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ATLANTIC BEACH, Fla. – The Atlantic Beach, Fla.,-based Coast Guard Cutter Hammer and its crew celebrated 50 years of serving boaters and the public in the coastal waters of Florida and southern Georgia Nov. 29.
Thursday, the cutter's crew dressed the ship, a maritime tradition reserved for special occasions; donned more formal uniforms; and took a few minutes to reflect on the cutter's past in honor of the milestone anniversary.
The Hammer is an inland construction tender homeported at Coast Guard Sector Jacksonville in Atlantic Beach, is comprised of a 75-foot tug pushing a 68-foot barge and was placed in service Nov. 30, 1962, with a primary mission of marine construction of aids to navigation and piers.
Equipped with a 70-foot crane and pile-driving device, the Hammer is manned by 14 enlisted personnel who are responsible for approximately 1,400 fixed aids to navigation from Sapelo Sound in Georgia south to Melbourne, Fla., and the St. Johns River from Mayport, Fla., to Sanford, Fla. This area encompasses more than 420 miles of inland waterways.
“People often see us and wonder what we do,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Scott Kahle, officer in charge of the Hammer. "The improvements we make, along with the other local aids to navigation teams, provide a huge service to those who transit on the river and rely on the aids for safe navigation."
Kahle served on the Hammer for three years from 2001 to 2004 as a 2nd class petty officer and said he's extremely grateful and honored to be back as the officer in charge.
He said although ATON is not the most glamorous Coast Guard mission, it's one of the oldest and has an enormous impact on the entire community, and the crewmembers know the value of their work.
Throughout the last 50 years, the Hammer has gone through 18 changes of command, numerous engineering plant modernizations, and advances in navigational positioning from the use of sextants to today’s increased accuracy through the use of GPS. The cutter’s mission of providing safe and navigable waterways for the public and commerce remains unchanged. Although the Hammer is primarily responsible for constructing and maintaining aids to navigation, like all other cutters, it is a multi-mission asset and has been utilized in many different ways. Some examples of these secondary missions are marine environmental protection; marine safety; law enforcement; and ports, waterways, and coastal security.
The Hammer was constructed by Gibbs Shipyard, Inc. in Jacksonville, Fla., but its original homeport was Ft. Pierce, Fla. It was relocated to Sector Jacksonville in July 1986.