Who are these Castle Hill Coasties?
On your travels around the bay it is likely you have passed the familiar orange-striped Coast Guard boats. Hopefully you haven’t needed their services. They smile and wave, but who are they?
Castle Hill Coast Guard Station is ready to serve and protect you with a compliment of 49 active and 16 reserve personnel. They are a multi-tasking bunch, ready to protect our fisheries by enforcing regulations, looking out for recreational boating safety on the bay and conducting Search and Rescue missions on Narragansett Bay and its tributaries, as well as offshore to the Massachusetts line. They maintain a 24-hour-a-day, 365-days-a-year watch including Port Waterways and Coastal Security and Environmental Protection. They are also in charge of the many events on and over Narragansett Bay. They, aided by the Coast Guard Auxiliary, keep safe all the spectator fleet of recreational boaters gathered to watch fireworks, the Quonset Air Show, the Newport Folk and Jazz Festivals and Swim the Bay, among other things. They also escort tankers, cruise ships and more operating in our bay.
The training they receive is rigorous. They are tested every six months to maintain their certifications in boat operations, search and rescue, law enforcement, etc. All of these Coasties are qualified for crew as well as standing radio watch, ready to take your call and dispatch a vessel to save you. Boarding teams get special training. There are five boats at the station – three 45-footers and two 29-footers.
Where do these hard-working folks come from? The Commanding Officer of Castle Hill tells me most are far from home. Besides those from all over New England, some come from as far away as California, Utah, Washington, Florida, Alabama, Arizona, Ohio, the Carolinas, Virginia, Tennessee, New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon and even one from Germany. Most have served aboard cutters, ranging from 65-foot CG harbor tugs to 378-foot high endurance cutters with a helicopter flight deck. Others have served on many specialized teams such as Tactical Law Enforcement, Aids to Navigation, Maritime Security, and even in District Offices. They consider Castle Hill and being on Narragansett Bay as choice duty. During boating season, they enjoy their frequent interaction with the public. This area is great, although the cost of living in Newport is a challenge. Their normal tour of duty is four years.
The Coast Guard Auxiliary, specially trained civilian volunteers from all walks of life, helps this station with cooking, boat crew duties, medical training, safety patrols and safety zones, unit maintenance, and watch standing. Auxiliarist Charles Jenison, a member of the Warwick-based North Star Flotilla 76, for example, mans the radio on his free hours.
When you see one of the boats from Castle Hill going by, give them a wave.