Life at Sea


10-Year Member
Nov 28, 2007
13,900 is it going...found your sea legs yet?

I started this thread so you might give the CGA some real life experience about what you are least what you are saying.

Side note was Elian Gonzalez a motivating factor for joining the CG?

Does anyone know what is up with him or his family that is in Miami...How old is he now 13? I am sure when Fidel dies they will interview him. I remember a media correspondent who interviewed him a year later, and he was living in a nice home and involved with something like Boy Scouts
Don't get me started on the Elian thing. I'm Cuban and I was living in Miami at the time.

That day is the only day in my life that I was actually embarrassed and afraid to be an American. :mad:

The family is living in obscurity, having been ravaged by a media who felt it better to make them the enemy rather than a communist dictator. The kid, of course, is living like a king while the rest of the non-famous population of the island starves or prostitutes itself to eat.
Well, I must have completely missed this thread. I'll try to fill this up for you in a little while, after the work day. I'll touch on what a D-5 patrol is like, and what D-7 patrols have been like (which would speak more to the Gonzalez part of it). My motivation was two fold. First I wanted to serve and "discovered" that members of the military weren't complete idiots. I thought that's what my parents thought, but I was mistaken. When I brought it up, they thought it was a fine idea and helped look for a path to service. I even remember, as a junior commenting about a kid who got into West Point, "Wow, I thought he could have done better than that." To which my ex-Army German teacher correctly me, very firmly. Unfortunately, I think a lot of people still think that way. The second motivator was Sept 11, 2001, but I don't think I need to go into that.

I'll get back to you with a more "to the point" post later though. Sorry I overlooked this a month earlier.
I know this might not be a factor for you, but with Fidel resigning today, has the CG gone on a higher alert with concern to a flood of cubans?
Ok, now that we've pulled out of Little Creek, VA, I have some time to type.

I'll go over a few things, but I'm keeping them to what I know, and what I've seen.

The U.S. Coast Guard has two general subdivisions, Atlantic Area (LANTAREA) and Pacific Area (PACAREA). There is also Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA), but I believe that falls under the direction of LANTAREA as well as the joint command.

LANTAREA is divided into Districts. District 1 is the northeast, District 5 is mid-Atlantic to southeast, District 7 starts just north of Florida and ends near the pan handle, District 8 is huge, contains a lot of the rivers and starts at the pan handle of Florida and goes to Mexico, and finally District 9 is the Great Lakes.

I am familiar mostly with D1, D5, and D7.

D1 is mostly fisheries enforcement and search and rescue (SAR). There are huge fishing fleets in this district, a big part of which is the lobster fleet. There are also some important cities within this district, including New York and Boston. We'll look for violations in catch size or inappropriate species, illegal gear, or hazards to safety. We'll also look at the manning of the vessel. The EEZ goes out 200NM around the US. We have exclusive rights to the economic bounty from the sea in these areas. Fishing boats must be manned by atleast 75% American citizens and must have a US master of the vessel. Some do not.

D5 is the district my cutter is homeported in, and the district we just finished up a patrol in. Operations in this district mostly comprise of fisheries and search and rescue.

D7 is the hot bed of activity. The action you will generally see in this district is Alien Migrant Interdiction Operations and counter-narcotics. It is not uncommon to find Cubans, Haitians or Dominicans attempting to cross the Florida Straits to make it to the United States. With out getting into too much detail, there are two general forms of transportation you will see for migrants. A chug is a slow moving vessel. This can take the form of an old boat, a truck modified to float, barrels strapped together, or anything else that can float, safe or not. If they're coming from Cuba, the trip is about 90 miles. I drive 3 times that to see my girlfriend, so to many of us 90 miles seems like a quick and easy trip. In all actuality, it is a very dangerous trip for them. While the seas are not usually terrible in the Florida Straits, it does have a nasty current called the Gulf Stream (heats up England). Seas can be heavy, there is also heavy traffic, and chugs are usually not lit (they are sneaking over, lights aren't they're best friend). After some time afloat they are usually ready to get on "solid" footing, and eat some real food. We came across a chug one time with four men on board who swore they had seen Key West and were almost there. They had run out of water a day before and had no fuel left. They had pretty good sun burns as well. While they had been out for awhile, the land they thought was Key West was actually still Cuba, they had 70 more miles to go to find Florida. The other form of transportation is the "go-fast". Go-fasts can also be used to transport drugs. Migrants will pay for a spot on the go fast, maybe up to $10,000. The trip is fast, but again, dangerous. The driver of the boat isn't concerned about the safety or comfort of the occupants. Some people may break an arm, be cut, bruised, and a women died last year while she was slammed around in the go-fast, it was on the news. A US policy called "Wet Foot Dry Foot" is a motivator to get to US soil as fast as possible for Cubans. The law does not apply to Haitians or Dominicans.

Hopefully this helps. Some of this is mission specific, and I can't go into all the details. In my next post I'll talk about life at sea in general, and the typical underway day.
Ok, now that we've pulled out of Little Creek, VA, I have some time to type.

To give our readers a brief glimpse into just how Life At Sea has changed in a little over 11 years, here is LITS posting to the internet while (apparently) out at sea. When I got out of the Navy back in 1996, the Internet still required a PHONE LINE connection.

You wanted to communicate while out at sea? You had one of three options:

1) You got lucky and had someone with a HAM set relay a "phone" call.

2) You made an INMARSAT satellite phone call at $10 per minute (and assuming the XO approved the request).

3) You put pen to paper and waited for the next UNREP or Flight Quarters to send it out.

It's so different now, and SO much better!
Haha, aint that the truth. I am underway after almost 3 weeks of training at NAB Little Creek.

In addition to the internet, email is a wonderful thing to have. Talk to loved ones or make arrangements for work. It also means people can give you work.

The price of INMARSAT apparently hasn't come down must either.
The price of INMARSAT apparently hasn't come down must either.

Well, I imagine with VOIP and other similar technologies now being available for free, the demand simply isn't there. They still have to pay for that satellite, though.

I'm curious..... On your cutter, do the officers have connections in their wardroom, or is there wireless? What about the crew?

Another thing I remember from my brief time as a quasi-submariner is the FamilyGram. Something like 30 words your family could send you, and they could only do it a fixed number of times during a deployment (It averaged out to around one per week). You couldn't respond. I wonder if THAT has changed any?
We have connections in our staterooms, no connection in the wardroom. There is no wireless, that would be an EMCON concern, on top of other things.
Good Post and a good glimpse talking to family at sea

Things have changed since the 80's. I never considered it too bad to be away because things were slower even then. I am now connected 24/7 as are most people now.

The other thing I found interesting was the CG's concern for EMCON which I never considered a factor within the CG's "non combatant" role, but I was wrong. Today there really isn't any "non combatant" role in the global war on terror.

LITS you have really opened up our knowledge of the CG.
LITS you have really opened up our knowledge of the CG

Yes, you have, LITS. You lead an interesting life. Thanks for the details on the CG!
There is no wireless, that would be an EMCON concern, on top of other things.

Probably more of an interference concern considering the range, but yeah, there would be that, too.

Not surprised that there are no connections in the wardroom. Not a place to conduct business (well, normally anyway).
Ha, I forgot about interference. Considering how much the multiple decks and bulkheads interfere with VHF radios, I would assume wireless would not be great. Also, we don't really want to send those signals out to ships near us.

The US Coast Guard has no "non-combatant" role, like you might consider of a corpsman or a medic, however the Coast Guard does maintain a "humanitarian" mission/role. What does that mean? That means the Coast Guard has guns, trains to use them, and has used them, but also trains to save lives.

.50 cal, 25mm, 76mm, M-60s/M-240s, M-16s, M-9s, Sig .40s, riot shotguns, and M-4s. These are some of the weapons we use, Not all on my cutter, but throughout the Coast Guard on various ships.
I wouldn't worry too much about it. I think people just confuse "humanitarian" with "non-combatant". There are some good history channel specials about the Coast Guard in battle, including the Coast Guard's role in WWI, WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and maybe the Persian Gulf (I can't remember if it was that up-to-date).

Little known of the first members of the OSS was a Coastie.

Some other facts...
Popeye was a Coastie, Brutus was a sailor.
The Amistad was captured by a Coast Guard cutter (Revenue Cutter at the time)
A Coast Guard cutter (again Revenue Cutter at the time) shot the first naval shot of the Civil War.
The Coast Guard had the highest percentage of service members lost in WWI.
The flag flown on Iwo Jima was from a Coast Guard cutter.
The Coast Guard is the oldest continuous sea service of the United States of America.

I'm back in's nice to be home.
Last edited:
So how long do you go out for?

How long will you be back on dry land?
It all really depends on the size of the cutter. An ice breaker, like HEALY may go out for 6 months, while a 378' may be out for 3 or 4 months, a 270' maybe out for 2+ months, and a 210' maybe out for about 2 months. Of course those are very general periods, and can get a bump to the long side by operations or a shorter side by equipment casualties.

Typical inports (in homeport) may be a month long like my housemate's cutter recently, or two months. The longer you're out the longer you have in port.