Ships converge for Buoy Tender Olympics

Posted: Thursday, August 14, 2003

Capt. Scott Bauby's ship took home the trophy in last year's Coast Guard Buoy Tender Olympics, and Wednesday afternoon he took a sledge hammer to a red-hot metal shackle in an attempt to repeat the triumph.

Bauby was one of about 250 Coast Guard officers and crew who steamed into Juneau this week to participate in the annual Buoy Tender Round-Up, a week-long event that includes training and some friendly competition.

"We attend lots of courses here for training, but the main thing is camaraderie," said Bauby, who commands the buoy tender SPAR, based in Kodiak. SPAR stands for "Semper Paratus, Always Ready," which is the Coast Guard's motto.

Five other American buoy tenders were in town for the annual event, including the Ketchikan-based Anthony Petit, the Petersburg-based Elderberry, the Homer-based Hickory, the Sitka-based Maple and the Cordova-based Sycamore. A Canadian Coast Guard buoy tender, the CCGS Bartlett from Victoria, British Columbia, also was involved in the event.

Buoy tenders monitor and maintain buoys, or navigational aids. They also perform search and rescue missions.

The olympics were held Wednesday, and included traditional competitive events such as a tug-of-war, as well as events designed to demonstrate how well the crews perform basic buoy tender duties.

Bauby's event was known as the "heat and beat." A team of officers from the SPAR used a blowtorch to heat a pin in a metal shackle. Then Bauby and two others used sledge hammers to flatten the top end of the pin, securing the shackle.

"As a captain and an officer, it's humorous. They make us come out and swing the sledge hammer because we don't usually do it," he said with a grin.

In another event, one crew member must operate a crane hauling a buoy and, following another's directions, try to set it down in the middle of a bull's eye.

Participants also competed in a basketball tournament, a chili cook-off and another event to determine who could make the best creamed chipped beef on toast, a staple of at-sea cuisine.

Lt. j.g. George Johnson, who organized the event, said the events build camaraderie vital for successful communication between buoy tenders.

"It's good for them to really get to know each other," he said. "It's a great way to conduct training. You get them together and they share ideas."

Coast Guard personnel participate in courses on subjects such as boat repair, security procedures, and buoy deck supervision, Johnson said.

SPAR Lt. j.g. Andy Wright, who also was a member of the ship's "heat and beat" team, said officers and crew look forward to the round-up.

"We're always working very hard. This is a great opportunity for good training and to enjoy Juneau," Wright said.

Masha Herbst can be reached at

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