Written by Jen Finn
March 9-May 4, 2008 — On Monday, March 9, as we were headed from Petersburg out to the fishing grounds, we were stopped by a Coast Guard cutter for a routine safety boarding.
Before they boarded us, they asked if we had a current dockside examination sticker. This decal indicates that sometime in the last two years the Discovery had passed a USGC safety inspection verifying all the necessary safety precautions were taken, and the vessel was fit for service. We had a sticker, but it expired in 1998.
We get boarded every year. I remember the time we were fishing in the gulf, trying to haul back our gear in a 40-knot blow, and the Coast Guard decides they need to board us. Amazingly, at that time our safety sticker was current, and they wanted to board us anyway (they aborted the boarding because of the weather).
This boarding was routine, and the boarding party was quite friendly. They looked at all of our IDs and crew licenses, asked the nature of our trip, etc. Then the man in charge headed up to the wheelhouse to talk to Mike and Roald, looking mostly to verify the safety equipment.
While that was going on, we continued baiting gear back in the baithouse. When I went out to grab an unbaited skate of gear, they asked me a couple of questions:
"If you catch a halibut under 32 inches, what do you do with it?"
I looked at them suspiciously. Was this a trick question? "We throw it back?" I answered cautiously.
"Okay," he continued (I must have answered correctly), "and if you catch a halibut that is over 32 inches, what do you do with it?"
He couldn't be serious. What does he think we do with it? I had 1.5 million smart-ass answers surge through my head at once, but I resisted them all, and answered his ridiculous question. "We club 'em on the head, dress 'em, then throw 'em in the hatch!"
As this nonsense was going on, Mike was being written up for not reregistering his EPIRB in the past two years, not having an adequate air horn, and not having the safely sticker from the dockside exam he never got. There would be no fine if, within 30 days, Mike had a dockside exam and satisfied all of its requirements.
The first chance we had for a dockside exam was on Monday, March 31, after our second and final Sitka delivery. The USCG safety officer noticed we didn't have our emergency procedure plan posted, which clearly designates who goes where during which kind of emergency; nor did we have our day shape, which indicates to other vessels that we are fishing; but most significant was the misplacement of our red fishing light, which should be a full 36 inches above the white light — ours was 1 foot below, for some reason.
We went to work on our deficiencies immediately. I drew up the emergency plan while Mike ran to the gear store to buy a day shape. Both of those items passed, but we would have to fix the light another day, since the inspection was the last thing we were waiting on before we headed across the gulf.
TO BE CONTINUED...
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