Roanoke Island rendezvous with retirement
Posted by PA3 Meredith Manning, Friday, June 12, 2015
“The Roanoke Island began its service in Louisiana with a formal commissioning on February 8, 1992,” said Cmdr. Shawn Decker, chief of response, Sector Anchorage, during a departure ceremony for the vessel in Homer June 4. “It then completed the grueling transit through the Panama Canal to its new, first and final homeport in beautiful Homer, Alaska.”
Past local news articles document that many Homer locals did not welcome the Roanoke Island when it first arrived to the city. However, only three years after arriving, crewmembers aboard the cutter earned recognition from Congressman Don Young and Senators Frank Murkowski and Ted Stevens. They were recognized for rescuing two men when their vessel, the Arctic Flyer, was taking on water and enduring 10-foot seas near Kodiak.
The Roanoke Island’s crew was recognized again by the mayor of Homer in 1988 for their response efforts to a large explosion on the Homer Spit. The crew assisted in evacuating tourists and providing medical emergency personnel. More recently, the crew, along with Air Station Kodiak, responded to the vessel Jenoah after it ran aground. The vessel was taking on water and the crewmembers successfully stopped the leak and towed the vessel to Kodiak, saving the lives of the three people on board.
In the past year the cutter has patrolled over 4,000 miles of Alaska’s coast, conducted 46 commercial fishing safety boardings and responded to five search and rescue cases.
“Those impressive numbers are a testament to the exceptional crews that have sailed on Roanoke Island for the past 23 years,” said Lt. Clell Thomas, the commanding officer of the cutter.
Along with their Coast Guard-related duties, the Roanoke Island crewmembers have also been supporters of the Homer community. Since the late 1990’s, the cutter’s members have collected, cut and distributed truckloads of firewood to local residents every year. They have also volunteered at local elementary schools, the town’s senior center and the Special Olympics.
The Roanoke Island’s crewmembers also participated in the 2014 Operation Alaska Health Shield. Acting as a transport platform in conjunction with the National Guard, the crew delivered medical supplies to remote Alaskan villages.
In the cutter’s 23 years in Homer, it has played a major role in supporting the Coast Guard’s missions and the communities of Alaska. As the Roanoke Island departs, Homer will be welcoming the Coast Guard Cutter Sapelo which is transferring from San Juan, Puerto Rico.
“It is through the traditions and performance of the ship’s crews that the Roanoke Island will be remembered for an eternity,” said Thomas. “I look forward to the final voyage and the sea stories we will share.”