Upon arrival we headed over to the USCG Galley for a delicious lunch. The tour would not have been much fun on an empty stomach. From there we reassembled in Building 4 for a most interesting presentation about USCG Arctic operations and related science programs. There are presently 4 USCG ice breakers, with 3 assigned to Seattle (and one of those…USCGC Polar Sea… is out of service pending possible repair or replacement). USCGC Healy left the day of the tour for a deployment and USCGC Polar Star was tied up along the pier.
At the conclusion of the Arctic operations presentation we were introduced to newly arrived Sector Puget Sound Deputy Commander CAPT Joe Raymond. We were then given an overview of sector operations. Sector Puget Sound is part of the Pacific Area/13th District command. Stations in the sector include Neah Bay, Port Angeles/SFO, Bellingham, Quillayute River and Seattle. There are many operations assets. Sector commander authorities include captain of the port, federal maritime safety coordinator, federal “on scene” coordinator, office in charge of maritime inspections, search and rescue mission coordination, and the joint Harbor Operations Center (JHOC)…a broad area of significant responsibility with a huge footprint.
Our final destination was the USCGC Midgett WHEC 726. Midgett is a 358’ high endurance cutter commissioned in 1972 and is the last of 12 in class. At 41 years old Midgett has become somewhat of a maintenance challenge, but from what we could see the challenge is being well met. We were welcomed aboard by the Commanding Officer, CAPT Laura Dickey, a USCG Academy graduate, who also was our very informative tour guide. Midgett has a range of 11,000NM and carries a complement of about 184 officers and enlisted personnel. Propulsion is via two diesel engines and two turbines. Because the engines were apart for maintenance we were unable to visit the engine room but we did see the bridge, the galley and much of the rest of the ship. Armament is a 76 mm cannon on the bow and a Phalanx CIWS at the stern. Search and rescue, law enforcement and fishing enforcement are missions performed. Due to reduced ice in the Arctic there is more marine activity there, which in turn is resulting in more USCG activity. Midgett can patrol with the US Navy. An interesting position is the lookout above the bridge, although probably not a fun place to be in heavy seas. Breaking ice off the ship’s surfaces is a necessary function at times.
Our tour ended at this point so we thanked CAPT Dickey for her hospitality and headed for home. Another wonderful tour set up by Byron Faber. And much appreciation to everyone at USCG Base Seattle. – Norman Marten