The annual Buoy Tender Olympics got off to an early start Wednesday morning on Juneau’s downtown waterfront with a chain pull, swimming relay in Gastineau Channel, the tug of war, and welding and crane-operating competitions.

The Olympics are part of the 2012 U.S. Coast Guard Buoy Tender Round-up. The week-long event includes specialized training for crewmen and women aboard the ships as well as the mid-week competitive games.

Ensign William Stark sported a viking helmet throughout the tug-of-war competition.

Ensign William Stark sported a viking helmet throughout the tug-of-war competition. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

Wearing a Viking helmet with horns, Ensign William Stark of the Kodiak-based Spar was part of the ship’s tug-of-war team. He said the entire week is always a great experience.

“It’s competitive, but by the end of the day, it’s buoy tender camaraderie between all the different units. We’re all brothers. It’s a great thing,” he said.

The round-up is sponsored by the U.S. Coast Guard 17th District, headquartered in Juneau. This year vessels from Alaska, Washington, Oregon and British Columbia are participating.

Scott Bell is Lead Hand on the Bartlett, based in Victoria, B.C. Bell said the Juneau Buoy Tender Roundup is a good opportunity for Canadian Coast Guardsmen and women to spend time and train with their U.S. counterparts.

“Every year we have our own roundup out of Victoria and quite a few of the ships show up for that as well, from the U.S. side. It’s good to touch base with people we’ve met before and every new face is a bonus,” Bell said.

The ships docked at Station Juneau include the 225-foot buoy tenders SPAR and Sitka-based Maple. The three 175-foot buoy tenders are the Anthony Petit, from Ketchikan; the Fir, from Astoria, Oregon; and the Henry Blake, based in Everett, Washington. The Canadian Coast Guard medium-endurance ship Bartlett is 189 feet.

Alaska buoy tenders service 1,250 navigational aids along 42,000 miles of coastline. They also participate in law enforcement, search and rescue, and environmental protection.

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