The Darwin Sorter

[from the stabenow.com vaults, 2007]

April 12

I have mentioned before Mun1on the davitthe Welin-Lambie Davit. It’s a combined cradle and launch mechanism for the starboard side small boat, one of our two RHIs or rigid hull inflatables, aka OTHs or Over The Horizon Cutter-Boats. When it comes time to launch, Boat Deck Captain BM1 Heath Smith, wearing the white hard hat denoting his position as a Deck Force Safety Supervisor, stands with SN Paloma Orozco who is breaking in at the controls, and shouts, “Boat moving!” The controls are simple and intuitive, the main one a joystick. The two arms that form the cradle move the boat over the edge. The two winches lower the boat and snug it up against the main deck, where the coxswain, the engineer and a seaman board it. It has the capability, unlike the single point davit on the port side, of being able to accommodate lowering an entire boarding team, a Rescue & Assistance team, or the shark watch for a swim call, compared to the crew having to climb down a Jacobs ladder for the port side small boat. This, says the Captain, “is a particularly nice feature in the Munro’s typical weather-challenged oparea of the Bering Sea.” Been there, done that, no kidding.

“Load, lower and launch!” the Captain radios from the starboard bridge wing when the ship is on a safe launch course. “Boat moving!” Heath shouts, and lowers the boat to the water, where the coxswain starts the engine and the two other guys release the heavy shackles fore and aft and the guy in the bow releases the sea painter. Our small boat is away.

It’s definitely one of the niftier gadgets on board, and, like the starboard OTH is relatively brand new. While Munro is over thirty years old, the Coast Guard continues to replace shipboard systems where technology has leapt forward or where the equipment has become maintenance nightmares. Provided, of course, that the money is available, which everyone says is a constant struggle for the program managers and support engineers back on the beach.

The manufacturer was also generous enough to equip it with an extra feature, what the crew calls “the Darwin sorter.” It’s even labeled. See photo. This is a fitting sticking out of the bottom of each arm which, when the boat is cradled, hangs right over the deck, at right about the height of your average human head. ENS Chris McGhee pointed out the Darwin sorter my second day on board and I’ve been very careful to avoid it because it looks just plain mean. See photo.

the Darwin sorter

We usually have quarters at 1230, where the crew musters before the officers to hear what’s of interest ship wide. A couple of days ago Senior Chief George Minos was getting an award before departing to his next billet. The XO banged on my door to come watch, and then sent me back to my stateroom to get my Munro cap.

Let’s run a GAR assessment on this operation, shall we?

Supervision. None. Well into the red. No one was watching me. 7.

Crew Selection. Me. Oh, that’s definitely a 7. I’m qualified to walk around but evidently not too experienced at it.

Crew Fitness. After three weeks on board, minutely observing every action of this crew on every space in this ship (except for the sewage tanks) every moment they are not actually asleep, I think this would be low. Maybe a 2? But I was late and in a hurry and more focused on getting to the presentation than I was on safety. Revise that upward to a 4. Oh, the hell with it, make that a 7, too.

Environment. Raining, wet deck. Bad. Plus I had my hat on, which every time I put on that damn hat I hit my head on something, every single time. Risk very high, 7.

Event/Evolution Complexity. If I’d been walking, getting from my stateroom down the starboard side boat deck to the hangar deck where the crew was mustering should have been fairly simple. Rainy deck, though. Let’s give it a 4.

Equipment. I had my hat on. At least I wasn’t out of uniform. Though I could have been wearing a helmet and as subsequent events played out, obviously should have been. 1.

Total: 33. Well into Amber. Uh-oh. From the GAR model, as follows: “If the total falls in the amber zone, risk is moderate and you should consider adopting procedures to minimize risk.”

I didn’t. Almost at a run down a wet deck, coming up on a known obstruction to forward motion, not paying attention. BLAM. I smacked into the Darwin sorter like a crash test dummy into a windshield. It was good that all the crew was at quarters because had they been on the boat deck during the next sixty seconds they would have learned a whole new vocabulary.

The good news is the golf ball on my forehead has shrunk to a manageable proportion. The bad news is I have two of the more spectacular shiners you will ever see on a human face. I look somewhere between a panda and Joan Collins made up for Oscar night. Papa Doc, HSC Gene Mason, said I didn’t need stitches but Baby Doc scolded me for having to start a file on a civilian — there is a bunch of paperwork necessary when a civilian gets hurt while at a Coast Guard unit.

this would be me.  Thanks, Caleb.

No, Louise, you’re not going to find a photo of that on the blog. Instead, here’s a photo by SN Caleb Critchfield, who caught me on the bridge a couple of weeks ago.

I get to do something really cool today. You’ll read about it in a few days…


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7 Comments on The Darwin Sorter

  1. Judi Hernandez says:

    Always excitement aboard the Munro I am sure. And you decided to stay on board despite your mishap. Takes guts. BRAVO

    Judi Hernandez

  2. CathyO says:

    Dana,

    You look fabulous in the photo and you are right! Those blonde locks look much lighter.

    I know you are having a blast and the crew of the Munro must be enjoying having you aboard. But then you are always a treat to spend time with.

    Thanks again for all the blogs and to the Capt. and crew for all you do for all of us.

    CathyO

  3. Dana says:

    I’m wearing sunglasses most of the time because everyone kind of flinches and winces when they look at me. Chief Wes Guilmartin called me a toughie. I don’t know when I’ve been more pleased at a compliment, but seriously folks, it looks way worse than it is. The Docs prescribed Motrin (800 mg., you should see the size of these pills, the Coasties call it Vitamin M) but all I really got was a localized soreness around my forehead, no headache at all. I’m good to go.

    And you couldn’t take this adventure from me at gunpoint, so don’t even try!

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