This past week we’ve been celebrating National Safe Boating Week, and I talked about stupid things boaters do out there on the water. The whole point of Safe Boating Week is to make boaters more conscientious of exercising common sense and diligence not only this week but throughout the summer and beyond.
One of the things I mentioned was carrying and using life jackets. A second was the failure to check the weather forecast. After all, do you really think a member of the Coast Guard should not go home to his/her family tonight because they died getting you out of a dangerous situation you should never have put yourself into?
The third stupid thing I mentioned was operating a boat while intoxicated. Pirates used to do it, and the consequences were often devastating. Blackbeard’s head was hanging from the bowsprit of Capt. Maynard’s ship when he brought survivors of Blackbeard’s crew to Williamsburg. Nothing glorious or funny about that. In fact, the only place where drinking and operating a vehicle is funny is in the movies. Everyone in the audience has a great time, and then the words The End flash on the screen and everyone goes home happy. Except in real life, where after a DUI or a BUI, there’s a wake of dead and mangled bodies and a swath of broken lives.
Playing it forward, I think the next stupid thing boaters do is to fail to make sure all their systems are functioning properly. That funny noise you heard your engine make last time you were out. Well, are you going to check it out before weighing anchor tomorrow? That funny smell coming from below deck that smells oddly like burning wires, did you give that any thought when you got back to the marina?
Did you know it doesn’t cost you a red cent to have your boat inspected by someone who is a qualified expert, as good as any you’ll find in the best of marinas? These men and women are professional, friendly, and knowledgeable. And they won’t try to sell you on repairs you don’t need. Have you ever heard of the United States Coast Guard Auxiliary?
You’ll find them across the United States, in marinas, bays, and channels, and they will inspect your boat for free. The only thing you need to pay is a little respect and attention. Contrary to what some boaters say, the Coast Guard and their right arm, Coast Guard Auxiliarists, who number over 26,000, are not wet blankets with the sole purpose of ruining your plans for fun out on the water. By 2017, the 200th birthday of the Coast Guard, these men and women, who serve in this unique military branch, saved over 4,188 lives and performed over 16,907 rescues. Maybe one day, your life or one of your loved ones will be added to that number.
To find out more information on this dedicated group of men and women who still serve their country without pay, or to request an inspection of your floating bucket of bolts, go to http://www.cgaux.org/vsc/ .
The fifth stupid thing boaters do is to fail to learn the basic rules of boating safety and navigation. Taking a basic course with neither your head nor your heart in it can be dangerous for the simple reason that you think you know all about operating a boat. The British poet, Alexander Pope was right 300 years ago, and he’s still right. “A little learning is a dangerous thing.” And nothing’s more dangerous than an arrogant, know-it-all boater except maybe a drunken, arrogant, know-it-all boater.
There are all kinds of courses you can take. Some of them excellent, and some pretty pathetic. If you want a fair recommendation, ask the experts who have to deal with the mess, ignorant and stupid boaters leave in their wake. As if you couldn’t guess, contact http://www.cgaux.org/boatinged/ and look for boating courses.
Another stupid thing that annoys the bejessus out of safe boaters are the fools that operate their boat recklessly. They’re the ones who hot dog it in the bay and marina, cross your path, leaving you little time to react, while you have to deal with their wake. It’s the equivalent of someone crossing three lanes of traffic to make it to their exit ramp. Everyone else be damned. Many of these boaters are either so drunk or are texting and don’t even know they’re bearing down on you, leaving you little time to react. When these guys get caught, they should be used as chum by the local fishing fleet.
Letting your Uncle Joe, who up to now has only seen pictures of a boat, take the helm, is probably just as stupid as being a hotdog. Why would you do that? You have an expensive piece of equipment, and you’re letting someone with no experience take control, while you’re aft getting ripped on vodka and orange juice?
The eighth stupid thing you can probably do is to go out without filing a plan with someone. If you fail to come home at the end of the day, your wife is going to sound pretty stupid. “Where did he go?” “I don’t know?” “What time did he weigh anchor?’ “I don’t know.” “Was he expecting to stop somewhere?” “I don’t know.” “Do you know anything?” “I know I’ll be happy if you wait four weeks before starting a Search and Rescue.”
Seriously, bad things can happen out on the river as well as the sea, and the sooner the professionals know they should be looking for you, and as soon as they have a clue where to look, the better are your chances of being rescued.
The ninth stupid thing a boater can do is fail to bring sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat. The weather looks overcast, muses many a boater as he weighs anchor at 7:00 am. “Aww, shucks! I left that stuff in another bag in the car.” Two hours later the fog and mist have burned away. Want to know the next thing that’s going to burn away? The epidermis on a boater’s exposed skin. With no hat, a bald man’s head is a solar panel for the sun’s rays, and his nose, ears, and neck become ground zero for melanoma. And with no covering for his eyes, he is about to inflict serious damage on his retinas. And I’m betting it won’t be the first time either.
That brings us to the tenth stupid thing that boaters do, but I’m done. I’m leaving number ten to you. What do you think is a stupid, stupid thing that a stupid, stupid boater does? This piece won’t be complete without your contribution. So whether you’re an inveterate boater, an armchair sailor, a Navy frogman, or a member of the USCG, let me hear from you.
My pirate ship is moored at an undisclosed location, and I’m sitting under a palm tree in my Key West Garden here in Murrells Inlet. A bottle of Repel 40 deet sits on my table next to my Panama Jack 70 sunblock. My Margaritaville glass, once filled with water, is nearly empty. It’s important to stay hydrated in this humid SC weather, so I think my refill is going to be a Foster’s, mate! I’m in dock, my bare feet on terra firma, but the dreams of the sea still call my name. Maybe I’ll answer tomorrow. Meanwhile, here’s looking at you, kid! And stay safe out there on the water. And don’t forget to behave yourself. Or you may be reading about yourself in this blog next week.
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It’s with a heavy heart and a whole lot of angst that I’m writing this blog. The United States is now in its 34th day of a government shutdown that Donald Trump, our ersatz president gleefully takes credit for. The scenario has the emperor Nero written all over it. For those of you who were smoking in the boy’s or girl’s bathroom during that history lesson, Nero was the sadistic emperor who played his fiddle while Rome burned. Sound familiar?
The Coast Guard along with countless thousands of others are now facing the second payday without a paycheck. Part of the strumpet’s coterie suggests these hardworking folks go to their local grocery store and tell the manager, they can’t pay now, but they’ll pay later. That would be laughable if it wasn’t so pathetic. As if the grocery stores don’t have to meet their own overhead and pay salaries.
Or how about this. When your credit card bill and your mortgage payment come due, the president wants you to pick up the phone and tell the nice person at the other end you are a government employee and you’re sacrificing yourself so he can build a wall for his supporters. Do you know how stupid that sounds?
Imagine telling 40,000 Coast Guard men and women that the sacrifices they make day in and day out is not enough. “Now you must sacrifice even more so I can build a wall.” And this coming from the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. If I wrote a book with this stuff in it, my agent would laugh me out of her office.
Of course, the Strumpet isn’t the only one to blame for the terrible predicament the Coast Guard and other federal employees are in. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell evidently thinks his job is to be head cheerleader for the president of the U.S. Now there’s someone who must have been smoking in the boy’s bathroom when civics was being taught.
Our forefathers set up our government with three branches. The Senate and the Congress are supposed to make laws. Not the president. If the president doesn’t like what’s put before him, he can veto it. It’s then up to the Congress and the Senate to get enough votes to override his veto and make their proposal into a law.
Instead of assuming the unpleasant task of confronting the president, McConnell has, instead, decided to climb into bed with the strumpet. Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin would be infuriated if they could see this scenario being played out.
I don’t know how long this shutdown will continue, but I want to put a few salient facts about the Coast Guard before you. And if you’re not angered by what is being done to the members of the USCG, you’re part of the problem. If you are angered, then let the politicians know how furious you are, and let them know you have a long memory, a memory that stretches to the next elections in 2020.
If you do nothing, then when planes begin dropping out of the sky because air traffic controllers can’t do their job properly, when security at our ports falters, when the USCG can’t buy the gas they need to run their boats and helicopters to perform their Search-and-Rescue missions, you really must accept your part in this fiasco.
Maybe you know a Coastie who is struggling to make ends meet, maybe you know an air traffic controller whose mind is distracted because he can’t pay his kid’s medical bills, or maybe you know some other government worker who’s been told to take a job as an Uber driver or get a loan which will have to be paid back with double- digit interest while the billionaires in Washington waddle to their five-star restaurants and hotels, insulated from reality.
Support our unpaid patriots in whatever way you can. They’re hardworking folks just like you and me, and they don’t deserve to be betrayed by their Commander-in-Chief or other politicians in Washington. A couple of bucks, a gift card to help them through the crisis, a donation to a local food pantry; it’s all good. Contact the Coast Guard in your area. They’ll give you some ideas. Donate to the USO who’s also involved in assisting these dedicated men and women, being treated like shameless pawns.
Did You know…
The Uncommon Mariner
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I’ve had the most amazing experience this past week, an experience that ranks up there with the capture of Blackbeard or the invention of the spyglass. A lot of people use the word amazing recklessly, but this was truly amazing. Shortly before the Fourth of July, I had the pleasure of witnessing my daughter’s promotion from lieutenant to lieutenant commander at the Coast Guard Station Sector Charleston in SC.
What made it especially exciting is that I was given the privilege of participating in the event. Commanding officer, Captain John Reed, presented Lieutenant Commander Maureen Hegerich with the document that officially promoted her to her new rank. The second part of the ceremony centered on the removal of her old shoulder boards marked with two stripes, one on each of her shoulders. Once removed, the new shoulder boards with three stripes, were pinned to her uniform.
Her son, Seaman Joshua Olsen, a second generation Coastie, whose father is Master Chief Jason Olsen, did the left shoulder. I had the distinct honor of pinning the new board on her right. I’ve never been prouder of my daughter.
It was a moment she worked hard for. No one achievement placed her in that time and place. Years of hard work, commitment and sacrifice did.
My daughter has served proudly in the Coast Guard for over 21 years, a feat not easily achieved in today’s era when many military personnel are forced into retirement long before they reach that 20-year milestone. It’s hard to beat knowledge, dedication and experience.
And make no mistake about it. Her experience is extremely diversified. Her first billet from 1997 to 1999 was at Station Fort Pierce, Florida as a member of the boat crew and boarding team.
Not one to coast, in 1998, she struck yeoman completely on her own. Most Coasties enlist in a specially designed program to make yeoman in Petaluma, CA. Lieutenant Commander Hegerich pursued yeoman independently while serving at Coast Guard Station Fort Pierce.
From 2000 to 2005, she served at Activities, New York where she witnessed the tragedy of 911 firsthand. In 2005 and 2006, she served at Group Fort Macon at Atlantic Beach, NC where she served as yeoman.
It was after that tour that she enrolled in Officers Candidate School in the fall of 2006. The rigorous training regimen she faced helped make her who she is today. Her first billet after graduation in February 2007 took her to the training center in Yorktown, Virginia where she served on the Command Center Standardization Team till 2009. Her work carried her to command centers around the country making sure protocol, regulations and policy were being followed.
In 2009, she went to Sector Southeast New England on Cape Cod as assistant intel Chief till 2012. That experience prepared her for her next billet at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, DC where she served as program manager for Intel training. Between 2016 and 2018, she remained in Washington working as part of the Sexual Assault Prevention Response Campaign, and then on Human Capital Strategy. Her most recent assignment takes her to Sector Charleston as Logistics Department Head where she oversees engineering, administration, and supply. That entails support of the sector and its outlying units which includes small boat stations, cutters, and aids-to-navigation units.
My daughter’s duties varied widely in each billet. Because of security reasons, she couldn’t divulge some details to me. I will say this, however. The Coast Guard’s motto is Semper Paratis. Along with that, are three virtues their members highly cherish. Respect, Honor, and Devotion to Duty. Because of her commitment to those values and her willingness to put the Coast Guard and her country above herself, she has achieved some remarkable things over the years.
She received the MaryLou Whitney Military Leadership Award in 2005 for Woman of the Year. She has also received several prestigious commendations, but among her favorites are three good-conduct medals, a 9/11 medal, and a number of team commendation awards. Like a mother asked to choose her favorite child, she refuses because all are precious. But she does remember fondly team commendation awards for drug busts and a multi-heritage celebration.
I’ll say this for my daughter. She’s persistent. When she sets her eyes on a goal, she’s unbeatable. And she’s loyal. Something her family and coworkers can attest to. If they were to give an award to someone who boosts morale at a billet, she would win hands down, even if she were competing with the Dalai Lama or Mother Teresa.
I once told my daughter you don’t get to the top of a mountain by falling there. It takes a lot of hard work, persistence, and grace under pressure. But it also takes street smarts. And despite one’s acumen and ability, you’re no leader at all if you don’t know how to bring out the best in people. It’s a trait she has in spades and will serve her well in her present command.
I wish Lieutenant Commander Hegerich much success in her new billet. I’ve met Commanding Officer, Captain John Reed. and several other officers who head key departments as well as a number of yeomen at the Sector. It’s a delicious mélange of skills, experience, and perspectives. I know it’s a fine team assembled in Charleston. Everyone’s keen sense of dedication and commitment to their jobs and one another is as palpable as the ever-present Charleston humidity.
Blackbeard once held Charleston captive with a blockade. He took one of its leading citizens, Samuel Wragg, hostage and would not release him till a bag of medicine was rowed aboard his ship. Till then not one ship moved in or out of the harbor.
With the fine men and women serving Sector Charleston today, Blackbeard wouldn’t dare such a stunt. I’m betting my last doubloon he’d rather take his chances in the shoals of North Carolina with his nemesis, Lieutenant Robert Maynard, who literally handed him his head.
God bless everyone in the Coast Guard who serves our country so selflessly and honorably. May your luck run as deep as the sea and your worries be as light as its foam. And a special blessing to Lieutenant Commander Maureen Hegerich. You do us proud.
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My daughter, Lieutenant Maureen Katherine Hegerich, recently marked her nineteenth year in the United States Coast Guard. It seems a lifetime ago that this raw recruit showed up at the Cape May Coast Guard Training Center for basic training, but the tides of time keep shifting in fair weather and thick.
For anyone to dedicate nineteen years of his or her life to one’s country is a feat worth noting, not only because it marks a milestone, but because it represents a lifetime of untold sacrifices. And this is true for anyone who has served in the Army, Air Force, Navy, and U.S. Marine Corps as well.
After basic training, her tours of duty took her to Florida, Virginia, North Carolina, New York, Cape Cod, and Washington, D.C. But her responsibilities flung her beyond these billets on a wide range of assignments far from family and friends.
Because of her exemplary performance while at Activities New York, she was awarded the MaryLou Whitney Military Leadership Award on June 22, 2005. This Woman of the Year award was in “grateful appreciation, deepest respect and gratitude for her supreme sacrifice, dedicated service, and outstanding contributions to the national defense of the United States of America.”
Always hungry to perform beyond her own high standards, she applied for Officer Candidate School. Despite the incredible odds and fierce competition, in the fall of 2006, she earned a place on the roster of a school so selective and demanding, the chosen really are among a rare breed.
Many understand that Officer Candidate School in New London, Connecticut is designed to train and mold candidates into Coast Guard leaders with character, vision, courage, and intelligence. What the general public and many candidates fail to appreciate is how demanding and extensive the training is. Those who graduate from the seventeen week course are forever changed in ways only those who have passed through the rigorous training can understand. Maureen graduated in 2007. Continue reading →