The United States Coast Guard (USCG) recently celebrated their 227th year of existence this past summer. As a coastal community, we feel the presence of USCG through the USCG Cutter (USCGC) Orcas and the USCG stations in North Bend and Coos Bay. The Port interacts with the USCG in a variety of ways. We rent out the dock where the USCGC Orcas is currently stationed as well as work with the USCG in various committees like the Coos Bay Harbor Safety Committee. Recently, we went to tour the USCGC Orcas to gain a better understanding of their operations.
The current USCGC Orcas was built in 1989 by Bollinger Machine Shop and Shipyard in Lockport Louisiana. That year, she was also commissioned and replaced the USCGC Pulaski in Coos Bay. The Orcas is the sixth cutter to be located there since the 1935. She is 110 feet long, has a 21-foot beam, a 6.37 foot draft, is powered by two paxman diesel engines, has a maximum speed of 29 knots, has one 25 mm machine gun, two .50 caliber machine guns, and a 17-foot inflatable small boat. The USCGC Orcas is usually normally manned by a crew of 17 but can function with a crew of 12. Her area of responsibility stretches from the Washington/ Canada border to the Oregon/ California border and her primary missions are Living Marine Resource Enforcement, Law Enforcement, Search and Rescue and Homeland Security.
Talking to Lieutenant Junior Grade (LTJG) Josh Gerry, most of the work that USCGC Orcas does is fisheriesy enforcement. They use the cutter’s 17-foot small boat to conduct vessel safety checks and ensure compliance with fisheries regulations. usually know where the fishermen are depending on the day and monitor those areas closely just in case anything goes wrong. They usually use the 17-foot smaller boat which can be launched from the cutter to check a vessel. The crew also conducts search and rescue missions in emergencies. So far this year, the crew has conducted 60 boardings and 2 search and rescue missions.
Most of the work that the USCGC Orcas does is offshore. Since they have such a vast area of responsibility, a lot of their time is spent on the water. To get to the border of California takes about 8 hours and Astoria is about 12 hours away. Throughout the year, they typically spend 85-90 days or two weeks per month on patrol out at sea on patrol. usually on missions or standing by fishing fleets.
Although many of us may not see directly what the US Coast Guard does, they are essential in keeping the users of our coastal waters safe. Unfortunately, this may be the last USCGC Cutter to be stationed in Coos Bay for a while. The USCGC Orcas is scheduled to decommission in 2021 with a new USCG Cutter replacing it and stationed in Astoria, Oregon.