Marine Safety Detachment Humboldt Bay – Serving the Lost Coast

Swirled colors of an oil sheen are reflected in the hold of vessel Pinky B. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Bryan Alexander

Swirled colors of an oil sheen are reflected in the hold of vessel Pinky B. Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Bryan Alexander

Story by Petty Officer 1st Class Bryan Alexander

Somewhere behind the Redwood Curtain, six hours north of San Francisco and a few hours south of the Oregon border lies a small Coast Guard unit many have never heard of — Marine Safety Detachment (MSD) Humboldt Bay.  With an area of responsibility of more than 300 miles of remote, rugged northern California coastline to serve, the challenges we face are many.

Servicing Humboldt Bay, Noyo River, Crescent City Harbor, Mad River, Klamath River, Eel River and the famous Smith River keeps us transiting the length of the northern California coast.  MSD Humboldt Bay’s area of responsibility stretches from the California/Oregon border south to the Gualala River near Point Arena.  Surrounded by the world famous Redwoods, bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Trinity Alps to the east, many say it is a hidden paradise.  With an average rainfall of 37 inches per year and frequent coastal fog, it’s also a notoriously wet climate.

The MSD covers the same area as Group/Air Station Humboldt Bay; however the MSD reports to Sector San Francisco, which holds the Captain of the Port, Officer in Charge of Marine Inspection, Federal Maritime Security Coordinator and Federal On Scene Coordinator responsibilities for Northern California.

Our missions include marine casualty investigations, small passenger vessel inspections, waterfront facility inspections, marine environmental response, commercial fishing vessel examinations, contingency planning and a host of other duties which keep our personnel engaged and learning.  Combine that with a small workforce and some of the most inaccessible coastline in the state of California, and we are provided with a wonderfully unique and demanding career experience.  MSD Humboldt Bay truly is one of a kind.

Recent activity included a successful port call by The World — a 600-foot cruise ship owned by the passengers themselves, and the first to visit Eureka in many years.  It provided a huge boost to the local economy and was the front page story in the Eureka Times-Standard.  MSD responsibilities included planning for and verifying appropriate security measures were in place for the visit.

MSD personnel also recently conducted a dry-dock inspection of the small passenger vessel Madaket.  Launched in 1909, it is the oldest vessel carrying passengers in continuous service in the U.S. and offers a history lesson of the area as it travels along the shores of Humboldt Bay.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Rustin Battermann and Seaman Danica Clesceri inspect a body of water for contaminants. Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Holly Largent.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Rustin Battermann and Seaman Danica Clesceri inspect a body of water for contaminants. Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Holly Largent.

A recent addition to the unit, a civilian Commercial Fishing Vessel Safety Examiner (CFVSE), has been a great asset and provides a valuable service to the local fishing community.  In preparation for the opening of salmon season, the CFVSE led a three-day pulse operation called Safe Salmon, the focus of which was conducting courtesy safety examinations for commercial fishing vessels prior to their heading to sea for this busy time of year.  The waters offshore constitute a renowned fishery for Dungeness crab, tuna, halibut, and salmon.  The commercial fleet here is large, and with each season there is also an influx of new vessels from as far away as Alaska.

The year is off to a busy start with the sinking of a vessel in the Noyo River Harbor access channel, numerous marine casualties, and several community outreach projects.  It shows no sign of slowing down anytime soon and we are looking forward to another exciting year on the Lost Coast.

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