Kachemak Bay Campus begins to rebuild instruction and training opportunities in maritime skills

This spring, Homer’s Kachemak Bay Campus is rebuilding its marine skills, training and safety instruction both in classrooms and on the various waters of the Homer Harbor and Kachemak Bay.

Janel Harris is an adult education instructor on the campus and last fall also added the campus position of maritime coordinator.

The three courses offered in April are all taught by Anna Borland-Ivy.

The first, Alaska Marine Safety Education Association’s (AMSEA) Fishing Vessel Drill Conductor, was a two-day course to meet the U.S. Coast Guard training requirements for drill conductors on commercial fishing vessels (46 CFR 28.270(c). It is offered multiple times each year and is available at a reduced cost of $125 to commercial fishermen with support from a variety of state and federal organizations and the U.S. Coast Guard. Instruction in the course includes cold-water survival skills; EPIRBs; signal flares and MAYDAY calls; man overboard recovery; firefighting; flooding and damage control; dewatering pumps; immersion suits and personal flotation devices (PFDs); abandon ship procedures; helicopter rescue; life rafts and emergency procedures drills, according to the AMSEA website.

This class is offered in multiple maritime communities across Alaska, as well as other states.

“One of the features of this class is getting people aware (of) what they need to be doing to run drills and use their required emergency equipment so that they can be legally compliant with conducting drills at least once a month on their vessel,” Borland-Ivy said.

“Federal regulation requires that if a fishing vessel operates outside of three nautical miles from shore, or in federal water, they need to be doing this. To travel to most fishing locations in the state, most vessels are going to be waterscape at some point. Really, all commercial fishermen, except setnetters need to be running drills. Setnetters are exempt because they don’t operate in federal water. Also, if you have more than four people on your boat, you need to be running drills to be in compliance,” she said.

Borland-Ivy also explained the details of a U.S. Coast Guard inspection and what they are looking for during a survey prior to a boat’s departure from the dock.

“Sometimes they’ll refer to defective safety item as a ‘no-sail’ item and if the item isn’t repaired or replaced, the vessel owner will receive a citation,” she said.

She noted that sometimes the Coast Guard will station a vessel outside of a fishing district and require vessels in transit to stop for inspection prior to going fishing.

“One of the things I’ve noticed is that without this mandatory compliance, sometimes people won’t fix things because the cost of some of items are quite expensive,” she said.

On Sunday, the attendees went down to the deep water dock at the Homer Harbor to practice using their immersion suits and a life raft in the water instead of just in the classroom setting, Borland-Ivy explained.

The opportunity to practice getting into a life raft in the water can be valuable for people to see what the experience is like, Harris noted. She mentioned that the device they are using for the course is designed to hold eight people but it can feel very crowded in the small space. She also noted the unstructured floor of the device and that even if a person doesn’t get sea sick on a vessel deck that might not be true in a life raft.

“People can be very uncomfortable inside of a life raft. It can feel very claustrophobic and another emergency response that people need to be aware of is to take sea sickness medication if they’re going to get into a device like this,” Borland-Ivy said.

The Coastal Navigation course started April 23 and will be held through May 9, on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 5 to 9 p.m. Borland-Ivy is also teaching that course. Although it started on Tuesday, interested students can still register for the remainder of the courses. According to Harris, this course involves getting comfortable with all aspects of operating a vessel safely on the water, such as reading charts and being familiar with how tides impact bays and anchorage locations.

Borland-Ivy developed this course on her own and it was originally titled Navigating Kachemak Bay.

“We look at the Kachemak Bay charts, discuss what all the symbols on them mean and how to read them and then we start very simple navigation problems with a compass. We also introduce the United States Coast Pilot and the importance of knowing how to use that,” she said.

She described one example of a student who learned about the dynamics of tides in China Poot Bay and how significant certain tidal cycles can be to navigating that and other regions of Kachemak Bay. The U.S. Coast Pilot is a publication created by NOAA, also the source of official navigational charts. There are ten Coast Pilot volumes for reference depending on geographic location and topics included within the Pilot include include channel descriptions, anchorages, bridge and cable clearances, currents, tide and water levels, prominent features, pilotage, towage, weather, ice conditions, wharf descriptions, dangers, routes, traffic separation schemes, small-craft facilities, and Federal regulations applicable to navigation, according to the NOAA website.

The Coastal Navigation course also covers basic maritime safety, the importance of PFDs and immersion suits.

“There are a lot of moms in this class who just want to be able to take their kids across the bay. One woman who took it bought little Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) devices and just attaches them to her kids’ life jackets so she can find them when they’re wandering around on the beach,” Borland-Ivy said. “It’s real basic stuff but it’s fun and it really might save somebody’s life.”

This class also provides a better sense of comfort operating a boat on the water and makes it less intimidating, Harris said.

Anna Borland-Ivy is also the instructor for the Able Seaman instructor course that will be offered at a later time and the Deckhand Skills course that will take place April 26 to 28 and again in the fall.

The Deckhand Skills is available for any age, but is particularly organized for youth learners. Borland-Ivy says she will accept people as young as 14 to participate in the course but minors do need to have a signed parent or guardian permission slip. This course will teach practical skills for becoming a deckhand on any vessel including safety, survival skills, line handling, knots, gear, basic navigation, crew roles, helm and wheelhouse expectations.

Upcoming U.S. Coast Guard maritime safety and education open house

On May 1, the U.S. Coast Guard will host a community open house on the Kachemak Bay Campus to share various components of maritime safety and highlight some of the local businesses and organizations that provide services to the community.

The U.S. Coast Guard from both the local office and the Anchorage office will be available at the event to answer any question that commercial or recreational boaters might have about any type of safety regulation, compliance, licensing or inspection service they provide.

“It’s a great chance to be in a position to ask about anything they regulate. This event is the time and place to do that,” Harris said. Harris noted that AVTEC, the Port of Homer and Eagle Safety will also be present at the event. More information will be available on this event soon.