NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) -- The salty air, the rolling waves, the sheer expanse of the water calls to many of us. To some, however, the call is to serve.
"It's great that my office is the Long Island Sound," said Boatswain's Mate Second Class Sean Hoeman, who has spent six years in the Coast Guard. "I'm not stuck at a desk everyday, and I can go out. If you're having problems, whatever, you can come out on the water, and help the public."
The public has a large nautical playground on the waters of the Long Island Sound, but even playgrounds must be patrolled and protected. That is the job of the United States Coast Guard and in large part by Station New Haven. If you look at the map of Connecticut, Long Island Sound looks like this narrow body of water. But there's a lot of ground for the Coast Guard to cover out there.
"We have roughly 560 nautical miles area of responsibility just for our unit alone," said Machinery Technician Timothy Bible. "We have sisters units outside of this area, and, I mean, look how many boats we have in this one spot right here. It's a lot of area. But within the last three years, we've increased our staffing. In my unit alone we went to thirty four people in a unit that used to be a station of twelve or fourteen people."
The added manpower is needed as the Coast Guard's responsibilities continue to evolve. And life is about to get more hectic for the men and women in blue. When the weather warms up, boats start to dot the horizon like stars on the water, and two important aspects of their job involve education and safety.
"I think the biggest thing is being a prudent mariner and knowing about the water," Jason Beeker. "A lot of people get on their boat, a little 24-foot center console or something, to go and go Long Island and go fishing or something; weather kicks up on the way back and before you know it you're stuck on four to five footers on a small boat. It's dangerous. The biggest thing is know the local area and be on top of the weather."
"Based here in the New Haven area, times are changing," said Maritime Enforcement Specialist Jason Anderson, who has been in the Coast Guard for nine years. "The requirements to the vessels change every day. We have to stay on top of that. Fisheries changing every day. We have to be on top of that. We have to be in front of the boating public so we know what we're doing out on the water."
Throw life-saving onto the resume as well for members of the Coast Guard. Weather can be a boater's friend -- or adversary. And the calm waters of the Sound can become like a washing machine in a matter of minutes. A panicked voice on a distress call ignites the adrenaline and the engines in their new 45-foot boats.
"A sailboat was adrift, the guy was having chest problems, and ... it was blowing real bad, three to five footers," Hoeman said. "We were able to get him off the boat and get him back to shore for EMS. That was middle of the night. We got the call about three in the morning. It was a wild night, and it had a happy ending, so that's good," he said.
"Usually the case happens at two o'clock in the morning," said Beeker. "That fisherman is disabled or, something happens on the boat. There's great fishing, great stripped bass fishing in these waters so people go out at night, won't use the proper navigational lights, their anchor light, or they'll run out of gas a lot of the time."
'Semper Paratus.' It's the motto of the United States Coast Guard, and it means "Always Ready." Ready to teach, ready to patrol, ready to rescue. The sea calls to many of us, but for a select few, the call is aimed at protecting and respecting what Connecticut's waters have to offer.
"It's the summer, it's busy, things are rampant. You're out all of the time, long nights, long days, it's why you do the job," Hoeman said. But no complaints? "No, none at all!"
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