Tag Archives: USCGC Alert

Five-Pack of 210s Still Getting it Done, with 250+ years on their hulls

We’ve talked a lot in the past on the humble yet dependable 210-foot Reliance-class gunboats/patrol craft (WPG/WPC) that, completed in the 1960s, still regularly hold the line for the Coast Guard as “medium endurance cutters” (WMEC).

Designed to replace the 125-foot Prohibition-era “Buck and a Quarters” and salve the looming block obsolescence of the remaining 255-foot Owasco-class and 311-foot Barnegat-class cutters (converted seaplane tenders) from World War II, the 210s hit the fleet with a large heli deck and a CODAG engineering suite, both new things at the time.

1973 Jane’s listing

While two of the 16 (Courageous and Durable) have been disposed of– albeit still operating with the Sri Lanka and Colombian Navies— the other 14 Reliance-class cutters will continue to serve until the (now delayed) 350-foot Offshore Patrol Cutter reaches the fleet sometime in the next several years.

No less than four of those 14 returned from lengthy patrol deployments this last week, while a fifth is still underway off the coast of South America:

The crew of the USCGC Vigilant (WMEC 617) returned to their homeport in Cape Canaveral, Saturday following a 48-day patrol in the Atlantic Ocean and Florida Straits.

An unseaworthy vessel floats at sea after its passengers were transferred to the USCGC Vigilant (WMEC 617), on Oct. 17, 2022. Vigilant completed a 48-day Florida Straits patrol in support of the Coast Guard’s Seventh District to detect, deter, and intercept unsafe and illegal maritime ventures bound for the United States. (U.S. Coast Guard courtesy photo)

In support of the Coast Guard’s Seventh District, Vigilant conducted search and rescue missions for Hurricane Ian off the Coast of Fort Lauderdale, and migrant interdiction operations in the South Florida Straits, working with multiple Coast Guard and joint interagency assets to detect, deter, and intercept unsafe and illegal maritime ventures bound for the United States.

During the patrol, Vigilant’s crew interdicted 11 overloaded and unseaworthy vessels carrying 146 Cuban nationals. In one case, Vigilant’s crew rescued 14 adults and one child who were at sea for six days without food and water. The migrants had been surviving on cooling water from the vessel’s engine. Vigilant’s crew provided critical first aid, food, and water.

In another case, Vigilant’s crew rescued 27 migrants from a sinking vessel during high winds and heavy seas. Overall, Vigilant’s crew cared for 833 Cuban migrants interdicted by various Coast Guard and other Homeland Security Task Force – Southeast law enforcement entities working within the Florida Straits.

The crew of the USCGC Dependable (WMEC 626) returned to their homeport in Virginia Beach, Saturday, following a 29-day patrol in the Florida Straits.

Coast Guard Cutter Dependable (USCG photo)

In support of the Coast Guard’s Seventh District, Dependable’s crew conducted migrant interdiction operations, collaborating with numerous Coast Guard assets and Department of Homeland Security boats and aircraft to detect, deter, and intercept unsafe and illegal ventures bound for the United States.

During the patrol, Dependable’s crew assisted with the interdiction of 193 migrants and cared for a total of 297 migrants that were interdicted by various Coast Guard and other law enforcement entities working within the Florida Straits.

The Coast Guard Cutter Active (WMEC 618) and crew returned to their homeport Friday after a 65-day patrol in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean near Central and South America.

Coast Guard Cutter Active (WMEC 618) crewmembers aboard the cutter’s 26-foot Small Boat pull alongside the Coast Guard Cutter Steadfast (WMEC 623) to transfer parts and provisions while the cutters patrol the Eastern Pacific Ocean, Sept. 20, 2022. Active’s crew returned to their homeport Saturday after a 65-day patrol in international waters of the Eastern Pacific Ocean near Central and South America. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Shane Sexton.

During this patrol, the Active’s crew rendezvoused with Coast Guard Cutters Steadfast (WMEC 623) and Bertholf (WMSL 750) to conduct joint operations. Active’s crew also partnered with maritime patrol aircrews from Joint Interagency Task Force-South (JIATF-S) who aid in the detection of ships suspected of drug smuggling.
Crewmembers aboard Active transited more than 10,000 nautical miles from the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the southern hemisphere during the patrol. The crew sighted an abundance of marine wildlife throughout the patrol and rescued sea turtles trapped in fishing gear.

The Active’s crew departed Port Angeles on September 1 and transited to San Diego for a logistics stop. While in San Diego, the crew completed unscheduled repairs, enabling the Active to continue its southbound journey along the coast of Mexico and Central America in pursuit of illegal drug smuggling vessels.

The crew of USCGC Reliance (WMEC 615) returned to their homeport in Pensacola Friday, following a 67-day Caribbean Sea patrol.

A response boat crew member steers toward the Coast Guard Cutter Reliance during a patrol in the Atlantic Ocean.

During the patrol, Reliance’s crew collaborated with numerous Coast Guard assets and other Department of Homeland Security boats and aircraft to detect, deter, and intercept unsafe and illegal ventures to the United States.

In support of the Coast Guard’s Seventh District, Reliance primarily patrolled the South Florida Straits, south of the Florida Keys, and the Windward passage, off the northwest coast of Haiti, contributing to the interdiction and care of 613 migrants and 13 detainees. Additionally, Reliance’s crew repatriated 120 migrants to Santiago, Cuba, marking the first visit by a U.S. warship to the port in more than 50 years.

Alert Clocking in, 53 Years On

The USCGC Alert (WMEC 630) is the newest of her class of 210-foot Reliance-class gunboats (WPG/WPC), her keel laid down in 1968 at the Coast Guard Yard at Curtis Bay. Commissioned 4 August 1969– the service’s 179th birthday– and is the 8th such cutter to bear the name going back to 1818.

Alert shortly after her commissioning in 1969. Note her single manually-operated 3″/50 Mark 22 mount, the last one installed on a U.S. warship. At the time, the Navy had already switched to the more modern radar-guided 3″/50RF Marks 27, 33, and 34; along with the 3″/70RF Mark 37, and would ditch those in the 1970s in favor of unmanned CIWS and MK75 76mm OTO Melera mounts. USCG Image: 170531-G-XX000-321

1973 Jane’s listing

Rebuilt in 1993-94 during a Mid-life Maintenance Availability (MMA) to give her a newer set of engines, generators, commo, and nav gear, Alert would also land her 3″/50 in favor of a much smaller (but still manually-operated) MK 38 25mm cannon. As the MMA was to extend her life for 15 years, she was later given a 9-month Medium Endurance Cutter Maintenance Extension Project (MEP) in 2009.

Now, some 53 years after she first joined the fleet, the humble little cutter, based since 1994 in Astoria, Oregon, is still getting it done. She just returned from a 68-day, 13,700-mile deployment, that saw her stretch her legs down from the PacNorthWest to the Panama Canal.

The Coast Guard Cutter Alert (WMEC 630) conducts an engagement coincidental to operations with members of the Guatemalan Navy on August 23, 2022, five miles south of Puerto Quetzal, Guatemala. The engagement to strengthen law enforcement and search and rescue capabilities with our partners in Guatemala included joint pursuit training with two Guatemalan small boats and a search-and-rescue exercise with the Guatemalan vessels Kukulkan and the Kaibil Balam. Photo by Chief Petty Officer Matthew Masaschi

Same as the above, Photo by Chief Petty Officer Matthew Masaschi. The images were likely snapped from her embarked MH-65 Dolphin

As noted by USCG Pacific Area:

While in theater, Alert’s crew boarded three Costa Rican fishing vessels and successfully removed 1,440 pounds of marijuana valued at $1.4 million. Furthermore, during the boarding of the fishing vessel Mujer Gitana, Alert’s crew detected and articulated numerous factors of reasonable suspicion allowing Costa Rica to issue a return to port order. Costa Rican Law Enforcement officials searched the vessel and located a hidden compartment under a reversible steel hydraulic door system, a smuggling technique that reportedly has never been seen before on a Costa Rican vessel. The search resulted in the seizure of 729 kilograms of cocaine worth $21.1 million, and the apprehension of seven detainees by one of our top-priority partner nations.

Additionally, the Alert crew led a multinational training engagement with the Guatemalan Navy, conducted three joint boardings with the Costa Rican Coast Guard, and responded to one search and rescue case involving an American fisherman off the coast of Baja California.

The embarked helicopter aircrew flew more than 50 hours over 16 days, and searched thousands of miles over the Eastern Pacific Ocean.

The service’s 9th USCGC Alert, a brand-new 360-foot offshore patrol cutter (OPC) was announced in 2017 but likely won’t join the fleet for another decade, leaving the current one likely to keep on sailing into her 60s.

How about 35 equipment casualties within the first 19 days at sea?

170607-N-ZP059-031 PORTLAND Ore., (June 7, 2017) – The medium endurance cutter Alert (WMEC-630) arrives in Portland for Rose Festival Fleet Week. The festival and Portland Fleet Week are a celebration of the sea services with Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guard Members from the U.S. and Canada making the city a port of call. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob G. Sisco/Released)

The Oregon-based U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Alert (WMEC 630), a 210-foot Reliance class medium endurance cutter had her keel laid Jan. 5,. 1968, at the Coast Guard Yard, Curtis Bay,. Md., and the cutter was commissioned Aug. 4, 1969. This puts the old girl at 48 years young– and those years have not been kind to her.

She just had to return home just a third of the way through her latest patrol, proving perhaps more in need of help than anyone she could render assistance to.

From the Coast Guard:

The crew departed Astoria Feb. 5 to conduct a counternarcotics patrol in the Eastern Pacific when the ship suffered more than 35 equipment casualties within the first 19 days of their patrol, including malfunctions in the ship’s radar, propulsion and fuel systems.

The ship’s main diesel engine also suffered a crankcase explosion, resulting from a seized bearing on an oil pump, which caused a week-long delay in Panama while the crew inspected the engine. Following the inspection, a decision was made to end the patrol.

“We left on patrol with great hopes and a crew at top performance, thoroughly trained and operationally tested, but one of our main engines broke, sending us home before we got into any operations, which was very disappointing for everyone,” said Cmdr. Tobias Reid, commanding officer of the Coast Guard Cutter Alert. “Our engineers did an outstanding job responding to the casualty and put a huge amount of effort into repairing the engine on station, but it requires an extensive overhaul that can only be completed at home.”

The Alert was commissioned in 1969 and is one of 14 remaining 210-foot Reliance-class medium endurance cutters in the Coast Guard’s fleet. Alert is one of three 210-foot cutters stationed on the West Coast – two in Oregon and one in Washington. The cutter supports counter-smuggling missions throughout the Pacific Ocean from the U.S.-Canada border to South America.
The Coast Guard’s fleet of medium endurance cutters is in the process of being replaced by the offshore patrol cutter beginning in fiscal year 2021.

“The offshore patrol cutter will be the backbone of Coast Guard offshore presence and the manifestation of our at-sea authorities,” said Adm. Paul Zukunft, commandant of the Coast Guard. “It is essential to stopping smugglers at sea, for interdicting undocumented migrants, rescuing mariners, enforcing fisheries laws, responding to disasters and protecting our ports.”