The Newtown Pentacle

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Archive for June 10th, 2010

exhalted beyond thought

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– photo by Mitch Waxman

Police methods are varied, and ingenious.

The NYPD Harbor patrol, staffed by fierce and dedicated mariners, has become quite modern of late. Recently noticed, but in their use for some time, was this Defender class boat patrolling the malign waters of the 21st century. The military variant of this watercraft carries an esoteric catalog of weapons and electronics, but the civilian police version shares only a love for speed and adept maneuvering with it’s Coast Guard cousins, and is not equipped with the high caliber machine gun on its prow.


The Defender class comes standard with full cabin to protect the crew from weather and an independent forced air diesel heater, both of which provide the crew with the maximum amount of comfort and minimal fatigue. The Defender has the direct benefit of years of evolutionary USCG Non Standard boat history to maximize its operational availability. Just one sea trial will prove that the Defender Class is unmatched in performance, work ability, fit, finish and quality.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Vigilant, notice that the officer noticed me taking his picture, which will be apparent if you click through to the larger incarnations of the image found at Flickr. The boat appeared to slice through waves, and it’s general appearance was that of a predator, silvery quick and able to strike at any time it chose. Comic book metaphors ring out, and if outfitted with large wing shaped hydrofoils and a certain insignia, this could very well be the Batboat of the late 1970’s come to life.

from wikipedia

The importance of the container shipping industry is equally matched by its vulnerabilities to terrorist attack. The U.S. maritime system consists of over 300 sea and river ports with more than 3,700 cargo and passenger terminals. The United States and global economies depend on commercial shipping as the most reliable, cost efficient method of transporting goods, with U.S. ports handling approximately 20% of the maritime trade worldwide. The volume of trade throughout the U.S. and the world creates a desirable target for terrorist attack. An attack on any aspect of the maritime system, mainly major ports, can severely hamper trade and potentially affect the global economy by billions of dollars. The security of ports and their deficiencies are numerous and leave our ports vulnerable to terrorist attack. The vulnerabilities of our ports are many, leading to potential security breaches in almost all aspects of the container shipping industry. With the sheer volume of maritime traffic, there is serious concern of cargo/passenger ship hijackings and pirate attack, as well as accountability of the millions of shipping containers transported worldwide. Given the overwhelming number of ships and containers, there are many areas of concern regarding the security of U.S. ports.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The Harbor Unit sped off, and as it did, I noticed the quick moving harbor pilot launch America nearby. Luckily, I was fairly close to America earlier in the trip, and got a couple of OK shots of a very capable boat. Incidentally, I’ve recently been exposed to a maritime truism that helps to distinguish when to call a water craft “boat” or “ship”. A “ship” can carry and launch a boat, not the other way around.


Developed in a direct response to the need for additional Homeland Security assets in the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, the Defender Class boats were procured under an emergency acquisition authority. With a contract for up to 700 standard response boats, the Defender Class acquisition is one of the largest boat buys of its type in the world. The 100 boat Defender A Class (RB-HS) fleet began arriving at units in MAY 2002 and continued through AUG 2003. After several configuration changes, most notably a longer cabin and shock mitigating rear seats, the Defender B Class (RB-S) boats were born. This fleet was first delivered to the field in OCT 2003, and there are currently 357 RB-S boats in operation.

The 457 Defender Class boats currently in operation are assigned to the Coast Guards Maritime Safety and Security Teams (MSST), Maritime Security Response Team (MSRT), Marine Safety Units (MSU), and Small Boat Stations throughout the Coast Guard. With an overall length of 25 feet, two 225 horsepower outboard engines, unique turning radius, and gun mounts boat forward and aft, the Defender Class boats are the ultimate waterborne assets for conducting fast and high speed maneuvering tactics in a small deployable package. This is evidenced in the fact that several Defender Class boats are already in operation by other Homeland Security Department agencies as well as foreign military services for their homeland security missions.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

This is the Sandy Hook Pilots Launch Boat “America”. Like her namesake, she’s a tough cookie that can move very quickly, but works way too hard.


All pilot vessels are maintained to a high standard, and are equipped with state of the art electronic navigation and communications equipment. All motor boats are equipped with rescue equipment, including a “Life Sling” and davit for man overboard retrieval operations. Pilot boats must operate under severe weather and sea conditions. The hull material of the pilot boats is audio-gauged regularly, and steel/aluminum plating is serviced and/or renewed when required. In general, Planned Maintenance (“PM”) procedures and Service Life Extension Program (“SLEP”) work have prolonged the in-service usage of floating equipment used in the State pilotage system, in many cases well beyond its originally intended design life.

The newest addition to the fleet, the Yankee, a 53 foot aluminum, twin screw pilot launch is stationed at the Sandy Hook pilot base in Staten Island. It is used as part of a fleet of four similar launches at the entrance of the port, and sometimes as a shuttle craft from the base to/from sea.

The fleet of four similar launches – America, Wanderer, Phantom, and Yankee allow a maintenance schedule to exist to address the substantial wear and tear on the boats throughout the year. One boat is always at sea – two others ready to go – one under maintenance.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Tumultuous, storm prone, and crowded- NY Harbor is an estuarine environment of cross currents and drowned hazards. The archipelago itself must be protected at all costs, lest an out of control cargo ship or barge stray too close to a bridge or waterfront condominium. Experts on the intricate interplay of aquatic course and geographic knowledge, the Sandy Hook Pilots remain redoubtable.


The history of the Sandy Hook Pilots begins in 1694 when the population of New York City was under 3,000. In those days, the harbors of the Northeast were the commercial arteries of the New World. It soon became apparent that the aid to vessels entering and departing the port was necessary, and the Colonial Assembly commissioned a small group of local seamen to assist the ship masters as pilots. This port would eventually become one of the greatest commercial centers of the world.

Written by Mitch Waxman

June 10, 2010 at 12:30 am

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