Stormy seas enhanced U.S. Coast Guard training exercise

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COURTESY OF COAST GUARD STATION MANASQUAN INLET / JEFF BREHM Service members stand and watch as the station’s 47-foot motor lifeboat heads into large surf on Feb. 2.

POINT PLEASANT BEACH — U.S. Coast Guard service members took advantage of some stormy surf on Tuesday, Feb. 2 to get in some required rough-surf training aboard the Manasquan Inlet station’s 47-foot motor lifeboat.

Station Manasquan Inlet is responsible for conducting maritime search-and-rescue, law enforcement and natural resource protection from Long Branch down to Seaside Heights and the inland waters of Shark River Inlet, Manasquan Inlet and all navigable waters of Barnegat Bay south to Toms River.

Members took to the water on Feb. 2 for around an hour and a half, navigating rough eight-to-10-foot surf, to make sure the crew would be ready if an emergency situation were to strike.

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“The whole purpose of that training is to be able to respond in those conditions to whatever or whoever may need, a surfer in distress, something of that nature,” said Chief Warrant Officer Paul Ashley.

CWO Ashley, a Point Pleasant native with over 20 years of experience in the Coast Guard, led Tuesday’s training. He said real-life training, like other disciplines such as piloting, is much needed.

“We are a designated heavy-weather station and one of the things we kind of realized here is that in order for us to do that heavy weather training, we have to transit through some surf, eight to 10 foot,” he said.

Tuesday’s work was a step for some of the station’s junior operators to see the machinery and complete tasks during this elevated surf.

“There was a good, rolling groundswell, so the main thing that I was teaching the operator that day was actually wave avoidance,” said CWO Ashley, “how to read waves, timing, how to safely come in and out of the inlet, things like that.”

He said the most important part of training is learning wave avoidance.

Last week’s storm, which brought a layer of snow to the area, also brought large waves. According to CWO Ashley, the surf the day before the Coast Guard went out was much larger, making it unsafe for training.

“If the surf gets consistently larger than eight to 10 feet, then it’s out of our limitation,” he said. “As dangerous as the environment is we’re going into, we try to find the safest days of the most dangerous.”

This winter, the station has responded to an average amount of calls, he said.

One thing different about this winter is the frequency of large surf giving the station limited days for training. CWO Ashley said visibility, current and wind also play into those determinations.

Even with the large surf, training is needed for operators, he said. “I think the community will probably see us out there a little more, training in those conditions,” he said.

The original station is believed to have been built in 1856 as USLSS Station #9, Fourth District, on property conveyed in 1849, located “one mile southeast of Squan village,” the station’s website reads.

Coast Guard Station Manasquan Inlet is staffed by a crew of 30 men and women responding to about 600 search-and-rescue cases a year.

For more information about U.S. Coast Guard Station Manasquan, visit uscoastguardauxiliaryflotillamanasquaninlet.com.

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