Coast Guard’s primary Bering Sea cutter returns home to Alaska after refurbishment

FastCast digital headlines for Monday, Feb. 6, 2023.
Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 11:23 AM AKST
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KODIAK, Alaska (KTUU) - The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Alex Haley is finally home.

The 282-foot, 52-year-old vessel that’s called Kodiak home for over two decades returned on Jan. 12 from a seven-month drydock period in Seattle. The boat, painted white with an orange stripe across the bow, is one of two cutters in Kodiak, with the other being the Cypress, which arrived in Kodiak in December. The cutter designation refers to the length of the boat, with cutters measuring longer than 65 feet.

While drydocked, the Alex Haley received repairs to major components, including the engine, navigation system, propeller shaft and flight deck. All told, the engineering, operations and deck departments of the boat oversaw 76 work items.

“I am incredibly proud of the crew’s accomplishments during this extended maintenance period,” said Cmdr. Brian Whisler, commanding officer of the Alex Haley. “The crew worked tirelessly to make significant material and aesthetic improvements to the cutter which will have long-term benefits as we continue to prepare for future patrols in the Bering Sea. Seven months is a long time to be away from home and we are thrilled to be reunited with our family, friends, and our Kodiak Community.”

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley returns to homeport at Coast Guard Base Kodiak,...
The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley returns to homeport at Coast Guard Base Kodiak, Alaska, Jan. 12, 2023, following an extended seven month dry dock maintenance period in Seattle, Washington. Following its dry dock period, the Alex Haley will be able to continue operating as the Coast Guard’s primary asset in the Bering Sea with renewed and improved capabilities. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ian Gray(Petty Officer 3rd Class Ian Gray | U.S. Coast Guard District 17)

The boat travels extensively in some of the roughest waters in Alaska. Alex Haley spokesperson, Lt. j.g. Christopher Us, said the vessel’s primary operating area is the Bering Sea — the only Coast Guard ship that can make that claim.

“The Coast Guard maintains one cutter in the Bering Sea at all time for search and rescue purposes,” Us said. “That’s usually us for about half the year. And the other half of the year, it’s different boats from California or Hawaii or other parts of the West Coast. So we’re kind of the subject matter experts on Bering Sea fisheries in the Coast Guard, just because we’re out there so often and have a lot more interactions with the commercial fishing fleet there than any other Coast Guard unit.”

In addition to carrying out search and rescue missions, the vessel also fulfills the role of law enforcer.

“The Alex Haley’s primary mission is fisheries law enforcement,” Us said. “So we go on law enforcement patrols and enforce federal regulations on a commercial fishing fleet. And we’re the only unit here in Kodiak that does that.”

While the boat was drydocked, the roughly 100 crew members kept busy, with some even dispersing to the Arctic, Hawaii and southern California to assist with scientific missions, the Rim of the Pacific 2022 Naval Exercise and migrant operations, respectively. The crew was away from Kodiak for much longer than they originally anticipated. Us said that the repairs were only supposed to take three months instead of seven.

“I think in general, the crew just did really well, to adapt, and to respond to unforeseen fixes and problems,” Us said.