Last week the U.S. Coast Guard transferred a pair of two former 110-foot Island-class patrol boat cutters, the ex-USCGC Drummond (WPB-1323) and ex-USCGC Cushing (WPB-1321), during a ceremony at Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore.
Attending were Coast Guard VADM Michael McAllister, Deputy Commandant for Mission Support and Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko. Although it should be noted that the actual transfer will take place in 2019, after some maintenance, and training of their new Ukrainian crews.
On the same day as the transfer, Poroshenko tweeted, “Having faced a opposition on the land, Russia is testing waters for a possible offensive from the sea. Like a hooligan at the street, Moscow makes a blow, if no reaction follows then it makes another blow. The task is to reassure Kremlin of our resolve to protect Ukraine’s shores.”
Cushing, long homeported in Atlantic Beach, was decommissioned last March after 29 years’ service. Drummond, who spent a very busy career in the Florida Straits as she was stationed in Miami Beach, struck last year after 30 years working for Uncle. They aren’t the first 110s sent to the Black Sea, as Georgia picked up a pair in 2016.
The Coast Guard held a joint decommissioning ceremony Wednesday for the North Carolina-based “Graveyard Enforcers,” a pair of 110-foot Island-class patrol boats USCGC Cushing (WPB-1321) and USCGC Nantucket (WPB-1316) in Atlantic Beach, NC.
The ceremony honored 30 years of the cutters’ service to the Coast Guard. The 110s were originally designed to last 15-20 years, so they both served well beyond their intended service life.
The Cushing was the 21st 110-foot Island Class cutter built by Bollinger shipyard in Lockport, Louisiana, and commissioned on Dec. 1, 1988. Cushing’s first homeport was Mobile, Alabama, followed by San Juan, Puerto Rico. Cushing moved permanently to Atlantic Beach in 2015. Cushing was built primarily as a platform for law enforcement, but conducted missions including maritime homeland security, migrant interdiction, fisheries enforcement and search and rescue.
The Nantucket was the 16th 110-foot Island Class cutter built by Bollinger shipyard in Lockport, Louisiana and commissioned in 1987. Nantucket’s first homeport was Miami, followed by Key West, Florida, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and St. Petersburg, Florida. Nantucket was moved permanently to Atlantic Beach in 2014. Nantucket was built primarily as a platform for law enforcement, but conducted missions including maritime homeland security, migrant interdiction, fisheries enforcement and search and rescue.
“Today is a great day because we’re celebrating not only Cushing and Nantucket but the crews who maintained them throughout the years,” said Lt. Mario Gil, commanding officer of the Cushing.
The cutters will transit to the Coast Guard Yard where they will undergo a final decommissioning process. From there they may be considered for various options such as being placed for sale on GSA Auctions or foreign transfer. This has been an ongoing process with this class that has seen two of the former WPBs put into service with the Sea Shepherd (Whale Wars) group while others have gone to Georgia and Costa Rica.
The same week, Fifth Coast Guard District (Mid-Atlantic) welcomed the 158-foot Sentinel (Webber)-class Fast Response Cutter USCGC Lawrence Lawson (WPC-1120) to the area, set for her official commissioning ceremony in Cape May, N.J., next week.
USCGC Block Island (WPB-1344) and the USCGC Pea Island (WPB-1347), two late model 110-foot Island class C-variants, renamed at the time the MY Jules Verne and the MY Farley Mowat, were purchased in Baltimore in 2015 and are used by Sea Shephard, flying a black flag.
Well, it appears the sea going hippies picked up a big donation from John Paul DeJoria, a co-founder of John Paul Mitchell Systems salon products, and rechristened the former MY Jules Verne in his honor.
According to Sea Shepherd, DeJoria broke a bottle of Patron tequila against the anchor, making M/V John Paul DeJoria the first ship in history to be christened as such.
One of DeJoria’s first missions was to help search for lost marine life documentary filmmaker Rob Stewart off the Florida Keys– reportedly along with USCG vessels to whom she undoubtedly was a strange sight.
Major General Zurab Gamezardashvili, Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs of Georgia, and U.S. Coast Guard Vice Adm. Sandra Stosz signed certificates for the transfer of two former U.S. Coast Guard cutters to the Georgian Coast Guard at the Coast Guard Yard, Baltimore, Md., Sept. 30, 2016.
The vessels transferred ex-Jefferson Island (WPB-1340) and ex-Staten Island (WPB- 1345) are the first Island-class patrol cutters “transferred to an international partner.”
The Georgian flag was flown for the first time aboard the cutters immediately after transfer, which will be named Ochamchire and Dioskuria respectively.
Jefferson Island and Staten Island were both “C” model 110s, built by Bollinger in 1991, and assigned to South Portland, ME and Atlantic Beach, NC, respectively.
Replaced by more modern Sentinel-class fast-response cutters, the Coast Guard is rapidly letting their relatively new (for them) 110s go, pulling them from service and shipping them for a final ride to the CG Yard for disposal. Its not a bad replacement scheme, trading 49 110-foot patrol boats for 58 more capable 154-footers.
Background on the 110s
Part of a project initiated in 1982 as a DoD Augmentation Appropriation to phase out the pre-Vietnam era 95-foot Cape-class patrol cutters, the Islands were originally designed to carry a Mk 16 20mm manually operated cannon on the foredeck and two M60 7.62mm machine guns on the 01 deck.
First of the class, the “A” variant USCGC Farallon (WPB-1301) was delivered in 1986, followed by 16 sisters. “B” variant leader USCGC Baranof (WPB-1318) was delivered in 1988 followed by 19 sisters before the “C” series started with USCGC Grand Isle (WPB-1338) in 1991 with 11 sisters delivered by 1992.
In all, some 49 cutters to replace the 36 ancient Capes.
In the meantime, the ships have been steadily upgraded with new commo and nav gear, regular engine swaps, and a Mk.38 25mm gun tapping in for the obsolete Mk 16 and M2 .50 cals taking the place of the M60s. Every three years they get a 15-week or so spate in dry dock.
Eight (mostly A series boats) that were stretched to 123-foot vessels in a fiasco that left them riddled with hull cracks have been pulled from service and laid up for disposal (likely via reefing) at the CG Yard since 2006. They are USCGC Matagorda (WPB-1303), USCGC Manitou (WPB-1302), USCGC Monhegan (WPB-1305), USCGC Nunivak (WPB-1306), USCGC Vashon (WPB-1308), USCGC Attu (WPB-1317), USCGC Metompkin (WPB-1325), and USCGC Padre (WPB-1328).
Then there were 41, though the Coast Guard only lists 27 in service, and some of those have been overseas for more than a decade. Seven are cooling their heels in Alaska where they sometimes have to take on ghost ships. Two are in Guam. One in Hawaii.
Since 2002 the Coast Guard has forward deployed six of their 110s to Manama, Bahrain to serve in the Persian Gulf littoral. After all these vessels can stay at sea for a week at a time, have a cutter boat, a decent surface search radar, can make 29-knots, and float in just 7 feet of seawater– which the Big Blue has a hard time pulling off. This force formalized in 2004 as Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) and is very active, typically having 3-4 patrol boats underway in the Gulf at any given time looking for pirates, smugglers, terrorists out to pull off another USS Cole-style attack, and, well, the Iranians.
Of the other disposals, Costa Rica is supposed to pick up two of the class next year.
Some Island-class cutters are apparently up for sale through private brokers as well.
A recently refitted 1991 vintage C-model vessel (which could be 1338, 1339, 1341, 1342, or 1343) is up for sale– price on request– here with “All gun mounts remain intact and fully operational, can be sold fully armed to qualified buyers that do not have sanctions of UN, USA or other regulatory Government or agencies. Owner has full authority and can provision the ship according to buyer interest.”
Island-class vessels moved on to the civilian market may be rather spartan. According to the USCG, their Cutter Transition Division has removed parts worth approximately $1.2 million per 110-foot patrol boat, and reintroduced them into Coast Guard and Navy supply chains for use on ships that are still operational.
USCGC Block Island (WPB-1344) and the USCGC Pea Island (WPB-1347), two late model C-variants, now renamed the MY Jules Verne and the MY Farley Mowat, were purchased in Baltimore last year and are used by Sea Shepard, flying a black flag.
You can bet the 40 or so 110s that make it out in to the wild still have a few decades of use left in them.
The U.S. government will donate two surplus Island-class cutter patrol boats with a total value of $18.9 million to the Costa Rica Coast Guard (Guarda Costas).
U.S. Assistant Secretary William Brownfield of the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs announced the donation following a meeting with President Luis Guillermo Solís at Casa Presidencial last Wednesday.
In modern times the Costa Rican Coast Guard, established as a branch of the Guardia Civil in 1949, had a single sea-going patrol boat on each coast (Caribbean and Pacific) along with some smaller shallow water vessels with outboard motors.
In 1989 they picked up their most advanced ship, the former 95-foot patrol boat USCGC Cape Henlopen (WPB-95328) which served as Astronauta Franklin Chang Diaz (SP 951) until 2001 and was later sunk as a reef.
Diaz was augmented in 1991 by a surplus USCG Point-class cutter, the 82-foot Colonel Alfonso Monje (SP 82-1) (ex-USCGC Point Hope (WPB-82302)) and in 2001 by SNGC Juan Rafael Mora (SP 82-2) (ex-USCGC Point Chico (WPB-82339)).
So presumably the new-to-them 110-foot cutters will replace the significantly smaller and now nearly 60~ year-old Monje and Mora. These boats are vastly different with the Islands carrying a Mk.38 25mm chain gun and 2-4 M2 .50 cals while the former “Points” were transferred without any mounted weapons and have subsequently been fitted with twin M60s forward.
Further, the 82’s have 8-10 man crews while the 110’s go twice that.
The English-language Costa Rican media outlet Tico Times reports some 50 CRCG members will soon be sent to the U.S. to train on their new ships.
The 110-foot ships will be the largest in the Costa Rican Coast Guard fleet when they arrive in 2017.
The Island-class patrol boats of the U.S. Coast Guard have put in yeoman’s service since the 1980s. These hardy 110-footers, armed originally with a 20mm Mk. 16 forward and pair of 12.7mm guns port and starboard amidships, have fought the war of a thousand drug smugglers in the Caribbean, deployed constantly to the Persian Gulf, sank radioactive Japanese ghost trawlers, and saved countless lives that would have otherwise been lost to the sea.
Over time they were updated with better radars, overhauled engines and a 25mm Mk.38, but they are showing their age.
They are now being replaced by the 154-foot, $88 million Sentinel class Fast Responce Cutters after some 30 years of hard service.
And the Sea Shepherd group of maritime
thugs conservationists have picked up a couple of them:
The former USCGC Block Island (WPB-1344) and the USCGC Pea Island (WPB-1347), now renamed the MY Jules Verne and the MY Farley Mowat, were purchased in Baltimore earlier this year and are now berthed in Key West, Florida.
“These two ships, the Farley Mowat and the Jules Verne, give Sea Shepherd USA a combination of speed and long-range capabilities,” said Sea Shepherd Founder Captain Paul Watson. “We have already offered the Jules Verne to assist the rangers at Cocos Island National Park Marine Reserve with anti-poaching interventions, 300 miles off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, and the Farley Mowat has been offered to patrol the Sea of Cortez in partnership with the government of Mexico to protect the endangered vaquita.”
Its not the first time that the group, seen often on Animal Planet/Discover Network’s “Whale Wars” have bought old Coasties. They picked up a 95-foot Cape class patrol boat from the Coast Guard in the 1990s and their ship MY Steve Irwin was the 195-foot Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency conservation enforcement patrol boat, the FPV Westra, for 28 years.
The 110s will be getting a new paint job as part of “Neptune’s Navy”, which actually looks kinda cool, but you can bet there are some USCG Chiefs out there whose eyes are going to twitch when they see it…
Here at LSOZI, we are going to take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period (sometimes reaching past that as with today’s post) and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all of their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger.
Warship Wednesday Jan.7, the Coasties on Point
Here we see the United States Coast Guard Cutter Point Hudson (WPB-82322) racing into action “somewhere off the coast of South Vietnam” in 1966. Commissioned in 1961, Point Hudson had but four years of stateside service based in Panama City, Florida before she was made part of Division 13/Coast Guard Squadron One where she served for five years before her transfer to the Republic of Vietnam Navy as RVNS Đặng Văn Hoành (HQ-707) on 11 Dec 1969. Her story, as is that of the other legion of her class, is rather interesting.
In the 42+ years between 5 October 1960 and 28 March 2003, the US Coast Guard commissioned and used 79 “Point” class patrol boats (WPB). The U.S. Coast Guard defines a “Cutter” as a vessel over 100 feet in length, having crew accommodations for extended operations, as these 82-foot vessels met all of those requirements sans length they were only given hull numbers until 1964 when the service changed their mind and began to issue names to cutters larger than 65 feet. Therefore, all were named after various geographical “Points” in the country.
These 60-ton craft, capable of floating in just 6-feet of seawater, were armed at first with WWII surplus Oerlikon 20 mm cannons and equipped with a pair of 600hp Cummins diesels that could putter them around at 16-ish knots. That was the 1959 design concept. This was later increased to a pair of 800hp diesels (which increased speed to over 22-knots when clean) and one hull (Point Thatcher) had an experimental pair of Saturn gas turbines with 1100 HP each, manufactured by Solar Aircraft Co that could break over 25.
Steel-hulled and with a then-novel aluminum superstructure, these hardy boats replaced the old 83-foot splinter boats that were left over from the War. Designed for search and rescue and law enforcement missions, they logically were soon sent around the world to a combat zone. Capable of putting to sea with just a 4-man crew, they typically had one twice that size to enable boarding parties.
During Vietnam, 26 of the class were sent overseas to RVN waters where they formed Coast Guard Squadron One in three divisions.To up their armament in their combat mission to control the Vietnamese littoral, these boats were given 5 M2 heavy machine guns (.50 cals), painted 20 shade grey, issued more sidearms to include M3 grease guns, the new M16 rifle, and Thompson submachine guns (not normally seen on Coast Guard cutters stateside),
…and were even fitted with a piggyback 81mm mortar.
According to the USCG Historians Office from which most of these pictures are drawn:
By the end of 1966 the twenty six 82 foot cutters of Squadron One, their eleven man crews and the support staff who kept the cutters and crews running, had reduced the estimated 70% of enemy’s supplies arriving by sea to less than 10 percent (U.S. Navy Proceedings June 1984, C.G. Reservist November 1996). This forced the enemy to transport most of their supplies over the more difficult and rugged Ho Chi Minh Trail. Fewer than 400 men made up USCG Squadron One in 1965 and 1966, yet in less than eighteen months, they had cut off 60 percent of the enemy’s total supplies that were arriving by sea. A remarkable job, when you think about it.
Seven Coast Guardsmen were killed and 59 wounded in South Vietnam. These included those who involved in the tragic friendly fire incident on the Point Welcome.
While on a patrol in the waters near the mouth of the Cua Viet River, about three-quarters of a mile south of the demilitarized zone, the cutter was attacked by U.S. Air Force aircraft and repeatedly strafed. As a result, the cutter’s commanding officer, Lt. j.g. David Brostrom, along with one crewman, Petty Officer 2nd Class Jerry Phillips, was killed. Also wounded in this friendly fire were Point Welcome’s executive officer, Lt. j.g. Ross Bell; two other crewmen, Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark D. McKenney and Fireman Houston J. Davidson; a Vietnamese liaison officer, Lt. j.g. Do Viet Vien; and a freelance journalist, Timothy J. Page.
During their five years in South Vietnam the men of Squadron 1 put in yeoman’s work fighting armed junks and sampans, wearing out their diesels in constant patrol, and getting in intense firefights with shore-based troops:
-Patrolled 4,215,116 miles
-Detected 839,299 vessels
-Boarded 236,396 vessels
-Inspected 283,527 vessels
-Detained 10,286 personnel
-Engaged in 4,461 naval gunfire support missions
-Damaged or destroyed 1,811 vessels including several heavily armed NVA SL4-class trawlers
-Killed or wounded 1,232 enemy
-Damaged or destroyed 4,727 structures
And recreation was a matter of debate.
When the Coast Guard pulled out of Vietnam in 1971, the veteran Points there were handed over to the RVN Navy. One of which, the former-Point Clear escaped to the Philippines in 1975 as the RVNS Huynh Van Cu and was used for a number of years by the Navy of the Philippines before being hulked at Subic Bay.
The Peoples Republic of Vietnam kept the 25 remaining Points in their possession, slowly disposing of them until the last of the group, Ngo Van Quyen (ex-USCGC Point Lomas), was cut up in 1988.
Post-Vietnam, the 53 remaining USCG Points were updated and kept in service. Their 20mm gun was replaced by a pair of single M2 mounts forward and then by the 1980s just carried sidearms.
They fought the war on drugs, saved countless lives, patrolled the border areas and Florida Straits for refugees, and even had a few uncomfortable standoffs with Cuban warships from time to time.
Of the 80 Points built for the Navy and Coast Guard, 54 were completed at the Coast Guard Yard in Curtis 1960-70 while the balance of 26 ships was completed by J.M. Martinac Shipbuilding Corp. 1966-67.
By 1990, the newest Point was over twenty years old and, even though re-engined with fresh Caterpillar Diesels, was still showing signs of hard use. I remember touring the old Point Estero in Gulfport, where she spent her entire 27-year career, with my NJROTC unit and sailing around Ship Island on her. She creaked and rolled even in shallow, still water and low seas.
Still, the ship was professional and her crew told of numerous incidents of running down illegal longliners, patrolling nearby naval yards for the possibility of Soviet mini-subs (this was during the late 80s), tense confrontations with drug runners, and sad tales of searching for those lost at sea. When you take this and multiply it by a factor of 50, you can see how beneficial these little craft were.
It was then the USCG started replacing these craft with the 87-foot Marine Protector series and what I like to call the “Great Point Giveaway” started. In May 1991, the thirty-year-old Type A Point Hope was transferred to Costa Rica, starting the floodgate. Over the next thirteen years, another 39 cutters would follow in that process, given as foreign aid to 17 Countries, of which about half are still in some sort of service:
Costa Rica- 4
Dominican Republic – 3
El Salvador – 1
Georgia – 2 (which narrowly escaped destruction by the Russians in 2008)
Ecuador – 1
Jamaica – 2
Panama- 5 (to help rebuild their navy following the 1989 invasion)
St Lucia- 1
Philippines – 2
Trinidad – 4
Turkmenistan – 1
The last of these transferred, 1970-commissioned Point Bower, went to land-locked Azerbaijan for use on the world’s largest lake, the Caspian Sea in 2003 and was also the last Point in commission with the Coast Guard.
It’s amazing how craft deemed by the brass to be no longer worth the effort are quickly snapped up by our overseas allies for another decade or two of service. In fact, Mexico still has one of these boats left over from 1961, the Point Verde (WPB-82311) now in her 24th-year of service to that country as the ARM Punto Morro (P 60).
Of the 13 not sent overseas:
3 ships stripped and scuttled as reefs, with perhaps the Point Swift being the best known of these.
Point Arena was listed as in storage at Coast Guard Yard in Curtis, MD although one source mentions that she was destroyed date unknown in firefighting training.
Point Roberts was transferred to EPA as R/V Lake Explorer based out of Duluth, Minnesota. Decommissioned in July 2005 and sold to Basic Marine, Inc. Escanaba, Michigan she was replaced by the former NOAA R/V Rude. Roberts’s ultimate fate is unknown.
Point Harris, based in Hawaii since 1980, was sold to a private owner in 1992 and it is unclear where she is at this time.
3 were transferred to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in 2001:
Two of these ships, the Point Glass and Point Lobos continued in service until 2006 when they were finally decommissioned and surplused. The Point Monroe was used as the law enforcement patrol vessel for the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary flying NOAAs flag and carrying armed Florida State Marine Patrol/Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers until 2012 when she was removed from service and put up for private sale.
Point Glass went on to the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary and now serves as a Sea Scouts ship in Galveston.
3 were donated to Academic programs- Point Divide to the Washington Maritime Academy, Point Charles to Texas A&M Maritime Academy. Point Brown was donated to Kingsborough CC in 1991 who used her for research for ten years. After a 2001 refit, she was purchased as a private vessel and renamed Lady B.
As the Lady B she still flies the Coast Guard jack as her owner and skipper, Auxiliary Coxswain Stu Sunderland serves with his vessel in the Coast Guard Auxiliary in New York City. She is a frequent sight along the mid-Atlantic coast and has been involved in multiple missions for Sector New York. She just turned 43 years young and is still in semi-regular operation.
An 80th boat, the Sea Scout Ship Point Weber, is still used as part of the Point Weber Youth Maritime program but she was never a Coast Guard Cutter. Built by the Coast Guard Yard in Baltimore MD specifically for the U.S. Navy in 1962, she was used by the Navy on the West Coast as a firing range control vessel and was donated to the organization in the 1980s.
Even though long out of federal service, it’s likely the last Point sailor, fighting seasickness, is yet to be born.
Displacement: 67 (A series), 69 (B/C Series)
Length: 82 feet
Beam: 17.25 feet
Draft: 6.0 feet
Main Engines Twin 1710 Cummins 1200 HP (Series A) later Twin 800 hp Cummins for 1600HP. eventually, twin Cat 3412 Diesels
Generators 2 GE 2-71 Diesels
Propellers Twin 42 in. variable pitch
Fuel Capacity 1840 gal. @ 95%
Compliment (1960) 8. (Vietnam) 2 officers, 13 men
Fresh Water Storage 1100 gals
Maximum Speed 22.9 knots (top) by 1980s typically closer to 15
Max Sustained Speed 18.0 knots
Cruise Speed 10.7 knots
Maximum Range 3000 @ 9.4 knots
Radar: SPN-11, CR-103 (1960), or SPS-64
Weapons: single 20mm AAA (as designed) 1 .50 cal/81mm mortar piggyback mount forward, 4 x M2 .50 cal stern, extensive small arms locker (Vietnam ships) 2 x M2 .50 cal forward (1970s stateside ships) small arms only after 1980s
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