USCGC Kiska Braves Adverse Weather, Completes fisheries Patrol
The crew of the USCGC Kiska (WPB 1336) returned to home port in Hilo last week after a particularly challenging living marine resources patrol due to weather.
Despite encountering seas of more than 10-feet and 23 to 35 mph winds the crew carried out fisheries boardings and worked on crew qualifications while navigating approximately 1,450 total miles.
Over 8 days they spent 126 hours enforcing fisheries laws by conducting two boardings approximately 300 miles from the Hawaiian Islands, ensuring the sustainability of fisheries in the Pacific. Under the Ocean Guardian Strategy the Coast Guard's mission is to protect the nation’s living marine resources by employing the right tools in the right place at the right time.
“I believe the living marine resources mission is critical because as Coast Guardsmen we are responsible for keeping those on the water safe and protecting the wildlife within,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Devan Wieczorek, a boatswain’s mate aboard Kiska.
According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, Pacific fisheries accounted for 6.9 million pounds of the total combined landings in the U.S. worth $2.5 million in 2014.
While neither boarding resulted in any fisheries violations the crew did find concerns aboard one of the vessels resulting in coordination with Customs and Border Protection to ensure compliance with applicable occupational safety and employment regulations.
In addition to completing the patrol, Kiska’s crew conducted various training. The crew qualified five deck seamen through line handling and small boat evolutions, one davit operator to manage the ship’s on board crane during small boat evolutions, one quartermaster of the watch, two small boat crewmen, one boarding team member and two in port officer of the deck crewman. These positions are vital to the operation of the ship.
The adverse weather and sea state presented challenges for the cook as well.
"Even though the sea state was large the crew still had to eat,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Jarod Williams, a food service specialist aboard Kiska. “Morale tends to go down when the crew’s operations are limited. So during the patrol, even more than usual, it fell on me to make meals that the crew enjoyed. Including desserts, homemade bread and meals they normally enjoy underway. Also being underway for an extended period is always a challenge. Perishable storage can get tight and menu planning is a vital skill."
“Prior to our fishery patrol, the Executive Officer, Lt. j.g. Stephen Atwell, made it a point to train new and existing crewmembers in shipboard damage control, navigation, man overboard and various other trainings,” said Lt. Kevin Trujillo, commanding officer, USCGC Kiska. “He prepared us for anything because when you conduct operations 200 plus miles offshore you better be ready. If something bad happens, there is no one around to help you.”
In addition to Damage Control drills, the crew conducted extensive small boat launch and recovery evolutions to ensure the crew was ready to launch the small boat in an extreme sea state.
“Our training paid off when we were 250 miles offshore and the weather took a turn for the worse while the small boat was underway en route to a fishing vessel,” said Trujillo. “The winds picked up out of nowhere and we ended up calling off the boarding because the boarding team was unable to embark the vessel. The fishing vessel was rolling approximately 20 to 30 degrees making it impossible for the boarding team to embark safely. When it came to recovering our small boat, everyone had to be on their "A-game." Eight-foot seas, heavy winds, and a short wave period is not an environment to train in. It's an environment you put your most highly trained people on the lines to get that small boat and the crew back safely. All in all, the patrol was a success."
The Kiska is one of four patrol boats in Hawaii and one of two 110-foot Island Class patrol boats. Kiska is the only patrol boat homeported on a neighbor island. In addition to conducting search and rescue missions, the Kiska crew also works to protect ports, waterways, and conduct coastal security; maritime law enforcement; and living marine resources protection like their Kohola Guardian patrols to enforce safety for Humpback Whales around Maui in the late winter.