Cape D hosts neighbors at open house

<p>Phillip Gittings, right, and his brother Palmer check out the captains chair in the Pilot Boat Columbia at Station Cape Disappointment's open house on Saturday.</p>

CAPE D — For years, Kathy and Pat Burke of Edmonds have camped at Cape Disappointment State Park. “It’s our favorite spot,” she says. But until Saturday, they’d never been to the nearby U.S. Coast Guard station — except once, by mistake, when they made a wrong turn and drove into the station.

But Saturday, they and friends Drew Balough and Roy Haase, both of Vashon Island, were among the 500 or so people who turned out for the second annual open house at Coast Guard Station Cape Disappointment.

They started their visit by watching a training film with machinery technician third-class Mike Zimmer, from Salem, who provided a narrative and then helped them decipher a chart used in search and rescue operations.

Visitors could tour boats from the Coast Guard station and National Motor Lifeboat School, Columbia River Bar Pilots, fish and wildlife and police. Local fire agencies and search-and-rescue agencies had rigs on display. The Coast Guard Auxiliary had a booth to take vessel safety check appointments. Visitors could try their hand at heaving a line to a pretend vessel in distress.

The Columbia River Chiefs’ Mess had a barbecue to raise money for the Ilwaco Food Bank. An American Red Cross bloodmobile surpassed its goal of 30 donors within four hours, having to stop at 37 donors.

The event illuminated National Boating Safety Week, May 18 through May 24. Signs along the walkway to the exhibits highlighted boating hazards in specific geography areas, like Clatsop Spit. Coast Guard personnel wore life vests to stress the message that life vests save lives, especially important on the Columbia River bar, the country’s, if not the world’s most dangerous, said Chief Petty Officer Jeremiah Wolf, the station’s operations chief.

Although he had hoped for more people, he was satisfied with the turnout considering the continual mist that fell, which he called “Cape D sunshine.” He said the Coast Guard appreciates the support it receives from the community and wants to build understanding of the agency’s rescue and law enforcement roles.

Fireman Kaitlin Bearden made a splash at the Coast Guard’s damage control training simulator, a mock vessel where she showed how to make emergency repairs to split hoses, leaky shaft bearings, broken pipes and other things that could go wrong. It’s geared to help fishermen and recreational boaters take care of themselves until the Coast Guard can arrive. She wrestled a spurting burst line into submission using non-adhesive rubber tape, a staple in the damage control kit boaters are required to have on board.

A “high” point of the equipment displays was the Long Beach Fire Department’s aerial ladder truck that gave elevated views of the festivities. Sheldon Harrington and Saraugh Wright of Victoria, B.C., were among those who took a ride 65 feet in the air with fire Lt. Kyle Jewell. They had come down for a long weekend on a whim after getting a coupon to a local motel and jumped at the chance to see a Coast Guard station. The ladder ride was another first for them.

Many Coast Guard families used the open house as a chance to show their children what their parents do for a living. But the first thing 7-year-old Henry Williams and his 5-year-old brother Wyatt, whose dad is First Class Machinery Technician Jim Williams, wanted to do was ride on Long Beach’s aerial ladder truck.

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