Coast Guard cutter retired after serving Alaska well

Posted: Sunday, November 17, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- After half a century of service to Alaska mariners, the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Sedge was retired from duty.

The Coast Guard performed a decommissioning ceremony Friday for the vessel in Homer, where it was turned over to the country of Nigeria. A more modern vessel will replace the Sedge.

Lt. Cmdr. Charles Cashin, former captain of the Sedge, said the ship is being replaced to cut costs and bring on a more efficient vessel. Still, he said it's sad to see the old work horse go.

''I'm very fond of my ship,'' Cashin said. ''It's taken good care of my crew and me.''

The 180-foot vessel has had a distinguished history that includes notable honors and awards.

The Sedge, named after a tufted marsh plant, was commissioned July 5, 1944, as a buoy tender and was stationed in the South Pacific during the latter part of World War II.

The boat came to tend buoys in Alaska 50 years ago, traveling waters from Valdez to Adak, said Petty Officer Darrell Wilson. It was first homeported in Kodiak, then Cordova, before being reassigned to Homer.

The Sedge was one of the first boats on the scene after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill. The Sedge was dispatched to make sure all buoys were working properly and stayed more than a month to assist with cleanup.

George Capacci was her skipper then. He said the Sedge was his best tour in the Coast Guard.

''(The ship has) lasted that long. It is a testament of the ship's steel, and the crews that bring life to the ship,'' Capacci said. ''There's a special bond.''

The vessel received numerous citations for its service between summer 1987 and spring 1989, for responding to the grounding of the tank vessel Glacier Bay and the Marathon Steelhead oil platform explosion in the Cook Inlet.

The boat was also cited for service after being involved in three major search and rescue operations between summer 1988 and spring 1989, including responding to a fire aboard the MV Alaska Constructor in Cook Inlet and sailing through a winter storm to sink a partly submerged barge that was endangering the Semidi Islands National Wildlife Refuge.

The vessel underwent a $2 million renovation in 1990, including a new engine installation. During the same year, it earned the Coast Guard Unit Commendation twice in three months for its accomplishments and efforts. Unit commendations are the highest award bestowed on a Coast Guard ship.

During the ceremony Friday, the Sedge received a Meritorious Unit Commendation Award for its homeland security defense after Sept. 11, 2001, in addition to numerous search and rescue operations and other assignments.

The Coast Guard has had several cutters about the same age replaced with modern boats. The Sedge is the last of the Alaska boats to be replaced.

''I know it's sad in a way, but it's inevitable,'' Capacci said. ''Ships don't last forever. Salt water and time, there's no remedy.''

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