Originally intended as a 50-vessel class of patrol boats (WPBs) meant to replace the Vietnam-era 82-foot Point class vessels in Coast Guard service, the 87-foot Marine Protector class started to hit the water in 1998 at a cost of about $5 million a pop. Derived from the Dutch Damen Stan 2600 design and cranked out by Bollinger, the Coast Guard kept hitting the “buy more” button on these until a whopping 74 were completed, including four paid for by the Navy and used to escort Boomers in and out of domestic homeports (notably, the latter all have hybrid submarine names– Sea Devil, Sea Fox, Sea Dragon, and Sea Dog— saluting WWII fleet boats).
Economical, they cost about $3,200 an hour to operate and can stay deployed for up to a week at a time, stretching their legs up to 200 miles offshore if needed.
I featured one of these great boats as a character in my zombie novel, having shipped out on one on a day patrol out of Gulfport for research.
The Coast Guard even has an innovative maintenance schedule for the 87s on the East/Gulf coasts to keep the in top shape. The Recurring Depot Availability Program (RDAP) project is a four-year recurring maintenance cycle for the Coast Guard’s entire Atlantic Area 47-boat coastal patrol boat fleet in which each cutter is at the Yard for a 66-day planned maintenance period. Crews arrive with a “used” 87-foot patrol boat and pick up a freshly overhauled patrol boat from the Yard, which they immediately sail back to their homeport.
Well, as the class ages and the USCG finds itself flush with new and much more capable 154-foot Sentinel-type Fast Response Cutters, the service is trimming high-mileage 87s. Thus far, eight have been withdrawn from service and they will no doubt see much further use in Third World service.
Case in point, the Coast Guard Yard recently completed a $1.3 million overhaul of three such long-serving Protectors that were transferred to Uruguay as part of the USCG Foreign Military Sales Program. The 11-month program included partial rebuilds and training Uruguayan Navy crews, which took final possession last month to sail the trio to new climes in Montevideo.
The program saw the ex-USCGC Albacore (WPB-87309), ex-USCGC Cochito (WPB-87329), and ex-USCGC Gannet (WPB-87334) slowly become the ROU-14 Río Arapey, ROU-15 Río de La Plata, and ROU-16 Río Yaguarón.
They sortied out as a group in late September from Baltimore, escorted by an active USCG member of their class.
And their last U.S. stop was at USCG Station Key West just before Hurricane Ian came ashore.