Written by Lt. j.g. Samuel England, Coast Guard Cutter Dependable.
“Nowhere in military or civilian life is there a parallel to the range and degree of responsibility that is placed in the hands of the OOD.” Watch Officer’s Guide.
Officer of the deck. On a 210-foot medium endurance cutter, this position comes with the highest level of responsibility and is entrusted only to those with a multifaceted knowledge of shipboard operations. Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Holmes is one of the few of his rank to earn this qualification, serving as the commanding officer’s direct representative on the bridge of the ship.
To fully gain an appreciation of the tremendous work Holmes does as he stands the watch at sea, we are sharing a day in the life of an officer of the deck…
0330: Holmes relieves the deck and the conn; it is an early morning for Holmes as he served as the small boat coxswain for four fisheries law enforcement boardings the previous day.
0730: Relieved of the deck and the conn, Holmes heads to eat breakfast and plans for the work day.
0800: Holmes reviews the day’s schedule with members of deck force. A typical work day while underway for Dependable’s deck force can include painting, sanding, washing the small boats or maintenance and inventory on more than 700 pieces of rescue and survival gear.
1400: The SAR alarm is sounded. Coast Guard Cutter Dependable receives a message of a 75-foot disabled fishing vessel in distress, located 50 miles offshore in 15-foot seas with winds exceeding 30 knots and gusting up to 40.
1430: Holmes meets with the command and briefs a plan for the towing evolution, scheduled to occur at approximately 0130.
1530: After departing the brief, Holmes begins organizing a watch schedule for the 27 crewmembers who will be involved in the evolution – five who have never performed a towing evolution.
1600: Holmes conducts a towing brief for deck force, ensuring some of the crew’s newest members are fully aware of the environmental conditions they will be operating under shortly.
1730: Time for the evening meal.
1900: Holmes, along with 20 members of the deck department, prepare the fantail, or the back part of the boat, for the towing evolution. Preparations include laying out 1,000 feet of 8-inch tow hawser.
2000: Holmes reviews the plan with junior personnel and answers remaining concerns on specific roles during the evolution, verifying no junior personnel are unaware of their duties.
0132: The “towing bill” is officially set.
0300: The disabled fishing vessel is in tow with 675-feet of line at the rail.
0322: The towing exercise is complete and the disabled vessel is on their way safely to port. Holmes hurries down to get cleaned up and grab a few hours of sleep to ensure he was well rested… for the next watch a few short hours away.