Small cutter, large mission: Coast Guard Cutter Chock

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Chock, berthed at its homeport in Curtis Bay, Maryland, May 21, 2018. The crew was preparing to enforce a safety zone at a Blue Angel air show at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis the following day.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges)

The Coast Guard Cutter Chock, with its brawny appearance, polished black hull, the ability to shatter up to 18-inches of ice and tow approximately 300 gross-tons, has undoubtedly earned it the fitting nickname “Bull of the Bay.” The Chock was commissioned nearly 60 years ago and continues to be a crucial asset for Coast Guard missions.

A Plaque onboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Chock, displaying the date in which the cutter was built, May 21, 2018. The Chock was the second 65-foot harbor tug to be commissioned, behind the Cutter Capstan.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges)

Brand new, state-of-the-art Coast Guard cutters, reach lengths of over 400-feet, and deploy across the globe. It might seem that the Chock, a harbor tug, which barely reaches the 65-foot requirement to be considered a cutter, would leave a relatively small footprint in its wake – but its size and design allow it to do what other cutters can’t.

The Chock rarely participates in aids to navigation missions, while most black-hulled cutters specialize in them. The Chock takes on a different role than most other black hulls, with its focus on ice breaking, search and rescue, law enforcement, and ports, waterways and coastal security.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Chock relocates a buoy that moved off station in Stoney Creek, Maryland, June 1, 2018. The Chock, unlike most black hulled cutters does not typically take part in aids to navigation operations, but this was an exception.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Coast Guard Cutter Chock)

“We are a black hulled boat, but we are run more like a patrol boat,” said Petty Officer 1st Class Warren Wilson, executive petty officer of the Chock.

The Chock has a crew of just seven people, two of which are certified as boarding team members. The cutter is also equipped with a 15-foot boat, which is quickly launched for search and rescue and law enforcement. The Chock’s top speed is approximately 12 mph, which may not be ideal for quick response, but the small boat aboard is capable of reaching speeds about three times as fast, and can be launched with a readied crew in under five minutes.

“Last year we conducted the second highest amount of boardings for a cutter in District Five,” said Wilson.

Wilson challenges any other cutter in the Mid-Atlantic region to complete more boardings than them by the end of 2018.

U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Chock crew members in the process of launching their 15-foot smallboat to conduct boardings at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, May 22, 2018.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges)

In addition to conducting so many boardings, the crew regularly takes part in high profile safety zones and security zones, such at the presidential inauguration, state of the union address and Blue Angels air shows.

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Warren Wilson and Petty Officer 3rd Class Kennan Kayser, survey the scene while enforcing a safety zone at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, May 22, 2018. The safety zone was for the Blue Angel’s air show at the Naval Academy.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges)

The Chock is one of the few cutters with ice-breaking capabilities and this past winter it was able to flex some of that muscle when a substantial amount the Chesapeake Bay froze over, creating a hazard for boating traffic and hindering vital supplies from being transported to some areas.

The Chock broke through ice nearly two-feet thick in some parts of the bay, and the crew personally delivered supplies to Tangier Island, Virginia, which has no bridge access to the mainland and depends on the waterways for food, mail, medical supplies, water and heating oil. Ice around the island prevented their usual delivery of supplies.

The crew of the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Chock deliver supplies to the isolated Tangier Island, Virginia, after the Chesapeake Bay froze over, Jan. 10, 2018. The Chock also conducted ice breaking operations in the bay to clear the channels for vessel traffic.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Warren Wilson)

The icy waters may have scratched up the new paint job the boat received in the fall, but that’s a small price to pay for the substantial amount of the channels in the bay that were cleared for commercial traffic. People were able to get the supplies that they needed to endure the harsh winter.

The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Chock, moored up in-between ice breaking operations in Crisfield, Maryland, Jan. 11, 2018. The Chock broke ice to clear ship channels in the Chesapeake Bay and delivered supplies to Tangier Island, Virginia, which is isolated from the mainland.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Warren Wilson)

Delivering supplies to Tangier was not the only selfless effort that the Chock crew has put forward. The crew has consistently gone beyond the call of duty and has participated in numerous community service and outreach events.  When a fellow shipmate fell ill and was unable to care for himself, the Chock crew took it upon themselves to cut his grass and help him with daily errands for the duration of time that they were dry-docked nearby. The crew also volunteered at a “Feed the Children” event where they helped serve over 10,000 meals to kids in need.  When an 8-year-old boy started donating to veterans, but had never set foot on a military base before, the crew invited him to come aboard the ship and took him in his first boat ride.

U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 3rd Class Kennan Kayser, crew member of the Coast Guard Cutter Chock salutes the flag during morning colors at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, May 23, 2018.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges)

Crew life on the Chock is unique in comparison to most other cutters. Every inch of space counts, and a very small percentage of the cutter is livable. Six of the seven crewmembers sleep in the same stateroom on triple stacked bunks, bolted to each side of the room. The officer in charge has his own room and his bed doubles as the armory. Such tight living quarters has led to a tight knit crew. Seaman Nestor Cotto-Vega, a crewmember aboard the Chock, says that the small crew takes care of each other and that it’s like a family.

A boat hook belonging to the Coast Guard Cutter Chock, sits out on a rainy day at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, May 22, 2018.
(U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges)

The crew says that they take pride in their cutter and it is reflected every successfully completed mission.

“For a cutter that was commissioned in ’61, she is in the best shape,” said Wilson. “We’re always getting compliments on how she looks and how she performs.”

 

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