Excellent post. I look forward to whatever you have to say inwhatever forum in the future. And I hope, for your sake, it includes the sea.

Dad said...

Through your blogs I feel as if I have been there with you during all of your time at sea. Your writing is so descriptive and really enjoyable to read even though sometimes a bit tedious to comprehend with all of the initials. You are a true professional "wordsmith" keeping us informed and entertained. Thank you, daughter, for being you. I will continue to look for your blogs as you enter and succeed in your next assignment.
Love Dad

Anonymous said...

I've enjoyed your blog and will miss it. Wishing you the best as you move forward!

Jan (Friend of your sister's)

CG said...

just keep writing somewhere, sometimes. You have stuff to say.