Pt. Judith station: Our southern RI guardians
Pt. Judith Coast Guard Station has watched over boaters for many decades. Just in the past couple of months you may have read about their rescue of people from a sinking yacht that had collided with a fishing boat, and their swimming rescue of a windsurfer.
Often called the “Cape Hatteras of New England”, the Point Judith area is well known for its rough waters and has been active in rescues since 1810. First called “surfmen,” the rescuers had one lifeboat and apparatus which could fire a tethered life ring with canvas pants attached to hold the victim as he was pulled to safety. This apparatus was called a “breeches buoy” and saved many. If you visit Mystic Seaport Museum in the summer you can see demonstrations of this method of rescue. The personnel at Point Judith were so successful that a larger station was constructed to house equipment and crew. The lighthouse is 65 feet about the water, and its light can be seen 16 miles away in clear weather.
During World War II Point Judith Coast Guard cutters, along with the navy, participated in the sinking of the German sub 853 after it torpedoed and sank the coal carrying Black Point bound for Boston. Thirty-four seamen were rescued from the ship.
I spoke with Seaman SM Stephen Rosenvold, a Watch Stander at Pt. Judith Station. He told me they had 30 to 35 active personnel assigned there, Coasties from all over the country. This is his first station, but others come from stations in Florida, Alaska, and as far as Bahrain. The tour of duty usually is 4 years. There is a Storekeeper to monitor supplies, Food Specialist, Engineers, Boswain’s Mates, Machinery Technicians, etc. They all live at the station and maintain watch 24-7. Due to heightened security the station is not open to the public at this time. They are assisted by the Coast Guard Auxiliary who help out with patrols, courtesy examinations and even cooking for them on special occasions.
The present station is situated by the lighthouse on the point, and the boathouse is inside Point Judith Pond near the ferry dock. That location facilitates getting underway in all types of weather. Inside is safety gear and materials for repairs. Outside at the dock are a 29 ft cutter and a 45 ft watertight boat that can do a complete rollover in heavy seas.
If you have pulled into New Harbor, Block Island, you have passed the Block Island Coast Guard Station on your right. This is active from Memorial Day until Labor Day, but outside of that time period, Point Judith Station assumes responsibility for Block Island too and as far as 50 miles offshore!
Point Judith Station focuses on Search and Rescue and Law Enforcement for which they receive special training in boat handling, weapons, CPR, first aid etc. They also take part in many events such as the annual Blessing of the Fleet, and monitor the fishing fleet and ferry in addition to the recreational boaters.
Rough weather and demanding duty, but these Coasties are rewarded by an incredible view and great feeling of accomplishment.