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Pauls tips

If you haven't had a chance to catch Paul's tips you are missing out!! 

Paul provides very useful tips usually on a monthly basis. Please click below to see the latest and catch up on the rest!  Including

  • How Far Away is that Waypoint?
  • Reciprocal Course
  • How to Report Position While Underway
  • What’s the Most Important Safety Device on the Boat? (It’s a trickquestion...)
  • Line Handling Commands –Geek Out on Them

 Paul's Tips - Click here!

Wear it Proudly and Correctly - By Gary A. Kaplan, Operations D11 North

The first topic presented in law enforcement training aboard Coast Guard Cutter ASPEN underscores the proper wearing of uniforms. At first glance, a Coast Guard boarding team and a Coast Guard Auxiliary boat crew may not seem to have much in common. However, there is one very significant similarity. At times, both we and they interact very closely with the public, they while boarding a vessel, and we while rendering assistance.

Behavioral science has shown that within 10 seconds of seeing someone, we formulate opinions of them that are based solely on appearance, and that these impressions are lasting.

“If you want to be taken for a professional, look like a professional.”
When we are operating under orders, we are not Coast Guard Auxiliary, but Coast Guard, and that the facilities upon which we are patrolling are not Coast Guard Auxiliary facilities, but Coast Guard facilities. It is, therefore, our duty to look like professionals. If your uniform is faded, replace it, if it is soiled, wash it.  For dress uniforms if it is wrinkled, iron it.

The Coast Guard has accorded us a very high honor by authorizing us to wear what is essentially a Coast Guard officer’s uniform, the primary difference being, the stripes on our shoulder boards are silver and theirs are gold. At the very least, we should repay that honor by wearing the uniform properly.

Some more tips from  Paul Verveniotis SO-OP D11


As the pandemic restrictions ease and we get ready to get back out on patrols, it may be time to brush up a bit on safety.
What’s the Most Important Safety Device on the Boat? (It’s a trick question…)

I sometimes ask prospective Coxswains and crewmembers what they think is the most important safety device on the boat.  In each case, the individual will invariably begin to rattle off all of the PPE they wear (PFD, PLB, strobe light, etc).  Or they will itemize all of the boat’s equipment such as the ring life buoy, visual distress signals, ignition cutoff and all other safety equipment.

While these are all very important, there is one other item which is both the cause and prevention of more mishaps than any other item. What is this item?

The throttle.

Of course most folks don’t think of the throttle as a safety device.  But just think about what the throttle actually does – it THROTTLES the engine, meaning it is used to strangle the engine of air (and fuel) and prevent it from running away at full RPM.  It doesn’t MAKE the engine go – it holds it back as desired. 

What an amazing device!  With just a couple of fingertips, the helmsperson can choose at will how fast several tons of facility is moving.   With that thought comes the realization that probably the majority of (or maybe all) “close calls” you might have experienced in the past were directly related to throttle position.  Remember that wake that was struck with excessive speed and caused your crewmember to bang their head into the bulkhead?  Or that time the boat struck the dock too hard due to excessive speed when docking?

Of course this is a bit tongue in cheek, and there are numerous other factors at play. But I feel comfortable in the argument that in the majority of mishaps, the single thing that would have most directly changed the outcome is a different throttle position.

Now, the key thing here is proper manipulation of the throttle for the situation at hand, whether it is approaching a dock, or an alongside tow, or any other maneuver.  And that takes practice – lots of it.  But the key takeaway should be the need to make an honest assessment of one’s skills and the conditions at hand (such as night ops) and more often than not that you should SLOW DOWN!  There is no doubt that some maneuvers such as boat handling in wind require more aggressiveness on the throttle.  

If you think of those little levers as miracle safety devices which slow down tons of mass at will, then you will find a greater respect of their importance in staying safe.

Man Overboard   

Acting as a Man Overboard is NOT a Competency

If you were to look at the narratives of past Auxiliary mishaps across the nation, you’d see a lot of them involve crew falling into the water.  Not a good thing, especially in cold weather or at night.  At a minimum you’ll have a wet and exhausted crewmember and some paperwork to complete.  The worst case could be tragic. The following is an excerpt from an actual MOB mishap report:

During a PATON patrol, an Auxiliary OPFAC was maintaining position in order to photograph the aid for a report.  The Coxswain notified the crew that he was going to reposition the vessel and pushed the throttle forward.  The Auxiliarist taking the photo was not able to react in time and was thrown from the vessel.  The PIW came to the surface and was disoriented and had difficulty maneuvering.  A PWC facility came alongside the PIW with a rescue device and assisted them back to the vessel.  With help from the Coxswain and crew, the PIW was able to climb the ladder and onto the swim platform.  Time in the water was ten to fifteen minutes…

The reality is that nearly all MOB events are totally preventable, and there are things the crew should do together to prevent them.  It all starts even before the patrol with a self-assessment of your physical capabilities and the particulars of that facility.  Can you adequately work on that facility or would a larger boat be more appropriate for you?  Be honest with yourself.  

On the patrol day, a pre-underway briefing should highlight location of handholds, rules about going forward, and any other particulars.  On my facility, there are two cutout areas on either side where the railing is lower and only at knee height.  I highlight these to the crew before EVERY patrol.

We’ve all heard “one hand for yourself, one hand for the boat” – you should always maintain three points of contact, particularly when outside of the cabin.  Use your hands and get low when moving about the cockpit.  If you are reaching over the side while working you should have another crewmember hold your PFD from behind as an added safety precaution.
The coxswain’s management and boat handling skills play a major part in mitigating the possibility of mishaps.  Communication is key, and the helmsperson should always be announcing COMING UP, COMING DOWN, COMING ABOUT TO PORT, etc. to let the crew know of the upcoming maneuver.  And announce it before you execute the change to give folks time to reach for a handhold if necessary.  Good situational awareness of the surroundings means there would be less chance of being surprised by a hazard that would require a rapid evasive action.

When underway in forward gear, the pivot point of a boat is roughly one third of the boat’s length back from the bow.  That means that when you turn to starboard the stern swings to port quite rapidly, and anyone standing at the aft end of the cockpit could easily be ejected if not ready and holding something.  When maneuvering to evade an object in the water it is generally safer to slow down quickly rather than throw the helm over.  Sure, the crew might bump in to things on board but that’s better than going over the side.  Besides, remember the importance of the throttle in safety management – you should not be carrying more speed than necessary for the situation at hand to minimize surprises.

And finally – no jumping when approaching a dock!  Even the smallest jump could turn out badly.  I make sure crew members STEP off the  boat while holding the rail in one hand and a dock line in the other – this should be mentioned in the pre-docking briefing you conduct just like for any other evolution.