U.S. Coast Guard

USCG Photo Contest Winners for 2009

USCG Photo Contest Winners for 2009

Instructors, crew and students of a Coast Guard National Motor Lifeboat School class train for heavy weather boat operations in the harsh environment of Cape Disappointment in the Pacific Northwest Nov. 12, 2009. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jamie E. Parsons)

Instructors, crew and students of a Coast Guard National Motor Lifeboat School class train for heavy weather boat operations in the harsh environment of Cape Disappointment in the Pacific Northwest Nov. 12, 2009. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Jamie E. Parsons)

Last month, the U.S. Coast Guard announced the winners of its “People’s Choice” photo contest, which we covered here. This month we have the winners of the in-house photo contest from the Coasties. These are great photos and although we’ve all seen similar photos before, we can’t seem to get enough of them. When you see this first photo of a motor lifeboat coming off the top of a wave, you know exactly the feeling in the pit of the stomach of everyone aboard that boat.

The Coast Guard Cutter Naushon conducts a familiarization patrol in Glacier Bay, Alaska, Oct. 21, 2008. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Logan Wright.)

The Coast Guard Cutter Naushon conducts a familiarization patrol in Glacier Bay, Alaska, Oct. 21, 2008. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Logan Wright.)

These are the work of the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard and they represent, and reflect, the often dangerous and dramatic work these people do in the course of protecting us all. Remember that the next time you feel like groaning about a safety inspection or a request for a contribution to the U.S. Coast Guard Foundation.

A Coast Guard rescue swimmer hanging from a Coast Guard MH-60 Dolphin helicopter prepares to enter the water during high seas rescue training at Cape Disappointment, Wash., Nov. 15, 2008. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chuck Ferrante.)

A Coast Guard rescue swimmer hanging from a Coast Guard MH-60 Dolphin helicopter prepares to enter the water during high seas rescue training at Cape Disappointment, Wash., Nov. 15, 2008. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Chuck Ferrante.)

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Boats, Environment & Weather, Industry News, People & Profiles, seamanship, Technology

U.S. Coast Guard Photo Contest Winners

USCGC Vigorous -- USCG People's Choice Contest Winner by LTJG Christopher O'Meara

USCGC Vigorous -- USCG People's Choice Contest Winner by LTJG Christopher O'Meara

The winners of this year’s U.S. Coast Guard People’s Choice Photo Contest have been announced and the photo above is the winner!  This year’s contest elicited some amazing photos, which you can see here at the Coast Guard’s blog, Compass

The winning photo is of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Vigorous (WMEC 627) as she prepares to enter a storm at sea while on routine patrol in the Caribbean Sea. The storm turned the picturesque day quickly into night, and, after a few minutes returned the day to its original pristine condition. (U.S. Coast Guard Photo by LTJG Christopher O’Meara)

USCGC Sycamore -- USCG People's Choice Contest Runner-Up by MK3 Joshua Cook

USCGC Sycamore -- USCG People's Choice Contest Runner-Up by MK3 Joshua Cook

The runner-up, above, was perhaps even more dramatic. It’s a photo of the Cutter Sycamore in the Bering Sea about 200 miles north of Adak, Alaska, in a squall. Notice the sea boarding over the port rail. Yikes. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by MK3 Joshua Cook)

Click on that link above to visit The Compass, the USCG’s official blog, whoch always has interesting reading and great images to help illustrate the tremendous work of the Guardians.

Copyright © 2010 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Boats, Cruising Under Power, Environment & Weather, Industry News, Passagemaking News, People, Powerboats, seamanship

Vote for the Best U.S. Coast Guard Video of 2009

U.S. Coast Guard Video Contest Logo

U.S. Coast Guard Video Contest Logo

The following is from the official blog of the U.S. Coast Guard, The Coast Guard Compass.  It describes the annual video contest the service holds and this year’s collection of videos are as dramatic as ever.  I’ve picked my favorite.  Now it’s your turn. Have a look at the compilation below and then visit the YouTube channel and rate the individual videos.  This is the official description of  the contest:

Everyday, Guardians are involved in amazing rescues, national security operations and drug interdictions. Whenever possible, Guardians capture those Coast Guard operations on video. The videos truly highlight the missions and stories of America’s Guardians. Sometimes you see them on the evening news, but often you don’t.

For the past several years, the Coast Guard has been recognizing the top videos of the year. We’ve narrowed it down to 11 finalists (a tribute to the Coast Guard’s 11 statutory missions), but we want your help in deciding which one is the “Coast Guard Video of the Year” for 2009.

The link above will take you to a first look video compilation of the 11 finalists for video of the year. Starting next Monday (December 21, 2009), the Compass blog will highlight one video per day together with audio from a member of the Coast Guard unit involved in the mission. You can then follow the link to the Coast Guard YouTube “Video of the Year 2009″ playlist to use the rating and comment feature to cast your vote.

Votes will be accepted until January 8, 2010. The units with the top three videos will receive a Flip video camera to enhance their ability to capture and share imagery of their operations.

Here’s the collection, edited into a single package.  You can see the individual videos and vote by rating them, on YouTube itself.

Copyright © 2009 by OceanLines LLC

Posted by Tom in Boats, Cruising Under Power, Environment & Weather, Industry News, Passagemaking News, People, Powerboats, Sailboats, seamanship

Passagemaking Aboard a Military Tall Ship

Editor’s note:  Occasionally at OceanLines, we cover one or another of the truly unique forms of passagemaking.  In this case, we introduce you to (or re-introduce, as many of you already know her) the U.S.C.G. Cutter Eagle, a 295-foot, three-masted steel barque.  The Eagle experience is both unique and important for the future leaders of the Coast Guard.  It gives them a chance to be as close to the raw ocean as possible, an experience that will serve them well when they risk life and limb to save those of us in distress on the sea.  Eagle called on Portland, Maine recently and our correspondent Patricia Allen went aboard for a media familiarization cruise.  You can see more of her photos of the Eagle here.  Here is her report.

by Patricia K. Allen

USCGC Eagle in Portland Harbor August 2009 - Photo Courtesy of Patricia K. Allen, All Rights Reserved

USCGC Eagle in Portland Harbor August 2009 - Photo Courtesy of Patricia K. Allen, All Rights Reserved

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Eagle is “America’s Tall Ship.”  Originally built by the German Navy in 1936, and commissioned by Adolph Hitler as the Horst Wessel on June 13, 1936, the Eagle changed hands as a result of war reparations, and was commissioned into the U.S.C.G. on May 14, 1946.  Well concealed today are the signs of her past – Nazi swastikas beneath the main teak deck  and weather deck bulkheads, under layers and layers of white paint.  She is currently the only commissioned sailing vessel sporting the Stars and Stripes.

Ratlines Running Aloft Aboard USCGC Eagle in Portland Harbor -- Photo Courtesy of Patricia K. Allen, All Rights Reserved

Ratlines Running Aloft Aboard USCGC Eagle in Portland Harbor -- Photo Courtesy of Patricia K. Allen, All Rights Reserved

The Eagle now serves as a training ship for future Coast Guard officers.  She is home for a permanent crew of six officers and 50 enlisted personnel.  Training is provided for up to 150 cadets and “swabs – students at the Academy during the summer prior to their freshman year,” and she routinely sails with more than 230 hands on board.  The commanding officer is U.S.C.G. Captain Eric Jones.  As a barque (or bark), Eagle’s fore and main masts carry square sails, while her mizzen mast carries fore-and-aft sails, a rigging enhancement that enabled sailing ships to keep the advantages of the square sails when before the wind but also maneuver somewhat closer to the winds when heading upwind.

USCG Cadets Get it Done the Old Fashioned Way Aboard USCGC Eagle - Photo Courtesy of Patricia K. Allen, All Rights Reserved

USCG Cadets Get it Done the Old Fashioned Way Aboard USCGC Eagle - Photo Courtesy of Patricia K. Allen, All Rights Reserved

According to Lt. Commander Mike Putlock, one of Eagle’s six commissioned officers, the tall ship typically sails at 10 knots under power, and 17 knots under full sail.  When asked how long it takes new crew members to gain their “sea legs,” LCDR Putlock replied that it “depends on the person,” but usually takes one day.  Swab John Mack agreed with LCDR Putlock, adding that many of those new to the Eagle also suffer from seasickness.  For this reason, medications are offered, but are optional.  He disclosed that he opted in, and was thankful based on what he witnessed.

The daily routine onboard begins with 0600 reveille, followed by breakfast and a military training period.  The academic day begins at 0800 and ends at 1540, followed by the evening meal, more training, and then an evening study hour.  Taps sounds at 2200, with lights out at 2400.  On Saturdays, reveille is at 0630, followed by more military training from 0800 to 1200, after which liberty is granted.  Sundays include religious services, and following the evening meal, the study period begins again.

F

Ship's Bell Aboard USCGC Eagle Alongside at Portland -- Photo Courtesy of Patricia K. Allen, All Rights Reserved

Ship's Bell Aboard USCGC Eagle Alongside at Portland -- Photo Courtesy of Patricia K. Allen, All Rights Reserved

or each crew member, the time aboard is different.  The swabs typically sail for six weeks before entering the academy.  This summer’s cruise began April 20, and arrives in New London, Conn. on August 14th. This summer, The Eagle set sail for Rota, Spain on April 20th. Ports included Monaco, and Cassis, France,  Bermuda, Charleston, S.C., Boston, Mass., Halifax, Nova Scotia, Rockland and then Portland, ME, Portsmouth, N.H., and home in New London August 14th.

 

Copyright © 2009 OceanLines LLC

Posted by Tom in Boats, Passagemaking News

The Wish List: Auto-Updating Charts

Auto-Updating Charts — It’s time recreational mariners had broad access to, and used, auto-updating technology to ensure that the charts they use in their chartplotters are continuously up-to-date.  Offered by a single company to-date, it’s an important safety enhancement and one within the reach of current technology.  This is the second in our occasional series called “The Wish List.”

Are Your Charts Missing the Key Piece of Information?  -- Illustration

Are Your Charts Missing the Key Piece of Information? -- Illustration

I have two chartplotters on my boat — a Furuno NavNet unit that uses C-Map/NT charts (on a proprietary chip format), and a Northstar 6000i that uses Navionics charts on a compact flash card.  Once a year I have the opportunity to update these charts/chips, at a fairly modest cost; well, one more modest than the other.  What has always bugged me is that there is no practical way to update the charts in the interim period.  Why can’t I simply connect my chartplotters to the Internet — or bring the chips home and connect them to my PC — and get updates as soon as they are available via the NGA or Local Notices to Mariners (LNMs)?

Interestingly, this type of chart-updating is widely available to military and commercial mariners.  There is, however, only one company (to my knowledge) that offers this capability to recreational boaters and that is the Jeppesen Marine MAX Pro brand of cartography.  More on that later.

The Problem

Unless you’re a MAX Pro customer, you can update your charts at most twice per year, and usually just once.  Not only that, but by the time you get the updated chart cartridge it’s guaranteed to be out-of-date; since LNMs update these areas weekly. 

Commercial operators, who are required to have updated charts onboard at all times, use auto-updating services to stay current.  For example, in the U.S., the Jeppesena NavData update service ensures commercial captains always have the latest charts.  There is a little bit of irony, though, in the notion that a freighter plodding its way across vast, featureless stretches of ocean knows exactly where the buoys in every port are, while the recreational boater, who is navigating the coastal waters that are strewn with aids and hazards to navigation has only outdated information available to him.  Who actually has the greater need?  Even when the freighter gets to port, the odds are it’s going to get a harbor pilot aboard with years of experience and real-time local information to get him safely to the pier.

Of course, when I say the recreational captain doesn’t have updated chart info “available,” I’m really saying that he or she hasn’t taken the time to get it.  Local Notices to Mariners and updates from the National Geo-Spatial Intelligence Agency are issued weekly and every boater can manually update paper charts — if they have them, that is.  U.S. Coast Guard crews have told me they rarely find appropriate charts aboard boats that are randomly inspected.

There are plenty of examples of auto-updating technology out there.  Your personal computer is probably the most obvious one.  If you use a Microsoft operating system, your PC probably automatically installs the latest security and operational fixes while you sleep.  Unless you’ve disabled the feature, you never have to worry about having the latest patches in your system.  Many applications on your computer can also update themselves.  All that’s required is a connection to the Internet.  And more and more boats have some kind of Internet capabilities these days.  High-end passagemakers often have satellite access to the Internet (remember, good update technology only sends relatively small-size files that have the changes, not the whole chart or program).  Many smaller cruisers have Wi-Fi antennae aboard and can make use of that connection any time they’re near a port or marina.

It is a relatively simple task to add Internet capability to most of today’s chartplotters.  Most have the guts of a PC-like computer anyway, so adding Internet connectivity shouldn’t be that big of a challenge.  And with more and more of these devices networked, often via Ethernet protocols, the ability to update ALL of your devices this way, whether for firmware or software enhancements, should be possible.

MAX Pro Charts

I mentioned earlier that Jeppesen Marine, under the brand C-MAP by Jeppesen, offers its MAX Pro Cartography product for use in both the Northstar 8000i and Simrad GB40 chartplotters (the latter a black-box system).  It is also available to run on the latest versions of the Nobeltec VNS and Admiral nav software packages, known as VNS MAX Pro and Admiral MAX Pro, respectively.  If you’re running Nobeltec software now, you should be upgrading your software to the MAX Pro versions because you’re already on a PC of some kind and that nearly always means Internet access.  Most MAX Pro users will plug in a USB thumb drive to their nav unit, tell the unit to update the licensed charts; and then the unit will place the update request on the USB drive.  Plug that into an Internet-connected device and it will automatically go get the updates, which can then be downloaded onto the nav computer.  A typical update might take from 30-60 seconds; only the update information is being retrieved, not the whole chart.

New Navico Broadband Radar Overlay on MAX Pro Chart -- Image Courtesy of Jeppesen Marine

New Navico Broadband Radar Overlay on MAX Pro Chart -- Image Courtesy of Jeppesen Marine

We will have a follow-on piece in the near future on the Nobeltec software with some demonstrations and discussions of how to do the chart updating, so stay tuned.

Another option for PC-navigation users is with the products of Rose Point Navigation.  Its ECS (used more by commerical mariners) and Coastal Explorer programs feature easy updating of the charts, including all the raster and vector charts available from NOAA.  Watch for our review of the Rose Point programs in the upcoming series on PC-based navigation.

In the meantime, if you use Navionics or Garmin-brand cartography, get after them to speed this capability to market.  I hear whispers that Garmin may be close to such a capability but the company won’t specifically confirm it.  Auto-updating of your navigation charts is an important safety enhancement and a technology already demonstrated to be ready for prime time.

Copyright © 2009 OceanLines LLC

Posted by Tom in Technology