The Coast Guard is Sinking

By Deane Barker on July 6, 2005

Coast Guard plagued by breakdowns: The fleet of the Coast Guard is falling apart, it seems.

In fiscal 2004, the engines on the Coast Guard’s 95 HH-65 helicopters suffered power losses at a rate of 329 per 100,000 flight hours, up from 63 per 100,000 flight hours in fiscal 2003. The comparable Federal Aviation Administration standard is 1 per 100,000 flight hours.

It strikes me that “power loss” in a helicopter is a Very Bad Thing.

There have been 23 hull breaches — holes that let in water — requiring emergency dry-dock repairs in the 49 110- and 123-foot patrol boats since 2001.

Each of the dozen 378-foot cutters, most of which operate in the Pacific, suffers a significant engine or hydraulic or refrigeration system breakdown on every patrol.

There is a plan in place to replace the entire fleet by 2018 — at a cost of $20 billion — but it’s currently being reviewed.

I love the Coast Guard. There’s just something cool about an orange and white ship called a “Cutter.” That’s a great name, “Cutter.” It’s like an old, grizzled private eye or something: “Cutter Kowalsky.”

From Wikipedia:

A cutter is any of several types of small water vessel. A classic cutter is any sailing vessel with two or more head sails and a mast which is set further aft (to the rear of the vessel) than that of a sloop.

[…] In the U.S. Coast Guard, a “cutter” is a vessel 65 feet (20 m) in length or greater, having adequate accommodations for crew to live on board.

I visited the Statue of Liberty in late 2002, and there was a big cutter (I just love to say it…) floating right off the shore of Manhattan. The ferry motored right past it. It gave me chills. There were no humans in sight, so it was as if the ship itself was silently standing guard.

It’s something about the .50-cal on the deck, I think — with the massive shoulder harnesses. I’d love to play with one of them. (I’m wondering now if it was a .50-cal. It went looking for a link, and found some pictures, and I think it was a 20mm. Anyone? I’m thinking of the guns with the big “reverse-C” shoulder harnesses.)

I looked over this list of cutter types, but I couldn’t find one that looked like the one I saw.

Man, I should have joined the Coast Guard. Someone call me a recruiter.



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