Written by Petty Officer 2nd Class Erik Swanson.
Coast Guard harbor tugs Hawser, Line and Wire celebrated their 50th anniversary of providing safety, security and maritime mobility to New York, New Jersey and Hudson River waterways near Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
To celebrate their years of service, the 65-foot harbor tugs steamed together north on the Hudson River, beginning at Poughkeepsie to Kingston, N.Y. There was no after party or formal event; the crews seemed content just to be on the river.
“The anniversary represents the hard work and dedication of the Coast Guard crews both past and present for exercising supreme mission execution and ability for maintaining the 65-foot harbor tugs,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Thomas Cairns, officer-in-charge of Coast Guard Cutter Wire.
A crowd of local residents attended to catch a sight of the tugs at the Walkway Over the Hudson, a 212-foot tall abandoned railroad bridge turned pedestrian park spanning the Hudson River.
“I’ve seen many tugs and ships from Walkway over the Hudson, but the sight of three Coast Guard harbor tugs in close formation cutting through the drift ice 200 feet below was truly amazing,” said Jeff Anzevino, a Hudson Valley resident and walkway volunteer. “It was well worth braving the bitter cold.”
The three tugs of the Capstan class were constructed at New Bern, N.C., and commissioned in 1963. With steel hulls, they replaced the wooden hulled 64-foot tugs. The harbor tugs were first stationed at Governors Island, N.Y., until 1996 when they were transferred to their present homeports: Hawser and Line to Bayonne, N.J., and Wire to Saugerties, N.Y. Under Sector New York’s command, the tugs area of responsibility spans north on the Hudson River to Troy, N.Y., throughout New York Harbor and the East River. An officer-in-charge, typically a chief or senior chief petty officer, and up to eight members crew the tugs.
“Our community of three tugs is very close; we look after one another,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Lawrence Dean, officer-in-charge Coast Guard Cutter Hawser. “If a fellow tug crew needs help with a navigation aid and we’re nearby, we’ll just take care of it — being a Coast Guardsman aboard a 65 is one of the best jobs in the service.”
Every day, the harbor tugs perform the wide range of Coast Guard missions of search and rescue, national security, environmental response and maritime mobility as integral members of the local maritime community. Their primary mission in the winter is icebreaking to facilitate the shipping of vital supplies such as home heating oil to communities living in Upstate New York. Through the harshest winter conditions, the tug crews support the 140-foot ice breaking tugs, Penobscot Bay and Sturgeon Bay, both stationed in Bayonne, to keep shipping lanes open.
“Every crewmember relies on one another to fulfill and be proficient in multiple roles, from acting as boarding officer to working a navigation aid; we are ready to perform every mission of the Coast Guard,” said Dean.
The tug crews have also played significant roles in responding to major maritime incidents such as the evacuation of Lower Manhattan following the Sept. 11 attacks. The Hawser was the first vessel on scene to initiate command and control for the evacuation.
“Any day is a good day to be a 65 sailor, but on the anniversary of their 50th year of dedicated service to our nation, it’s an especially proud day, too,” said Capt. Gordon Loebl, captain of the port of New York and New Jersey, and commander of Sector New York.
As the tugs steamed north nearly out of sight, from the crowd someone shouted “bald eagle!” and a lone eagle soared over the crowd. Everyone agreed after it had passed, “that eagle was for the Coast Guard,” a fitting tribute to the men and women who serve to keep our waterways safe and secure.