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USCGC Ironwood



 

I actually considered naming this section "My Alaskan Adventure" since I am also including sections covering my trip from Rochester, NY to Kodiak in 1985 and my return trip in 1987.  If I had to pick the most interesting period of my life this would no doubt be it.  Don't get me wrong, it was absolutely no vacation (as you'll see if you read on), but every day was both exciting and a challenge that few people get to experience (and get paid to do it!).

I served as a member of the USCGC Ironwood crew from October 1, 1985 to July 27, 1987.  As I stated  earlier in the main "Who's Guarding The Coast?" section disclaimer, I ask the reader to please note that I wrote the majority of this section some 15-20+ some years after leaving the ship in 1987.  A fair question for by the reader is how do I recall exact dates with such certainty?  It’s a fair question for certain.  Well, for one thing, I still have copies of orders for the assignment.  I also have course completion certificates as well as other qualification documentation.  I also have newspaper articles and other historic documentation.  I took a lot of photographs and often annotated them as soon as they were printed.  I tried to keep somewhat of a journal, but often it wasn’t kept up to date all that well or did not have the kind of detail that would be useful in writing something like this.  I also have either maintained or reestablished contact with several fellow crewmembers that have also helped me in filling in some of the blanks.  The Ironwood operated in somewhat difficult conditions a lot of the time (as the photo above  and other sections will show!).  This made it difficult to come off watch and make a journal entry.  A lot of times, all you wanted to do was just survive your watch and hit the pit!  Because of this, in some cases I have had to “guestimate” dates, but am confident that I have it pretty close.  Of course, there were some events that I really don’t remember the date other than they happened while I was on the ship.  In keep with my theme of "protecting the guilty" I am only using first names in many cases.  I also have avoided for the most part detailing personal lives except when it was truly germane to the story.  If you’re reading this and you know for sure I have a date, place or person totally wrong, I’d love to know so that I can better document this time period.  I have tried not to embellish the stories too much and in some cases have actually toned them down a little bit because I am not 100% sure how the statute of limitations works.  In a lot of cases, no one even believes the truth so why should I need to make anything up? 
I reported to the Coast Guard Cutter Ironwood in Kodiak on Tuesday, October 1, 1985.   The picture above was our "unofficial" official photo in those days.  I don't know exactly where or when it was taken, only that it was takenshortly before my arrival from a fishing vessel and presented to the ship as a gift.  The conditions depicted are not too far from what we encountered on a fairly routine basis. 

I have broken down my time on the Ironwood into several sections that can be accessed using the tabs above.  The 1985 and 1987 trips chronicle my journey from New York to Alaska as well as my return trip.  I think the reader will find every section interesting.  Remember, the Coast Guard of 1985 is not the Coast Guard of today.  A lot of what we take for granted today as far as technology either wasn't available yet or was in its infancy.  We didn't have cell phones or the internet and GPS  and SATNAV were very new technology at the time.

I took the picuture (below left) from the bridge sometime during my tour; I'm not exactly sure where.  It may not be easy to see but the ship is actually climbing up a long swell while rolling over about 20 degrees.  The other picture (below right) was taken at the dock in Kodiak around April 1986 after we returned from an extended yard period in Washington.  You don't often see a buoy tender with a shiny paint job.  You also didn't see beautiful crisp days like this in Kodiak all that often either so I especially like this picture.


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I have been asked what my best assignment was in the Coast Guard by many people.  While I certainly enjoyed my three years as a Commanding Officer at Marine Safety Office Huntington, WV, my best two years was the time spent on the Ironwood.  I hope you will follow the navigation links above and join me in reliving journey of a lifetime.

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