110 feet of history
Posted by PA3 Grant DeVuyst, Tuesday, July 30, 2013
The 110-foot-long, 21-foot-wide cutter bobs unsteadily at the enormous Nome, Alaska, causeway. Lines reach up to mooring bollards clearly meant for a larger vessel.
To the east and north, the city of Nome sprawls out across the tundra of Seward Peninsula. This vestige of the Last Frontier’s gold rush is now a relatively bustling port and air hub for Western Alaska.
The Coast Guard Cutter Naushon’s crew is a long way from their homeport of Ketchikan, 1,700 sea miles, to be precise. What is more extraordinary is the historical significance of their transit to the Far North.
The trip from Southeast to Western Alaska was part of the larger Arctic Shield 2013 mission, designed and executed to test Coast Guard air and surface asset capability in the Arctic. This is the first time ever that an Island Class patrol boat travelled so far north along the coast of Alaska.
“Patrolling just south of the Arctic ice labyrinth in the best month of the year certainly helped this small vessel evaluate the northwestern patrolling capabilities for the Coast Guard,” said Lt. Jennifer Wescott, Naushon’s commanding officer. “It would not have been possible without considerable support from other Coast Guard units. When we encountered mechanical problems, our logistical support immediately had replacement parts on the way.”
The Naushon crew’s successful patrol to the region opens a broader range of assets for deployment to the increasingly busy Arctic. Patrol boats like the Naushon and the scheduled-to-arrive 154-foot fast response cutter bring search and rescue, as well as fishery and safety enforcement capabilities, to the table. The effort is reminiscent of the service’s early years in Alaska, when revenue cutters provided the only federal presence in the region.
Braving the notoriously tumultuous Bering Sea and the freezing waters north of the Arctic Circle, the Naushon’s crew brought the Coast Guard one step closer to the goals outlined in the service’s Arctic Strategy. During the patrol, the crew encountered dense fog and the ever-present threat of a Bering Sea storm. Making history isn’t always easy.
“This Arctic adventure was truly the trip of a lifetime for all members aboard,” said Wescott. “We met our share of obstacles, with several engineering and electronic casualties sometimes stopping us in our tracks, but what we gained as a unit will shape how future ships operate in support of the increasing vessel traffic in the Arctic There is a sense of pride, freedom, and adventure that all Arctic sailors have. I could not be more proud of my crew and our teamwork to accomplish this historic trip.”