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By MATT ARMSTRONG
Daily News Staff Writer
Now that there’s a new cutter in town, the cutter crew at U.S. Coast Guard Base Ketchikan will be able to reap the benefits of the new ship’s upgraded capabilities.
The fast response cutter John McCormick arrived in Ketchikan in mid March, and it was commissioned during a Wednesday morning ceremony. The John McCormick is the Coast Guard’s 21st fast response cutter and the first to be stationed on the West Coast. Fast response cutters like the John McCormick and Bailey Barco — which will arrive later this year and also be homeported in Ketchikan — are 154-foot boats, unlike the 110-foot cutters Naushon and Chandeleur that were previously based in the First City.
The John McCormick and Bailey Barco were constructed at Bollinger Shipyards in Lockport, Louisiana.
In addition to increased length, the John McCormick offers several other upgrades over the older cutters. Members of the 24-person crew gave tours of the John McCormick and answered multiple questions about the ship following the commissioning ceremony.
The ship’s German-made engines are “fantastic,” according to Lt. Michael Moyseowicz, the cutter’s commanding officer.
“Their capabilities ... the ability to go from a control speed to flank speed is outstanding,” Moyseowicz said. “You can go so quick to make that top speed there and hold it. Overall, they’re very smart in terms of the equipment, where I can be on the bridge and if I brought it all the way up to full throttle, it’s smart enough to incrementally build itself up even though I’ve given it an engine command that maybe I normally otherwise wouldn’t.”
The engine room is a good operating environment, with more space and better-placed equipment than in previous cutters.
“It’s just designed better to help the ship flow and run smoothly,” Moyseowicz said.
The John McCormick maximum listed speed is 28 knots, but the ship can reach up to 30 knots if it has the current with it, according to Moyseowicz.
“I think the difference with this (cutter) is just the ability to sustain that top speed,” Moyseowicz said. “It’s different than the other cutters, where you could go and hold it, but not for nearly as long. With this, we have the power to keep it running for quite a while.”
The ship also is set up to provide its crew with more detailed information than other cutters, according to Boatswain's Mate 1st Class Andrew Statham.
“I can monitor actual equipment,” Statham said while standing on the bridge. “Before, like on the 110s ... you would just have simple indicators like you see here, like RPM and whatnot, and you’d have very basic indicators as far as something happening, like a fire. A panel with just a red LED light (would light up). But on our system, I can watch exactly what’s going on.
“I can monitor how many microscopic amounts of fuel is being sprayed in,” Statham said. “I can see on each cylinder of the engine, in real time, how much oil is being splashed up in the cylinders so I can know if I’m going to have a crank case explosion happen pretty soon.”
The navigation system also has been upgraded.
“The radar that we have up here, instead of it being a big, massive, old, ancient radar with all kinds of circuit cards that go bad all the time, this is just like a normal computer would be,” Statham said.
The John McCormick also has a bow thruster — a first for a ship Statham has served on — that can propel the ship sideways to make controlling the ship easier, and a programmable autopilot system.
Everything on the ship has a “backup to a backup,” according to Statham.
The John McCormick has three generators — with one for emergencies — where the 110-foot cutters only had two.
“It’s just simple math there,” Moyseowicz said. “Having that third, backup generator gives you a lot more peace of mind when you’re out there sailing. ... This certainly enhances our ability to stay out, giving us a little more redundancy there.”
Each generator provides about 250 kilowatts of power.
“They made jokes about it down in Louisiana, (that) you could power an entire town with one of the generators. They’re massive,” Statham said. “ ... It’s designed to be, like, 120 percent effective over the actual needs of the ship.”
Whereas other cutters — including the 110-foot cutters — have six- or eight-person staterooms, the John McCormick has mostly two-person rooms and two four-person rooms, according to Moyseowicz, who has the ship’s only one-person room.
“For a ship, having the most people in one stateroom be four is pretty ideal,” Moyseowicz said. “ ... Crew comfort and habitability is certainly improved on this cutter.”
Some larger cutters have as many as 21 crew members in a berthing area, according to Moyseowicz.
One of the simplest improvements to the John McCormick also turned out to be one of the best.
Toilets and sinks are on one side of a hall, with shower stalls on the other.
“It means someone can be showering, someone can be using the head,” Moyseowicz said. “What we had on the other cutters was a six-person berthing area and an eight-person berthing area would share the same head for eight people. So if one person was showering, or if one person was even shaving, they’re taking up the toilet, they’re taking up the shower, they’re taking up the sink.
The new layout helps with both efficiency and with a cutter’s ability to have mixed-gender crews.
“In that scenario of the (larger berthing areas), that would mean you would need six females or six males to fill that one berthing area. We’re not going to do a mixed-gender berthing area,” Moyseowicz said. “And so with this, it means with a two-person berthing area and the toilets separated, it gives a lot more flexibility for mixed-gender crews. Right now, we will have four females on board, with the potential to get more.”
The Coast Guard has a gender ratio of about 70-30 male to female members, according to Moyseowicz.
Some of the ways the John McCormick is limited in what it can do come down to storage and living space.
“One of our biggest limitations on this ship is not our capacity to travel far. It’s not our range or our fuel, it’s actually food storage,” Moyseowicz said. “ ... (The galley space) is decently sized, for sure, but having to serve 24 people your standard three meals a day, it’s pretty tight. So we’re looking at a five-day limitation ... for how long we’ll go out before the food really starts running low. We have ways to get around (that). We have extra coolers, we could be smarter if we had to buy less bulky items and pack them in tighter to where we could potentially stretch it further.”
The John McCormick has a range of 2,500 nautical miles — compared to the 1,853 nautical mile range of the 110-foot cutters — and the crew tries to avoid dipping below 50 percent fuel.
“That’s just to guarantee that, if we were at 50 percent and someone called (and said), ‘Hey, we have an urgent (search and rescue) case off of Admiralty Island,’ and we had to book it, we wouldn’t be all of a sudden limited in that regard,” Moyseowicz said. “ ... Kind of the same with the food, where if we knew we had to go out somewhere farther, it would just depend on how we ran the engines.
“If we were going flank speed, we’d run out a lot sooner,” Moyseowicz added. “We’d get very far very quick, and then we’d run out very quick also. If we were going 10 knots, we could sustain it for quite a while.”