He hadn't gotten much sleep the night before. It usually took him three or four days to get used to the creaks and rolling waves of the old Coast Guard cutter.
Tonight would again be sleepless, though that was desired since he had the overnight shift. Two cups of coffee from the mess hall had helped, but 5 hours in, the charting on his desk was becoming blurry.
The bright red light by the door and shrieking alert bell yanked him from his daze. He grabbed his tactical vest, go bag, and rushed to the stern launch deck.
As he suited up, the briefing came over the speakers. As boatswain's mate, he'd be piloting the short 25-foot mission boat to find a small sinking fishing boat. He looked out across the white caps and saw no boat in the pitch black sea.
The briefing continued. He would be in pursuit of a slowly sinking vessel, with no signal lights, in a near 45-knot gale, with their last communication as the only heading. Nights like tonight were why he joined the Coast Guard.
His mission vessel slid off the launch ramp with a crash. He hit the throttle and their bright bow search light bounced across the dark waves. Minutes went by and still nothing. When finally, he saw a red reflection, a part of the fishing boat.
It was capsized, 4 men barely hanging on to the upside down hull. The boatswain's mate steered the rescue boat in close. As the rescue team pulled the last one was aboard, he took one last look. The ship lurched up, a final breath, and sank. The last he saw was the upside down weathered paint, NANTUCKET.