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Old 14-06-2011, 05:35   #1
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Boarded by USCG 60 Miles off Key West

this did NOT take place on Waltzing Matilda, it was on a 36' trawler

After attending the Hemminway fishing Tournament we departed Havana, Cuba around sunset and set a course for Marathon, FL. By 22:00 we had a helicopter circling and could see two USCG cutters stalking us on the horizon.

At about 03:00 our VHF crackled alive with USCG Cutter Kodiak hailing us, they came up fast and dark off of our stern, the watchman on duty observed them via night vision binoculars launching two small inflatables, one took position 100 yards off our starboard bow, the other equal distance off the port. Upon announcing their presence,
Kodiak inquired about our destination, last port of call, number of firearms aboard and number of passengers aboard.

Kodiak lit us up with the brightest spotlight I have ever seen (it made the water steam it was so hot) and announced their intention to board us for a "routine safety inspection". They requested that we rouse our passenges and muster on the sterrn deck, as 1st mate it was my responsibility to rouse the sleepy (and pissed off) journalists aboard and briefed them on the situation, per my requirements they donned life jackets, each with a whistles and water activated strobe as we were rolling quite a bit in 6' beam seas.

With one inflatable standing off in and completely dark (we could see the machine gun on the bow pointed at us) a boarding party consisting of 5 USCG members approached on our starboard stern and came along side, the 1st member of the boarding team came aboard to point a hand gun at us while two others in the boarding party stood by in the inflatable pointing shotguns at us, the remaining two in the inflatable (pilot and deck hand) maintained 10 yards off the stern while I accompanied the Commanding Officer below for a "safety inspection". The first thing he checked was our bilge to "that our vessel was sea worthy and insure the safety of his crew" , then he inspected our "Y" valve on the holding tank (so far off shore I thought pump out was legal, no matter, we were switched and locked into holding tank position). After counting flares, fire extenguishers, deck throw-ables and discharge placards we were told that the only violation was the trash placard not being visible (it is on the inside of a cabinet door to keep the wood work pretty).

Meanwhile another member of the USCG boarding party interrogated the Capitan on the fly bridge who was at the helm the entire time, she had never dealt with anyone that went to Havana as a journalist, they detained us for over an hour while checking out ID and being confused about our paperwork from the US State Dept and Marina Hemingway, both indicated that we were invited guests that were sponsored by Marina Hemingway to report on the tournament. After the delay they wished us safe travels and departed.

Throughout the boarding the USCG treated us with respect, they were very polite and cordial despite pointing guns at us, the only scary point was when the CO's inflatable life vest got snagged on some standing rigging and deployed, I was sitting near his steel toe clad feet and at the sound I stated "da F*CK's that noise!", the CO got jumpy and went for his holster while whirling around trying to figure out who was attacking him.

Summary: USCG got our passengers out of bed and on deck, then pointed guns at us, for our safety

Post Script, Cuban Coast Guard was very polite, took of their shoes and didn't point guns at us, they also were shore based and had no vessels or aircraft
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Old 14-06-2011, 06:20   #2
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Re: Boarded by USCG 60 miles off Key West

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Originally Posted by Hillbillyfunk View Post
this did NOT take place on Waltzing Matilda, it was on a 36' trawler

After attending the Hemminway fishing Tournament we departed Havana, Cuba around sunset and set a course for Marathon, FL. By 22:00 we had a helicopter circling and could see two USCG cutters stalking us on the horizon.

At about 03:00 our VHF crackled alive with USCG Cutter Kodiak hailing us, they came up fast and dark off of our stern, the watchman on duty observed them via night vision binoculars launching two small inflatables, one took position 100 yards off our starboard bow, the other equal distance off the port. Upon announcing their presence,
Kodiak inquired about our destination, last port of call, number of firearms aboard and number of passengers aboard.

Kodiak lit us up with the brightest spotlight I have ever seen (it made the water steam it was so hot) and announced their intention to board us for a "routine safety inspection". They requested that we rouse our passenges and muster on the sterrn deck, as 1st mate it was my responsibility to rouse the sleepy (and pissed off) journalists aboard and briefed them on the situation, per my requirements they donned life jackets, each with a whistles and water activated strobe as we were rolling quite a bit in 6' beam seas.

With one inflatable standing off in and completely dark (we could see the machine gun on the bow pointed at us) a boarding party consisting of 5 USCG members approached on our starboard stern and came along side, the 1st member of the boarding team came aboard to point a hand gun at us while two others in the boarding party stood by in the inflatable pointing shotguns at us, the remaining two in the inflatable (pilot and deck hand) maintained 10 yards off the stern while I accompanied the Commanding Officer below for a "safety inspection". The first thing he checked was our bilge to "that our vessel was sea worthy and insure the safety of his crew" , then he inspected our "Y" valve on the holding tank (so far off shore I thought pump out was legal, no matter, we were switched and locked into holding tank position). After counting flares, fire extenguishers, deck throw-ables and discharge placards we were told that the only violation was the trash placard not being visible (it is on the inside of a cabinet door to keep the wood work pretty).

Meanwhile another member of the USCG boarding party interrogated the Capitan on the fly bridge who was at the helm the entire time, she had never dealt with anyone that went to Havana as a journalist, they detained us for over an hour while checking out ID and being confused about our paperwork from the US State Dept and Marina Hemingway, both indicated that we were invited guests that were sponsored by Marina Hemingway to report on the tournament. After the delay they wished us safe travels and departed.

Throughout the boarding the USCG treated us with respect, they were very polite and cordial despite pointing guns at us, the only scary point was when the CO's inflatable life vest got snagged on some standing rigging and deployed, I was sitting near his steel toe clad feet and at the sound I stated "da F*CK's that noise!", the CO got jumpy and went for his holster while whirling around trying to figure out who was attacking him.

Summary: USCG got our passengers out of bed and on deck, then pointed guns at us, for our safety

Post Script, Cuban Coast Guard was very polite, took of their shoes and didn't point guns at us, they also were shore based and had no vessels or aircraft
I'll bet you were never "in the sights" of a USCG weapon and I'll take the professionalism and security of the USCG over just about any in the world.

Start sinking 20 miles off the Cuban and see who shows up....
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Old 14-06-2011, 06:25   #3
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Re: Boarded by USCG 60 miles off Key West

Remember that drugs is coming to Fl mainly by boats and at night. Not even talking about illegal immigrants , boating from Cuba to Fl.
I'm not surprised, more over at night. And they were doing their job: protecting our coasts.
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Old 14-06-2011, 06:25   #4
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Re: Boarded by USCG 60 miles off Key West

Well I for one am glad to see the Coast Guard is out there doing it's job. Which is guarding the Coast and making sure that stuff we don't really need coming into this country has less of chance of getting to our shores.
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Old 14-06-2011, 06:29   #5
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Re: Boarded by USCG 60 miles off Key West

USCG boarding protocol requires the weaponry and tactics, unfortunately the onscene officer has little discretion to deviate. Much the same as TSA is not allowed to deviate from protocol when a 85 pound, 90 year old, wheelchair bound lady passes through security. There is an unfortunate trend to micromanage some very capable personnel from afar by persons unqualified to do the job themselves.

I would have any and all involved write to their Senators/Reps to get protocol changed.
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Old 14-06-2011, 06:30   #6
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Re: Boarded by USCG 60 miles off Key West

I'll bet you were never "in the sights" of a USCG weapon and I'll take the professionalism and security of the USCG over just about any in the world.

Start sinking 20 miles off the Cuban and see who shows up...


have been boarded before by them with guns in hand,,,they like to try to intimidate people,,,,,,they claim is is for there safety,,yea right,,,most of the time they are polite and respectful and professional,,, but you are dealing with the human factor,,never know what can happen,,i have had over a dozen boarding in various yachts and boats and only once did they come aboard with guns in hand,,,,,,that was wrong but it is what it is,,,,had the dogs onboard once but all was good when they left
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Old 14-06-2011, 06:34   #7
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Re: Boarded by USCG 60 miles off Key West

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USCG boarding protocol requires the weaponry and tactics, unfortunately the onscene officer has little discretion to deviate. Much the same as TSA is not allowed to deviate from protocol when a 85 pound, 90 year old, wheelchair bound lady passes through security. There is an unfortunate trend to micromanage some very capable personnel from afar by persons unqualified to do the job themselves.

I would have any and all involved write to their Senators/Reps to get protocol changed.
Any yet you would have politicians force the USCG to change tactics through a letter writing campaign????...that absolutely goes in the face of what I highlighted....

Where do you think highly trained pros develope tactics??? And where do you think organizations like the USCG and US Military get screwed with and CAN'T do their job well??? It's usually BECAUSE they have to listen to politicians.

Like I always said during my 23 year career...I'M THE PROFESSIONAL...the elected politician is ONLY A TEMP!!!
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Old 14-06-2011, 06:38   #8
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Re: Boarded by USCG 60 miles off Key West

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I'll bet you were never "in the sights" of a USCG weapon and I'll take the professionalism and security of the USCG over just about any in the world.

Start sinking 20 miles off the Cuban and see who shows up...

have been boarded before by them with guns in hand,,,they like to try to intimidate people,,,,,,they claim is is for there safety,,yea right,,,most of the time they are polite and respectful and professional,,, but you are dealing with the human factor,,never know what can happen,,i have had over a dozen boarding in various yachts and boats and only once did they come aboard with guns in hand,,,,,,that was wrong but it is what it is,,,,had the dogs onboard once but all was good when they left
With almost 40 years of the Drug/Immigrant war underway in the Caribbean, with 10s of thousands of boardings to their credit... the USCG has never to my knowledge "accidently" shot anyone and are still regarded as the most or one of the most professional governmental organizations on the planet.
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Old 14-06-2011, 06:44   #9
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Re: Boarded by USCG 60 miles off Key West

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Old 14-06-2011, 07:16   #10
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Re: Boarded by USCG 60 miles off Key West

the USCG has never to my knowledge "accidently" shot anyone and are still regarded as the most or one of the most professional governmental organizations on the planet.

and how do you know they never did,,,do you think they would tell the public if such happened,,,,,,,don't think so,,boarding a vessel with guns in hand is wrong,,an accident waiting to happen,,protocols are in place for there safety and ours,,,,,,I do believe that they are one of the most professional police agencies int eh worls,,,I have been boarded by columbia police, venezula police, bahamas police, italian and spanish police,,,2 or 3 in the caribbean from different countries,,,,the USCG has by for the highest standards that I have seen,,,,i work on yachts and travel to many countries,,,most were looking for handouts and an excuse to board,,,the bahamas and columbia were the worst (more corrupt than a politician)
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Old 14-06-2011, 07:22   #11
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Re: Boarded by USCG 60 miles off Key West

Go USCG
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Old 14-06-2011, 07:27   #12
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Re: Boarded by USCG 60 miles off Key West

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the USCG has never to my knowledge "accidently" shot anyone and are still regarded as the most or one of the most professional governmental organizations on the planet.

and how do you know they never did,,,do you think they would tell the public if such happened,,,,,,,don't think so,,boarding a vessel with guns in hand is wrong,,an accident waiting to happen,,protocols are in place for there safety and ours,,,,,,I do believe that they are one of the most professional police agencies int eh worls,,,I have been boarded by columbia police, venezula police, bahamas police, italian and spanish police,,,2 or 3 in the caribbean from different countries,,,,the USCG has by for the highest standards that I have seen,,,,i work on yachts and travel to many countries,,,most were looking for handouts and an excuse to board,,,the bahamas and columbia were the worst (more corrupt than a politician)
I worked with "those" people and the moral standards of most alone would prevent a cover-up....so yes I would bet my life on there's been no "accidental" shootings. Accidental discharges but no "victims".
Boarding with a gun is only as dangerous as the lack of care or training and I believe there is no boarding with gun in hand...it's holstered or handed or slung under the "cover" of the nearby heavy weapon pointed not at but in the general direction of any potential threat.

While never a boarding officer or skipper of a USCG vessel...I've witnessed hundreds of boardings from the central Pacific to the Caribbean to Alaska....plus was the operations officer for one of the busiest group offices on the Eastern seaboard ensuring their training, professionalism and reviewing protocols.
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Old 14-06-2011, 07:38   #13
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Re: Boarded by USCG 60 miles off Key West

The more witnesses you have to an accidental shooting the harder it would be to cover it up. This would also include witnesses who were crew members of the boat being boarded who certainly would run right to the press if such a thing happened.

Besides, the Coast Guard has enough integrity to never hide such a thing.
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Old 14-06-2011, 07:42   #14
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Re: Boarded by USCG 60 miles off Key West

If I went to Cuba and back, I would expect a boarding at some point. Travel between the two countries IS very restricted, even if you had a permit,... most don't. Glad it worked out ok. I've seen them get jumpy during boardings, but it is a high risk situation.
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Old 14-06-2011, 07:45   #15
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Re: Boarded by USCG 60 miles off Key West

Thanks for the report

I feel safe...
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