Coast Guard Cutter Liberty crew performs extensive engine maintenance

Petty Officer Third Class Robert Gilmore, a machinery technician aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Liberty, applies tension to chain fall lifting cylinder head from engine block while the cutter is moored at the pier in Juneau, Alaska, Sept. 27, 2013. The Liberty’s engineering department replaced all 16 cylinder heads on the cutter’s starboard main diesel engine. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst.

Petty Officer Third Class Robert Gilmore, a machinery technician aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Liberty, applies tension to chain fall lifting cylinder head from engine block while the cutter is moored at the pier in Juneau, Alaska, Sept. 27, 2013. The Liberty’s engineering department replaced all 16 cylinder heads on the cutter’s starboard main diesel engine. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst.

Not a bit of space is wasted in the cramped engine room of an Island-Class Patrol Boat. The two main diesel engines take up the majority of the compartment, but other pieces of machinery, pipes and wiring intrude from all sides. A vent fan reaches down from the ceiling, almost touching the starboard engine.

The Coast Guard Cutter Liberty engineering department crowds the narrow passage between the cutter’s two engines. One of the crewmembers sits atop the engine they are working on, operating a chain fall to lift a weighty cylinder head. 

A member of the Coast Guard Cutter Liberty engineering department works on top of one of the cutter's main diesel engines.

A member of the Coast Guard Cutter Liberty engineering department works on top of one of the cutter’s main diesel engines in Juenau, Alaska. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Grant DeVuyst.

The 50-pound cylinder head being slowly maneuvered is one of 16 on the engine: all of which the crew began replacing in mid-July as part of a top-end overhaul performed by the cutter with help from Sector Juneau and the Coast Guard’s Assist Team West, a unit based in Alameda, Calif. which provides logistic and engineering support for specific product lines used on Coast Guard assests.

“It’s very unusual for a machinery technician in today’s Coast Guard to have the opportunity to perform a repair of this magnitude on a diesel engine,” said Chief Petty Officer James Walker, the Liberty’s engineering petty officer. “My main propulsion assistant, MK2 Chris Hyde, has now performed repairs that are as involved and technically difficult as those they teach in the school for this type of engine.”

The Coast Guard Cutter Liberty is underway for a power trials. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Auxiliarist Tracey Mertens.

The Coast Guard Cutter Liberty is underway for power trials near Juneau, Alaska. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Auxiliarist Tracey Mertens.

To facilitate the replacement, members of the engineering department worked long hours and weekends. After months of hard work that is normally done during a drydock or dockside period, the cutter was ready to sail again. There is still work to be done, but the repairs made by the crew proved effective during a full power trial.

“I distinctly remember hearing in A-School that I might get one opportunity in my career to perform a repair as involved as a head-gasket change out,” said Petty Officer 3rd Class Rob Gilmore, a machinery technician aboard the Liberty. “I can now say I’ve done 16 change outs.”

Using chain and muscle, the Liberty’s engineering department poured time and energy into a monstrous project, and it paid off. They embodied the Coast Guard core values of honor, respect and devotion to duty through their diligent efforts.

“I couldn’t be more proud of what this department has done to get our engine repaired,” said Lt. Justin Forbes, commanding officer of the Liberty. “You’d be hard pressed to find another engineering department in the fleet that has performed in a year the number of technical repairs that ours completed this past week.”