Drill, baby, drill

About a week ago, the crew of the aptly named Guard, a Crowley Maritime escort/harbor tug in San Francisco, pulled a man from the water outside the Golden Gate Bridge. According to Crowley’s press release, Perry Overton, skipper of the Guard, “noticed the man treading water a little more than a mile and a half from the bridge.”

Overton and his crew approached the man, tossed him a life ring while chief engineer Keith Madding donned a survival suit and got in the water to assist the victim aboard. On the boat, the crew removed the hypothermic man’s wet clothing and wrapped him in blankets until the Coast Guard arrived and took over.

The Guard went on to escort an incoming tanker, as scheduled.

Just another day at the office.

As a company, Crowley is crazy about safety. Every company meeting, I’ve been told, begins with a “safety moment.” This even applies to meetings at Jensen Maritime Consultants, the naval architecture firm that is now a Crowley subsidiary. For boat crews, the company mandates participation in the annual Crowley Safety Program that “provides training in cold-water survival tactics, shipboard fire fighting, medical incidents and other relevant topics [that]give the mariners the skills and confidence they need to survive in emergency situations,” according to Crowley. The Guard’s crew had also trained in-water with survival suits for man-overboard and other water rescues.

The importance of safety drills was a topic that came up several times at the Pacific Northwest Maritime Conference in Seattle in September. Both table-top and onboard drills were applauded and endorsed. Julie Keim, owner of Compass Courses, a maritime training school in Edmonds, Wash., said that in addition to frequent drills, doing a post-drill debrief can be just as useful.

I’m still wondering why some guy was treading water in the 55° ocean outside Golden Gate, but he probably wasn’t doing a drill. 

About the author

Bruce Buls

With a degree in English literature from the University of Washington (Go Dawgs!), journalism experience at the once-upon-a-time Seattle P-I, and at-sea experience as a commercial fisherman in Washington and Alaska, Bruce Buls has forged a career in commercial marine trade journalism, including stints at Alaska Fishermen’s Journal and National Fisherman, WorkBoat’s sister publications. Bruce spent 16 years as WorkBoat's technical editor before retiring in May 2015. He lives on Puget Sound’s Whidbey Island, about 20 miles north of Seattle (go 'Hawks!).

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