One of the U.S. Coast Guard’s two new fast response cutters in Southeast Alaska, the John McCormick visited Petersburg this week and welcomed the public in for tours. The Coast Guard nationwide is phasing out smaller 110-foot cutters like the Petersburg-based Anacapa in favor of the larger and more seaworthy patrol ships.

Crew members, well versed in new ship’s features led visitors around its decks, crew quarters and engine room. Up on the bridge boatswains mate first class A.J. Statham shows off controls used to maneuver the 154-foot ship and scanning equipment.

“And if you have like a whale or a person in the water, it’s much different than night vision, say,” Statham explained. “Night vision you’re scanning the area. With infrared, if I just turn this on and scan left and right real quick. I’ll get a white-hot signature of a heat signature of a body and I can locate someone quicker that way, as opposed to night vision goggles. Which we have night vision goggles on board as well.”

US Coast Guard cutter boatswains mate A.J. Statham shows visitors around the bridge of the cutter John McCormick.

The John McCormick was commissioned in April. It’s one of two brand new Sentinel class cutters homeported in Ketchikan and will be continuing with patrols of Southeast Alaska, law enforcement and search and rescue missions.

Commanding officer Lieutenant Mike Moyseowicz explained the upgrade in vessels. “So it’s funny our name the fast response cutter, our top speed is still about the same as the 110-foot island class cutter that we are replacing but the difference is our sea keeping capability when we’re making that top speed,” Moyseowicz said. “It’s still a very smooth ride. We’re about double the gross tonnage of the 110-foot cutters and so when we’re in heavier seas or anything, we can make and hold that speed because we really sit in the water a lot more.”

Moyseowicz said the John McCormick already has seen some big seas on the way north through the Pacific. The crew of 25 took the ship from the Bollinger shipyard in Lockport, Louisiana to Key West Florida, through the Panama Canal up the west coast to Alaska, the first fast response cutter stationed in the state. A second, the Bailey Barco was commissioned in June. Ultimately there will be six of the new larger ships in Alaska.

Moyseowicz said the John McCormick is visiting ports around Southeast and thought there was a good turnout in Petersburg. “We had a pretty steady stream here of people, just showing ‘em around and everything,” he said. “And we’ve been trying to do this in all the communities in Southeast Alaska that we serve. We’ve run into five different port calls so far and we actually had tried to get to Petersburg for Mayfest but we had an engine casualty unfortunately but, just trying to get around to all the different communities out here and reach out to the people who we are serving.” He said the ship had a few mechanical and electrical issues in its first months but running great overall.

Petersburg is home to the 110-foot island class cutter Anacapa, built in 1989, among the class of cutters being phased out nationwide in favor of the new Sentinel class ships. Officials in Petersburg have been lobbying to keep a cutter stationed here, bring in one of the new ships, or some other Coast Guard presence. No word yet on when that change might come.

The John McCormick’s executive officer Joe Petry said the Anacapa’s still running strong. “They still got the crew over there,” Petry said. “They’re still doing great things. We’re getting a lot of great life out of the 110s. Certainly the FRCs coming into Alaska is the new platform for the Coast Guard. So they will be phasing the FRCs in as the 110s are phased out, just for the increased capabilities that I mentioned. But no the Anacapa, they’re still doing the mission, they’re still doing great things but there are four more FRCs coming to Alaska. We’re not sure where they’ll be homeported yet. But they are coming to replace the aging 110s.”

The fast response cutters stationed in Ketchikan will be patrolling from Dixon Entrance on the Canadian border in the south to Yakutat in the north. Petry said they also have more ability to go farther offshore. “Same mission that the 110s are doing as well but with this new platform and the ability to go out into the rougher seas we are making more of a push to get offshore and go out and enforce those fishery regulations for some of the commercial guys that previously we haven’t been able to,” Petry said.

Cutters launch a smaller faster boat to make contact with other vessels and get places where the big ship can’t. The new fast response cutters are able to launch a small boat from a drop down section of the back of the ship while underway. The John McCormick has already been involved in four search and rescue missions in Southeast since its commissioning.