Keeping a 30-year-old Coast Guard cutter mission-ready

Written by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicole Groll

Coast Guard Cutter Sanibel hits the water for the first time since entering their drydock period, Nov. 15, 2017, at Goodison Shipyards in Quonset, R.I.. The cutter returned to its homeport of Woods Hole, Mass., Dec. 10, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicole J. Groll.

Coast Guard Cutter Sanibel hits the water for the first time since entering their drydock period, Nov. 15, 2017, at Goodison Shipyards in Quonset, R.I.. The cutter returned to its homeport of Woods Hole, Mass., Dec. 10, 2017. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicole J. Groll.

Every three years, Coast Guard Cutter Sanibel’s crew halts their routine patrols of the Northeast Atlantic waters.

The cutter must be pulled from its berth to undergo an intense reconditioning period to halt the inevitable aging of the 110-foot cutter fleet.

The dedicated crew of 17, who perform life-saving search and rescue, and living marine resource patrols out of their homeport in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, also routinely battle nearly 30 years worth of upkeep challenges while serving aboard their white-hulled cutter.

A crew member from Coast Guard Cutter Sanibel climbs the ladder to check on maintenance work on the deck of the ship at Goodison Shipyard in Quonset, R.I., Nov. 15, 2017. The cutter is homeported in Woods Hole, Mass., and has a crew of 17. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicole J. Groll.

A crew member from Coast Guard Cutter Sanibel climbs the ladder to check on maintenance work on the deck of the ship at Goodison Shipyard in Quonset, R.I., Nov. 15, 2017. The cutter is homeported in Woods Hole, Mass., and has a crew of 17. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicole J. Groll.

Over the summer, the crew transported Sanibel to the Goodison Shipyard in Quonset Point, Rhode Island, with a major work list of more than 50 items needing repairs or to be replaced – maintenance necessary to keep this Coast Guard crew mission-ready.

The cutter’s engineers were finally able to do work only available in dry dock such as preservation work and mechanical reconstruction. The mess deck, which is also used as the training area, needed a new sound and vibration abatement system. The crew needed a complete replacement of running gear such as propellers, shafts, and bearings to keep the cutter sailing at its full potential.

With an initial estimate of $835,000, Sanibel’s crew and the shipyard employees teamed up to take apart, repair, and rebuild Sanibel.

“We worked very well with the shipyard crew, and the interpersonal relationship made for a successful dry dock,” said Lt. j.g. James Fasoli, executive officer of Sanibel.

Sanibel’s crew worked tirelessly completing inspections for the seemingly never-ending list of repairs, knowing their goal was to get the cutter back in the water and ready for any task the crew was assigned.

In addition to the work inspections, the crew stood watch, attended additional training schools, and supported their sister ships by standing temporary duty aboard other Northeast Coast Guard cutters including Hammerhead, Sitkinak, and Key Largo.

When the improvements were complete, it cost more than $1 million to make Sanibel seaworthy again.

The necessary dry dock period was not only challenging for the crew but for their families as well.

Coast Guard Cutter Sanibel is in drydock with Goodison Shipyard in Quonset, R.I., Nov. 15, 2017. The cutter is homeported in Woods Hole, Mass. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicole J. Groll

Coast Guard Cutter Sanibel is in drydock with Goodison Shipyard in Quonset, R.I., Nov. 15, 2017. The cutter is homeported in Woods Hole, Mass. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicole J. Groll

“We appreciate the families’ patience and understanding during the dry dock period,” said Lt. Michael Higbie, commanding officer of Sanibel. “Even though we were only in Coventry, most of the crew stayed in local lodging to ensure a successful maintenance period.”

Moored back at its homeport, the Sanibel is once again mission-ready, and its crew is eager to get back out on the water. With the new modernization, the crew is able to patrol for about seven days without a return to shore, maximizing the crew’s ability to respond to offshore emergencies.

The crew is ready to face the unpredictable Northeast Atlantic waters knowing Sanibel is up for the task and not looking a day over 30.

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