Dave's Minster's Musings

February 28, 2014


“Now General Quarters, General Quarters! All Hands, General Quarters. Fire in the Number 2 Main Diesel Engine. Now All Hands, General Quarters. This Is Not A Drill!”

         It was 7:00am on a Sunday morning when I heard those words. Having worked through the night shift, I had only had a little over an hour of sleep when I first heard the strange noise. When you live on board a Coast Guard Cutter, you learn all the sounds the ship normally makes. This was not a normal sound. I was coming out of a dreamy sleep thinking about the strange noise I had just heard when the announcement had my full attention. The ship was on fire. Knowing we were some 100 miles off the coast of Jamaica, the prospect of a fire at sea was one of the worst things we could face.
I’ll never forget the sudden feelings of fear and the thoughts of “what if” that I had as I calmly walked through the main passageway of the ship, deliberately and carefully taking the prescribed path to my emergency station. The place was filled with smoke from a crank case explosion in the main diesel engine. With 12 massive cylinders and measuring over 32 feet long, it is no small piece of machinery.
In minutes, I was at my station, preparing for the worst. My job was to back up the fire fighting team and retrieve any injured shipmates, then provide the necessary medical care. We were all in place and hose teams entered the engine room.
We had drilled this maneuver countless times. Truth is, I really did not like the drills. They were time-consuming, monotonous, and I really did not like the ominous presence of the drill supervisors scolding us for every little mistake. Yet, in this moment of focused calm amid the crisis of a shipboard fire, I was very grateful for those drills. I did not have to think about what to do, worry about what not to do, or stress over arduous decisions in the midst of panic. Like every other member of the crew on the Coast Guard Cutter Midgett, I calmly went to work doing what I knew needed to be done.
Thankfully, nobody was injured and the team responsible for attacking the fire did their job so perfectly, the damage was minimal. Had it not been for practice and multiple drills, however, it is likely I would never have lived to tell this story. Our faith is no different. It is not something to be pulled out only in a crisis, but something to be practiced daily as a life of genuine faith!