Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Jordan Kirby, an avionics electrical technician from Menifee, California, has loved boats his entire life. After spending his childhood summers boating around Lake Mohabee with his family, he joined the Coast Guard.
Kirby has been in the Coast Guard for nearly a decade and is currently stationed at Air Station Sitka working on MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters. He made use of the social downtime provided by the COVID-19 pandemic to work on what he loves, refurbishing boats. This hobby helps Kirby take the focus off of the unpleasant situation surrounding the pandemic that many Coast Guard members are facing this year.
“I’m someone who does well when I am task-saturated inside and outside of work,” said Kirby. “I’m not the kind of person that can sit idle; I have to have a project. It gives me something to focus my time, mind, and money on that’s healthy.”
Kirby taught himself to refurbish boats through trial and error.
He gained some nautical knowledge when he was stationed on Coast Guard Cutter Morgenthau as a non-rate, an enlisted seamen or firemen from pay grades E-1 through E-3 who haven’t yet received their rating training. Many of his boat refurbishing skills came from his work as a deck seaman on the cutter, where he routinely sanded, grinded, and painted the hull of the ship to treat corrosion.
The avionics and electrical system training he received in A-school (a formal resident training program), soldering school, and advanced troubleshooting classes, helped him learn how to repair and maintain the electrical portion of boats. He’s also learned composite work from his aviation maintenance technician counterparts that he’s used for fiberglass repairs. Everything else, he taught himself.
“Knowing the electrical side of things is helpful, but seeing how the composite repairs are made on the aircraft also helped me learn a little bit on how to repair fiberglass and do metal repairs, “said Kirby. “Every bit of my Coast Guard experience, including being a non-rate on a high endurance cutter, tied into me working and living on the boat.”
In July of 2020 he also bought and restored a 12-foot johnboat that took him over a month to complete. His second project, a 30-foot Yamaha sailboat, is a boat he plans to live on one day.
To Kirby, these projects serve multiple purposes; they help him relieve stress, provide a way to safely travel outside of Sitka, and give him something new to learn. Kirby has had friends teach him tips and tricks for sailing, but other than that he is a self-taught sailor. He has taken his 12-foot skiff out on several hunting trips, and has taken daytrips in his sailboat around the Sitka area, and even watches online tutorials about sailing to hone his skills.
Living in Alaska not only allowed him the opportunity to focus on developing his hobby but also helped him develop a sense of belonging.
“Coming up to Alaska and just seeing the untouched mountain ranges and wild animals everywhere feels like home,” said Kirby. “It just feels real and rugged like the way the world used to be. I taught myself how to fish and hunt and it’s been a spiritual experience. I feel like I’m more connected to the natural world around me.”
Kirby plans to stay enlisted in the Coast Guard for years to come and has hopes of remaining stationed in Alaska. However, if the detailer has other plans and he gets stationed elsewhere, he’s going to sail there.
“I’ve always liked the idea of having a live-aboard boat,” said Kirby. “I like that it’s affordable and that I can take my home wherever I am.”
Kirby attributes living in Alaska to his transition into maritime life as much as he does to his experience in the Coast Guard. When he used to live in larger cities he found it was easy to get distracted by all thing city life has to offer, but here in Alaska, he gets time to do what he loves.