“Crew accommodations, we have an actual toilet, marine toilet (a head), and we’ve got a microwave, a sink, creature comforts that were never on any other Coast Guard boat this size,” Baxter says.
The 45-footers are replacing a fleet of 41-foot response boats used at Coast Guard stations nationwide. Station Juneau hasn’t had one in over a decade, using a 47-foot motor life boat instead. For the newer vessels, Baxter says the Coast Guard made sure to get input from medium response boat crews during the design phase.
“They did an excellent job getting operators on the boat taking recommendations and applying those recommendations,” he says. “So, we sit on this boat, things are where we want them as an operator.”
Response boats are primarily used for Coast Guard legacy missions like search and rescue and fisheries and law enforcement. With twin 825 horse power engines, the new vessels can really fly. Top speed is 40 knots, or about 40 miles per hour.
“So we can get on scene a lot quicker,” says Baxter.
Of course, there are some major changes. A lot of the older boats in the Coast Guard fleet use outboard engines, but the new ones have a water jet propulsion system. Petty Officer Phillip Ketcheson says that means learning a new steering method.
“The direction you turn the outboard is the direction your stern will go. This is now the opposite. So rather than, we’ve taught the guys backing down, you kind of stare at your stern. On this boat, we’re teaching them to drive the bow. So wherever you turn your nozzle is the direction the bow is now going to go,” Ketcheson says.
The new medium response boats have been in the works for about 10 years. The Coast Guard ordered 180 of them. The first one was delivered to Station Little Creek Virginia in 2008. Each one costs about 2-million dollars. When the second one arrives in Juneau in October, it will be based at Auke Bay. The new response boat that’s already here is stationed downtown.