First watch

Maneuverable new buoy tender joins Everett’s growing armada


Herald Writer

EVERETT — Everett’s newest ship won’t sail halfway around the world to punish obstinate dictators.

But it will make sure that the ships that do get there safely.

The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Henry Blake was commissioned at Naval Station Everett Friday amid music and numerous speeches.

The ship is a buoy tender, responsible for maintaining the huge markers that warn ships away from rocks, shoals and other dangers in Puget Sound.

Although the 175-foot ship is unarmed, it has other special features. For one, it could run rings around many other vessels.

The supermaneuverable vessel is equipped with a special turning system that moves the ship into tight areas where warning buoys are deployed. It can remain in place in 8-foot swells and 30-knot winds, said Rear Admiral Erroll M. Brown, commander of the 13th Coast Guard District.

"It is literally able to stop on a dime and give you 9 cents in change," Brown said.

The ship will travel to each of 136 buoys and other navigational aids in Puget Sound to repair and maintain them, said Quartermaster First Class James Brock, one of the crew members.

The job can be risky because the buoys’ anchors and chains weigh tons, Brock said.

"Anything you do on a ship is inherently dangerous. The ship is moving. The water is moving. The buoy is moving," Brock said. "You just have to watch what you’re doing."

The cutter may also assist with law enforcement and search-and-rescue operations, although its primary mission is buoy tending, Brock said.

The Henry Blake was named for the first keeper of the New Dungeness Spit Lighthouse, the first lighthouse to be lit in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, said Petty Officer Robert Lanier.

The ship replaces an older buoy tender, the Mariposa, which also was stationed at Naval Station Everett, Lanier said.

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