With the Alaska sun shining, the blue waters of Kachemak Bay sparkling, and boats going in and out of Homer’s small boat harbor, U.S. Coast Guard Commander Andrew Passic bid good-bye to the crew of the USCGC Hickory on July 18 and, with a reading of orders, handed command of the ship for the next three years to Lt. Commander Adam Leggett.
Homer residents and tourists walking past the newly constructed Boathouse lingered to observe the official change-of-command ceremony, but the front row seats were reserved for Passic’s wife Laura and his father Ted, and Leggett’s wife Brandy, daughter Arial, 5, and son Harbor, 1.
The personal importance of Passic’s tour of duty aboard the Hickory was clear as he wiped away tears, recounting memories of his time on the 225-foot sea-going buoy tender.
“This was the best job I’ll ever have, in a place I want to live forever. It was the combination of the job, the people, the place we live, the experiences we had,” he said.
The personal significance of Leggett following in Passic’s footsteps also was clear.
“He was the first person I met in the Coast Guard in a training program at the academy when I was in high school,” said Leggett. “He was my platoon commander and I was 17. It was a weeklong program and after I did that, I decided I wanted to go into the Coast Guard. That was the decision-maker.”
A native Californian who described his younger self as a “beach kid,” Leggett earned a bachelor of science degree at the Coast Guard academy with a major in science management and an emphasis in economics, and went straight to a ship’s bridge following graduation.
“It was exactly what I wanted,” he said. “And my very first patrol on my first ship was sailing around the world.”
His career began on the USCGC Monroe in Alameda, California, followed by the USCGC Chase in San Diego, California, the USCGC Bristol Bay in Detroit, Michigan, and the USCGC Katherine Walker in Bayonne, New Jersey. After a tour in Germany working with the U.S. Army for the United States Africa Command, he was assigned to the USCGC Mackinaw in Cheboygan, Michigan.
The Leggetts met in the Bahamas shortly before he completed his senior year at the academy. His proposal came before departing on the six-month round-the-world cruise.
“I figured I had to do something if I wanted to keep her around for six months,” he said, smiling.
Since their Aug. 6, 2005, wedding, the couple has moved every two years with Leggett’s change of assignment.
“At the one-year mark, I start getting excited about the possibilities,” said Brandy Leggett of her enthusiasm for experiencing new parts of the planet.
Their time in Michigan helped prepare them for Homer. With the ship based in Cheboygan, the Leggetts lived in Petosky, on the shore of Lake Michigan’s Little Traverse Bay. It has a population of about 5,000. Temperatures reach into the seventies in the summer and drop down to the teens during the winter.
“Moving to northern Michigan was our first place to get out of cities, someplace remote and we loved it, the space and the people,” said Leggett. “We really wanted to stay in that kind of small community atmosphere.”
With six different ships as possible next assignments, “we tried for Alaska,” said Brandy Leggett, who was raised in Oregon.
“This was like a new challenge, seeing someplace new,” said Leggett.
After getting the news in February that they would be coming to Homer, they sold their home in Michigan, figured out the logistics so they could take 30 days to make the drive a family vacation, and headed across country in June. Harbor’s first birthday was in Glacier National Park and he took his first steps along the way.
Since arriving on July 6, the Leggetts have settled into a house on East Hill Road and are looking forward to experiencing Alaska.
“Summiting Denali would be my bucket list goal, but the baseline goals are hunting and fishing. I’ve never gone hunting before, so that’s something I want to do. And I’ve never fished for halibut and already caught my first one,” said Leggett. He may be new to halibut fishing, but not to fishing, as his answer revealed when asked how big the halibut was. “Gigantic,” he said.
Winter activities have Brandy Leggett’s attention: learning more about the Iditarod, as well as learning to ski and snowshoe.
“It’s nice that everyone is active here and wants to be outdoors rain or shine. That’s what we learned in Germany: there’s no bad weather, just poorly dressed people,” she said.
Arial has already attended Girl Scout day camp, is looking forward to beginning kindergarten at Paul Banks Elementary School, “and I’m going to start going to karate soon,” she said.
Harbor is still learning the fine art of walking, getting his sea, and land, legs under him.
Then there’s what brought the Leggetts to Homer: the Hickory.
“We’re primarily a buoy tender, but we also do search and rescue, fisheries enforcement, a lot of community outreach, and I’m looking forward to my first Haunted Hickory,” said Leggett of the annual Halloween shipboard celebration that’s open to the public. “We’re looking forward to being part of the community and making new friends.”
As for the Passics, they will remain in Homer until the birth of their first child, due this week. Then the family of three will head to Yorktown, Virginia, where Passic will be the comptroller and personnel officer at a Coast Guard training center.
“Laura and I own property on East Hill and have every intention of figuring out how to make it work when we retire, as so many in Homer do,” said Passic. “Our time here has been incredible and it’s because of the amount of things available to you in Homer and the amount of people who do stuff that makes this a good place to live. We believe we are lifelong Homerites and are figuring how to make this happen.”