In the recently released movie, The Finest Hours, Petty Officer Bernard Webber and his three all-volunteer crew battled frigid New England weather to assist the Tanker Pendleton, which had split amidships during a 70 mph winter gale. The movie, based on an actual rescue that happened in February of 1952 of the coast of Massachusetts, reenacts the mission. In a 36-foot wooden boat with a single outboard engine through impossible seas, Webber and his crew were able to rescue 32 survivors.
It sounds heroic, and it truly is, and while not every Auxiliary Coast Guardsman has these kinds of experiences, some do, and all are in the business of saving lives and protecting our waterways.
The truth is, The U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary has probably done more for boaters than all of the other agencies combined. Collectively the Auxiliary contributed over 4.5 million hours of service each year and completed nearly 500,000 missions in service to support the Coast Guard. Every year Auxiliarists help to save approximately 500 lives, assist 15,000 distressed boaters, conduct over 150,000 safety examinations of recreational vessels, and provide boater safety instruction to over 500,000 students. In total, the Coast Guard Auxiliary saves taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars each year.’
National and Local
Right here in Whatcom County, the U.S Coast Guard Auxiliary is actively participating and a variety of programs for boater education to sea patrols and vessel inspections. The local Coast Guard Auxiliary oversees a variety of initiatives intended to improve boating safety in the area. One example is the Confidence in Boating Course offered by the Auxiliary on May 14 at the Blaine Boating Center. Members will also be offering free vessel inspections by appointment and during Opening Day festivities at most marinas in Puget Sound. Boaters, entering Drayton Harbor from Semiahmoo Bay have noticed over the few years, improvements in navigation markers. These improvements are due in no small part, to the efforts of the local Auxiliary.
Meet Captain Hatfield
Hoyt Hatfield probably wasn’t thinking about how much his contribution to the Coast Guard Auxiliary would mean when he left his home in New Mexico to attended the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. After a stint in the Army Special Forces and a successful career in technology sales, Hoyt Hatfield found himself retired in Semiahmoo with time on his hands. Now he’s a Semiahmoo Marina slip owner and avid boater, and currently District Captain for the Puget Sound sector of the Auxiliary,
“When I first arrived at Semiahmoo, I joined everything,” Captain Hatfield recalled. It was serendipity when he learned that it was often the Canadian Coast Guard that was responding to emergency calls of the shores of Birch Bay and Blaine. It was then that a friend convinced him to create a local unit of the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Thanks to his prior military experience, he was put on the ‘fast track’ and soon found himself with an important responsibility.
The local chapter under the leadership of Captain Hatfield is directly responsible for improved navigation aids in Semiahmoo Bay and Drayton Harbor. Additionally, vessel inspections and boater safety classes have significantly improved the quality of boating in the area and are a direct result of the local Auxiliary’s efforts.
“To date, the Auxiliary has administered over one thousand vessel examinations,” said Captain Hatfield.
The local Auxiliary has approximately 40 members and welcomes new members.
“You don’t need to own a boat or even get out on the water,” says Hatfield, “In addition to sea patrols and vessel inspection, members can be trained and serve in a variety of ways, from public education to communications. “
Joining the Auxiliary
The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary is a division of the US Coast Guard under the supervision of the Department of Homeland Security. The mission of the USCG Auxiliary is to increase the safety of recreational boating and to aid the US Coast Guard in its operations. The motto of the USCG Auxiliary is “Semper Paratus” which translates to “Always Ready. “
Members of the USCG Aux are a network of volunteers who donate their time and resources to the safety of the American waterways. To be a member, you must be 17 years of age, have never been convicted of a felony, and have no physical or mental restrictions that may hinder you from fulfilling your duties.
Once you join the USCG Auxiliary, you will be expected to complete eight mandatory training classes. These classes cover the basics of what you will need to know to fulfill your duties as a volunteer. They include the basics of security, ethics, sexual harassment and assault prevention, influenza training, suicide prevention, civil-rights awareness, and Homeland Security information. After these basic courses, volunteers also have numerous opportunities and are encouraged to take training sessions in leadership, boater safety, rescue operations, and other code enforcement policies.
The benefits of joining the USCG Aux are numerous. Members of the USCG Aux and their dependents receive the privilege of using the Coast Guard Exchange Stores and Department Defense Exchanges. Members of the USCG Aux also receive the pride of wearing the same uniforms of as the US Coast Guard. Another great benefit is that all services related to your duties are considered tax deductible.
Members also have access to a variety of health insurance programs (including medical, disability, and death). Members are eligible to be a part of the Coast Guard Federal Credit Union which has checking and savings accounts, home loans, and other banking perks. Members can participate in the Coast Guard Work-Life Programs, which provide various forms of job and education assistance.
But most of all, members of the US Coast Guard Auxiliary enjoy the fellowship of being a member of a unique network of like-minded people dedicated to enjoying the waterways of the United States through flotilla meetings and other training and patrol sessions.
The Auxiliary meets the first Saturday of the month at the Blaine Boating Center located at Blaine Marina at 235 Marina Drive in Blaine.