Kodiak Daily Mirror - Command change buoy placing prowess of the SPAR
Command change buoy-placing prowess of the SPAR
by Julie Herrmann
Jun 10, 2014 | 79 views | 0 0 comments | 11 11 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The crew of the Coast Guard cutter SPAR listen to the proceedings during the change of command ceremony on Friday, June 6. (Julie Herrmann photo)
The crew of the Coast Guard cutter SPAR listen to the proceedings during the change of command ceremony on Friday, June 6. (Julie Herrmann photo)
When the oil rig Kulluk went aground near Kodiak, another cutter, the Hickory, headed to the area from Homer since the SPAR was undergoing maintenance.

The Hickory made slow progress due to a storm and the SPAR was pulled from its maintenance and sent out. It arrived in 36 hours, beating the Hickory to the area by 24 hours, said Commander James Houck, Waterways Branch Chief for Alaska, during the change of command ceremony for the SPAR.

In this episode, the cutter left Kulluk 24 hours after the Hickory as well.

Houck expounded on other details the boat and her crew do in Alaska waterways.

“You don’t have to look very hard to find examples of SPAR’s accomplishments,” Houck said.

The Coast Guard cutter SPAR has completed a wide variety of missions around Alaska in the last three years, ranging from setting buoys to delivering toys to delivering oil skimming equipment.

At the ceremony on Friday, Lieutenant Commander Douglas Jannusch took charge of the SPAR from Lieutenant Commander Michele Schallip, who received a meritorious service medal.

Each year, the SPAR sets and removes navigational aids in Bechevin Bay on the Alaska Peninsula and the Kuskokwim River. The buoys are set in the spring after the SPAR’s crew surveys a channel. In the fall, the buoys are removed so they won’t be crushed by ice.

“Before the first buoy can even be placed, the ship has to steam over a 1,000 miles, they have to survey the entire channel and create their own charts,” Houck said. “During the one and a half to two days this is being done, the tidal cycle must be established through observation because tidal stations in these areas don’t exist and prediction tables are inaccurate.”

Houck added that this area has extreme tides, and the SPAR sometimes will scoot over a bar with only two and a half feet of water under its keel.

Last fall, SPAR and her crew took the lead in an Arctic Shield exercise where they transferred a skimming system for removing spilled oil from the water to a Canadian coast guard ship and aided in practicing using the gear.

The SPAR also takes part in “Santa to the Villages,” taking Santa along with gifts to small coastal villages.

Contact Julie Herrmann at jherrmann@kodiakdailymirror.com

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