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Summer in the Northwest

(Just for Fun, The Cadet Experience, Class of 2019) Permanent link   All Posts
Derek Silliman

So after a long wait for our summer assignments, my class finally got an email with a spreadsheet giving us the full list of where we are going for the summer. I am assigned to a cutter named Terrapin. I had no idea where the cutter was located so I looked it up and I found out it was in Bellingham, Washington. Bellingham is a small city just south of the Canada border. Terrapin is an 87-foot patrol boat docked at Station Bellingham with only one other patrol boat alongside it. It’s been awesome for me to see a part of the country I never saw before.

When I first flew into Seattle, I was immediately awestruck as the plane passed by the summit pyramid of Mount Rainier, and the reality hit me; I was not on the East Coast anymore. Following a recommendation from Anthony Bourdain, I sat down at Anthony’s Fish Bar at Seattle-Tacoma Airport as I waited for my final short flight to Bellingham. I had the best salmon fish tacos ever and enjoyed a beautiful view of the Cascade Mountains rising over the tarmac. I had two goals: the first was to learn about the duties and responsibilities of the crew on the patrol boat. The second was to immerse myself in the culture of the area, to eat the food, learn about the people, and get outside. Something I leaned watching Anthony Bourdain was that whether you travel to another part of the country, or the world, seek to live fully and immerse yourself wherever you are.

Bellingham is a great little city characterized by being a college town and home to a number of small breweries and a beautiful mountain lake. The way the hills just rise from the coastline here has allowed me to hike a number of small mountains with stunning views of Puget Sound, and there are a number of great coffee shops, one right on the water that I walked by along the trail that runs along Bellingham Bay.

I also took a few short trips to Seattle when my family came to visit. We toured the Museum of Pop Culture and a National Park Service Museum that offered a tour about the history of Seattle as the last point people would come to before sailing on to Alaska. West Seattle has a great beach with a view of the skyline downtown and a nice little ice cream parlor. To get away from the city, my dad and I toured the Boeing’s wide-body jet factory.

One really neat thing I did was take a trip into British Columbia. I spent a day in Vancouver, touring the Museum of Vancouver and the Maritime Museum, where I leaned about the history of the area, in dealing with immigrants and natives, and an expedition by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police through the Northwest Passage. The coolest thing in Vancouver was biking through Stanley Park, looking out onto the bay. Victoria had a beautiful set of buildings that looked like this little piece of Europe had been planted right on the West Coast. I toured the British Columbian Parliament and learned more about the history of the area through a visit to the Royal B.C. Museum. Beacon Hill Park offered a beautiful view of the Olympics, looking straight across the Strait of Juan de Fuca, back into Washington.

I have had the interesting privilege this summer of being the northernmost cadet in the lower 48 states, but it can be somewhat of a lonely existence where I have had to make my own fun. I did get two opportunities to catch up with classmates, first over dinner in Seattle, and later going hiking with classmates in the Olympics after meeting them in Port Angeles.

Being on the boat, we had an awesome patrol down in Oregon, where I saw the fullness of the pacific coastline and ran along the beaches to the outward point of Yaquina Head.

On the boat, I had a great time working with the deck department, but my big accomplishment for the summer was getting my in-port officer of the day qualification. It was something I learned a lot from, but never want to have to do that again because it took me three attempts to get that qualification. I got as much knowledge from the crew as I could and realized the importance of reviewing manuals and documents to verify the information I had was correct. I learned a lot from the captain as well; from his experience at his first unit, how he went about leading the crew, and his challenges to motivate them. It got me excited to get out into the fleet in a permanent capacity next year, but it reminded me that I cannot anticipate every challenge. We had a lot of conversations about various leadership principles and how to apply them as a young officer.

Overall, I almost feel as if I could call Bellingham home, maybe one day I will, or another city in the Northwest. A piece of me really does not want to depart Bellingham, but I know my few weeks of leave will give me some much needed time to relax before returning for the fall semester.

Derek. [email protected].

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