EMERALD ISLE -- On any given day along the North Carolina coast, boaters are on the local waterways not anticipating a broken motor, getting off course or finding themselves in dangerous conditions.
Those are the moments the Coast Guard is there.
"We're active every day. If we're not on a mission, we're training for a mission. We're always ready," said Petty Officer 2nd Class Eric Platania, an 8-year veteran of the Coast Guard now serving at Coast Guard Station Emerald Isle.
The Coast Guard celebrates its 226th birthday August 4 and has a strong presence in North Carolina, with the Sector North Carolina command in Wilmington, Coast Guard Field Office at Fort Macon, a Special Training Center aboard Camp Lejeune, and cutters for duties includes aids to navigation.
Station Emerald Isle is one of nine boat stations along the North Carolina coast.
While small in number, with a staff of 18, Station Emerald Isle's coverage area is large, stretching 50 nautical miles along Intracoastal Waterway from Bogue Banks to Surf City, including Bogue and New River inlets. The area also extends 30 nautical miles offshore.
The summer is the peak of the season for recreational boaters on the water, and Station Emerald Isle most recently saw its skills put to work during a major July search and rescue case.
Boaters Don Midgett and Timothy Rollins were aboard a 25-foot Sea Hawk when the boat's outboard motor failed and the boat began taking on water as they were fighting choppy waters just outside Bogue Inlet.
A bystander called in the boat in distress and a crew from Emerald Isle was quickly underway. While in transit, they got another call that the boat had capsized and two men were in the water.
They barely had time to grab their life jackets and were holding them when they hit the water.
All was quiet Wednesday morning at the station but Petty Officer 3rd Class Tyler McGuinness and Fireman Apprentice Dustin Skvasik recalled being part of the crew that responded that day.
"The only thing that really hindered us that day was that the waters were pretty choppy," McGuinness.
The crew was on scene quickly but had to maneuver with the tide and rough waters to reach the men in a position that they could pull them aboard safely.
One of the men had drifted about 50 feet off the site and the other had tried to climb back onto the capsized vessel but had fallen and was drifting as well.
Fortunately, the Coasties were able to get each of the men aboard safely. Emergency medical personnel were waiting at the station when they returned but neither of the men required medical treatment.
McGuinness said it's their training that made a smooth mission and positive results possible.
"That's what helped, the training. Everything went smoothly, everything went well and we were able to safely pull them out of the water," he said.
Search and rescue missions are what McGuinness likes most about his service in the Coast Guard. It's a challenge and one that saves lives.
"I like search and rescue. I like how it is constantly changing. I like the challenge and having to adapt. You never know what is going to happen," McGuinness said.
Platania said it's the variety of each day that he most likes about his duties with the Coast Guard.
"We could go out and do an environmental case in the morning, have a search and rescue case in the afternoon and on the way back to the station, there may be a law enforcement," he said. "There's a lot of variety, a lot of responsibility and I like that responsibility," Platania said.
Platania is a second generation Coast Guardsman, following in his father's footsteps.
"I was able to see what my father did while I was growing up and that always resonated with me," Platania said.
Skvasik wasn't sure of his plans after graduating high school in New Jersey in 2014 but decided to give the Coast Guard a try after learning a bit about it from a friend of his father's.
He likes the camaraderie of the service and got a first taste of the results of his training while a part of the recent Bogue Inlet rescue.
"It was a good feeling being able to help," he said.
For McGuinness, who grew up in Eastern North Carolina, the son of a Marine, the appeal was the chance to work each day on the water.
"I love the water. I prefer to be on the water, and this just seemed right," McGuinness said.
And each day they are ready to help, whether it's the recreational boater facing a problem while out enjoying a summer day or a fisherman headed out for a day's catch who needs assistance.
"We do our mission every day and the responsibilities we have are pretty amazing," he said.