The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Liberty, which has been homeported in Juneau since 1989, is being reassigned to Valdez, and as a farewell to the community Thursday the ship was open for tours.
“Liberty was Commissioned in 1989 and she was homeported here in Juneau right away,” said Lt. George Greendyk, the ship’s commanding officer. “It’s actually not very typical for a (110-foot) patrol boat to have the same homeport for all 33 years. Liberty has always had Juneau to call home.”
The Liberty is scheduled to leave for Valdez on Friday, Greendyk said, and the ship will be replaced by a smaller, 87-foot vessel with 11 crew members, the Reef Shark, as the Coast Guard shifts its 110-foot vessels to open waters.
“The newer larger fast response cutters are a lot more equipped to go offshore and we’re going to be able to utilize those assets out there while the 87s coming in can better patrol the interior waterways,” Greendyk said.
In a send-off for the Liberty, the ship was opened to the public for tours and the ship’s crew said the turnout was far larger than expected. Groups of Juneauites were waiting on the docks in Auke Bay Thursday, as the tight quarters of the Liberty can only accommodate so many people at a time. The Liberty typically carries a crew of 18, but dozens of people turned out to visit the ship.
Lt. j.g. Quinn Levy, told visitors how one of the ship’s assignments involved being sent out at midnight into 15-foot swells to help a vessel in need of assistance.
Visitors were guided through the narrow doors and steep staircases of the ship and shown the interior of the vessel, including sleeping quarters and the engine room.
According to Greendyk, the Liberty’s main mission is fisheries law enforcement as well as the search-and-rescue services expected of every Coast Guard vessel. The 110-foot ships have a longer range, Greendyk said, with more fuel and sleeping quarters that allow the ships to stay out longer. But the 87-foots boats coming to Southeast have similar capabilities, Greendyk said, and will be able to provide the same service.
The Liberty is re-homeporting in Valdez, where it will replace the Coast Guard Cutter Chandeleur, according to Petty Officer 2nd Class Lexie Preston, 17th Coast Guard District external affairs.
• Contact reporter Peter Segall at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SegallJnuEmpire.