The residents of Yankteetown, Fla., sleep soundly on an uncharacteristically chilly night. It’s quiet, with the exception of nocturnal creatures scurrying about in the shrubbery and thick woods. Just off Highway 40, in a residential neighborhood, several crewmembers are jolted out of their racks by a loud alarm. After gathering their bearings, putting on a clean uniforms and grabbing essential gear, they muster together at their rescue boats anxiously awaiting direction.
Coast Guard crewmembers at small boat stations across the country stand guard 24 hours a day, seven days a week, rain or shine, hot or cold, 365 days a year. Ready at a moment’s notice, these men and women spring into action whenever called upon to save those in peril. To them, it’s just a day in the life of a small boat station.
With a modest crew of 31 personnel, Coast Guard Station Yankeetown stays busy conducting search and rescue and law enforcement missions, while also performing maritime safety and training. When they aren’t responding to boaters in distress they stay busy at the small boat station working on daily tasks.
Each day starts off just like the last. The smell of eggs and bacon cooking in the galley waft through the halls waking up a sleeping duty crew. Oncoming duty crews filter in usually heading straight to the coffee pot, which seems to stay quite popular throughout the day.
“We have some amazing food here,” said Seaman Katherine Josey, a crewmember at the station. “Our galley just underwent some major changes so it’s nice knowing you’re going to have a great meal – especially for the personnel who are on duty.” Whether it is the seaman messcooking in the galley, or the coxswain driving a boat each job is critical to the success of the station. That success also relies on the crew’s fitness.
“Every Wednesday morning is a sports day, and we pick a sport to play amongst each other,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Greene, the executive petty officer at the station. “Today we’re going to split up into teams and play softball.”
Fitness plays an important role in the Coast Guard. Along with weekly sports days, crewmembers are encouraged to workout during their off-time or lunch hour to keep up to standards.
“It’s always fun to play each other,” said Seaman David Micallef, a crewmember at the station. “Not only is it for fun, it also creates a tight camaraderie with one another.”
As the crewmembers started their game on a large field just down the street from the station, hoots and hollers carried across the inlet breeze.
The game finished with high fives and small talk about some of the better plays from the game, then the crew returned to the station to get cleaned up and back to work.
“If we don’t have any search and rescue cases or boat training going on, we usually fill the time with things that need to be fixed or cleaned around the station,” said Josey.
Keeping the station in good order requires the teamwork of all hands. That teamwork also is put toward ensuring fellow crewmembers are qualified.
“Once the workday is over, we have a study hall at 4 p.m," said Josey. "We constantly work on keeping our qualifications current, so we conduct a lot of training and create time for people to study.”
For Yankeetown, training isn’t just spent in the books. Florida has a large recreational and commercial boating community. To ensure the crews can handle whatever cases are thrown their way, they conduct hands on training in the various small boats. The station partnered with local Coast Guard Auxiliary members to conduct towing evolutions. The Auxiliary is the uniformed volunteer component of the Coast Guard.
“This was my first time training with the Auxiliary,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Christopher Kohl, a crewmember at the station. “They help stand watch at our station and sometimes train with us. They are knowledgeable and eager to learn more. It’s great to see what they already know.”
Being new to Yankeetown, Kohl stays busy working to get re-certified so that he can handle the boats during search and rescue cases in this area. The crews finished the evolutions successfully leaving everyone feeling confident the training went well and return to the station. As the sun sets, the overnight crew changed into more of a relaxed state of mind.
“If we have down time in the evening we try to do something fun,” said Josey. “A lot of the crew are into video games and always play each other when waiting for the next SAR case. The people you work with become your family and sometimes we are around each other more than our own family members. We become pretty tight-knit and you sometimes don’t get that with other jobs.”
The next day the crewmembers at Station Yankeetown will do it all over again, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, rain or shine, hot or cold, 365 days a year. To them, it's just another day in the life.