Museum spotlights Coast Guard

Museum spotlights Coast Guard
From left, Whitney Drake, Brooks Hollingshead and Charles Richter, of the U.S. Coast Guard Station Cortez, gave museum visitors an overview of what they do as part of a museum exhibit on the Coast Guard. - Cindy Lane | Sun

CORTEZ – Members of the crew of Coast Guard Station Cortez gave Florida Maritime Museum visitors an overview last week of the history and mission of the service and what they and their shipmates do each day.

The museum is hosting an exhibit, “Always Ready: United States Coast Guard in Florida,” through May 26.

Museum spotlights Coast Guard
A model of a 41-foot utility boat at U.S. Coast Guard Station Cortez by Charles H. Smith. – Cindy Lane | Sun

The Coast Guard’s predecessor organization was formed in 1789 to tend lighthouses; the Coast Guard was established a year later with missions including tariff enforcement, smuggling interdiction, coastline chart making and quarantine enforcement, said Petty Officer Charles Richter, Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class.

The U.S. Coast Guard Station Cortez was established in 1974 in the 1890s Albion Inn in the Cortez fishing village. In 1992, its present facility was built across the street from the inn (which was later moved) and can withstand winds up to 105 mph and an 8-foot storm surge. 35 crew members are stationed in Cortez. Their jurisdiction extends from the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to Gasparilla Island.

The modern Coast Guard was created in 1915, serving in World War I, then enforcing Prohibition beginning in 1919. In World War II the service was involved in Pearl Harbor, D-Day and other major battles, producing a Medal of Honor recipient, Douglas Munro, who saved 500 Marines, he said.

In 1957, a Coast Guard icebreaking cutter made the first northwest passage transit, Richter said. During the Vietnam War, patrol boats blocked enemy forces from receiving supplies.

In recent times, the Coast Guard has intercepted a floating 1959 Buick carrying Cuban refugees, as well as intercepting refugees from Haiti and Central America, Petty Officer Whitney Drake, Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class, told the group.

The U.S. Coast Guard Station Cortez and the Humane Society of Manatee County will present the “Welcome Aboard!” dog adoption event on Saturday, April 27 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Florida Maritime Museum, 4415 119th St. W. in Cortez. Em“bark” on a new voyage by bringing home your newest adventure partner!

In 1973, the service performed its first counterdrug operation, has participated in chemical and oil cleanups, including the Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon disasters, and responded to the Twin Towers on 9/11, she said.

Under the Department of Homeland Security since 2003, the Coast Guard’s missions include fisheries law enforcement, maintenance of aids to navigation, marine safety, port security, drug interdiction, search and rescue, defense readiness, migrant interdiction, marine environment protection, ice operations and law enforcement.

With 41,598 on active duty, the Coast Guard also has 7,997 reservists, 8,342 civilians and 31,419 auxiliary members.

The group learned that each day, on average, the Coast Guard:

  • Saves 10 lives
  • Performs four search and rescue operations
  • Saves $1.2 million in property
  • Seizes 874 pounds of cocaine and 214 pounds of marijuana
  • Intercepts 17 illegal immigrants
  • Escorts five high-capacity vessels such as cruise ships and ferries
  • Makes 24 security boardings for life jackets and other equipment
  • Screens 360 merchant vessels for drugs and human trafficking
  • Makes 14 fisheries conservation boardings
  • Services 82 buoys a day
  • Investigates 35 pollution incidents
  • Completes 26 safety inspections of foreign vessels

Museum visitors also saw a demonstration of personal safety items, including a ring buoy and EPIRBs (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons), which crew members encouraged boaters to carry, and learned about how to retain as much heat as possible if stranded in cold water by pulling legs and arms close to the body.

More information about Coast Guard operations in Florida is on display at the museum.