United States Coast Guard Cutters

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United States Coast Guard Cutter is the term used by the U.S. Coast Guard for its commissioned vessels. They are 65 feet (19.8 m) or greater in length and have a permanently assigned crew with accommodations aboard. They carry the ship prefix USCGC.

A cutter is typically a watercraft designed for speed rather than for capacity. Traditionally a cutter sailing vessel is a small single-masted boat, fore-and-aft rigged, with two or more head sails and often a bowsprit. The cutter’s mast may be set farther back than on a sloop.


Fast Response Cutter Lawrence Lawson

The Coast Guard commissioned its 20th fast response cutter (FRC), Coast Guard Cutter Lawrence Lawson, at the vessel’s Cape May, New Jersey, homeport March 18. Lawrence LawsonThe cutter is the second FRC based in the Coast Guard 5th District; the first, Coast Guard Cutter Rollin Fritch, was commissioned in November 2016.

The FRC’s namesake, Lawrence Lawson, served as keeper of the Evanston, Illinois, lifeboat station and led the rescue of 18 crewmembers from the foundering steam vessel Calumet on Nov. 28, 1889. After unsuccessfully attempting to fire a rescue line in icy conditions, Lawson launched a surfboat and led his crew on three trips through the breakers to fully evacuate the ship. For his leadership, Lawson received the Gold Lifesaving Medal on Oct. 17, 1890.

The Sentinel-class FRC is designed for multiple missions, including ports, waterways and coastal security; drug and migrant interdiction; fishery patrols; search and rescue; and national defense. The 154-foot cutter features improved seakeeping and habitability; the ability to launch and recover standardized cutter boats from astern or via side davits; and advanced command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance equipment. The FRCs, which are replacing the 1980s-era 110-foot Island-class patrol boats, also feature an endurance of five days and can reach a maximum speed of over 28 knots.

The Lawrence Lawson and crew are homeported in Cape May, where they will perform multiple Coast Guard missions along the Mid-Atlantic coast such as law enforcement, search and rescue and protecting America’s infrastructure from New Jersey to North Carolina.

The 154 foot patrol craft USCGC LAWRENCE LAWSON is the 20th vessel in the Coast Guard’s Sentinel-class FRC program, and the second FRC to be stationed at Cape May, NJ. The decision to homeport these vessels at Cape May, NJ is significant because it expands the footprint of FRC operations beyond the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Previous cutters have been stationed in the 7th Coast Guard District in Florida or San Juan, PR. To build the FRC, Bollinger used a proven, in-service parent craft design based on the Damen Stan Patrol Boat 4708. It has a flank speed of 28 knots, state of the art command, control, communications and computer technology, and a stern launch system for the vessel’s 26 foot cutter boat. The FRC has been described as an operational “game changer,” by senior Coast Guard officials.

The Coast Guard took delivery on the 20th of October, 2016 in Key West, Florida.

USCGC Healy (WAGB-20) – Icebreaker

Healy 2

The US Coast Guard Cutter Healy is the newest and most technologically advanced polar icebreaker. It is 420′ long and has the power to break 4-1/2′ of ice at three knots or up to eight feet by ramming. It was built by Avondale Industries in New Orleans, and was named for United States Revenue Marine Captain Michael A. Healy.

It provides more than 4200 square feet of scientific laboratory space, and was designed to conduct a wide range of research activities. It has numerous electronic sensor systems, oceanographic winches, and accommodations for up to 50 scientists . It can operate in temperatures as low as -50 degrees F.

Healy 3Valuable input was provided by the scientific community on lab layout and science capabilities during design and construction of the ship.

Healy_in_IceAs a Coast Guard cutter, this icebreaker is also capable of supporting other potential missions in the polar regions, including logistics, search and rescue, ship escort, environmental protection, and enforcement of laws and treaties.

Information and images have been provided as a public service by the United States Coast Guard, U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Waco Cabin Model EQC-6 Biplanes / J2W-1


With this post we are going back in time, to the days of black and white photography, back to 1936 when the Coast Guard purchased three Waco cabin model EQC-6 biplanes for use with the newly commissioned Treasury Class cutters as observation craft.

These biplanes had a unit cost of $12,054.00 per aircraft. They entered service in March, 1937 and were given Coast Guard numbers of: CG-157, 158 and 159. 2. Very versatile, they could be used with standard wheels, skis, or floats.

They had a 225 HP Jacobs L-4 R-755 engine providing a cruising speed of 140 and maximum speed of 159 miles per hour. It could be used for both land and sea operations, and accommodated five passengers. The ECQ-6 biplanes had a wingspan of 35′ and a length of 25.5′.


The initial goal of the J2W-1 was to provide air transportation for government officials in emergencies to remote and inaccessible locations. It was used for this purpose on a number of occasions.

Later on all three biplanes were transferred to the Texas Air Patrol Detachment to guard the Texas/Mexican border to fight drug smuggling. They also tracked illicit aircraft and worked with other law enforcement agencies.

All three were sadly destroyed in crashes in 1939.


On September 20, 1938 this photograph was taken showing the right side of USCG Border Patrol Waco J2W-1 (Squadron no. V159) at El Paso, Texas, September 20, 1938.

J2W-1This is the same aircraft with a service person working on it in Alaska on October 16, 1939.

Red Cedar, a Coastal Buoy Tender

1000w_q95My first sea duty out of Coast Guard boot camp was on The Red Cedar, a coastal buoy tender. I spent 90 days tending buoys before entering RM “A” school in Petaluma where I studied to become a radio man.  I was glad to enter RM school since tending buoys was not my favorite assignment.

The Coast Guard Yard built five 157′ coastal buoy tenders between 1964 and 1971. They were the first new class of seagoing buoy tenders of the post-World War II era that were designed and constructed by the Coast Guard. They were designed to service aids to navigation up to 10-tons and, with a draft of only seven feet, to operate in shallow waters often encountered on the sides of dredged harbor channels.

For maximum visibility they were designed with low bows for approaching buoys and had a bow thruster unit recessed into their hulls. They also had twin controllable-pitch propellers to increase maneuverability. They used a simple tiller instead of a conventional ship’s wheel.

It only took six seconds for the hydraulic steering system to change from full left to full right. One press release stated that the crew “. . .would enjoy a new concept in comfort provided by their modernistic living quarters.”

I remember the living spaces which were air conditioned and finished in bright colors. Besides being assigned to tend aids to navigation in coastal waters, they were “always ready” to carry out other traditional Coast Guard duties such as fighting fires and conducting law enforcement, environmental protection and search and rescue operations.


HU-25 Guardian “Falcon”

GuardianThe sleek HU-25 Guardian was the most glamorous front-line aircraft in the United States Coast Guard for 32 years. It was based on the French built Dassault Falcon 20 airframe although it evolved greatly over the years.

Guardian 3Speed was the one thing the HU-25 always had on its side, with about double the kinetic performance when compared to its turboprop replacements. It could get on target much faster which was a key factor in the search and rescue role. Additionally it could keep up with jet powered aircraft in the anti-drug interdiction and homeland security role. A major factor in choosing it to map the oil wells set ablaze by Saddam Hussein’s forces during Operation Desert Storm in 1991 (seen above) was its ability to quickly deploy and cover large distances in short periods of time.

The medium-range surveillance fixed-wing aircraft was also referred to as the Coast Guard’s “Falcon”. It performed search and rescue, law enforcement such as migrant and drug interdiction, marine environmental protection, and military readiness.

Deliveries of the 41 HU-25s began in February 1982 and completed by December 1983. These aircraft were 56′ 3″ in length, with a wingspan of 53′ 6″ and height of 17′ 7″. Its service ceiling was 42,000′. It had a maximum cruise speed of 420 kts, an operating speed of .855 Mach, and a sea-level maximum airspeed of 350 kts.

Guardian 2Its dash speed and capable mission sensors were key features of the Falcon.  All the HU-25s were phased out by 2014. After 32 years of excellent service, the “Falcon” was retired at the United States Coast Guard’s Corpus Christi base. It was truly the end of an era.

One of the Coast Guard’s surplus HU-25s was adopted by NASA for scientific testing purposes. Its duties have so far included monitoring the ice sheet in Greenland and evaluating emissions of jet engines running on bio-fuels at altitude. It is based at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia.

NASA Falcon