It looked like the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Hickory was poised to pull off the upset. A crowd of blue-clad onlookers roared as boots scraped against wet asphalt in the Coast Guard Station Juneau parking lot.
The tug-of-war was the most anticipated event of the day at the Buoy Tender Roundup Olympics on Wednesday. The event brings Coast Guard vessels and their crews from all over the state together in Juneau.
The crew of the CGC Sycamore looked poised to follow up on its 2017 victory in the tug-of-war with multiple convincing victories en route to the finals. Midway through the final event, though, the crew of the Hickory (which has its homeport in Homer) was moving steadily backwards as the Sycamore crew looked tired.
All of a sudden, the tides shifted.
Anchored by their rotund cook, Culinary Specialist-1 Steve Carson, the Sycamore crew found another gear. Quickly, the rope started moving their way. In what seemed like just a few seconds, the whistle blew and the Sycamore crew members screamed in celebration. The exhausted Hickory crewmembers were dazed.
“Syca-who?” one victorious crewmember yelled.
“Sycamore!” the rest answered.
It wasn’t the only victory of the day for the crew of the Sycamore, which is stationed in Cordova. The first event of the day, the Survival Swim, also went their way. The swim is a relay event in which four members of each crew have to put on water suits one at a time, swim to a buoy in the water and swim back.
Lt. Commander Collin Bronson, the top-ranking officer on the Sycamore, swam the final leg of the relay and had an easy job. His team was well ahead of the rest of the pack, and finished a full minute ahead of the second-place team. Afterward, he said the water was “brisk,” but that the adrenaline of the event helps him push the cold temperature out of his mind.
“It’s good to get in the water,” Bronson said. “We’re in the Coast Guard. That’s what we do, right?”
Master Chief Clinton Self was on hand to take in the action and even help out in the chain-pulling competition. He said the annual event is highly anticipated in part because everyone can exhibit the skills they develop while on the job.
We’re at the Buoy Tender Olympics on the #Juneau Coast Guard dock, where crewmembers are competing in job-related activities. This throw in the line toss was straight, but just short. pic.twitter.com/eMg7b933CP
— Alex McCarthy (@akmccarthy) August 22, 2018
Apart from the outdoor feats Wednesday morning, there are also two cooking competitions between the cooks Thursday. Self said he was especially looking forward to the biscuits and gravy competition, in which he will be a judge. The afternoon cooking event is a burger contest, he said.
“Everybody gets to show off their skills,” Self said. “Cooks get to show off their skills, the deck force gets to show off their skills, the whole ships get judged on cleanliness, material inspections, the best looking ship. There are all sorts of competitions.”
Though the events are highly competitive, the larger point of the Buoy Tender Roundup is to bring together crews from all over the expansive state. The camaraderie was apparent as they cheered each other on during the competitions Wednesday morning, and even those who lost did so with smiles on their faces.
“Part of it is that Alaska is so big and you kind of have to get folks together and share some experiences and share some best practices,” Bronson said. “This is kind of the only way to do it. Otherwise you’re thousands of miles apart from everyone else.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.