Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Anderson, Coast Guard Deployable Operations Group.
One second, five seconds, 30 seconds, the clock ticks away. Bubbles occasional rise to the surface from under the dozen First Coast Guard District cutters moored at Naval Station Newport, R.I. The seconds turn into minutes, and minutes lengthen into hours.
Beneath the water’s surface, Regional Dive Locker East divers skim along the cutters’ hulls – they’ve been working beneath the waves all week.
“We’re performing annual hull inspections, cleaning when necessary, removing lines from around the cutters propellers and unfouling anchors,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Don Selby, RDLE dive team leader. “It’s important work because it lessens equipment wear and tear and prevents damage from fouled propellers. It’s one piece of a maintenance program that ensures Coast Guard’s cutters are ready for operations.”
Hull inspection is one way Coast Guard divers hone their skills to support their normal missions which include the repair, maintenance and placement of aids to navigation; polar operations; ports, waterways and coastal security missions; salvage and recovery operations; and coral reef and environmental surveys. Altogether, they conduct more than 1,000 dives a year.
It’s a broad range of operations for a young program – the regional dive lockers are commemorating their third anniversary on Oct. 1, and the divers have quickly learned that proficiency and dedication to professionalism is vital to their undersea mission.
The divers inspected the cutters’ protective paint, checked the anti-corrosion systems, scraped away barnacles and growths and cut away line wrapped around the propellers. They even relocated a crab living in a cutter’s salt-water intakes. This important work would cost thousands of dollars per cutter if contracted outside of the Coast Guard and allows each ship to achieve greater speed and fuel efficiency.
“Our team inspected 11 cutters including the buoy tenders, Abbie Burgess, Bollard and Juniper, as well as the 87-foot patrol boats, Hammerhead, Ridley and Sailfish,” Selby said. “The divers worked underwater for more than eight hours ensuring the job was done right.”
Doing this hull inspection job right is an essential part of ensuring the cutters and divers are ready for future operations.
“We’re still building our reputation,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Bobby Foucha, RDLE dive supervisor. “This might be the first time these cutter crews have worked with Coast Guard divers. Each time we deploy, it’s a chance to show we’re proficient professionals able to support a multitude of Coast Guard missions.”