I missed this when it happened, but better to write about it late than never: This month, the Coast Guard decommissioned its first two 378-foot high endurance cutters, the Hamilton and the Chase, so they could be transferred to the navies of the Philippines and Nigeria, respectively. The 378s have been the backbone of the Coast Guard's large cutter fleet for decades, and their crews have kept them on duty out at sea no matter what, even as the ships threatened to disintegrate from hard use and old age.
The departure of these two ships is a milestone not only because it marks the end of their legendary service, but also because it means the Coast Guard's new national security cutters are finally taking their places in the fleet. The first of the new 418-foot cutters, the Bertholf, is on its debut patrol in the Coast Guard's most treacherous operating environment -- Alaska -- and its skipper, Capt. John Prince, wrote that the ship and its crew are thriving:
We’ve experienced 20-foot seas and winds in excess of 60 knots with temperatures below freezing, and despite these sea conditions the ship has remained within pitch and roll limits to launch our helicopter. We have been able to make a comfortable 12 to 15 knots through the water in seas up to 14 feet, validating the sea keeping and stability of the NSC and our ability to respond quickly to any emergency.Prince's full post about the Bertholf is worth reading, but this next part sums it up:
Our 12,000 nautical mile range at economical speed, and 8,000 nautical mile range at a speed of 14 knots has allowed us to remain at sea for more than 24 days at a time and cover large swaths of the ocean with our sensors and helicopter, while still maintaining a fuel reserve in the event of emergency.
Keeping our stability well within safe limits without concern over low fuel levels, our installed ballast tanks help us to better preserve and protect the marine environment as we are not ballasting tanks that previously held fuel like on the 378-foot high endurance cutter.
It is truly exhilarating as a sailor and cutterman to see what this optimally crewed ship is capable of – fast, quiet, a good ride, environmentally friendly, top notch sensors, weapons systems and communications suite, a huge and stable flight deck, interoperable with Department of Defense and other partners. Just recently, we demonstrated U.S. capabilities and commitment to preserving the balance in the Arctic region when we worked with our Russian partners. They were impressed with the high morale and quality of life enjoyed by our crew from berthing areas to the exercise facility to our galley – which was recently selected as the dining facility of the year in the large afloat category for its quality and efficiency. Other than good weather and calm seas, there is not much more I could ask for.So although salty Coast Guardsmen might have mixed feelings about the end of the 378 era, the arrival of new ships like the Bertholf may also make it easier for the fleet to tell the old ones goodbye.