U.S. Coast Guard tug welcomes visitors aboard
A four-day Vineyard visit by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Hawser next week also means an Island homecoming for Boatswain's Mate Chief (BMC) Stephen Worrell. Although Chief Worrell has summered in Vineyard Haven since childhood, his arrival next Tuesday in Oak Bluffs aboard a 65-foot small harbor tug will be a first.
Coming back to the Vineyard aboard the ship on which he serves gives him "a lot of pride," Chief Worrell said, who is second in charge as executive petty officer. He and the Hawser's five crewmembers, along with BMC Stephen Atchley, officer in charge, look forward to showing off their ship with public tours available next Wednesday from 11 am to 2 pm at slip #78 in Oak Bluffs.
The crew's living compartment consists of a six-person berthing area, with staterooms for the executive petty officer and officer in charge. A small galley contains seating for six, along with a refrigerator, microwave, and stove.
The USCGC Hawser (WYTL 65610) breaks up the ice on the Hudson River, keeping shipping lanes open.
The Hawser has a beam of 19 feet and draws roughly 7 feet of water. Powered by a 500-horsepower Caterpillar diesel engine that drives a four-blade propeller, the ship is equipped with state-of-the-art navigational equipment, and of course, satellite television.
Nicknamed the "Black Beauty of Bayonne," the Hawser is one of two tugs stationed in Bayonne, N.J. The ship's area of operations includes the waterways of New York Harbor and the Hudson River, extending from Troy, N.Y. to Sandy Hook, N.J.
In winter, the Hawser's primary mission is ice-breaking on the Hudson River, seven days at a time, to keep shipping lanes open for barges transporting home heating oil up the Northeast corridor.
In spring, summer, and fall, the tug turns to its other missions, homeland security, aids to navigation, search and rescue, marine safety, and maritime law enforcement.
Chief Worrell described his crew's role as that of a "beat cop" around the New York Harbor area, watchful for anything out of place as they conduct daily and overnight patrols and monitor vessels, ports, and critical structures such as bridges.
The 60-year-old USCGC Hawser underwent scheduled annual maintenance in Boston over the past two weeks. A few stops on the way back to New York will give the crew a small break before they launch into the busy summer season, Chief Atchley wrote in an e-mail.
The tug's first stop in Oak Bluffs will be new territory for most of the crew, who hail from different parts of the country, from California to Massachusetts. "A lot of the Coast Guard doesn't get to go into Oak Bluffs because the vessels are too big," Chief Worrell said, who is looking forward to showing his fellow crewmembers the Island.
Although he grew up in Ocean Township, N.J., Mr. Worrell's parents, Mary and Ray, owned a home on the Vineyard and spent summers here, which they still do. His Island experiences laid the groundwork for his interest in the Coast Guard.
"As a little kid, I was always in a boat," Chief Worrell remembers. When his parents joined the Vineyard Haven Yacht Club, he and his older brother Raymond became actively involved in the sailing program.
Chief Worrell's first job was at Cronig's when it was located on Main Street in Vineyard Haven. He also worked at the Stop & Shop when it used to be the A&P, followed by eight summers at Louis's.
He chose the Coast Guard at the suggestion of a career counselor at Ocean Township High School. After he completed a career profile test, the counselor put the information into the computer, "and the Coast Guard popped up," he said.
Although the seeds were planted, Chief Worrell did not enter the Coast Guard right out of high school, but "experienced life" first. He enlisted about four years later, after taking some college classes and working.
Now a 15-year Coast Guard veteran, Chief Worrell describes a boatswain's mate chief as "a jack of all trades," driving boats, supervising personnel, and training for command positions, such as an officer in charge of a cutter or a station.
"The Coast Guard is the only service that puts enlisted in command positions," Chief Worrell said. He is currently undergoing consideration by an officer in charge review board.
The Coast Guard fulfills its nationwide Homeland Security missions with 39,000 total active duty men and women, about the same size as the New York Police Department with its 37,000 police officers, Chief Worrell proudly pointed out.
He expects his next assignment in a year's time will probably be at a station. That may be somewhat of an adjustment for him, working onshore after eleven and a half years at sea.
He and his wife Courtney, a research scientist for Colgate-Palmolive Company, live in Bayonne with their sons Dylan, almost 8, and Benjamin, 3.
Due back in New York Harbor by July 4, Chief Worrell and the Hawser crew start heading back on Saturday, with a one-day stop at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn.
"We have to make it back for the fireworks, because another part of our mission is port security," Chief Worrell explained.