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Archive for the ‘United States Coast Guard’ Category

chiseled above

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USCG Katherine Walker on the East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Recent endeavor found a humble narrator onboard a novel hybrid ferry boat, on the East River, while the United Nations was in session a couple of weeks back. The boat I was on was running under electric power, which is a game changer as far as noise and vibration, but since I was onboard the thing I didn’t get any shots of it. What I did get, however, were shots of a relatively new (by Coast Guard standard) bit of our National kit. Launched in 1996, that’s the USCGC Katherine Walker (WLM-552).

A Keeper Class Buoy Tender, the boat is 118 feet long, powered by two CAT 3508 TA Diesel engines, and its propulsion is provided by Ulstein/Rolls Royce 360 degree steerable Z-Drives plus a 600 HP Electric Bow Thruster. Her homeport is Bayonne New Jersey. The vessel is named for a former and quite heroic keeper of the Robbins Reef lighthouse, which is found at the intersection of the Hudson River and Staten Island’s Kill Van Kull (Constables Hook), Katherine Walker.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

“The Keeper of the Robbins Reef Light” carries a crew of 24 and sports a crane which is rated to ten tons. She can do light icebreaking duty, but after encountering any pack ice over 35mm thick, they call in a purpose built icebreaker. Coast Guard ship hull colors indicate their missions – Black hull – aids to navigation, White hull – maritime law enforcement and other safety-at-sea missions, Red hull – icebreaking. All vessels under 65 feet in length are classified as “boats” and operate near shore and inland waterways, and are usually painted “Coast Guard Orange.”

Using one rubric (which is fairly colloquial and elastic) to decide “what’s a ship and what’s a boat,” the USCG classifies the Walker as a ship due to being over 65 feet and because of that crane, it can indeed launch a boat. On the Harbor, the saying goes “the difference between a ship and a boat is that a ship can launch a boat, but a boat can’t launch a ship.” If the Coast Guard – a well armed branch of the United States military – tells you that something is a ship, however, you’d be foolish to argue with them. Only idiots argue with people armed with high caliber weaponry.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

During the United Nations summit in Manhattan, there were Coast Guard ships on duty in the East River and just off the southern shoreline of Roosevelt Island all week. Earlier in the week I had spotted the CGC 108 Thunder Bay in this spot for instance. I have to imagine they were participating in Homeland Security duties for the UN events, but that’s strictly a presumption on my part. Can’t imagine they were fishing.

Katherine Walker, whom the boat is named for, was a keeper of the Robbins Reef light, as mentioned. Mrs. Walker was the light keeper for thirty years, following the death of her husband, and raised her family on the tiny spit of land which hosts the light. Check out this wikipedia page for more on her biography and heroic story. Apparently, a statue of her will be erected on the coastline of Staten Island nearby the St. George landing of the Staten Island Ferry in the near future.

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Buy a book!

In the Shadows at Newtown Creek,” an 88 page softcover 8.5×11 magazine format photo book by Mitch Waxman, is now on sale at for $30.

Written by Mitch Waxman

October 8, 2019 at 11:00 am

city guard

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Happy Day, Veterans.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A single shot of the United States Coast Guard on patrol today, as a reminder to not forget that they’re out there right now in the wet and the cold as you’re reading this. It’s not about sentiment and then, it’s about existential and now.

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Written by Mitch Waxman

November 12, 2018 at 12:17 pm

ancient mariners

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It’s National Chocolate Chip Day, in these United States.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Eleven and a third (.35 actually) score years ago today, Alexander Hamilton and the Congress created what would become the United States Coast Guard. A humble narrator has never been one to omit offering a “happy birthday” salutation, and I don’t plan on starting now. I’ve probably had more contact with this branch of the military than any other over the years, and I can tell you – based on the sailors and officers I’ve met – the Coast Guard is staffed by some of the most dedicated and patriotic people I’ve ever met. Happy 227th Birthday!

from wikipedia

Created by Congress on 4 August 1790 at the request of Alexander Hamilton as the Revenue Marine, it is the oldest continuous seagoing service of the United States. As Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton headed the Revenue Marine, whose original purpose was collecting customs duties in the nation’s seaports. By the 1860s, the service was known as the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service and the term Revenue Marine gradually fell into disuse.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

In New York Harbor, the USCG vessels you’re most likely to see are the “SAFE” Boats which provide security to ferry and pleasure craft, as well as patrolling some of the more extant industrial and cargo port areas. They also work closely with NYPD’s harbor patrol in assisting boaters in distress. Maritime security in the age of terror is no laughing matter.

The hull colors of Coast Guard vessels indicate their missions. On the “ship” side; Black hull- aids to navigation, White hull- maritime law enforcement and other safety-at-sea missions, Red hull- icebreaking. All vessels under 65 feet in length are classified as “boats” and operate near shore and inland waterways, and are usually painted “Coast Guard Orange.”


The Coast Guard is the principal Federal agency responsible for maritime safety, security, and environmental stewardship in U.S. ports and waterways. In this capacity, the Coast Guard protects and defends more than 100,000 miles of U.S. coastline and inland waterways, and safeguards an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) encompassing 4.5 million square miles stretching from North of the Arctic Circle to South of the equator, from Puerto Rico to Guam, encompassing nine time zones – the largest EEZ in the world. As one of the five Armed Services of the United States, the Coast Guard is the only military branch within the Department of Homeland Security. In addition to its role as an Armed Service, the Coast Guard is a first responder and humanitarian service that provides aid to people in distress or impacted by natural and man-made disasters whether at sea or ashore. The Coast Guard is a member of the Intelligence Community, and is a law enforcement and regulatory agency with broad legal authorities associated with maritime transportation, hazardous materials shipping, bridge administration, oil spill response, pilotage, and vessel construction and operation.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One of the national conversations which we should be having, incidentally, involves the age and condition of USCG’s fleet. Most of the defense budget ends up flowing towards the “head of the spear” services like Air Force and Navy, Army and Marines. There are serious structural issues in several of the USCG’s older vessels due to age and weathering, and we need to begin the funding fleet replacement for them so as to continue their mission.

The Seneca, pictured above, is a relatively new ship for the Coast Guard – even though it was launched in 1984.

Upcoming Tours and events

We’re cancelling Saturday the 5th’s Insalubrious Valley tour due to a forecast of scattered thunderstorms with lightning expected.

The Insalubrious Valley of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Saturday August 5th, 11 a.m. – 1;30 p.m.

Century old movable bridges, the remains of a 19th century highway between Brooklyn and Queens, and explore two of the lesser known tributaries of the troubled Newtown Creek watershed. For the vulgarly curious, Conrad Wissell’s Dead Animal and Night Soil wharf will be seen and described, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Brooklyn Waterfront Boat Tour, with Working Harbor Committee – Saturday August 12th, 6 p.m. – 8 p.m.

Explore the coastline of Brooklyn from Newtown Creek to Sunset Park, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman, Andrew Gustafson of Turnstile Tours, and Gordon Cooper of Working Harbor Committee on the narrating about Brooklyn’s industrial past and rapidly changing present. details here.

The Poison Cauldron of the Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with Newtown Creek Alliance – Sunday August 13th, 11 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Explore the hellish waste transfer and petroleum districts of North Brooklyn on this daring walk towards the doomed Kosciuszko Bridge, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

Two Newtown Creek Boat Tours, with Newtown Creek Alliance and Open House NY – Wednesday August 16th, 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.

The neighborhoods surrounding Newtown Creek are home to the densest collection of these garbage facilities anywhere in the city and collectively, the waste transfer stations around and along Newtown Creek handle almost 40% of the waste that moves through New York. Join Newtown Creek Alliance’s Mitch Waxman and Willis Elkins  to learn about the ongoing efforts to address the environmental burden that this “clustering” has caused. details here.

DUPBO Newtown Creek Walking Tour, with NYCH20 – Thursday August 24th, 7 p.m. – 9 p.m.

Explore Greenpoint and Hunters Point, with NCA Historian Mitch Waxman details here.

“follow” me on Twitter- @newtownpentacle

four winds

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New York Harbor, in today’s post.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Sunday last was the Waterfront Alliance’s “City of Water Day” and your humble narrator conducted a free Newtown Creek boat tour for the festival. My tour was one of several that emanated from Governors Island, but “City of Water Day” is a citywide event and there were all kinds of interesting diversions happening in every Borough. Governors Island is a bit of a pain to get to, but luckily, after concluding my duties – an East River Ferry was just about to exit the island and then follow it’s normally scheduled itinerary, which includes a stop in LIC at Hunters Point. Deciding to “get out of dodge” and head home, and possessed of a serious desire to not get on the Subway, the ferry seemed like an ideal option.

One purchased a ticket and hopped onboard, brandished the camera, and waved it about as the boat headed North along the East River.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

Along the way, a United States Coast Guard Cutter was spotted. It’s decidedly irregular to see a white hulled Coast Guard vessel in this part of NY Harbor (white hulls are generally assigned to ocean going vessels in the Coast Guard). You’ll regularly see black hulls during winter months (ice breakers) and orange hulls do harbor security work all year long so they’re commonly observed.

One suspects that the Cutter was in the inner harbor because the President happened to be in NYC on “City of Water Day,” and they were performing some sort of security job but that’s a guess.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

That’s the CGC Ridley (WPB 87328), an 87-foot Coastal Patrol Boat Marine Protector Class vessel. She’s based in Long Island Sound, and everything you could possibly want to know about her can be found at this page at

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The East River Ferry continued along its normal route, offering the usual fantastic views which have gained it a dedicated clientele amongst the hordes of tourists which populate it on weekends. Offered above is a shot of the Freedom Tower rising behind Moisef’s Manhattan Bridge, as observed from onboard.

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Upcoming Tours –

July 26th, 2015
Modern Corridor – LIC, Queens Walking Tour
with Brooklyn Brainery, click here for details and tickets.

As detailed in this recent post, my camera was destroyed in an accident.

For those of you who have offered donations to pay for its replacement, the “Donate” button below will take you to paypal. Any contributions to the camera fund will be greatly appreciated, and rewarded when money isn’t quite as tight as it is at the moment.

Donate Button with Credit Cards

continuous line

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In today’s Memorial Day post- The United States Coast Guard.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

It’s Memorial Day, once again, as the wheel of the year continues to spin. Everybody will be talking about Marines and Ocean going Sailors and Soldiers and Pilots today, but as usual- few will mention the United States Coast Guard. Accordingly, a few shots I’ve picked up of operations around New York Harbor. Pictured above is the USCG WTGB 107 Penobscot Bay.

From wikipedia

The USCG Bay-class icebreaking tug is a class of 140-foot (43 m) icebreaking tugs of the United States Coast Guard, with hull numbers WTGB 101 through to WTGB 109.

They can proceed through fresh water ice up to 20 inches (51 cm) thick, and break ice up to 3 feet (0.91 m) thick, through ramming. These vessels are equipped with a system to lubricate their progress through the ice, by bubbling air through the hull.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

The USCG maintains a small fleet of vessels with differing capability to fulfill their mission to protect and patrol the Harbor of New York and New Jersey. Pictured above is a “Response Boat Small” SAFE boat crew, carrying what would seem to be a 50mm machine gun and a variety of small arms, while on Staten Island Ferry escort duty.


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

USCG WTGB 106 Morro Bay is pictured above, at night on the Hudson River, picking up crew members and dropping off dignitaries at a political event sponsored by the Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance. There are always Coast Guard personnel at work somewhere on the harbor, 24 hours a day, protecting our well cushioned posterior from whatever trouble might float in on the tide.




The USCGC MORRO BAY was commissioned 28 March 1981 at the Reserve Training Center in Yorktown, VA and served here until 1998. The MORRO BAY was the sixth of her kind in the Coast Guard. While stationed at Training Center, the MORRO BAY was involved in training and operations on the Chesapeake Bay. The MORRO BAY is currently home ported in New London, CT.

Ship’s History

The 140-foot Bay-class Cutters are state of the art icebreakers used primarily for domestic ice breaking duties. They are named after American Bays and are stationed mainly in Northeast U.S. and Great Lakes. Although specifically desinged for ice breaking duties, they also perform law enforcement, environmental protection, search & rescue operations and support for aids to navigation activities.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

A “response boat medium” crashing through the waves with the coast of Brooklyn behind it. The smaller USCG vessels like this medium sized SAFE boat. They too are outfitted with a high caliber machine gun mounted on a deck stand, and you can be certain that they have other toys onboard which we civilians don’t need to know about. These vessels are said to carry a compliment of sensors and communications equipment designed to monitor and intercept illicit activity.

from wikipedia

The response boat-medium (RBM) is a 45-foot (13.7m) utility boat used by the United States Coast Guard. It is intended as a replacement for the Coast Guard’s fleet of 41′ utility boats (UTB), which have been in use by the Coast Guard since the 1970s. The Coast Guard plans to acquire 180 of these RB-Ms over a 6–10 year period. The boats will be built by Kvichak Marine Industries of Kent, Washington and Marinette Marine of Manitowoc, Wisconsin.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

One often observes these medium sized boats patrolling the industrial edges of New York Harbor, in the case of the shot above, its on the Kill Van Kull separating New Jersey and Staten Island. Incidentally, this is the same vessel seen in the former photo, although I didn’t realize it at the time.

from wikipedia

Founded by Alexander Hamilton as the Revenue Marine first, and later as the Revenue Cutter Service on 4 August 1790, it is the United States’ oldest continuous seagoing service. Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton headed the USRCS, and the branch was involved in every war from 1790 to World War I. As of August 2009 the Coast Guard had approximately 42,000 men and women on active duty, 7,500 reservists, 30,000 auxiliarists, and 7,700 full-time civilian employees.

– photo by Mitch Waxman

USCG WTGB 109 Sturgeon Bay‘s Captain had to know that the ship was going to be photographed when posed so provocatively in front of the Statue of Liberty. The United States Coast Guard is nearly forgotten on this holiday signifying the sacrifice and service of United States military service men and women, the glory going to its larger and farther reaching colleagues.

from wikipedia

Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday which occurs every year on the final Monday of May. Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the American Civil War to commemorate the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. By the 20th century, Memorial Day had been extended to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service. It typically marks the start of the summer vacation season, while Labor Day marks its end.

“follow” me on Twitter at @newtownpentacle

Want to see something cool? June 2013 Walking Tours

The Poison Cauldron Saturday, June 15, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Atlas Obscura, tickets now on sale.

Kill Van Kull– Saturday, June 22, 2013
Staten Island walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Working Harbor Committee, tickets now on sale.

The Insalubrious Valley Saturday, June 29, 2013
Newtown Creek walking tour with Mitch Waxman and Newtown Creek Alliance, tickets now on sale.

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