By BMC Jeremiah Wolf
Station Cape Disappointment is known around the Coast Guard as an unforgiving and challenging place to operate. Notorious for 2,000 shipwrecks and 700 deaths since its discovery, people across the world recognize it as the Graveyard of the Pacific. But to the crew of Station Cape Disappointment, it is both a home and a training ground.
Cape Disappointment’s most treacherous feature is the Surf that defines the bar. Surf was present on the bar more than 150 days in 2012. Surf is created when the powerful ocean storms that develop off Japan and the Aleutian Islands collide against the shoals and four-knot currents created by the Columbia River. The result is towering surf that can flip a boat in seconds, much too quickly for a rescue call to go out. That is why the crew of Cape Disappointment must be masters of their craft.
In order to be a master of their craft, the crew of Station Cape Disappointment conducts training in the Surf whenever possible. During the 2012-2013 winter season, the crew conducted more than 115 hours of Surf training in conditions ranging from 40 knots of wind to stinging hail. They also battled poor visibility and conditions too large to for training.
From October 2012 to March 2013, the crew documented their training on video. The video contained in this article is the product of that footage. You will see the crew and boats negotiating some big waves. If you look closely you might also see them having fun.
“Surf Training is awesome.” SN Josh Bjorkland said. “It’s an experience that not a lot of 19-year-olds get to take part in.”
During one clip you will see what happens when surf training goes wrong. During the musical break the boat does not properly negotiate a wave. It heels over and plunges the crew underwater. The boat shown in the video re-righted within 8-10 seconds. Once upright, the crew followed their training and safely exited out of the surf.
The crew of Station Cape Disappointment meets the task of being “Graveyard Guardians” daily. It takes courage and devotion to duty to fill that role. More importantly it takes the desire to face challenges boldly, train in extreme weather, and to strive to be a master of your craft. It’s also a lot of fun.