Cliff, It does indeed seem very convoluted and limiting to CG personnel policies.
33 CFR. 165.1325 is the series of federal regulations that the CG can use to regulate passage of smaller vessels and full closure to all vessels on the west coast bars.
The CG has the authority to prevent vessels from proceeding out or in, and can shut down operations when the sea conditions hit the operational limit of their own boats. By enforcing and terminating the intended voyages of vessels planning on going out, they have taken the preventative step that should not have any vessel caught on the outside to become the SAR case.
Master Mate , you make a good point on the preventive SAR by using the CFR's. However most recreational boaters don't pay attention to the big sign and flashing lights advertising rough Bar conditions. They also do not heed the Bar report and Bar Broadcasts that most stations on the left coast provide. They also have a hard time stopping for a 47MLB or the 52 MLB when they are on the Bar telling folks to turn around. Only once they have gotten close to or halfway across the Bar do they realize that these waves are big and are breaking.
As far as the Surfman qualification, A Heavy WX guy can do Surf, if at a Surf station. Driving boats in the Surf is not difficult. Wave reading, timing, and proper decision making are. In these areas is where someone who has a good Surfman mentor excels and this takes time to hone.
An old Surfman quote sums it up, A good Surfman is one who uses there superior wave reading skills, so they don't have to use their superior boat handling skills.
Paraphrase that a bit and substitute current/conditions. Many towboaters, especially on the Columbia/Snake River system, have told me that is the secret to handling tows in the heavy run-off season when working a tow in the current or alongside.
Pleasure boaters are a mostly incompetant group of nitwits at best. IF the CG is going to make the preventative route work, then it is going to take a vigorous enforcement process. There are going to have to be boardings, write ups and civil action taken and fines levied. For the boater that fails to heave to or turn around, the camera and a check of WN or OR numbers should take care of those chowderheads. The first 'hard core' season may be a pain in the ass, but they will learn the lesson.
If the CG cannot/ will not follow through with the regulatory process, makes you wonder just WHY then did they go through the long effort to put them in place. Non enforcement puts the CG crew at a condition of risk that should have been eliminated.
Pre 1983 boat crew revisions, there were many local additional quals for specific station locations and unique operating conditions.
Centralized HQ administration butting in on a local command qualification process.
dana u mean area fam?
It was that week spent with the Chief, out in the area, knowing all the back channels, hopefully at least one foggy day, no radar just the compass back then.
May have had the CG quals signed off, but you had to get by the OinC and XPO and their personal quirks before you got your letter signed to run one of his ststion boats.
When on that training team, most stations would ask who signed my quals. That was, many times, a deciding factor to the OinC as to whether i could handle his boat or just provide pointers to his station coxswains. They pulled a lot of weight with some, and some just told me to set there and don't touch anything. Some of those old timers didn't care for each other very much either.
BM1s Sheehan, Griffin and BM2 South were a tough crowd to get through, but picked up the quirks of the Merrimac River Entrance in good fashion..
The bar is not closed to all traffic. I take it you have never served at a surf station before. The bar can only be restricted to recreational vessels. Commercial vessels could cross the river bar at any time, therefore there is always a possibility of SAR on the bar. I was on a case that happened at 2am when a 60ft crab boat nearly capsized on the bar and dumped all their crab pots in the channel. Also in California the bars cannot be closed by the Coast Guard.
Quite a bit actually. I have been on a couple 13 hour cases off shore about 40 miles in 16ft seas and blowing about 60kts on a 47ft MLB. These conditions are too challenging for a heavy weather coxswain. The surfman on board my boat exercised sound judgment and handled the boat flawlessly.
What makes you think that these cases would never happen? Should we train like what happens in the real world? Or should we train for the worse possible scenario? If a surfman found themselves in the surf during a case and had never performed before in the surf, the possibilities of a mishap and killing somebody are high. To be a good surfman, tac coxswain, or pursuit coxswain, you have to be pushed out of your comfort zone during training. If not, then the coxswain will not know what to do if the scenario should arise.
The bars are not closed to all vessel traffic, only recreational traffic. The reason why a surfman would tow a boat across a breaking bar is because this is what they train to do.
Oh, and good luck to the helo pilot who tries to convince a fishing boat captain in leaving his vessel, his livelihood.
Yes, to become proficient in any qualification and to be considered a professional you have to be willing to put in the time.
They can only operate a MLB in seas up to 20ft and 40kts of wind, and no surf unless endorsed by the CO. What about those cases 30-40 miles off shore that are above a HWX coxswains capabilities? They can execute the case, but there has to be a qualified surfman on board.
That seems to be a contradiction to the regulations in place in the Code of Federal Regulations. There is the ability to "regulate" recreational and the provision to close the bar to 'all vessel traffic' when conditions are at the operating limits of the CG resources.
Surf stations are a recent (last 25 years or so) operations designation.
Coastie 619 brought up a few good points, but the offshore stuff is irrelevant to the original question. Surf Stations/Surfmen billets aren't created in order to deal with offshore conditions, they are meant to deal with AORs that have breaking bar conditions X amount of days per year. If we were placing surfmen based upon offshore conditions, then you would see them distributed to a lot of heavy weather units as well.
In the case of the 16 foot seas/60 knot winds, that exceeds not just Heavy WX Coxswain limits, but the limits of the MLB itself (50 knot winds). I would imagine that if an offshore case like that presented itself at my unit and the gain outweighed the risk enough, Sector MIGHT give the go ahead for a Heavy WX guy give it a shot (although exceeding wind limits, he would still be within his sea state limits).
Although I'm not familiar with the CFR, it sounds likely that it's only being applied to rec traffic (no matter what the intention was). I know it takes a lot to terminate a commercial vessel's voyage for safety reasons and closing the bar would effectively do the same thing.
You are correct, the river bar is the main reason why these stations have surfman. However, a stations AOR includes up to 50NM off shore.
The case I described off shore with 60KTS wind is indeed over the limitations of the boat. In this scenario the crew was all coxswains, including myself, and an engineer, we were all breaking in HWX coxswain except for the engineer off course. Sometimes when you get that far off shore and all of a sudden the conditions exceed limitations, it is difficult to say screw it, I am heading 40NM back to port and the sailboat can deal with this on their own. Also Sector had no say, it was the coxswains and CO's discretion on whether to proceed with the case. This is when an experienced surfman comes in handy.
I wouldn't say that off shore conditions are irrelevant to the reason why surfman exist. There are many stations/sectors out there that would have to launch a cutter to respond. It's so much easier to get a MLB underway
Still need Sector approval to exceed Coxn/Boat limitations.
I cant help but add my two cents here, so here goes. Let me say I am currently at a surf station and currently working on HWX with the goal of making surfman someday. As of now I have 12.5 years of service and this is my first d13 station. I will say the way th CG is run at a d13 surf station is differnt from anywhere else in the CG. Say what you will about surfmen, for good or ill most of it is probably true. I will how ever say this, on a big day on the bar 18ft + I will take a surfmen at the helm over anyone else out there.
My biggest point to add to this conversation would be this. Maybe we have regulated ourselfs out of a job, maybe we can enforce our bar restrictions harder, maybe COTP close the bar more offten, maybe we can compleatly regulate our way down to 15 sar cases a year with little to no need for a surfmen at the helm. But how many lives are worth that one qual? How many cases does one have to have in a surf zone to justify all the time and all the money that goes into on persons qualification as surfmen? Is it 1? 10? 100? what if that one case is your Mother, your brother, your friend or family, or you? Then how worth while was that time, training and money? Do you want the person at the helm to be the best of the best, or would you like a heavy weather or a basic coxswain to come get you?
Reguardless of how you look at it, one human life saved is worth every penny, and every hour spent. If its on life at one station per year or 100 lifes at all the stations its worth it.
And there is the 'crux' of the matter when it comes to the current program of multi-level qualifications.
In the beginning, the boat coxswain was the boat coxswain, was the boat coxswain... The original CG -313 Training manual simply formalized the subject that the coxswain had to be familiar with. After it was initiated, another knowledge level was added, 'heavy weather'. The 1980s re-write added crewman and engineer and surfman items.
Just "HOW" did the CG ever manage to get the boat calls done at the stations, prior to instituting this long paper trail of C.Y.A. check off sheets.
The boat coxswain was trained for the conditions at the area they were assigned to. The CO or OinC had the knowledge base to judge when the individual was ready to operate the station boat in the conditions present. How did the crew of the CG 36500 ever pull off the 'Pendleton" rescue at Chathan. Not a qualified 'surfman' among them.
The CG artificially created the different coxswain levels to cover the corporations azz...
The helocopter might indeed be the preferred platform of choice in the heavy weather rescue of personnel.
I'm afraid I'm going to have to disagree. The CG didnt create levels of coxswain, they simply gave them a name and a formal level of training for it.
I offer a counter case of the charter vessle Tikki Too off at the Tillamook bar in 2002 where 14 people lost their lifes. Would a surfmen on board the 47 have made a differance? Its tough to say one way or the other.
One of the main reasons the Surfmen qual was created was to identify the locations that needed the specialised AOR training for a surfmen. This qualification makes it so, in a service where you can be moved any where once you 4 years are up, you can be moved to a station where you superior skills can be most utilized.
Your basic argument seems to boil down to, get rid of the surfmen title and just train the HWX at a surf station to operate in surf. Unless I completely missed the point thats what it seems to say to me. Now if you want to argue that the SDAP is the real issue and that should be done away with then by all means, I agree with you.
As for your statement about Helos, absoultely a helo is some times a better choice. However the operating limits of the Helos are far lower then that of the boats. When the bar is cranking most likely so are the winds. If you can find me a helo pilot that will hoist in 20ft seas and 60kt winds then by all means send them out, then again whose at greater risk, the pilots or the 47 crew?
Getting the bar closure authority into the CFR is/was no small matter. The public comment period and all the hoops the CG jumped through, means that someone in power thought that having the absolute authority to close major waterways to all traffic was necessary to the public/maritime safety field.
Read through and look at the formulas used to determine just when and what sized boat should be barred from transit.
IF the COPT is serious, then the NW river bars will be closed for traffic well below the sea conditions where a surfman coxswain would be required. Shutting them down early and enforcing the closures with terminating voyages and fines and court cases will make it very clear to pleasure boaters in a fairly quick timeframe, that closed, means closed...
When no one is off shore the chance for the heavy weather SAR case goes right down.
The operating limits for the 47' are set in granite, and there are only 4 52's.
Regulatory authority to prevent haevy weather SAR is in place. It takes CG management to activate it in all weather conditions. Either use the regs as meant, or, they end up as just another half azzed CG regulatory function that is only there when needed to cover managements azz.
As for the extra pay, air crew has had flight pay for years. In the 1960s proficiency pay was established. That is a matter for the active duty folks to hash out.
Ok, so lets say we close out the Coos Bay bar, since thats where I'm currently stationed. Under a COTP order the bar is closed at bouy 5 on the Coos river. All persons are observing the closure becuase we have regulated it into the ground with hard core enforcement and judicious use of violations. John Doe's boat capsizes at buoy 5 and now due to a 4 knot ebb is quickly moving out bound into the surf zone, what now?
Lets take another example, Bar is breaking 15ft, COTP closed, its december and mid crab season. All the crab boats are holding out at K buoy waiting for the flood to flatten out the bar, fishing boat Rust Bucket springs a major leak and is taking on water at a rate faster then his pumps can keep up, he's going down. Guess that HWX coxswain and his 8ft surf qual arnt going out.
Coquille river closed to all rec boat traffic due to 10-12ft surf, kayakers who launched from the beach are struggling against the ebb and cant get back in from the beach they launched off of.
Lets look at a real life example, Quillayute River February 9th 1997, sail boat in distress, off shore, not in the surf zone. With no surfmen on the boat they crossed a breaking bar and 3 Coasties tragicly paid with their lives.
How many times in a career must a surfmen use his qual for it to be justified? A bar closure doesnt mean you wont move through a surf zone to aid a vessle in distress.
Also, as for boat limits being set in stone, think again. A phone call and a written waiver alow for boats to exceed thier operating limits and the 52s now have operating limits of 25ft surf.
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