Heavy weather is heading this way, with forecasters saying the impending storm will pack seriously high northeast winds and driving rain while lingering for days over the region.

For most folks? A heavy sigh at the prospect of washed-out events, inconvenient travel, potential flooding and possible downed utilities. Perhaps two heavy sighs.

But for Chief Warrant Officer John Roberts, the Coast Guard commander at Station Gloucester on Harbor Loop, the multi-day storm is like manna from the weather gods.

"This is a great opportunity for us to practice moving boats around in our heavy-weather training," Roberts said Wednesday morning just as the winds were starting to whip across Gloucester Harbor. "We'll get going this afternoon to get the juices flowing and then we'll be back at the dock at 7 (Thursday) morning before getting back underway Friday with our heavy-weather drills."

The drills, he said, will focus on maneuvering the station's three 47-foot lifesaving boats in different conditions of surf and seas, working specifically on throttle management and practicing towing, gear transfers and in-water rescues.

"We'll do a two-boat exercise where one boat goes dead in the water, as if it were a distressed fishing vessel, and the other boat has to safely approach it and put it into a stern tow," Roberts said.

Also, using a 180-pound mannequin — which Roberts said grows far heavier once it's in the water for a while — the members of his command will practice man-overboard recovery. They also will work on transferring gear, such as dewatering pumps and spare VHF radios, from a Coast Guard vessel to a distressed boat.

Roberts, a 28-year veteran of the Coast Guard, assumed command of Station Gloucester in July. It already has been a memorable tour in America's oldest commercial seaport.

He has come to know the special bond the city reserves for the members of the Coast Guard that serve at Station Gloucester and he has come to appreciate the professionalism and competence of the city's marine first responders.

He and the men and women in his command already have a rescue under their belt.

In September, they teamed with Gloucester police, fire and harbormaster personnel to rescue a 13-year-old boy who had been washed off the Rafes Chasm rocks in Magnolia while taking pictures of the storm surge from Hurricane Dorian.

It was one of the Station Gloucester 47-foot lifesaving boats that plucked the teen from the water while he was several hundred feet from shore and still being pulled out.

"I was very pleased at how we performed in that instance," Roberts said. "That was a well-executed rescue."

Still, he could do without having to perform another one during the current storm, which is why he issued cautions to local mariners about venturing out while the storm rages.

"I'd caution anyone and everyone working in the marine environment to please stay in until this thing passes," Roberts said. "And if people onshore want to go out and observe the power of nature, please do it from a safe distance. It's too easy to get ripped into the water. That 13-year-old boy was incredibly lucky."

Roberts, 49, is a passionate surfer, but said he will refrain from hitting the waves until the storm and accompanying winds of up to 50 mph clear out. He advises others to do the same.

"I won't be surfing until Sunday," Roberts said. "Once the winds shift, I'll either be at Good Harbor Beach or somewhere on the coast of New Hampshire."

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT

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