This week, the Guardians of the Week come to us from the Sector Hampton Roads area of responsibility. We are honoring the members of the Coast Guard small boat Station Wachapreague for their dedication to duty during Operation Dry Water.
As the smallest unit in the Sector’s area, Station Wachapreague has just 16 members. Even with this limited manpower, the unit devoted over 47 hours patrolling the waters and conducting 104 boardings in support of the safe boating operation. The unit’s crew and command cadre participated in the operation as well as members from the local Auxiliary, Flotilla 1202, the Virginia Marine Resource Commission, and the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.
Located on the Eastern Shore of Virginia, the Station doesn’t get the major marine traffic like Station Portsmouth. In order to drive home the message of Operation Dry Water, the crewmembers decided to focus their attention on some of the maritime areas that don’t typically have a good Coast Guard presence. According to the Station’s Executive Petty Officer Andrew Merritt, “we wanted to show the [Coast Guard] flag in some of the more rural areas too.” He said that over the past few years, the unit has noticed a decrease in the number and severity of search and rescue cases as well as a decrease in the number of safety violations since they have increased the number of boardings conducted.
This says a lot for their efforts.
Each boarding includes an initial safety inspection, documentation inspection, and a check for compliance with U.S. law. However, actually having the proper safety gear onboard is only part of the battle. Boat owners and passengers must also know how to use it.
Enter, the free Vessel Safety Exam program.
Coast Guard Auxiliary offers free vessel safety checks for all types of boats including motor boats, sailboats, kayaks, jet skis, and other personal watercraft. The best part is there are no penalties given for this voluntary inspection. It is an opportunity for boat owners to have their boat inspected by a trained inspector, ask questions and find out the boating requirements for their vessel.
Sorry, I digress. Back to the point of this post…
Station Wachapreague really took to the task and stepped up to the challenge of Operation Dry Water initiatives. The unit and its crew stood out among leadership as doing a lot with limited resources.
However, Station Wachapreague wasn’t the only unit out on the water in full force last weekend. Units across Sector Hampton Roads area of responsibility stepped up in their efforts to crack down on boating under the influence and promote safe boating. In fact, Coast Guard units coordinated efforts with federal, state and local agencies to conduct over 1,622 boardings and apprehend seven boaters under the influence in support of the operation.
Beyond the nation-wide Operation Dry Water, Sector Hampton Roads units also conducted a local initiative over Memorial Day weekend to raise awareness of recreational boating safety. During Operation Logan’s Charge, Sector units and partner agencies worked together to conduct 2,695 boardings that weekend.
I don’t know if you’re counting, but that’s over 4,300 safety boardings in just two weekends!
The success of these two operations is due to the joint coordination and execution efforts of several agencies. Not only did Coast Guard Stations Portsmouth, Little Creek, Milford Haven, Cape Charles, Chincoteague, Ocean City and, of course, Wachapreague participate but also the following partner agencies;
- Virginia Marine Police
- Virginia Marine Resource Commission
- Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
- Maryland Natural Resource Police
- Norfolk Police Department
- Portsmouth Police Department
- Newport News Marine Unit
- Suffolk Police Department
- Virginia Beach Marine Patrol Unit
- Hampton Police Department
- Chesapeake Police Department
- James City County
- Smithfield Police Department
This list may not be all-inclusive and I apologize if I did not include a contributing agency name.
Bravo Zulu to Station Wachapreague, Sector Hampton Roads, and all the Coast Guard, federal, state and local resources across the nation that went the extra mile to make Operation Dry a success! The outstanding dedication to duty and commitment to public safety is duly recognized.
Do you know someone in the Coast Guard that has done something great for the service, the missions or the public? Please submit your nominations for Guardian of the Week using the submit button at the top of the page.