Hardly a vacation

Story provided by Fireman Katherine Hays of Coast Guard Station Lake Tahoe

Coast Guard Station Lake Tahoe is nicknamed Station Vacation for its remote, pristine location and proximity to world-class ski resorts, but it may be more deserving of the nickname Station Fitness. High-altitude training allows station members to push their physical craft to the next level, training beside crystal clear waters and mountains that stay snowcapped late into the alpine spring.

TAHOE CITY, Calif. - A Coast Guard Station Lake Tahoe crewmember pulls a heaving line aboard the station's 29-foot Response Boat-Small during training in Lake Tahoe. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

TAHOE CITY, Calif. – A Coast Guard Station Lake Tahoe crewmember pulls a heaving line aboard the station’s 29-foot Response Boat-Small during training in Lake Tahoe. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

Swim training in the lake challenges even strong swimmers to understand the plight of a stranded survivor, such as out-of-breath treading in water that hovers in the 50-degree range in the hottest months of summer. Station members compete regularly in Nevada and California powerlifting competitions with several state records achieved, proving that pound for pound, the U.S. Coast Guard is one of the best.

Although Tahoe is overall one of the deepest lakes in the world, shallow rims and sheer drop-offs make navigation of the north and south shores challenging as drought continues to drag the lake level closer to all-time record lows. Newly emerging shoalwater challenges coxswains to navigate in an area of responsibility that shifts with the rain and snow (or lack of it).

No more clearly has this been illustrated than by the grounding of the tourist paddleboat Tahoe Queen in shallow water off the south shore in August this year, which was the largest search-and-rescue case in the history of Station Lake Tahoe. The people-on-board count exceeded 300; all required evacuation from the Tahoe Queen after they were stranded for several hours.

While summertime at Lake Tahoe is full-time work with  cases  ranging from single paddleboarders to cruises carrying upward of 300 people, Station Lake Tahoe partners with multiple maritime agencies to respond to the needs of the busy summer tourist season. In winter, however, Station Lake Tahoe is one of the few agencies which continue to stand vigilant, ready to respond when the lake is frigid and the weather is at its most volatile.

TAHOE CITY, Calif. - A Coast guard Auxiliarist heaves-in a P-5 dewatering pump from a Coast Guard Station Lake Tahoe boatcrew during two-boat training on Lake Tahoe. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

TAHOE CITY, Calif. – A Coast guard Auxiliarist heaves-in a P-5 dewatering pump from a Coast Guard Station Lake Tahoe boatcrew during two-boat training on Lake Tahoe. U.S. Coast Guard photo.

While conducting search cases and recreational boardings to promote boating safety among Lake Tahoe’s large tourist population, Station Lake Tahoe also conducts regular two-boat training with the Coast Guard Auxiliary and occasional high-altitude air drops with C-130 aircrews from Coast Guard Air Station Sacramento.

With a limited crew in unpredictable mountain conditions, Station Lake Tahoe members exemplify the Coast Guard’s dedication to preparedness to the physical and mental demands of successful execution of law enforcement and search and rescue in an alpine environment.

 

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