That’s me in the yellow foul weather gear. Twenty years ago I was standing on this beach. I was working as a Salvage Naval Architect for SMIT, and we had just connected the tow wire to the tug offshore.
It was a crazy project that I think of very fondly. Undoubtedly it was the weirdest salvage experience of my life and a great source of stories, not just to me, but even to my wife and kids.
This is just a small sample of the things that make me smile 20 years later:
- 1. A salvage notebook that contains a listing of good Pinot Noirs that were recommended by the great people of Coos Bay.
- 2. Having my wife and kids join me at the job for a week.
- 3. Setting up my wife and kids with tire chains at Les Schwab to cross the Cascades in a rental car, and my 13 year old getting tire chain fitting training by the store manager.
- 4. My first use of Dyneema.
- 5. Sneaking my wife and kids past the armed guards to the salvage job.
- 6. Getting the entire low down on the dusky plover by the state ornithologist and seeing some.
- 7. Using salvage gear to clear out invasive dune grass.
- 8. Getting high line training from an Oakie logger.
- 9. Buying my father in law a really cool rope ratchet at God’s Own Logging store.
- 10. Getting a tiny home cast anchor from a USCG CPO.
- 11. First job with Doug Martin.
- 12. Watching the TV News report on the tow wire deployment at the bar with everybody, and realizing my wife and kids are visible on the screen.
- 13. My Oakie logger friend sending me some wine from his daughter’s vineyard because I bought him a nice lunch.
- 14. Wallie sending me some super interesting West Coast wood samples, many of which were used for great projects in my home.
- 15. Hospital personnel waiting outside the emergency room because Flash had some fuel oil in his ear.
- 16. Trying to explain to a friendly lady in the supermarket that salvors just won’t eat healthy food.
- 17. Eating razor clams and drinking good wine with loggers.
- 18. The ride from the road to the beach through the snowy dunes in my poor abused rented four wheel drive Ford 250.
- 19. Columbia Helicopters!!!!!!
- 20. An Incident Command Center that forgot to reserve a spot for the salvage team.
- 21. Bill Milwee and our first conceptualization of Plan B.
- 22. Getting along great with the wildlife people, because we were all doing the best we could.
- 23. Since my wife and kids did not use the tire chains, we got a full refund.
- 24. Birdwatching with a USCG lieutenant who really knew his birds, while driving through the dunes.
- 25. Realizing that once politics is involved, rational engineering no longer is required.
- 26. Telling the photographer: Don’t pick up the tarball, it is really sticky. He did anyway.
- 27. Being asked to calculate a sinking plan using a ship’s gun (and suggesting a torpedo).
- 28. Buying home heating oil tanks with my credit card to convert to plan B.
- 29. Ordering gourmet dinners for the guys on the wreck and getting a call they want Doritos and Twinkies too.
- 30. Realizing that the USCG was asked to do more and more with less and less, and now was doing the impossible with minimal funding.
- 31. Realizing that the USCG deserves better than Dolphin helicopters. (And today still has to fly them!)
- 32. Suggesting that the T-Shirt should read “Beached Burned and Broken” instead of just “Beached and Broken” and getting a couple of free shirts for the suggestion.
- 33. Feeling bad to have to tell a local entrepreneur that we could not give him anything from the wreck to turn into key chains, and please, please, do not try to board the wreck with a jetski.
- 34. Water depth gauging in 10 foot surf with a rope and a helicopter.
- 35. Learning more about logging than I could have ever imagined by pro and con loggers and all of them deeply committed to doing the right thing, and frustrated by the lunatic fringe on both sides.
- 35. Once again, the people of Coos Bay. I have never been in a more welcoming, honest and even tempered community during a disaster.
It’s been 20 years, I need to go back soon.
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