At home on local waters


Stephen Park, boatswain's mate third class, United States Coast Guard, Curtis Bay

August 24, 2008|By Nancy Jones-Bonbrest | Nancy Jones-Bonbrest,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Salary:: $25,000

Years on the job: : 16

How he got started: Originally from Philadelphia, Park joined the Coast Guard after completing high school. "What I found out about the organization was impressive. I knew there were a lot of opportunities there."

Typical day: : Park works a rotating shift of two days on and two days off. For his two days on, he's on call at Curtis Bay for 48 hours.

"Some rotations you might not have much of anything happening, other rotations you can be busy the entire time. It can be really challenging."

His job centers on law enforcement patrols and search-and-rescue missions. Park said the winter can be slow and the summer is typically busy, but he added that it's not unusual for a search-and-rescue operation to happen about once every other day. As a boatswain, he is responsible for navigating the boat, managing deck equipment and standing watch.

Other major parts of the job include maintaining equipment, including the five boats housed at Curtis Bay, and training.

"We train to the point where it becomes second nature to us. It's a very constant program."

As a federal employee, Park said his job includes good employee benefits, including a housing allowance.

Area of operation: : The Chesapeake Bay north of Gibson Island to the Chesapeake & Delaware Canal, including the Susquehanna River and all the waterways in between.

Jurisdiction: : The Coast Guard is there to enforce federal laws, but Park said it works closely with county and state agencies and other organizations to protect the waterways.

See the world: : "I've been about two-thirds the way around the world, everywhere from the great extremities of Alaska to the Black Sea in Eastern Europe."

Place that stands out: : New England

Dangerous job: : Park said he has not been put in a life-threatening situation, other than dangerous seas. He said there isn't one body of water that he would call the most menacing because they all have their own personalities.

"You never know what the environment will hand you. I have dealt with weather and seas in the [Chesapeake] Bay that I did not feel anywhere else in the world."

The good: : "I love working with people. There's nothing better than helping someone in distress."

The bad: : Being the "bad cop" during law enforcement operations. "It's not that we're being difficult. We want people to be safe."

Advice to boaters: : Don't speed. Park said things can happen very quickly in the water, and boaters don't always have time to react. That's when serious accidents occur.

Philosophy:: "Anything is possible."

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