The Day after Labor Day, the most depressing day of the year.

I really loathe this time of year, I mean reallllllllyyyy, loathe. God definitely did summer right, summer in New England is such an amazing time to just go out and live. Nice and warm, long sunny days in stark contrast to what we are rapidly sliding into. Oh yeah, summer days are long, sunny, humid. We’d play basketball on Fridays at the YMCA, there were times when I could literally wring my t-shirt out. But it was a time when you could really live, be out in God’s creation and just go on and on. Winters in New England are days that end, that’s right, come to an abrupt stop at about 4:30pm. Daytime in the summer could go until 9:30pm and then just quietly slide into darkness. Taking summer nighttime patrols on a Coast Guard boat are so peaceful in the darkness, flat calm seas, clear star-filled skies, the ocean is entirely different at night.
In stark contrast the weather in the fall starts to breakdown, sometimes quickly, the crummiest weather by far is the fall. Think “Perfect Storm”, lesser scale, but continuous, every season crummy seas to one degree or another.
My earliest memories of fall started about 11 years old playing midget football, football went on until I was 16. Oh yeah, gotta love it, most practices going into the dark, where the temperature falls, at least, into the forties. Which of course means everything hurts more, hands and feet smashed up, and every so often going into snow.
One fall was definitely my best sea story. The night before we were out until about 1am, the next morning was a Sunday, so with no prior warning the expectation was to sleep in, have a calm quiet Sunday, clean things up for Monday, go home.
Ah yea, not…
Whenever it’s a matter of an imminent threat to life, the SAR (Search and Rescue) alarm rips through the station, the thinking was it could wake the dead, maybe not, but certainly the comatose. Well it went off after we had only a few hours of sleep. Now the night before had been very calm and comfortable, no need for a coat, anything. Well no one had decided to share with a sleeping crew that the weather had taken a turn, a really major turn. So the SAR alarm goes off, all you do is fall out of bed, throw on what clothing that you didn’t wear to bed. At that time of night boots. Shirt, if you still had the stamina to unbutton a shirt and then crash. Running like the Devil is chasing you, gives you only enough time to share what boat to go to. Does not give you time to share the fact that you might want to take more serious outerware, oh well. The tipoff being that you have to get on the 44 foot Motor Life Boat. The “44” is the boat that goes into, at least fifty foot seas, rolls over and comes back up (if necessary, not as a matter of course). Get down to the boat, light it off, get underway, so far so good. Doesn’t look wonderful but still no real understanding of what’s coming up. Hey you have to go out, but you don’t have to come back, as we used to say in the Old Guard.
The station’s in a little cove area; go out a narrow inlet (Hull Gut), then Nantasket Roads out passed some islands and then, open sea and all of a sudden a roller coaster ride. Now in contrast to the much newer boat you see in the picture, the “44” is pretty much open. You can go down below which usually results in immediate sea-sickness, versus on deck which delays it somewhat. So there we are rock-and-rolling, we are in about fifteen foot seas, the sea is crashing over the boat which usually means everyone’s getting hosed down to some extent. The boat is rolling so far side to side, that the communications antennas are actually whipping off of the waves. (Hey we haven’t rolled, so that’s good). I am cold and wet pretty fast and starting to get queasy. There’s four other guys, at least one extra crewman because this is a serious case. Hey, give me credit, two other guys got sick before me, so there we are getting hosed down, leaning over the side, with a boat that was painfully slow. Folks you have not lived until you are hypothermic, having dry heaves and still trying to run a case.
The reason we are on this rock and roll adventure is because a man down in Marshfield decided he needed to move his wooden boat up to Boston to calmer water. He never made it out of the inlet. Another Motor Life Boat was dispatched, that one ended going aground, the boat coxswain, the engineer and another crewman ended up in the water. (This also meant that there were no other boats with heavy seas capability in case something happened to us.) The original man was medevaced, but he was gone, the engineer was medevaced, and the coxswain had no choice but to walk to shore. This left one crewman in the boat, who had only been at the station about a month and was nowhere near qualified to do anything on that boat. (Break-in crew are often taken on cases in order to gain experience and knowledge in order to get qualified.) (I met him again just a few months before I retired, we got to share that adventure, he said he was absolutely terrified during that case.)
We finally get the boat in tow get it to a mooring, get a little together and head back to the station. Still crummy, but not as bad as before. The case started at around 9am and we got back to the station after 5pm. Yea, office hours, but definitely not routine. Eight hours under way, no food, cold, sea-sick, but still that little cocky spring in the step (which was about all I was physically capable of). The Atlantic Ocean thew a lot against us, but we made it down and back. I spent about twenty years out of 29 years at Coast Guard Station Point Allerton. “PA” is one of the most renown stations in the Coast Guard. I read about it in boot camp, before I had ever heard of it. Being a part of that station is to uphold an honored tradition that extends back to the 1870s and I was a proud part of an amazing tradition.
Semper Paratus. I have others, this was definitely the most miserable one. Please check out my short post about the station itself. I would like to write a more detailed history at some time. But when you hear me whining about being cold and really loathing the autumnal season, well this is definitely a part of the reason.

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