A third United States high endurance coast guard cutter, the USCG WHEC 719 Boutwell is being decommissioned with a plan to be sold to the Philippines early next year.
On Friday, more than 100 guests including crew family members, former crewman and others came aboard Boutwell for her final Fleet Week cruise into San Francisco.
During her nearly half century of service, the Boutwell has made a name for itself in rescues and drug seizures. In 1980, the cutter executed the largest at-sea rescue on record when her crew saved more than 500 people from a burning Dutch cruise ship, the MS Prinsendam, in the Gulf of Alaska.
In its most recent tour, the ship conducted five drug seizures, pulling in some 20 tons of contraband, according to Command Chief Daryl Bernard. For him, the southern Pacific tour put into focus what he’ll miss most about the ship.
“They were long hours, the crew worked hard,” he said. “It was a tight crew, a good crew, from the officers all the way down to the most junior enlisted person — professionals.”
1st Petty Officer Ryan Ross said, “They say she’s an old girl. She takes a lot of maintenance, I work down in the engine room and that’s what it takes to keep her going.”
“When he joined the ship in July 2013 it already was rumored she was to be decommissioned, but the engineers held on and kept up maintenance as if the plan was to get another 50 years out of her,” Ross said
“It’ll be a sad day to see her go, but until she’s actually gone, I’m not going to believe it.” Ross added.
Between August 2011 to May 2012, the US government transferred the two former Coast Guard cutter WHEC 715 Hamilton renamed the BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PF-15) and WHEC 716 Dallas renamed the BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF-16) to the Philippines through the Excess Defense Articles (EDA) program.
As a multi-mission surface combatant ship, the two endurance cutter became the first gas-turbine jet engine-powered vessel in the Philippine Navy Fleet. Both ships was deployed to the Naval Forces West Area of the West Philippine Sea (also known as the South China Sea). The country’s largest warship deployed in the West Philippine Sea to guard the country’s borders.
By: Jason E. / Bryant Jordan