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TideWriters Tales
Coast Guard Auxiliary Volunteers Serve the Chesapeake Bay Region
By Zachary Loesch

     Tom Mosca, of Ark, in Gloucester County, has an unusual hobby. Tom is a math instructor at Rappahannock Community College’s Glenns Campus who spends one weekend each month as a volunteer in the U.S. Coast Guard’s Auxiliary Service working at the Coast Guard station at Milford Haven by Gwynn’s Island in Mathews County. Tom spoke about his work for the Coast Guard during a recent Sunday afternoon fishing excursion.

     “I wear several hats while on duty, that is to say I have a variety of tasks to perform. As officer of the day I may operate our radio from the station to communicate with boaters or take part in search and rescue efforts using my own vessel. The station has a 41 foot long utility boat that was built under contract for the U.S. government. My vessel, the Tessellated Darter, is 32 feet long and is powered by a 230 horsepower four cycle turbo diesel engine. It was built by Mainship, a company located at Ft. Lauderdale in Florida.

     “Our patrol area runs from West Point on the York River to Smith Point on the Potomac River by the Maryland border. We are responsible for all of the Rappahannock River and parts of the Eastern Shore that include both the Nassawadox and the Occohannock rivers. Recently I assisted in a rescue mission. My wife, Denise, and I were aboard our vessel and on our way to Crisfield, Maryland when we heard the report on our radio of three men from Richmond in a boat that was sinking off the Eastern Shore. The station’s 41 foot vessel blew its engine while towing the sinking vessel. The smaller pleasure craft began to take on more water when it stopped moving forward. We escorted both vessels from Wolf Trap, a sandbar five miles north of New Point Comfort named after the H.M.S. Wolf ran aground there, to Milford Haven where the damaged pleasure craft was lifted out of the water for repairs.”

     Steve Clukey of Gloucester Point explained that Coast Guard auxiliary volunteers are not law enforcement officials and do not issue citations to boaters who have violated the law. Coast Guard volunteers are primarily concerned with search and rescue missions and teaching the general public about boating safety skills. Steve spoke about some of the training and services offered to the public. “I highly recommend the Coast Guard’s basic seamanship course which covers topics such as navigation, communication, safety equipment, trailer transport and even how to chose the right vessel for the individual owner’s particular needs. Coast Guard auxiliary volunteers provide boat inspections and vessel safety checks at no cost to the boater. These are often done on the weekend at various locations throughout the Tidewater region. Call the phone number for the Coast Guard listed in your local directory and we will set up an appointment to come see the vessel at any location convenient to you. Again, this is a service we provide free of charge. If any deficiencies are found the information is considered confidential. We do not report this information to enforcement agencies. One of the basic ideas that we stress is that every boat should have a life jacket readily accessible to each passenger and that one larger flotation device be kept at hand and ready for use in the event that one might need to toss it to someone in the water. We would like to see people wearing their life jackets while on the water.”

     According to Tom there are about forty people in Flotilla #64, the Coast Guard’s auxiliary unit from Gloucester County. He estimates that there are several hundred Coast Guard volunteers in our region. Tom’s vessel is equipped with radar that is accurate at distances of up to twenty four miles away and can pinpoint small objects at distances as close as an eighth of a mile. He has two sonar devices, one of which finds bottom to determine the water’s depth while the other locates fish. Tom is a passionate supporter of the environmental movement. In addition to being a conservationist he is an avid hunter and sports fisherman. Tom flies his own airplane. He holds a doctoral degree in Marine Ecology awarded by the College of William and Mary in 1997. He has been presented with several awards by the Coast Guard and recently received a letter from Admiral Loy commending him for his volunteer work. Everyone who enjoys boating in the Chesapeake or its tributary rivers owes a debt of thanks to the Coast Guard auxiliary volunteers who work to protect the lives and safety of their fellow citizens. 

© 2001 Zachary Loesch All Rights Reserved

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