Story last updated at 2:16 p.m. Thursday, May 9, 2002

Coast Guard to launch replacement for Sedge
by Joel Gay
Staff Writer

photo: news
  Photo provided by U.S. Coast Guard
The Coast Guard buoy tender Hickory will be launched Saturday in Marinette, Wis., but work will continue for another year before it is ready to leave for its new duties in Homer.  
A new era in Homer's history begins Saturday when the Coast Guard buoy tender Hickory, destined to replace the Sedge, is launched on a tributary of Lake Michigan.

Alaska's congressman Don Young and the commandant of the Coast Guard, Adm. James M. Loy, will preside over the launching ceremonies, and Young's wife, Lula, will christen the 225-foot vessel.

The Hickory is the 12th of 16 Juniper Class buoy tenders launched at the Marinette Marine Corp. shipyard in Marinette, Wis. The $35 million ships will replace the aging fleet of 180-footers, such as the Sedge, that date from World War II.

While the new buoy tender will be launched Saturday, it still has more than a year of construction ahead to prepare it for delivery, said Lt. j.g. James Flannery of the Coast Guard's shipyard office in Marinette.

The Hickory is scheduled to be delivered to the Coast Guard on June 3, 2003. Even then it will take several months to prepare it for Alaska and to drive it down the eastern seaboard, through the Panama Canal and then up the Pacific coast to Homer.

The Hickory was named after a steam-driven 131-foot Coast Guard buoy tender built in 1933 at the Bath Iron Works in Bath, Maine.

The new ship is powered by twin Caterpillar diesels and features a phalanx of sophisticated computer equipment that helps reduce the staffing to 34 enlisted personnel and six officers. It has a 46-foot beam and displaces 2,000 tons, and is capable of making 15 knots and breaking through a foot of ice.

Like others in its class, the Hickory carries an onboard oil spill recovery system and a powerful deck crane that allows it to do its primary job <> maintaining navigational buoys <> more quickly and safely than its predecessors.

Lt. Cmdr. Charles Cashin, captain of the Sedge, will take command of the new vessel next year. He will attend Saturday's launch, he said.

"It's pretty exciting," Cashin said. "Hopefully it'll go well."

According to Flannery, the ship has been built in small sections that were welded together alongside the Marinette River.

On Saturday, the ship will perch sideways on its launch ramp, and after speeches by Rep. Young, Loy and others, Lula Young will break a bottle of champagne against the bow.

At that moment, shipyard workers will trip the triggers that hold the vessel in place. When it slides into the water, it will likely kick up a wave some 15 feet high,

Flannery said.