New response boats on the water

Becky Vargo • Jul 5, 2017 at 12:00 PM

Coast Guard Station Grand Haven crews are now up to speed and patrolling West Michigan waters on the new 29-foot response boats that were delivered in late March.

Station Chief Justin Olson said crews have a list of qualifications they have to master before being certified to use the boats, which are the second generation of the vessel called the Response Boat Small. These replace the original response boats that are now 10 years old. Olson said the older boats are still in use, but will be phased out and sold to other federal or state agencies.

The 29-foot RB-S II is a high-speed platform used close to shore for missions including search and rescue, law enforcement, port security, environmental response, and drug and migrant interdiction. The boats can travel at a top speed of more than 40 knots (about 46 mph) and feature improvements to reduce crew fatigue.

The RB-S IIs are gradually replacing the 25-foot RB-Ss as they reach the end of their planned 10-year service lives.

The new boats are 28 feet, 8 inches long; 8 feet, 5 inches wide; and have a draft of 1 foot, 8 inches. They have a range of 150 miles at cruising speed.

According to the Coast Guard program profile page, the boats cost about $383,000 each. They are made by Metal Shark Aluminum Boats of Jeanerette, Louisiana.

Boating traffic, incidents off to slow start

Cooler weather and rain on the weekends have kept boating traffic and incidents down compared to normal for this time of year, Olson said.

“They are just starting to come out now,” he said of the recreational boaters on Monday. “There’s quite a few boats out for a Monday morning.”

Olson said that now that the weather is more summer-like, he expects traffic to increase.

“Operation Dry Water just wrapped up over the weekend,” he noted. “There were no deaths or alcohol-related incidents.”

The only incidents the local Coast Guard station handled over the past weekend were a couple of cases in the Muskegon area, where they escorted a man needing medical help and assisted people in a broken-down boat. Otherwise, the chief said everyone who his crews came into contact with was doing everything right.

That wasn’t the case a couple of weeks ago.

“We had a disturbing trend with more people on boats than they had life jackets for,” Olson said.

They also had cases where there were enough life jackets on the boat, but not the appropriate size.

Olson said a readily accessible flotation device, such as a portable seat cushion, is a must. It gives you something to throw to someone in trouble, or serves as a marker if the person goes down and you can’t find him or her.

“We encourage everyone to wear a life jacket at all times when you are underway,” Olson said.

If a person chooses not to wear a life jacket, it should still be where they can grab it easily. Regardless, if there’s a situation such as a crash or fire, the boater might not get a chance to grab or put on the life jacket.

Olson said that he always wears his life jacket, whether he is working or on his own boat.

“If you saw what I have, you would wear your life jacket,” he said.

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