SURVEYOR'S NOTEBOOK

New Carissa 20 years later.

By Rik van Hemmen

 

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. 1. A salvage notebook that contains a listing of good Pinot Noirs that were recommended by the great people of Coos Bay.
  2. 2. Having my wife and kids join me at the job for a week.
  3. 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. 4. My first use of Dyneema.
  5. 5. Sneaking my wife and kids past the armed guards to the salvage job.
  6. 6. Getting the entire low down on the dusky plover by the state ornithologist and seeing some.
  7. 7. Using salvage gear to clear out invasive dune grass.
  8. 8. Getting high line training from an Oakie logger.
  9. 9. Buying my father in law a really cool rope ratchet at God’s Own Logging store.
  10. 10. Getting a tiny home cast anchor from a USCG CPO.
  11. 11. First job with Doug Martin.
  12. 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. 13. My Oakie logger friend sending me some wine from his daughter’s vineyard because I bought him a nice lunch.
  14. 14. Wallie sending me some super interesting West Coast wood samples, many of which were used for great projects in my home.
  15. 15. Hospital personnel waiting outside the emergency room because Flash had some fuel oil in his ear.
  16. 16. Trying to explain to a friendly lady in the supermarket that salvors just won’t eat healthy food.
  17. 17. Eating razor clams and drinking good wine with loggers.
  18. 18. The ride from the road to the beach through the snowy dunes in my poor abused rented four wheel drive Ford 250.
  19. 19. Columbia Helicopters!!!!!!
  20. 20. An Incident Command Center that forgot to reserve a spot for the salvage team.
  21. 21. Bill Milwee and our first conceptualization of Plan B.
  22. 22. Getting along great with the wildlife people, because we were all doing the best we could.
  23. 23. Since my wife and kids did not use the tire chains, we got a full refund.
  24. 24. Birdwatching with a USCG lieutenant who really knew his birds, while driving through the dunes.
  25. 25. Realizing that once politics is involved, rational engineering no longer is required.
  26. 26. Telling the photographer: Don’t pick up the tarball, it is really sticky. He did anyway.
  27. 27. Being asked to calculate a sinking plan using a ship’s gun (and suggesting a torpedo).
  28. 28. Buying home heating oil tanks with my credit card to convert to plan B.
  29. 29. Ordering gourmet dinners for the guys on the wreck and getting a call they want Doritos and Twinkies too.
  30. 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. 31. Realizing that the USCG deserves better than Dolphin helicopters. (And today still has to fly them!)
  32. 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. 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. 34. Water depth gauging in 10 foot surf with a rope and a helicopter.
  35. 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.
  36. 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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