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Last Plug for Coast Guard Support

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Joined: 29 Mar 1994
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 23, 2008 12:42 pm    Post subject: Last Plug for Coast Guard Support Reply with quote

This is my last plug in case anyone wants to donate for the families of the air crew lost in Hawaii. I have heard back that a lot of people are in a tight place for cash (with the 401k quickly becoming a 201k) and I just wanted to point out that even a donation of $10 or $15 has real meaning because there are two distinct goals - (1) raising money for families and (2) showing that we as a community want to show our sympathy and appreciate the risk and effort that USCG members take. The total number of donors is what really speaks to the second point and right now we have mostly large donations from a relatively small number of donors. If you want to participate, send me an e-mail at I’m off to Maui on Monday, so any checks would need to hit the mail today or tomorrow. If you missed the earlier post, the info is below.



A Coast Guard helicopter went down off Honolulu last week with the loss of 4 crew members. They all left behind families. The co-pilot, LCDR Andy Wischmeier, was also an avid kitesurfer.

Among my fellow members of the Coast Guard Auxiliary who run training drills with our local Coast Guard air crews, I started a drive to collect donations to the Coast Guard Foundation's Family Disaster Relief Fund. We are going to present those donations through the SF Air Station to let them know that we appreciate the risks that they regularly take to keep us all safe. Many at the local air station know those who were lost and SF sent a relief crew to Hawaii so that the Hawaii crews could have some down time to deal with the loss.

If anyone is interested in making donations that could also be presented from the windsurf/kitesurf community, please shoot me an e-mail and I'll give you mailing info. If you prefer, you can also send a check directly to the foundation

Payable to: Coast Guard Foundation's
Memo: Family Disaster Relief Fund
Coast Guard Foundation is a 501(c)3, so contributions are deductible. In my case, I got my wife's company, Gap, to match it, so keep that in mind if you work for a large corp.

Peter Thorner


I have received over $1,000 in donations to the Family Disaster Relief Fund that I will be forwarding to the Coast Guard Foundation through our local Coast Guard Air Station (San Francisco). I also talked with someone who is hard pressed for cash and could not donate. If anyone wants to send a letter in lieu of funds, I will do my best to see that the foundation sends it along and I’m sure that it will give some comfort if it is heartfelt and captures the appreciation that we have for those lost, their families, as well as those who still work to protect us and their families. E-mail me at if you want to send a letter or donation.

To Sue: I will think about Andy and his crew when I'm out there and especially when I hear the unmistakable whine of a Dolphin tail rotor that tells me that someone is looking out for us.

After working with Coast Guard units, I have come to appreciate how much the Coasties and their families give up to serve and I hope that you will read the second section of this post which is a something I sent to friends in order to give them a sense of why we may owe more than we may know. But first, I wanted to talk about the third way (after donations and condolences) that we can say thank you to rescuers serving in the Coast Guard…

Reducing the Risk for the Rescuers

(1) Don’t Push It Too Far

Coast Guard crews will launch in extreme conditions and do their best to rescue you no matter how you got into trouble. They regularly save people who should rightfully have been Darwin Award winners. They never ask whether someone deserves to be rescued; they just do it. A lot of people are not averse to risk and figure that they aren’t going to hurt anyone but themselves if they push it too far. Please know that when you take extreme risks on the water, you may end up forcing the Coast Guard and other rescuers to share the risk. The case of the windsurfer that decided to do a solo crossing from Foster City to Alameda without any safety gear and in the face of dropping winds and fading light comes to mind. The Coast Guard helicopter crew searched for hours in the dark to find him. Night air operations are always more dangerous. We all like to test our limits, but every one of us should also stop to consider when it is time to dial it back.

(2) Make The Rescuers Job Easier

Carry the right safety gear so that rescuers don’t spend unnecessary time looking for you. If you sail more than a mile from shore, carry a light source. When things go wrong, it often means that you can end up offshore in the dark (done it!). Without a light source, it is extremely difficult for rescuers to locate you. With a strobe, you can be seen for miles on a clear night. A high quality strobe like a Firefly is the best (aren’t you worth $80?), but even a small flashlight can be spotted from more than a mile away… just make sure that you can be confident of the durability. Also seriously consider carrying a VHF marine radio that will allow you to talk directly with Coast Guard units.

(3) Prevent Unnecessary Searches

We have had many times in the past when the Coast Guard searched for hours for someone that they thought might be missing because an unidentified kite, sail, or board was found. In almost every case, the person was safely onshore. Please make sure that your name and number is on your gear so that the Coast Guard can call you to make sure that you are safe if they find the gear. You could prevent an unnecessary search and get your gear back to boot. If you lose an item offshore and know it is floating around and could raise the alarm, call the Coast Guard in order to let them know about it. Calls well after the fact to see if the Coast Guard found your gear adds to a very heavy workload that the stations have and these calls will not be necessary if you mark your gear with contact info. For the San Francisco Bay, I receive reports of any recovered gear from the local stations and will post that information.


Please Consider the Following:

The Coast Guard is small for a military service and the recent loss is felt across the service. An effort to help the families is appreciated by all members of the Coast Guard and those who put themselves in harms way are comforted by knowing that there are people who will try to help their families if they lose their life trying to save others. If the donations allow a child who lost a father to go to college, then they also send a message to that child that people truly appreciated what his/her father did and that the risks taken were not taken in vain.

Coast Guard rescue crews regularly take risks to keep us safe, even when we fail to take steps to stay safe and prevent the need for rescues. Beyond the risks they take almost all members of the Coast Guard and their families make significant sacrifices in terms of pay and stability. They are typically transferred every three years and have a limited ability to choose where they will go next. Many postings require separation from family for extended periods. I know a Coast Guard petty officer that is the mother of an infant and she was looking at a choice between being posted in Bahrain or at a remote arctic station. The family cannot accompany her to either location. On the pay side, a 2nd class petty officer that has been in 5 years makes about $27,000/year plus another $6,000 in housing allowance. They do get retirement pay after enough years of service, but that pay level may not be sufficient to allow them to retire to places like San Francisco or Honolulu.

Helicopter crews probably take the greatest risks. They launch rescues in severe weather conditions and frequently operate in a hover near cliffs, waves and swinging sail boat masts. It is harder to appreciate the risks that the crews of the HH-65 helicopters take because they have not lost one of these helicopters in the last ten years, but they lost three of them in the ten years before that along with ten crew members. The safety record they have had over the last 10 years defied the odds and is a testament to the air crews and the ground crews that keep the helicopters going. The crews that fly the HH-65 Dolphin helicopter continued to fly their missions in 2004 even when engine problems were resulting in loss of power incidents at a rate 15-20 times the normal rate. By year end, the fleet of around 100 helicopters experienced 174 instances of power loss. In one case, a crew had to leave their rescue swimmer behind when one of the two engines failed to deliver the power needed to safely hover and recover the swimmer. The Coast Guard has now replaced all of the engines that were failing.

The Coast Guard crews always have to live up to their motto, Semper Paratus – Always Ready, even when the nation did not provide them with the best tools for the job. In 2007, the Coast Guard retired their last World War II era cutter, a Navy hand me down that was working Alaskan waters prior to retirement. The cutter Storis was commissioned in 1942 and retired by the Coats Guard 65 years later. Many people know the story of the Perfect Storm, but few of them know that the cutter Tamaroa that went out to rescue sailors and the downed Air National Guard crew in 50-100' seas and winds exceeding 65 mph was formerly a Navy tug commissioned in 1943.

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PostPosted: Fri Sep 26, 2008 2:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It's not too late to make a donation to the Coast Guard Foundation “Family Disaster Relief Fund” in honor of the Hawaii Coast Guard Helicopter CG-6505 crew. --see Peter's post above.

You can still call the CGF at 860-535-0786 make a donation, then send Peter an e-mail with your address and donation amount (if you want to be added to the donor list). He's written a letter, on behalf of the SFBA, that will go out on Monday to the USCG, SF station.

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