Last week the US Coast Guard ship the Hamilton was in town. When I was closely involved with the Pacific Coast Collaborative, I got to know the US Consul General Phil Chicola and his wife Vicky. So Dave and I get these very interesting invitations from Phil like the one we received recently to a reception onboard the USCGC Hamilton (WHEC-715).
The Hamilton was launched on December 18, 1965 out of shipyards in New Orleans. It is a high endurance cutter — named in honour of Alexander Hamilton, who in 1790 was the first Secretary of the Treasury in the US. The ship, like many Coast Guard vessels, has served collecting oceanographic data, search and rescue missions and assisting in curbing the flow of illegal drugs and immigrants entering the US.
Of course the most interesting part of these receptions is meeting the people who work on the ship — in this case the officers. There are 167 men and women on the Hamilton. I didn’t meet any women officers. I met Captain Matthew J. Gimple who has the challenge of keeping everybody sane during 6 weeks at sea. The ship is based in San Diego and on this trip they went as far as the Pribilof Islands in the Bering Sea.
And experienced 37foot waves! One of the officers was telling me that he reported to the bridge for duty — a bit bleary eyed because of the time of the morning — and couldn’t believe that he was seeing waves. The bridge is 43 feet about the sea! So they experienced some severe weather.
I talked to some of the officers about their educational background. One had attended the US Coast Guard Academy and was an electrical engineer. Several others had college degrees in a variety of disciplines. I was also intrigued by the use of last names on their official name tags and asked how they referred to each other — by last names? But no. They call each other by what they do: Ops (Operations), Sup (Supplies) and so on. There is a gym on board — although they did admit that it wasn’t getting quite as much use as they had hoped.
While the ship is obviously well worn with use, I was surprised to find out that this was its last voyage. It is going to be de-commissioned. And the crew will move onto another Coast Guard cutter for their next foray out to sea.
Thank you to the US Consul General for broadening our understanding of the ships that ply the Pacific Coast of North America.