Monday, January 16 , 2017, 8:07 am | Fair 42º


Captain’s Log: Coast Guard Boats Barreling Down on Us with Machine Guns at the Ready

It can be a bit disconcerting to watch a U.S. Coast Guard inflatable gunboat barreling down on us with a massive machine gun mounted on the bow. A gun like that can probably cut my boat in half — like a giant chainsaw — in a matter of seconds.

I perfectly understood the reason for the show of lethal force, and I agree with the protective tactic, considering there was a modern aircraft carrier anchored just offshore from Santa Barbara.

I was taking some repeat passengers out on a fishing charter early in the morning when there weren’t many vessels out. It was just me and a couple of commercial boats, and it looked like we were all getting the same treatment.

As I left the harbor entrance and throttled up, the Coast Guard moved toward me from several hundred yards away, carefully keeping their craft between me and the carrier. These folks were protection professionals. I kept the harbor entrance buoys on my port side and steered a wide birth around that awesome ship.

It was during the afternoon, on my way back to harbor, that I saw how busy these Coast Guard gunboat crews can be. There were numerous pleasure craft out, and they all seemed to want to go take a close-up looksee. Naturally, the protection vessels couldn’t allow that, and they looked to be constantly busy letting boaters know they weren’t welcome within the safety zone.

My course that morning left plenty of space between myself and the carrier. As long as I maintained my course, the gunboats only made their physical presence and intentions known.

Naturally, I decided not to fish my hotspot that was pretty much right underneath the carrier. I chuckled at the thought of radioing the carrier and asking them to please move off of my fishing spot for a couple of hours. I decided against it.

Every time a modern warship visits and anchors just offshore, I have this same mental image, as I’m coming out of the harbor. My image is of this relative youngster sitting among a wealth of electronics aboard that carrier. He’s already got a targeting solution on me, and he’s just smiling as he gently rubs his fingertip around the fire button. He’s already checked his instruments and knows more about me that my doctor does, including exactly how many fillings I have in my teeth.

Over-dramatizing? Maybe, but there is a part of me that wants those American military personnel to have every imaginable advantage over an enemy.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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