Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to look at it more closely. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

You Had to be There...

CG44331 on BAR patrol - circa 1975
Umpqua River Lifeboat Station
Over the years as I’ve adventured, fished, canoed, and photographed in various places, I’ve run across some interesting characters and down-right funny experiences.  For most of those humorous situations…well they seemed a lot more humorous at the time than the retelling of the story could possibly portray…sort of one of those…you had to be there…moments.  Well…anyway…here’s one of the funnier ones.

Back in the mid-1970’s I woke up one day and decided I wanted to join the U.S. Coast Guard.  Sounded like a great idea as at the time I had not a clue as to what I really wanted to do with my life and with three years of college behind me and one year of college left before I would have to eventually face that fact for real, I deemed it a great adventure to do something exciting for a few years.  It turned out to be a great experience, but with a lot of mundane work occasionally broken by other situations such as capsizing, boat fires, heart attacks, storms, thick fog, trailer sailor foolish antics, and more routine mechanical break downs…it was those other situations that became rather interesting and added a bit of spice to one’s life as a member of a search and rescue team.  Even with all the mundane stuff that took up most of our time, there were moments of levity. 

One of the newer 47 footers
 that replaced the old 44's
Most of my four year CG career spanned a timeframe of about two and half years serving at the Umpqua River Lifeboat Station at Winchester Bay, Oregon (sort of like a firehouse setup)…with the remainder of the next year and half spent on what is call an Ant Team, or Aides to Navigation Team, and a River Buoy Tender…in Oklahoma of all places.  I must admit…my time at Umpqua River was quite an adventure as we averaged something over 400 SAR’s…(search and rescues)…a year back then, most of them were routine and most occurred between May 31 and September 1…on one occasion we set a record at the time of something like 27 SAR’s in one day.  We operated two of those fabulous 44 foot motor lifeboats…CG44303 and CG44331 along with a couple other smaller rigs.

During the winter months, any SAR’s we had tended to be a bit more non-routine simply because the weather was nastier, but most of the time the boats were tied up inside our boathouse and we were constantly working on them.  Being that I was part of the deck crew, we spent most of the working day outside exposed to the cold and wind…even inside the boathouse.  Now the engineering crews…Snipes we called them…got to spend most of their day sitting inside a nice warm engine room pretending to actually be working on something.  We knew better as they had this habit of goofing off more than working…and took advantage of the warm environment.

Well…one particularly cold day, several of the snipes huddled in the warm engine room and as always we were freezing topside.  One additional snipe made his way past us, down into the forward compartment, then into the engine room and it was the last straw…one of the deck guys had had about enough of it and blurted out…”By gosh…(or something a bit more colorful to that effect) I’ve had enough of their slacker ways…I’m going to do something about it…follow me and just watch.”

Well, 3 or 4 of us followed him down into the forward compartment and watched him open the hatch to the engine room.  Sure enough about 5 or 6 snipes were huddled in there doing nothing.  The engine room of a 44 is rather small and can at best hold 5 or 6 people…
Web photo - Typical 44 / Chopper action
 He said..”Wait here”. …and stepped inside closing the hatch behind him.  We had no clue what he was up to.  Over the next few minutes we could hear everyone 
inside laughing and having a good ole time after which our deck friend opened the hatch, step out, then closed it and dogged down the handle leaning on it so it would be virtually impossible to open.

He said…”They’ll be wanting out of there in just a few seconds…just watch.”

Sure enough, within a few seconds we begin to hear all kinds of cursing and various sailor language explicative’s being verbally thrown around inside and several of them tried to open the hatch…which our friend would not allow to happen as he leaned heavily on the dogging handle.  They started pounding on the window and the verbal abuse increased in intensity.

We were laughing…but still didn’t know why…until our friend let us in on the deal….Seems he had released a rather long but silent fart of a highly toxic nature inside the engine room and then slipped out before anyone noticed.  Within the confines of that cramped, warm engine room the air became barely breathable…we laughed so hard that tears were streaming down our faces…it was one of the best payback moments of all time…oh…yeah…he finally  did let them out, but not until they had absorbed most of the obnoxious fumes into their lungs...anyway...you had to be there.

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